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Balancing Life

21 Mar

 When my youngest is at gymnastics I sit on a cold metal folding chair and I watch her on the balance beam.  I can see the determination in her face and see her arms out as she wobbles a bit, then catches herself a step in and refocuses.  Now and then she slips.  But most of the time, she catches herself off-balance and continues on.  Her teacher follows a step behind when she is on the high beam, allowing her to find her own strength and balance, but there in case she were to freeze or fall.  

I balance all the time.  I wobble more than she does when I walk.  I haven’t worn heels since I fell in them and cracked my elbow.  I’m still not sure why it’s called the funny bone.  I balance in my running shoes now.  Between keeping my house clean and spending my much-needed free time exercising and writing.  Staying in to watch another episode of Caillou with a five year old on my lap or going to a Yelp Event with a friend.  Going out on a date with my husband, or catching up on the sleep I miss throughout the week.  Between researching more services we need and just going to Culver’s and eating ice cream.

Some days I balance better than others.  Some days I can smile, I can laugh, I can make those phone calls and doctor appointments easily.  Some days all I can picture is a potential hospital visit for a child and my “fight or flight” response kicks in.  I freeze.  I stare at the neon Post It list of “stuff” I need to accomplish and push my chair away from my desk.  I find my blue running shoes and go pound the path with the steady rythym of my steps. Or I put in headphones and go hunting for my favorite feel-good songs and crumple into the feels of those songs.  Or I open the pages of a book and immerse myself in someone else’s life for awhile.  I feel the clinking of my bracelets reminding me of everything.


But then I refocus and I make those phone calls, I schedule visits with specialists, I ask for help and spend six hours in my van to steal a night away with my husband where I can dress up and feel like the fifteen year old girl he asked out years ago.  I can wear a fiery red dress and heels and feel my legs ache from the hill I walked a few hours before.  I can fill my tub with hot water and turn on the jets, closing my eyes for a few minutes just listening to the pounding of the water.  

I might not be graceful always on my walk.  I might sometimes close my own eyes and repeat the Serenity Prayer or look at my bracelets for inspiration.  I might text someone close to me for just a single boost.  But I continue.  And I make it.  I wobble, I catch myself.  I feel my family and friends a step behind, ready to hold their arms up if I need them.  

But just like she does I continue.  Because that’s what I do.  I breathe.  And repeat.

The Secret to Happiness 

25 Jan

is simple.


Actually in winter that is the secret.  Yesterday our sidewalks were clear and so were the roads.  My dog and I set out on an adventure through town to refill the Little Free Library.  I rummaged through our home library, sifted out some books (trust me, we aren’t lacking in this house) and filled my bag.  If you’re lucky you get the free bookmark and note of kindness I stuffed in one.  

Then we came home and I wrote in the recliner.  And he napped on the couch.  With the fireplace on.  Because, well, because we have one.  And it makes us this cozy.  


I needed to do errands, but I chose the fireplace and my laptop. And my peace and quiet lasted longer.  It meant sacrificing a solo Target run.  

Was the Target run with the Caroline’s Cart full of a 65 pound 9 year old and her bear diving after chips, soda and Inside Out underwear worth it?  (I skipped the soda, but the others made it in the cart).  It was worth it.  Even when the five year old kicked me because she was angry she didn’t get to ride in the cart (again, sorry, but there’s maybe 3 double kid semi carts-they are always in use).  Still worth it when we did the self checkout because there was one poor cashier during shift change with 6 carts waiting ahead of us.  Still worth it when the youngest told me it was “so embarrassing” to wait for Mommy to scan our cart full of juice, Pull Ups, and the other necessities that somehow got placed in the cart.  

Definitely worth it.  

Today was a snow day, so I’m even more thankful I took that time to do only what I wanted in quiet.  As many inches of snow had my youngest asking at 7 am in her Anna voice “Do you wanna build a snowman?”  (No, coffee).

“Do you wanna build a snowman?” (No, I’m washing your sister’s bedding).

“Do you wanna build a snowman?” (No, I’m still trying to find that pair of pants you borrowed at school the other day.)

“Do you wanna build a snowman?” (Sighs.  Maybe it will be fun.) 

