Autism Awareness Day 2017

Snorkelboy

I wanted to say a special THANK YOU today, on International Autism Awareness Day, to all the beautiful souls touched by this “label”. It is especially (ironically) fitting for me this weekend, when I personally was touched and blessed by some such beautiful souls.

A THANK YOU to the kind, loving, patient boy who spent 3 hours swimming around the pool with my son yesterday at a pool party. My 6-year-old son was surrounded by a dozen fun loving 11-year-old girls who (understandably) wanted nothing to do with him, so my son put on his snorkel/mask/fins (doesn’t everyone bring these to a pool party?) and swam around, on top of, and next to this kind boy who befriended him and became his “person” for the rest of the party. My son didn’t know this boy was “different”. But he did know he was kind.

A THANK YOU to the beautiful, compassionate, joyful girl today who saw my son struggling to fit in with his peer group at a big, busy social event, and took him under her wing and invited him to play and tag along with her. He was thrilled to find a kind soul to relate to and belong with.

See my son is 6 years old, and doesn’t know what autism is. He is innocent so far and hasn’t needed to see these “differences” among people, differences that require “labels”. He himself (or is it me? Or the rest of us?) struggles with his own set of labels. Highly sensitive. Highly spirited. High needs. He dances to the beat of a different drum himself, and not a day goes by for me that I don’t wonder to myself “Did I miss something? Is he on the spectrum?”. But the better question is aren’t we ALL on the spectrum somewhere or other? It’s a damn SPECTRUM after all, with a hugely wide range of colors and shapes and sounds. And doesn’t that placement on the spectrum change as we navigate life with our own highs and lows, stressful and peaceful periods, struggling and being ostracized at times and at others fitting in quite well?

So THANK YOU to you, beautiful souls. To your kindness, compassion, and uniqueness. The world is a more beautiful, colorful place thanks to you. And a huge THANK YOU to the parents…who tirelessly teach, model, and repeat the same phrase 56,432 times in hopes this time it will stick….your diligence and love does not go unnoticed. Your work is so hard, so important, and I admire you.

THANK YOU.

Questionable Carnivals

carnival

Motherhood

Today we went to one of those questionable carnivals…you know what I’m talking about, right? The ones you go to, pay for a wrist band so your kid can ride everything a zillion times, then you take a look at the rides and you question their safety? You constantly wonder if the screws holding the pieces that are holding you were tightened all the way? And if you’re going to enjoy the ride or plummet to your death? Yeah, one of those carnivals.

My son is a thrill seeker, he loves all the rides. The faster, the crazier, the better. Which is great because I (still, mostly) love roller coasters and thrill rides myself. But my husband, not so much. So this carnival was fun, I won’t lie. But as I’m getting older, and have become a mom myself…well, I kind of (sometimes) see things from a different perspective now. And since I still love rides, or rather I can still stomach them (and my husband cannot), I’m the lucky one who gets to join my son when we see that sign: “YOU MUST BE AT LEAST 48″ TALL OR BE ACCOMPANIED BY AN ADULT“. Because unfortunately right now, his stature doesn’t quite measure up to his daring.

So on days like these, when I get to share these moments with my son, I jump at the opportunity. Someday, he will be tall enough to go solo. Someday, he won’t want his mommy sitting next to him laughing her head off with him. Someday he will want his girlfriend sitting next to him, and I won’t even get invited to the carnival. So for today, spinning-metal-car-of-vomit-and-death it is.

The truth is, we were both truly laughing so hard the entire time we were on it, we both may have peed our pants just a little bit. And he’s five.  Right now he thinks me laughing out loud, especially when I’m pretending to be scared (I was NOT REALLY SCARED! Merely beginning to get just a little queasy…), is the funniest thing ever on the planet. So we spun, and laughed, and laughed, and gasped for breath, and spun some more…until the ride finally (safely) ended.

When we returned to where my husband was standing, gratefully, on solid non-spinning ground, he said, “I got a great picture of you guys” and showed me this shot. Immediately it reminded me of motherhood…what it feels like so many times….how as mothers we fluctuate constantly between being terrified and laughing our asses off, worrying if we’re totally screwing them up, or reveling in the fact that we are doing an amazing job of raising our tiny humans.  I especially love how happy and carefree my son looks in this moment. He looks like the wise sage who is wordlessly saying, “RELAX woman, and enjoy the ride! Can’t you see how easy that is?” I also realize and appreciate how, in a different situation (or in a different moment of the very same situation), our faces may just as easily have had the opposite expressions.

And that’s the beauty of raising a child. We learn as much from them as they do from us. If we allow ourselves to, that is.

Spin on, mamas, spin on.

How to Give Medicine to your (Highly Sensitive) Child in 33 Easy Steps

bad-tasting-kids-medicine

If you are blessed with a highly sensitive, or sensory processing challenged child, you already know that some things are, well, let’s say, more of a challenge for us parents as well. Like administering medicine for example.

Which can be extremely stressful to a parent who is trying to help their child heal from an illness.  I am the first to hold off for a good long while before giving a fever reducer or an antibiotic if its not warranted. Especially with the added stress of knowing how that interaction will go.  And yes, I am highly sensitive myself 🙂 So seeing my kid scream and fight off meds sets me off, and causes me anxiety.

Ever since he was 3 or 4 months old and he got his first of a string of (double) ear infections, giving him ANY meds has been nearly impossible. The first one was the worst, I will never forget it. I didn’t know what was wrong with him. I was a brand new mom with no one to turn to for advice. He cried and cried, screaming all night long, and we had no idea why. He did have a little fever but nothing major. When we took him in the next morning to the pediatrician, they enlightened us on the double ear infection and sent us on our way with antibiotics, a syringe, and vague instructions on how easy it would be to give it to him. Little did they know of his superpower.

Giving him medicine was like giving him poison. He’d writhe, choke & gag no matter how “far back and between his gums and his cheek” you went.  A few months later with yet another ear infection, he was getting smarter and stronger, and it was getting harder and harder. I legitimately called in the big guns, I had a nurse come to my house to try and help me.  Now he would clamp his mouth shut if he saw it coming. Then it would take at least 2 people. You’d have to have 1 hold him down while the other tried their best to get it in while pinching his nose closed. He quickly got wise and then started spitting it back out.  This holding him down and forcing him just did not sit well with me. We ended up having to find a compounding pharmacy and get everything made into suppositories for the first 3 years of his life. Then he got too big and the suppositories resembled tiny missiles. So we had to abandon that solution.

Luckily between the ages of 3 and 5 the universe gave us a reprieve from all major illnesses. And we graduated to chewables for Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen. And that worked for a very brief while. Until  it didn’t. But we also grew as parents and learned  how to better work with and understand his sensitivities. And I grew into my own as a mother and discovered Peaceful Parenting, and with that  I finally found a parenting style that truly resonated with me and with my son especially.  I  also started connecting with like minded people with similar sensitivities and found some great moms groups that became my support system.

As he got older and his oral sensitivities increased, we realized my son is a “super taster”. Which someday, when he can be hired as a consultant to the finest restaurants in order to discern the delicate nuances of their latest delicacy, may come in handy. But having dealt with this trait since infancy has been difficult to say the least. Now that he is 5 and has “matured somewhat”, some things are a little easier. But he is still super picky about anything he puts in his mouth. His food variety is quite limited. He still has issues with textures, flavors, smells, etc.

So a few weeks ago, he got really sick. Scary sick. It landed him in the hospital with pneumonia, and we were sent home with 10 days worth of antibiotics. We had already been struggling for a week with trying to give him fever reducers every 4 hours because his temperature would hover right around 105. He felt awful, wasn’t eating, was barely drinking, was lethargic and I still had to fight him to take those damn chewables to keep him under control.

I was determined to find a more peaceful way to get him to take his meds for the 10 LONG days ahead. So I started thinking outside the box. I  got creative. I had some failed attempts, but with a little creativity and A LOT of patience and calmness, I did it. We did it. And there is a video to prove it. But first:

How to Give Medicine to your (Highly Sensitive) Child in 25 33 Easy Steps



1)  When you go to the pharmacy, request that the medicine be flavored with something that should be pleasing- start with watermelon. Because watermelon is yummy tasting, but unique enough that it’s not cherry or strawberry which, let’s face it,  everything on the planet is flavored after. If you start with strawberry, let’s say, then every time he tastes a real strawberry, or a strawberry popsicle, or candy, or juice etc. he will think of the medicine, reject the food,  it will create a psychological scar, then he’ll need years of therapy to get over it……..see? So trust me. Watermelon. You’re welcome.

2) Ask for extra syringes to make up for the ones he’ll chew up, or you’ll drop as you’re flustered trying to give him the meds, then your dog will chew  up.

3)  Go home and meditate before you attempt to give meds.

4)  Make yourself a Bloody Mary to relax you and further prepare you. Plus it’s got juice in it. Juice is healthy. You want to model healthy, right?

5) Calmly approach him with the medicine. But not too calmly, because then you’ll just look scary.

6)  Explain how important the meds are to him, how he needs them to get  better.

7)  If that doesn’t work, explain that if he doesn’t take them you’ll have to go right back to the hospital and get more blood taken out of his body, this time with a bigger needle.

8)  Go back to the pharmacy and get a new batch made with a different flavor.

9)  Pick up a bottle of wine, some flowers and chocolate for you.

10)  Pick up 8 or 10 Hot Wheels cars  as incentives.

11)  Go home and pour  yourself a glass of wine, fill the syringe with the meds, and try to give it to him while his favorite TV show is on to distract him.

12)  Tell him about the cool new Hot Wheels cars waiting for him after he takes his meds.

13)  Tell him if he doesn’t take the meds you’re going to give away the new Hot Wheels cars to the neighbors kids.

14)  Go back to the pharmacy to pick up  anxiety meds for yourself. And more wine.

15) Go to the mall and buy him his favorite loose-leaf tea from Teavana to make for him to rehydrate his poor little body.

16)  Go to the little newstand at the mall  and buy a pack of Lifesavers for right after he takes the meds to erase the taste of the meds (even though the meds are flavored and should taste half decent). Make sure the Lifesavers include cherry and strawberry.

17)  Go to the shoe store and buy yourself a cute pair of shoes, you deserve it.

18)  Go home armed with all your goodies (except hide the shoes, your husband won’t understand or appreciate the logic.)

19)  Boil distilled water, make the tea and steep it for 10 minutes to get all the good healthy benefits from the leaves.

20)  Add honey for even more healthy benefits and to make it taste sweeter.

21)  Put the tea in the fridge for 15 minutes because he prefers it cold.

22)  Dig around the kitchen cabinets for another 20 minutes looking for those cool-looking mason jars to serve the tea in because that will make it even more awesome.

23)  Bring him the tea while he sits still watching TV because you just needed that 45 minute break to make the tea and have a moment to yourself because he’s been clinging to you non-stop for the past week since he’s been so sick.

24)   Drink the tea yourself because suddenly the tea tastes funny to him and you just spent $12 a pound on those damn tea leaves.

25)  Explain yet again you understand he doesn’t like the taste of the meds, but he has to take them anyway in order to get well.

26)  Tell him he’s allowed to cry, yell, say whatever he wants for 5 minutes leading up to taking the meds and you will sit there right next to him calmly and listen intently.

27)  Tell him after he’s said what he needs to say, you will hold him and you will both breathe slowly together.

28)  Then after that, help him take the meds.

29)  When he does, follow it up quickly with a drink of water.

30)  Then, with a Lifesaver of his choice.

31)  Tell him how proud you are of him for being brave and taking the medicine.

32)  Go in your bedroom and cry happy tears that you finally found a solution.

33)  Repeat every 10 hours for the next 10 days.

And if you want to see that video I promised you, here is the link. Just promise you’ll come back here to finish reading, ‘kay?  This was 8 days into this process. Filming it in this “how to” style actually helped us solidify that he was brave and had come so far, and helped him feel really proud.