“Yes, let’s go build a snowman.”

So even though I hate winter.   Hate snow.  And hate cold, we went outside.  I bundled up in my warmest pants, hat and running gloves (thinking clearly I am not a winter outdoors woman), and fake Uggs because I have no idea where my real winter boots are in the house even though we’ve lived here for 3 months.

We built a snowman.  And laughed.  And searched the ground for rocks.  Discovered we only have baby carrots.  We hugged and took silly selfies.  

I didn’t want to.  But happiness is unexpected sometimes.  It’s found when you give to others.  In a book.  In the memory of building a snowman.  In the much needed and messy hot chocolate afterwards.  

But now that my toes, hands and especially my butt is cold I’m going to sit in front of the fireplace.  And look, the dog added to my happiness too;) 


I got extra kisses by the fireplace.  Happiness really is a warm butt.  And books.  And snowmen.  Especially snowmen.

The Terrible Necessity of Socks in Winter

7 Jan

The temperature is below zero.  There’s snow/ice/shice on the ground (for those of you who don’t live in an area that regularly gets snow shice means shitty ice, a hybrid of dirt and ice and rocks and whatever other garbage is hidden under the snow.  That’s only one of many words to describe snow). Unless the temperature is below zero kids bundle up like a mummy (remember the scene in A Christmas Story where he can’t put his arms down and is wrapped in scarves?  Truth.) and play outside in the tundra.  I’m not sure what they’re allowed to do anymore in order to be a safe environment.  My girls do one thing- swing.  The little does work on a snow mountain built by the older students at her 4K site.  

But unless you want your feet to look like this:


Socks are a necessity. (So is tucking your snowpants over your boots to keep snow from piling in there).  They keep your boots and shoes from smelling raunchy (sweaty feet?  Ewwww).  

My girls hate socks.  My daughter with Down Syndrome pulls them off and discards them the instant she walks in the door.  (When she was younger we had to put tights on under her pants to keep the socks from being flung in the back of our minivan).  Most socks are uncomfortable for her too, though she’s seemed to settle for athletic no-shows.  Still I find piles like this showing me where she’s been.

My youngest has become more of a challenge than her sister when it comes to socks.  For a time every single day when it came to putting socks on we went through this lovely experience.

Why?  Because her socks hurt.

We have tried pretty much every single pack of socks out there.  Bobby socks, socks with Disney Princesses, Super Hero socks so she can dress like Wonder Woman!, the same athletic socks her sister tolerates (even new those weren’t hers, they were her sister’s), the soft fireplace socks, and even a search on Amazon to buy seamless socks.  Every pair meant a tantrum.

Until we discovered the bow socks in her drawer.

I sneak them in the laundry when it’s bath time.  I don’t make her wear socks on quick outings, but finally the sock sensory battle has lessened.  Mommy doesn’t have to sit on the garage step trying to breathe as the little one screams inside.  I don’t have to carry her to the bus because she won’t get up because her feet hurt in her socks.  It’s currently okay.

I hope this pair doesn’t get lost….

The Gift of Friendship

15 Dec

My older daughter never had play dates unless it was for her sister (or me).  Birthday parties were family and family friends.  Only once did we get one from school and that was from her school bestie in the special education room with her.  It was wonderful to be there, but it saddens me that she never really had friends.  

I was reminded of this as my youngest came home with a birthday party invitation.  Every day she asks “when do we go there?  We are going to the party, right?”  While I say, of course, and I’m grateful for the friends she has made at her new school.  At the same time I’m wondering how her sister will feel at home while we go to a party without her.  Trust me, I know she will enjoy her time.  She’ll probably be watching movies on her Kindle, throwing things at the fireplace or rearranging.

  And I wonder if her sister has friends at school.  I know she enjoys lunch with classmates daily.  The kids volunteer to eat lunch with her in her classroom.  And her teacher writes that sometimes Nyssa gets silly or just enjoys her peers.  That sounds like her. She loves laughing especially if there is physical comedy involved.

But I wasn’t sure that was friendship.  Until I opened a large mannila envelope from her third grade teacher today.  I didn’t think twice.  As a special needs parent I get IEPs, test results, and the like.  I know her new staff is testing new communication devices with her and expected some kind of paperwork to fill out.

Instead out poured notes of love from Nyssa’s classmates.

I sobbed at the sight of child-like drawings and the sweet spelling of these words.  One friend drew some of their favorite things: biking (even though she can’t bike yet), McDonald’s, dressing up, swimming, and the swings.

In fact, most of them mentioned the swings, the place she loves the most when she’s outside.


She makes them laugh.  They enjoy being with her.  They hope she loves them too. 


Friendship means love and laughter.  It means kindness and the ability to love someone for their strengths and their weaknesses.  My girl might not tell me about her day.  Or all about her friends at school.  She might not tell me who she was playing with on the playground or who she had lunch with, but she has friends.  

And for that I am grateful.

Summoning my Super Powers

9 Dec

Being a mom is hard.  Before I had kids I struggled juggling college and work.  Always both.  I was always rushing to one place or the next trying to get there on time.  To finish my homework, to put away the thousands of clothes women dropped on the floor of the dressing room (they don’t magically reappear on the store racks.  There’s one or two people out there that get the job of picking up after others.)

I’m tackling this parenthood thing without juggling the work aspect on top of it.  Yes, I’m lucky that way.  But.  It’s vital.  I’m the one watching my son’s blood sugars at school, bringing extra supplies in for him, driving him to/from school so his insulin pump doesn’t shut off from the cold.

I’m the one who is reading the middle one’s communication notebook, trying to assist with the difficult task of figuring out what my nine year old truly understands and is just being sassy refusing to do.  Or if she’s struggling with some unknown illness or injury (she had a cold for a month and daily I wondered is it a sinus infection? Ears?  Allergies?  And then poof-she was better. 

I’m the one that washes the dishes, cooks most of our meals, washes the million loads of laundry we make.  My “me” time without kids is usually buying laundry soap, wrapping holiday gifts, addressing Christmas cards.

Some days I’m tired of caring for others.  I don’t want to wash another plate.  I don’t want to check the blood glucose meter to make sure my son is testing his blood glucose when we ask him to, seeing another blank line in the Dexcom application, wondering why my kid opens her windows in 20F weather when I tried to get the upstairs rooms warm enough before bed.  I don’t want to change my nine year old’s poopy pull up and remind her she needs to use the potty.  I don’t want to wash blankets that have been peed on even though I know bed-wetting is normal in kids.  I don’t want to trip over another stuffed animal or hear my daughter scream she hates me during a five year old’s tantrum.

I’m tired.  I’m cranky.  Quite frankly I’m a bit lonely sometimes because unless I run errands the only people I talk to are my kids and husband or the swarm of friends that live in my phone.

I allowed myself to cry and feel.  Because some feelings hurt.  But then I pulled on my Wonder Woman tiara because quite frankly I don’t have time to wallow in the darkness of depression and feeling sorry for myself.  I cannot compare my parenting to others, nor can I compare my kids to others.  This is our battle, we rise gracefully and we fight our own battles.

And I kind of like my tiara even if it’s plastic and from McDonald’s.  It makes me feel pretty and happy.  Wonder Woman wouldn’t be hard on herself and say “oops, I should have stopped that villain.”  She fights the villains.  So will I.

Power on, my world of Super Moms and Dads.  Whether you’re fighting a world of diabetes, nebulizer treatments, cancer treatments, miscarriages, birth defects, depression, puberty, terrible twos or whatever villain that ails you find the strength.  I send you virtual hugs.  And I’m going to continue scrubbing the toilet and washing laundry before my kids get home and demand something.  But first I need to do some yoga.  And take care of me.

Love is not just Marshmallows

2 Dec

Today my five year old told me about her friend at school.  And her friend’s sister.  Her friend’s sister talks with her, plays Barbie Dolls with her, they practice writing letters and words.

And in her tone was a very sad girl bursting with confusion in a pink tutu skirt.  Because her older sister does none of that.  At that moment her sister, who has Down Syndrome and some autistic behaviors, was sitting in front of the fireplace rolling small plastic hoops onto the stone of the fireplace and giggling.  It’s her favorite game even though we remind her endlessly not to sit by the fireplace.  “It’s hot” we say and sign.  She bellers a “no” and continues.  She’s incredibly stubborn, but that’s the beauty we have grown to love about her.