In the end, being calm for him, allowing him his feelings, being patient and consistent with him and understanding and respecting his needs was what worked. Well, that and the Lifesavers 🙂

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Why don’t you tell me about it in a comment below…..

 

The Magic Formula

The universe is ALWAYS speaking to us, sometimes in subtle ways, other times, more like a bonk on the head. That is a given, there is nothing we have to “do” to have it speak to us. We do, however, have to take the time to LISTEN. Which often means being more aware, creating space for that awareness by being still, pausing, listening, and being open to what is being said.

The week before last for me was a doozy. I didn’t plan it that way. It just kind of happened. I was diligently and with painstaking detail putting together a new PowerPoint presentation for a Peaceful Parenting Workshop I was giving on that upcoming Saturday. I had previously given this workshop a few times using my own notes, but it was time to kick it up a notch and make it pretty and use visuals to get the points across.

In the midst of working on that, beside my usual responsibilities, I somehow crazily (over)scheduled myself to see 4 doula clients in 1 day. No problem, I can handle that! There are plenty of hours in 1 day! Besides, that was on Wednesday, and left me 2 more whole days to put together everything I needed for the workshop. Plenty of time!

Then the Universe bonked.

But let me back up. About that formula. One of the tools I teach in the Peaceful Parenting world, which is easily applied to any relationship, and actually to every single thing in our lives, is how important it is that WE be at peace and as present as possible in every moment. How real/inner peace can be attained no matter what our circumstances, no matter what storms are raging around us. We have a huge say in what our world really looks like to us, we have immense power. We often fear that power and therefore prefer to play the role of victim to our circumstances. But the truth is we do have the power, to a great extent.

So what’s the formula, you ask?

EVENT + RESPONSE = OUTCOME

It seems very simplistic. But it really finally made sense to me and hit home with me about a year and a half ago. I guess I was finally truly ready to hear it and grasp it. It’s a game changer. But you have to be ready for it. Because it means taking responsibility. You really need to be in a good mental space to have it work it’s magic, otherwise, it will have the opposite effect & you will fall flat on your face. Because you see, no matter WHAT event is taking place, be it not getting that raise you were hoping for & counting on, a tantrum your child is having, a cup of spilled milk, a serious illness, no matter WHAT the “it” is, it is YOUR REACTION/RESPONSE to it that will greatly impact the outcome. It can literally change the course of history in that moment.

Take milk, for example. Let’s say you are in a hurry to get out of the house in the morning to drop your kids off at school and make it to work on time for a meeting. So everyone is a teeny bit on edge because just maybe you’re a little stressed about the time. Then, let’s say your highly sensitive 5 year old son, in his haste to finish up quickly, accidentally spills his cup of milk all over the table and the floor. He then looks up at you in horror, with huge round eyes…..waiting…….an eternity…..for your reaction. Because he knows you’re already stressed, and this could put you over the edge. You could yell, scream, say all sorts of choice words to him and about him, or instead perhaps start slamming things  about and possibly then hurt yourself, which could lead to tears (both you and him possibly), him yelling back because he feels hurt (not to mention guilty), a struggle to get in the car, more fighting in the car, a longer than usual wait at car line, an accident causing extra traffic on the way to work….etc. Catch my drift? Because the universe is so in tune to you, it will provide you more of whatever you are putting out there energetically.

But what about the flip side? What if, instead of getting upset and going down that road, you CHOOSE instead to take a moment, pause, then take it as a cue to slow down and not take things so seriously.  Instead of getting mad, you take a deep breath and then say to your son “Hey, no biggie, let’s each grab a rag and work together to clean it up. We can pretend we are robots and make our best robot noises!”. Chances are, that will be met with a lot more joy, cooperation, and a more peaceful exit out of the house as well as a more peaceful commute. Most likely, that energy will continue to permeate your day and smooth things out for you in all aspects of your day.

Because really we are 50% of the equation, and the outcome. We can choose to see everything in a positive or a negative light. Its not always easy, I know, I get that. But it’s like a muscle. The more you work it, the easier it gets.

So back to the Universe bonking me.

The night of my 4-clients-in-one-day-while-preparing-my-upcoming-workshop, when I finally got home at 9:30pm…I got a phone call that my 83 year old father, my “Papi” (who has a myriad of serious health issues to say the least) is being admitted to the hospital and needs immediate gall-bladder surgery the next morning. 1 hour away from where I live. This wasn’t a complete surprise as we had been dealing with his delicate gall-bladder issue for 6 weeks now, but careful measures had been taken to delay having the surgery as long as possible, to make it as smooth as possible since he has so many other issues that impact him undergoing surgery with general anesthesia.

So off I went the next morning….after dropping off my son at school, the 1 hour commute to the hospital in Miami rush hour traffic….to meet him to prep for surgery. I was nervous of course, he’s elderly, sick, and he’s my Papi. But from the moment I got the news I made a choice I was going to be positive about this and trust that all was happening as it should, and all would be well. I tapped into the peace inside me and let it ride. It was a smooth sail to the hospital. Things that morning sort of just clicked. I got there in time to meet the orderly who was wheeling him to the OR prep/triage room (who happened to also be Cuban, as are we. My Dad takes great pride in it). My aunt/his sister was also with him. The kind orderly asked my aunt & I to wait outside in the OR waiting room and promised someone would give us updates along the way. So my aunt and I prepared to hunker  down and wait.

Not 4 minutes later, a nurse came out (Russian, gotta love living in an International melting pot!) calling my name, and told us we could come on back. She let us in to the prep/triage room to wait with my Dad while they started on all the prep necessary for surgery. Papi was in good spirits, cracking jokes. I was also trying to keep the mood light and positive for us all. We could hear everything going on in the adjacent “bays” in the room (each separated by paper thin curtains) as others were also getting prepped (and prodded, and poked). And it was taking a really long time. Like for real, not like just because it’s happening to you  it just feels like a  long time. Other patients were coming in and then moving on. More nurses (Cuban) came to prepare him, kindly flirt with him, and ask more of the same questions we’d already answered at least twice previously. Anesthesia (American, maybe?) came and talked to him, then the surgeon (Cuban). He explained there was a need to possibly transfuse blood/plasma as well as this possibly turning into more than just a  quick laproscopic surgery. So prep would take a little while longer than usual.

I’m still choosing to remain calm and at peace, even while reading between the lines of everything he was saying.  I will say that I did have a moment just then of a little panic and doubt. I took a moment and tried to go within, to ground and center myself, to ground the staff, everyone present, the room. I breathed. I felt the need to stand up and stroll a few steps away from my Dad and towards the exit leading to the OR. And there it was, my message. My reminder. Clear as day, big and bright, on a bulletin board (Really? In an OR triage room?) no less:

20160512_121819

EVENT + RESPONSE = OUTCOME!

What are the freaking chances??? I literally laughed out loud, am I’m sure sounded momentarily psychotic to the nurses around. Then I snapped a picture on my phone and almost got kicked out of there. I had to explain to the nurse in charge that the message on the bulletin board was EXACTLY the message of my upcoming workshop, how that same equation was literally the last slide in my PowerPoint and how meaningful it was. Luckily, she smiled and got it and it sparked a conversation between us and then we were good.

I (silently) thanked the Universe for the message, and I was all good again. I knew then no matter what transpired with my Dad, all would be alright. That no matter what happened in life, period, it would all be alright. I had faith. I felt supported. And I was reminded by that not so subtle detail on the bulletin board. My perception makes the difference.

I then took a moment to take in the bigger picture, to look for more signs (why not?). Then it hit me, we were the only family members in this triage room for the last 3 hours. Not 1 other family member. All the other patient’s family members were all outside in the waiting room. Why had the nurse come and gotten us to come and stay with my Dad when no one else was allowed/invited back there? Why only us? There was absolutely no logical reason.

Funny what we realize when we take that moment of pause. Everything becomes illuminated.

In the end, the operation was way more complicated, they had to do a lot more than anticipated. It took twice as long as they had said, they had to call in an additional surgeon, make quite a large incision, transfuse plasma, rewire some internal connections in my Dad, but he got through it all with flying colors. He even came out of the general anesthesia and was breathing on his own way quicker than normal, despite all his other medical issues and concerns that had delayed this surgery so long in the first place.

So yes, I was bonked. I spent the next 2 days driving back and forth, 1 hour each way, to spend the day with my recovering super-hero of a father. I did NOT have any time at all to further prepare for my workshop as I had originally planned on. But in the end, it didn’t really matter.

Turns out, I had everything I needed all along. And luckily, and most importantly, I still have my Papi.

 

The Undoing

Imagine the possibilities...

Imagine the possibilities…

It’s funny to me that it has been 8 months since I “left my day job” as a public school teacher, yet I still feel the passing of time in terms of the school year.  For instance, my husband and I were talking about probably not being able to make plans this year “for Spring Break”….when I realized that no longer applies to me! I  am no longer limited to that ONE WEEK IN THE SPRING when we have the freedom of a whole week of hanging out, taking a day trip, camping, whatever we want to do. But the mind holds fast to what it is used to. 15 years of teaching in public schools and all that comes with it will take awhile to undo…there is a lot of “undoing” taking place over here….

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t have responsibilities or a job anymore….I do. I am working. A lot! I am building my dream business….fusing my passions and my purpose in life into my business,  doing what I was meant to do by serving humanity as a doula, a Peaceful Parenting Coach, a Spiritual Coach, an Intuitive Healer…..so many things I cannot even put a label on.

I’m here to help women transition into mothers…..to find their inner power and inner voice, to push through their fears (sometimes literally).

I’m here to help people find their own personal power, to embrace that there is a whole world under the surface that has everything to do with using your intention and intuition to create your best, most authentic self.

I’m “here” to help. Period. In my own way.

There was no room for this version of me when I was too busy “doing” the full-time-job-plus stuff.

I am still “doing” a lot. But the difference now is: I am happy. I am at peace. I have also become “undone”.

I’ve come to realize, living this way, honoring my authentic true self and my true needs is finally bringing me full circle back into a sense of true joy, true inner peace, something I had been searching for for so long and could grasp the corners of at times, but as soon as I would try and tug it closer to me it, it would then slip out of my hands.

You see for so, so, so many years I wasn’t truly, honestly happy (more often than not anyway). Especially as an adult, I truly struggled with working full time, trying to be a thoughtful, caring partner to my husband, trying to be a loving, nurturing Mom to my son, “bringing in the bacon” as a full time public educator, keeping the house clean(ish), laundry done, cooking healthy foods (well, cooking ANY foods at that point was a struggle), helping care for my elderly/ailing father, and my unique, “special needs” dog, and then trying to find time for self-care, for exercise, for anything that fed my soul. I was drained. I was done.

I felt like a total failure. A big one. Often.  And that didn’t sit well with me because I knew deep down inside I wasn’t a failure…..it just took me 43 years to figure out I was just living an ill-fitted life for me.  That MY NEEDS are different. That I am “different”, and march to a tune of a different drummer than most, and it’s okay to admit that, hell to embrace that! That many, many women (because, let’s face it, I am a woman) go out and work full time and come home and do all those things, and function, and are grateful, and somehow fit it all in, and are happy………..but that’s not me. And that’s okay! That doesn’t mean I am a failure! Or inadequate! It just means I was trying to stuff myself in a box that I didn’t fit in for too long until the seams all bust open. I think it took having my son, seeing how he “doesn’t fit in a box”, hearing myself explain that over and over to his teachers, his doctors, his caregivers, his family, to realize “oh my gosh, that’s me!” .

I had to undo A LOT to get to that realization. Peel back many, many layers, only to reveal more layers that needed peeling.

That chapter of my life is done now, and I’m extremely grateful for what I learned:

I’m grateful that I had the courage to realize living that way was no longer serving me.

I’m grateful that I have an incredibly supportive husband that not only believes in me and encourages me, but knows me well enough to say “I will never let you go back to teaching public school again”.

I am grateful that I get to serve my fellow women/sisters, to help them find their inner strength during pregnancy birth, and beyond.

I am grateful that I get to help families learn how to communicate better with one another, to help bring them closer to finding a sense of peace.