“I hate my sister.  I wish I had a sister like A’s.” And my heart cracked.  This wasn’t a typical outburst, it wasn’t a tantrum.  This was a five year old who has realized her sister is not “normal.”

I paused with tears in my eyes, trying not to sob for the big sister playing with her rings as if this conversation wasn’t happening.  “Well, I love her” I said, “I love her for who she is, just like I love you for who you are.”

Because a five year old is on a mission to win every argument they start, she continued.  “But she won’t listen.  She won’t play with me.  When I try to talk to her she ignores me.”

And I cannot deny all of these discoveries are true.  Her sister usually prefers to play solo, to swing on the swingset or watch her Kindle, read books, play house.  But she often plays alone.  I have the hunch it’s because she’s hit her wall of interaction after school and the littlest is an extrovert who always wants to be noticed.

I remind my daughter of the many good qualities that we have with her sister.  She laughs often, always wants to dance, is great at peek a boo, and they can teeter totter together as they are nearly the same size with four years between them.  “I love her for being her.  I love you for being you.  Even when we are angry, we still love.”

She may have wanted to keep fighting that fight, but I couldn’t.  I was reminded of the grief process and how I was sad and angry the day we discovered our daughter had Down Syndrome.  Until that became less and less a priority and I just learned to love her as her.  

In time I think she will realize how lucky she is to have her sister and brother.  She will realize her sister is full of unconditional love.  I certainly see it every day.

As I wrote this I managed to leave the two of them in a different floor in our house than I was in.  I came back down to the entire pan of Rice Crispy bars on the living room floor and two girls gnawing at each side.

Apparently we love our sister anyways.  At least enough to share the marshmallowy goodness of the treat Mom said not to eat more of until after dinner.

What I Learned Moving 

8 Oct

1.  Somehow we can actually function even though we are too tired and sore to move.  But it’s still easy enough to fall asleep.  Even after you’ve walked down the stairs and got changed for school.

2. What you spent months packing is suddenly strewn in your garage and you are expected to know where the necessities are.  You won’t.

3. You’ll have to go to the store for said necessities and even with a list you’ll forget something.  And make yet another $450 Costco run buying necessities.  Sad, but true.  At least we only needed one grocery store run after that.

4. After many of those trips you’ll decide it’s easier to use Amazon.  On the plus side you get to meet the very nice mail person.  On the negative you end up with a storage unit that holds DVDs instead of a bookshelf.  After wallowing in sadness you can deliver said “media storage unit that showed CDs and paperbacks dang it” to the teenager in his room for the video game collection.  

5.  The kids will do an amazing job settling in to their new schools.  You’ll realize this from the 4 trips a day to drop said kids off and pick up even though you signed up for bussing. That gives you the chance to talk to their teachers daily and they at least pretend the kids are great.

6. Boxes.  You thought you hated packing?  Unpacking the 10th box of Barbie dolls makes you wonder why you have so much stuff and where is the box of tshirts and your knee high boots?  It’s fall.  We need boots.

7.  The first few days you might accidentally miss the turn to your road and drive down the next looking like a creepy stalker peering at the road signs.  But by the end of the week you find new routes to home.  And the shortcuts Google Maps avoids. 

8.  Your pets either move gracefully or not.  You prepare the resolve and carpet cleaner just in case, but thankfully they move gracefully.  In fact when one of the cats realizes their food, water and litter box are in the basement along with their human’s room-she finds no reason to leave that floor.

9. If you can keep one room free of kid clutter and boxes do it.  Because it helps you regain your sanity.  I’m lucky as we chose the living room for that room.  And the fireplace helps soothe the soul too.  Clutter distracts me and I can’t concentrate so that room is where I go to work.

10.  Enjoy.  Find the little quirks of your new house.  Hear the creaking in the floorboards, see how mini rainbows form on your walls when the afternoon sun filters through your window, watch your kid swinging safety in a fenced in back yard (and the dog who stands and waits at the door instead of exploring the yard).  Just enjoy making your new place home.  And relish the feeling when it feels that way from day one.