I am grateful I don’t have to wake up in the morning to a super-duper early alarm clock and feel that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as my day begins.

I am grateful that I now have time to go to the gym, prepare healthy foods, and truly take care of my body.

I’m grateful that now I have more quality time to spend with my family, where I’m actually in a good mood, happy and positive, so I can better enjoy them.

I am grateful that I also have time to study what I want to study, to further my own personal growth in every aspect.

I am grateful that I am aware enough to be grateful.

So if you feel like you are stuck inside a similar box, you are cramped and cramping and busting at the seams and it’s bringing you down……..there is hope. It just takes the courage to take that one small step in the direction of your dreams. The universe will provide the rest.

So take that step, the step into freedom, peace, love, joy, your wildest dreams.

I’ll hold your hand while you push through, if you want 🙂

 

 

 

Our BIG Night

 

Every night we have a routine. It has pretty much been consistently the same, with a few slight variations  since my son was about 3 months old. Relaxing music on his iPod plays in his room, we do bath time (I must restrict the number of Hotwheels cars he is allowed to bring into said bath to 7, don’t ask), I, or his Dad, or both,  put on his pajamas, we read a book or two, I “help him” brush his teeth and comb his hair, we snuggle in bed, exit stage right. Sounds beautiful, right? Except sometimes it’s not. Many times, it’s not.

We went through a whole phase (at least 2 months, I kid you not) where we (my darling husband and I) had to sit around on the floor with him after we put on his pj’s,  which was a HUGE battle, and make up stories using Hotwheels cars as characters. We ALL had to make up a unique adventure story that had to meet certain random criteria which changed nightly….. that phase passed eventually.

But still, it’s SUCH A STRUGGLE most nights!!!! From one transition to the next, usually SOMETHING triggers a need in him to NEED TO DO SOMETHING ELSE. And believe me, I’m zenmamalove, the self-proclaimed “Mama Lama” herself. I’ve got mad patience. I really do. But lately, and at certain ages and stages, it’s like pulling teeth, and by the time we get to “tuck into bed” I am tense, jaws are clenched, and I’m just dying to get out of there. Like last night. It was a disaster. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember losing my shit at the end, and telling him, in a not-so-great a tone of voice, that I was SO TIRED OF THIS STRUGGLE EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. That I hated going to bed angry and tense, and that’s how most of my nights were ending, and I hated feeling that way. I was completely honest with him about how I felt. And it must have somehow struck a chord.

Because tonight, the strangest thing happened. After his bath (which only required 5 Transformers), he got out WILLINGLY, and he asked me to help him then take off his bathrobe. Then he told me to close my eyes and ears and stay there until he called me, and he left the bathroom. He said it might be awhile but he promised he wasn’t playing around. Hmmmmm……my curiosity was killing me. But I stayed put, eyes closed, praying for the best. Time passed. I heard (of course we both know I could still hear what was going on) a rustling of clothes and it dawned on me…..he was trying to surprise me by getting dressed himself! This is huge! I know to most of you, you probably think “big deal, he’s 5  right?” But to this mama of a highly sensitive, sensory challenged boy, this is a HUGE deal.  We’ve been working on this skill for MONTHS. Sticker charts, incentives, you name it. Hit and miss. Most times I still have to be in his room, reminding him to stay focused, but distracting him with conversation enough that he doesn’t realize he’s actually getting dressed. Because God forbid his arm gets caught in a sleeve or a leg goes in the wrong pants leg, that the sock seams are uncomfortable or the shirt hangs the wrong way…..it could mean disaster and the end of trying for the day.

But tonight, my sweet, wet boy put on HIS UNDIES AND HIS PAJAMAS, all facing the right way I might add, BY HIMSELF, and sauntered back into the bathroom with the BIGGEST smile on his face, showing off his accomplishment, beaming with pride. I made a HUGE deal of it, I was honestly so flattered and touched, it was amazing. I thanked him profusely, told him how happy it made me feel…..then he said “What else can I do by myself now?” Well, shit, I’m going to roll with this!

“How about go find a pair of socks and put them on by yourself?” (do I need to mention how I had to abandon practicing that skill every morning on the way out to school because it just wasn’t worth the torture to both of us?).

“Okay!”. Pitter patter of wet feet down the hall to the basket by the front door, he puts on his socks WITHOUT A PROBLEM OR COMPLAINT and returns smiling.

WHO IS THIS CHILD AND WHAT DID HE DO WITH MY SON??????

So we head into his room to start story time and he says “Be right back!” and runs away, promising he needs to do something important, but not play.  A few minutes pass and I honestly have no idea what he could be doing, so I yell out to him “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” to which he responds “MAKING A DRAWING FOR YOU!”.

Now? At bedtime???

Okay, I will remain calm and patient and let him finish his very important task and be grateful he is being so kind and caring instead of rushing him. He eventually returns with 3 of his latest works of art, all which read “I ❤ Mom” (he started writing this on his own only 2 days ago and it has become a trend….I have quite the collection now). It is so sweet, it is honestly. I show him my gratitude and try to get him into bed to read our bedtime books. But he surprises me AGAIN and proclaims “Tonight, I am going to read you a story”. So he digs out the very last, hardest BOB book, Volume 1, which he hasn’t even cracked open let alone master, and proceeds to sound out every letter on every page and turn them into the proper words with very little coaching at all (that’s my boy!). This is the best reading he has ever done, mind you. He allows me to read the second book for the night, 4 pages of “The Children’s Encyclopedia of the Human Body” which we have now read from cover to cover officially. Nothing like some light reading right before bedtime….”But Mom, what is the pituitary gland exactly and what does it do again?”.

After books, it’s time for teeth brushing and hair combing….aka THE FINAL BATTLE SCENE. He says he’ll do it all by himself, no worries. I stay in the bedroom. He does it. WTF? Then he comes back into the bedroom to show me he has, and asks if he can comb my hair for me. Well, why the hell not?!?! Let’s just see how far this can go for the night! So he combs my hair a little till its “Perfect!” and then puts the comb back in the bathroom where it belongs (!) and comes back and TUCKS HIMSELF INTO BED WITHOUT A PEEP.

And then it hits me- one day, he seriously is NOT going to need me to help him at all with ANY of this. He will be grown, have body hair, be slightly smelly, and will do these things on his own, with very little prompting. No wrestling him into is pajamas, no reading 2 books before lights out and snuggling together in bed….none of it. And I realize how bittersweet these “battles” are. I also realize how much of the “battle” has to do with his sensory issues, transitions,  maturity level……..and my reaction to his BIG NEEDS at the end of a long day. How much my own thoughts and words plays into it. I get just a little taste of what it will be like when he is older and some of these things have worked themselves out…..and it’s such an odd sensation.  I am thrilled he CAN do all these things by himself, and a teeny weeny bit glad he still needs me still a little.

Okay, a lot.

We will see what happens tomorrow night when it’s time for bed. But for tonight, I am proud of my “big boy” and his many accomplishments. And I will bask in all it’s glory for as long as it lasts 🙂

Felix pajamas

The Highly Sensitive Gardeners

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Gardening to me is therapeutic. I love being outside surrounded by nature, feeling with wind, the sun, and the soil between my fingers. Planting seeds, or a tiny plant, is like the opportunity to aid in bringing forth new life into this world. You plant them, nurture them, tend to them, and wait, wondering what exactly will come of the hard work and love that you’ve put into the process.

My 4 year old son and I often garden together. We prune the flower beds, cut off the dying flowers, and pull out roots and stems that are way too far gone.

“Mom, this branch says ‘No!!!! Ouchy!!!! Don’t pull me out!!!’ and this other one says ‘Help me! I need more water please!’.”

I can’t help but smile at hearing the dialogue that his vivid imagination creates for the things around him who cannot speak (out loud) for themselves. What a beautiful thing it is to be that in tune with your surroundings that you feel what they feel. I think back to last summer when we first planted these very same flowers that we care for today, when they were teeny, tiny plants. We dug holes together, and he insisted we relocate every earthworm we came across. He said the worms were scared and needed a new home deep underground, not too far away, so they’d be safe and happy.

And although many times, hearing his words, the intensity of how much he feels things is a beautiful thing, at times it feels like both a blessing and a curse. You see, my son is not only highly sensitive, but also highly spirited (i.e. more stubborn, determined, and strong willed than any MLM salesperson you ever met, but in a tiny person’s body with huge lungs). I was able to recognize it pretty early on in his life because I am also highly sensitive.

I struggled most of my life, not knowing why I was “different”. Why each seemingly little hurt, each little disappointment to me took on a giant emotional gorge in my heart. I can remember as early as kindergarten feeling like I just couldn’t fit in. Throughout grade school, I was always the youngest in my class, the most timid, and the most emotional. The lyrics to a song could easily make me cry, heck even the beauty in a symphonic piece with no lyrics could bring me to tears. I was sure something was terribly wrong with me since everyone around me seemed so happy and so care-free. It wasn’t until my adult life and many years of researching and soul searching that I found a name for what I was, highly sensitive. It was a beautiful moment because finally I knew I was not broken, crazy, or alone. I just felt everything “more”. I learned to understand it, accept it, embrace it, and learned how to better deal with life and it’s situations as a result.

With my son, I suspected very early on he had inherited my sensitivity, which as a child, usually also comes coupled with sensory processing issues. He started off his life with horrific reflux, so pretty much from birth if he was awake, he was screaming. Like bloody-murder-somebody-please-save-me screaming. Feeding him took lots of emotional preparation. I recall one of our first outings as a “new family” to McDonald’s (don’t judge, we made it out of the house after our first week, that was huge for us): He was starving, but when he would drink from the bottle (as breastfeeding did not work out despite my very best efforts, but that’s a post for another day). He would arch his back, pull off from the bottle and scream as if we were pouring hot lava down his tiny developing throat. This would happen every time we fed him. Repeat this process every 3 hours ’round the clock. We couldn’t go out if we would be out and about during a feeding, as his screams could clear a room, and break the heart of any mother in a 2 block radius. Finally, around week 7, and after numerous doctor’s visits, failed medications, fights on the phone begging with insurance companies, etc. we had a “cure” that worked, and it was like a huge weight was lifted. We were finally able to enjoy our baby.

But that was just one tiny piece of the sensitivity puzzle. The world for him was often times too much, too overwhelming in general. He had to be worn in a sling or wrap all the time to feel safe. There was a vigorous rocking-chair-motion and shushing required to get him to sleep early on that even Dr. Harvey Karp would be proud of. Eventually, when he was old enough to watch some hard-core television (after, of course, the magical age of 2 years old when the “experts” deem it safe to expose our young susceptible children to the evils of television), the slightest hint of Thomas the Tank engine making a bad decision to play for a little while longer instead of getting back to work and chugging his cargo back to Tidmouth Sheds would cause my son to hide his eyes in terror, or run out of the room in tears to hide. There was a time, for years (yes YEARS) that the only way he could sleep was on top of me. Like lying vertically on my chest. Like nonstop, all night. It was the only way he felt “safe” enough to allow sleep to take over. To this day, at 4+ years and 40+ pounds, almost every night when I put him to sleep he requests a few minutes of snuggle time with him laying on top of me. Mind you, at this point his body is almost longer than mine. But when he does this, he snuggles in like finally all is right in the world, and its okay to relax.

The flip side of the sensitivity coin is the amazing compassion and kindness he feels towards even the tiniest living creature. How he will go out of his way when riding his bicycle to avoid crushing the myriad of earthworms that have somehow made their way to the center of the sidewalk. How a song can touch him so much that he will cry big, fat, silent tears, or ask me to please change the station because it is too much. How something as simple as dancing to a great song, or blowing dandelions, or riding on any type of public transportation can make his day completely perfect. His squeals of joy are as loud or if not louder than his shouts of discomfort.

I explain all this, the good and the bad, the joy and the pain, the duality of it all because raising a highly sensitive/highly spirited child is beyond hard. Beyond exhausting. And is probably something that is nearly impossible for anyone who is a) not highly sensitive or highly spirited, or b) not the parent of a highly sensitive or highly spirited child to understand.

Life for us HSC’s or parents of HSC’s is different. We are faced day in and day out with situations that for you, may require redirection, a stern look, or a firm “No”. But for us, it can escalate to World War 3 in a heartbeat because they are feeling completely overwhelmed and misunderstood. We have to parent these beings differently to make it work. Every transition is carefully planned out & announced multiple times in advance, every outing thoughtfully prepared so we have the right emergency food, drink, or toy. A neuro-typical person might see a child crying and throwing a fit, being a brat because he doesn’t want to walk from the shore of the beach to the sidewalk. To a highly sensitive child, the feel of the hot, wet sand stuck to his feet while it rubs against his shoes like scalding sandpaper is a sensation so overwhelming it can push him over the brink into the red zone. And because of this, sometimes you judge us. I know you do. Sometimes silently. Sometimes out loud. Sometimes to our face. Sometimes behind our backs. And I get it. Because you haven’t lived it. You have no idea what it’s like to deal with that kind of intensity nonstop, with the crazy situations that most people cannot fathom or understand. You look at us as if we have three heads when we negotiate or try to explain our way through a difficult situation. But we do this because we know this is the way it must be done in order for them to understand and feel understood, and for us to try and maintain our sanity. And the “Thank you, mama” in that tiny voice I get, accompanied with a gigantic bear hug that could crush my ribs when I do understand, stay calm, get it right and work with his sensitivities instead of dismissing them as nonsense let me know how integral it is to his sense of self-worth, sense of stability, sense of “this world is actually a safe place to be in after all”.

So please, next time when you feel that judgment creep in, take a moment and pause, and remember our experience is different than yours.

My heart breaks a little for him for all the times I know people will deal with him in ways that will do more harm than good, for both their sakes. I know I can’t protect him from it all, nor should I. So I don’t. But we talk about it a lot. I strive to make him self-aware of his own needs, and work on expressing them in ways that are socially acceptable. I know as he grows and matures, things will get easier for us all. Not easy, but easier. I know these traits he has can and will be honed in to something amazing, and he will one day discover a new planet or design and build a new technology racecar/rocket ship hybrid. His intensity and focus will be used for the powers of good and the advancement of humanity. It’s just for now, he’s 4. And for now, it translates into him obsessing over that one toy that the one kid on the playground has that he wants to take a turn with soooooo badly, and that he will cry about, tantrum about, plead about 100 gazillion times “But WHEN will it be my turn?!?!” And this can go on for hours, and leave an emotional mark for days, or even months. Like an elephant that never forgets.

Time and patience and teaching are the solution. There are no short cuts for us on this journey that will not backfire if we try to take them.

So for now, we garden. And relocate worms, and listen to the sounds & words of nature and flowers, and laugh and breathe get through the rough patches. I have learned to appreciate all the facets of this unique type of personality. I have learned to appreciate his extreme sweetness, as well as his extreme determination when he is so engrossed in the task at hand that he literally can’t even hear me asking him to put on his shoes or brush his teeth. I appreciate his “more-ness”. And as usual, it makes me wonder, who is the teacher here and who is the student?

 

 

Life Lessons from a Four-Year-Old, Vol. 1

Last weekend we had a full, fun, exhausting day, which included me attending a birth starting in the wee hours of the morning, then coming home and putting on my “Super Mom” hat, picking up my son and taking him to a birthday party. It was fun, but overwhelming at times. I was beyond exhausted. On our way home, I had to stop at Publix as we were completely out of a few staples my 4-year-old son can’t do without. So as we walk in, he tells me “Mommy, go that way, you need some flowers.” Instinctually I said “No, we don’t need them” but then I got to thinking.  I had actually mentally told myself earlier I’d love to make it a habit of having fresh flowers in the house on a weekly basis, to remind me to take care of myself, do something that brings me joy on a regular basis, and appreciate the beauty around us. So when he insisted, I said “You know what? You’re right. Let’s go get some flowers”. So we rolled over there, and I started to nose around, picking up one bouquet after another, examining their beauty as well as looking at the price tag on each one to help me determine which one to buy. He says “Mommy, what are you doing?” with a voice that seemed to indicate I must be doing something completely ridiculous to him. I explained I was looking to see how much they cost to help me choose. My little sage then says, with a roll of his eyes, “Mommy, that’s not how you choose, just pick the beautifullest one, that’s what you deserve. Don’t think about it, just pick”. And it hit me, he is right. This isn’t a car payment I’m pondering, it’s a freaking bouquet of flowers, from a supermarket no less. I deserve this small token of beauty and love. Even my four-year old sees that. The $5 difference isn’t going to break the bank. I need to always remember to honor myself and the hard work I do, and be gentle and kind, and loving with myself. He knew I needed a reminder, he knew I needed some joy, and beauty, and love. So I picked the most “beautifullest” bouquet and showed it to him. He grinned a big grin, took them from me, smelled them, and then handed them back saying “These are for you, I love you Mommy. I really wanted to get you flowers”. And just like that, he taught me that lesson, on a late Sunday afternoon,  in the middle of a crowded supermarket. I matter. I deserve beauty. I deserve joy. I deserve love. Always. image

Thoughts from a Teacher During the Last Weeks of the School Year

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#endofyearface

How many days do we have left?

Did I get all the seniors grades finalized, and made all necessary deals so they can pass if they deserve it?

Where did I put last years final exam?

If I have to grade one more paper I will scream.

If one more student decides to wait till NOW to ask how he can do something about his grade, I will scream. Now? Really? There are 2 weeks left! Why are you just worrying about your grade now?????

I’m so tired.

How many weeks has it been since I actually opened my personal mail?

Why is my email inbox multiplying even though I check it several times a day?

I subscribe to way too many online forums.

I wish I had more time to read the good stuff that comes through said online forums.

Man, I look like a cross between Frida Kahlo and Einstein….must schedule a haircut and some pampering.

What the heck am I going to make for dinner tonight?

What will my child ACTUALLY EAT that I can make for dinner tonight?

The dog smells. Bad.

When am I going to have time to bathe the dog?

Did I call my Dad today, um, yesterday? This week? Oops.

How the heck did I get so off track with my diet?!?! It was going so well! Damn it! And I will be wearing a bathing suit soon. Sigh.

It’s not humanly possible to end the school year by returning to my gluten-free, caffeine-free, sugar-free, alcohol-free state of being. It’s just not. So bring on the wine, lattes, and muffins. In any order you want. Just not all at the same time. There will be time to regroup in June.

How the hell do other full time teacher/moms/wives do this???

My birthday is coming. What do I do about that?

I really miss exercise. No really, I do. Just walking regularly would be nice.

I’m still so tired.

My garden is yelling at me. Must start over and try again. I miss fresh tomatoes.

I am leaving my secure job to start my own business in 3 weeks……where the heck do I start?

Why does the dog insist on eating his own poop?

Why are vet visits always so damn expensive? You think with the amount of money I have spent recently he would at least stop eating his own poop.

I’m really so tired.

My list of things I want to + need to read is out of control.

These students are out of control.

How did the future generation become so apathetic? They are like crack addicts with their cell phones.

Some day my son will be a high school senior. Shudder.

 I miss my husband. We need a date night.

I need a girl’s night.

I need a sleep night.

This feeling of being a hamster running like mad on the spinning wheel of eternity will come to and end soon. It will.

Right?

RIGHT?!?!?!?

 

“It’s Not You, It’s Me”

Something will grow

Today I want to stretch your spiritual muscles. Stretching is good for you, although it can be difficult at first, and will leave you (possibly) sore for a bit. But think big picture here! Think a little discomfort now for big personal growth later. Are you with me?

Let’s start by playing pretend. You know, like you used to when you were a little kid and you played superheroes using sticks as swords, or played dress-up or something. Good. Now that we’ve suspended our disbelief, anything is possible. So let’s go with that. Let’s pretend that you have the power to create your own reality. That everything you say and do has an impact on the physical and energetic reality of the world directly around you. Your words literally create your truth. Your emotions, which are linked often times to your words, create your truth.

Okay. So given that, let’s look at a scenario…a difficult or painful interaction with someone you love, like a family member or very close friend, that went badly in the past. Let’s re-examine it with fresh, new, childlike eyes. Let’s have a do-over.

Replay the scene in your mind. But this time, try and identify where it went wrong. Maybe the other person got really angry and yelled at you for some reason, went off the deep end, went ballistic… STOP. Hit the pause button and freeze-frame it. Take a deep breath. Now try and connect with that person, I mean really connect, like to their soul. See what is hurting them to cause them to react that way towards you. What is the underlying need behind their behavior? What are they REALLY angry about? What need is not being met? Maybe they are lashing out as a knee jerk reaction to what they perceive as a wrong being done to them and their reality. They are in pain, they are hurting, and the only way at that moment (for whatever reason) they know how to express that pain is through a show of anger. They may shout, they may hit, they may walk away and slam a door, or they may shut down emotionally. Take a good look at them. And then breathe and shift. See past their actions to the root. They are asking for love, for help, in the only way they can at that moment.

So now you have a choice. Match their emotion, and escalate the interaction to an even higher/angrier interaction, OR, realize that YOU are responsible for YOUR OWN EMOTIONS AND FEELINGS. You don’t have to react!!!! You can choose to stay present and calm in your own space! You have your own energetic field around you, and NO ONE can “make” you feel a certain way, unless you let them! You have a bubble of “you-ness” that surrounds you at all times. Some people call this an aura. Call it what you like. Sometimes this bubble is big and happy and huge, sometimes is tiny and quiet and can barely contain your body. But it’s always yours, and no one has the right to take it from you or infringe upon it. They can’t. So it’s all about you maintaining your boundaries, your energetic and emotional boundaries. “Did you forget you had a choice?” as one of my favorite teachers, Jeffrey Allen, says. Choose peace at that moment. Choose to connect with them at a soul level, see them as being in pain, and instead of matching energy, find a moment to send them peace. And love. At that moment, all that might mean is you being quiet. Not reacting badly. Not yelling. Even just taking a breath and letting it out without a word.

Then wait and see what happens. If you can maintain your bubble in peace…a change will come. Either the other person will erupt in fury for not eliciting a reaction, and it will all come out and flow out like lava, then calm down, or, the other person will see you remained calm, and this will help talk them down from the ledge of anger/pain. Mind you, I’m not saying give in to crazy, unreasonable demands here. I’m saying just take a look at the reality of the situation. Don’t paint yourself into a corner. Find a way for you, or the other to save face. Look behind the scenes at what is fueling the fire. Is it really a fire? Or simply a match that was lit, and in your eyes, or his/her eyes, has taken on a new/bigger/more dramatic appearance?

It’s YOUR choice, how you react. And that choice will most definitely define that moment in time, and even the moments that come as a result of it in the future.

Try to remember that we are all humans here, trying the best we can in any given situation. We are all learning to some degree. Some of us need more practice or are more new to the process than others. Some of us have more baggage or more unhealed past hurt than others. But we ALL need love. And compassion. So we all need to give love. And compassion. Let those ripples of kindness and love and compassion extend out beyond our own “bubbles” and vibrate to other bubbles…. and start a chain reaction.

This process is not easy, not in any way, especially at first. But it’s like a muscle. A spiritual muscle we have to retrain, to stretch out and work on so it feels better. So that eventually your whole being feels better as a consequence of it.

I encourage you to try it. Go back and have a mental do over. And then next time you have the opportunity to practice it in real life, in present time, try it. See what happens. What do you have to lose? You’ve done it the other way a million times and it hasn’t worked out great for you, has it? Aren’t YOU worthy of love, of compassion? It all starts with you. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself, and those around you. That is not a weakness; it is the greatest strength.

Will you have the courage to try it? I would LOVE to hear your comments, especially after you’ve given it a shot…

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  -Ghandi

And yes, I know, it’s not all just as simple as that “bumper sticker quote”. But it’s a damn good place to start.