I Don’t Like You

It’s been a tough morning and it’s only 730am. My son’s sensory issues have been really bad lately. I’d say for the past month or so, he’s been having a hard time with his pants not feeling ‘right’. Most mornings are bearable but today in particular – was a doozy. My heart is sort of breaking right now. It hurts me to see him struggle like this and know that there is nothing I can do to help him. I sometimes let my own personal junk get in the way when parenting him and that results in both of us yelling at each other.
He managed to fumble out of the house this morning with only his pants on. I followed behind him with his shoes and shirt – only to get in the car to hear his screams and see the tears rolling down his face. What do I say when he asks me why his pants don’t feel right? I really don’t know. Our morning bus stop routine ended with him declaring that he was not taking his stupid coat, slamming the door and yelling, “I don’t like you” at the top of his lungs. Well, how’s that for a Monday morning?
I will say this, I’ve learned a lot when it comes to parenting a child like this. You can’t take a moment, not even a second for granted. Because the times that he is smiling and enjoying being a kid – are the moments I hang on to when I see him like this. Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is difficult. Some people don’t believe it’s real and some people say, just tell him to snap out of it. Oh, I wish it were that simple. If you’re reading this post today and you’re frustrated, sad, upset, confused, let me tell you this, it will be okay. There IS light at the end of the tunnel and things WILL be okay again. I’m already working on a few things for Dylan to do when he gets home because I just don’t know what kind of mood he’ll be in come 3 o’clock. Here’s what I do when a morning like this sneaks up on us…

1. First thing, I email his/her teacher. You should too. Open communication with your kid’s teacher is key to his/her success in the classroom. No need to write her an essay. Just send her a quick note telling her that your child is having a tough morning, etc.

2. Clear your schedule – if possible. Luckily, the only thing I had planned for today was going to the gym and writing…so I will clear my schedule of the first and stay home with my girls in case I need to get Dylan from school.

3. Pull out the sensory tricks. I’ve got Dylan’s rice bucket, playdough and moon sand ready to go for when he gets home. Any one of these will help him calm down. See my post on making your own rice bucket.

4. Don’t take it personally. Sure, it was hard to hear Dylan say that he didn’t like me this morning but I know it’s not me. I know this is hard for him and I’m the only person he can take it out on and feel safe to do so. When I see him hurting, it just fuels me to love him that much more.

5. Grace. I have to remember to give him grace through these moments. I’m pretty tough when it comes to disciplining him but I know there are some things beyond his control…sensory processing is one of them. As long as I remember that there is a sweet, loving little boy inside there, I can keep my focus lazer beam. Give yourself grace, too. This is hard stuff.

You know I’m all about helping other moms out there. You’re doing a good job and you can do this. Today may be a setback but you’ve got the tools to keep going. If you’re just starting your journey with SPD, I encourage you to get a referral for an occupational therapist. This is where I got a lot of my “tools” for helping Dylan. You got this, momma!

Pokemon 101

Who would’ve thought that Pokemon could bring a smile to my face? I have no clue how to even play Pokemon. I know it’s a card game and I think it works with points. Each card has a number or a value and you play against other people to win their cards (I think). If this is what my 7-year-old wants to talk to me about, you bet I’m going to listen.

Every morning we get into the car and listen to the radio while we wait for the bus. Today was slightly different. I pulled into our usual carline spot and drank my coffee while my son flipped through his Pokemon binder. I was worried that he thought he was going to be able to take it with him to school and told him I’d prefer if it stayed with me until he got home. He started to tell me about the game and how the Legendary cards held the highest value. I found myself staring at his cute little hands and thinking about when he was a baby and how I used to rub that part on his wrist where the chub meets the hand. The part that looks like an elastic band is separating the hand from the arm. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s like Baby 101 cuteness. I was still listening to him but years and years of his life were flashing through my mind as he explained the value of different cards. I could tell he was really concentrating on what he was telling me and he hadn’t even looked up once. I kept asking myself in my head how on earth we’d gotten to this point where he was old enough to be explaining a card game to me. Raising him has been hard but it was like all of a sudden I couldn’t believe how fast these 7 years have gone by being his mom. At times, I feel like I’ve blinked and now he’s this young boy who is teaching me things.

I’m an emotional person. That’s just part of my makeup. So, I’ll admit, I was starting to get a little teary-eyed when he looked up at me and said, “Mom, you should get your own pack of cards so that we can play together when I get home from school.”

Ummm, yes, totally. Is it weird that I was really excited that my son had just asked me to play Pokemon with him? The game that he plays with his friends and has never talked to me about until now? You better believe that I have just added ‘buying Pokemon cards’ to my to-do list today. And I will definitely be Googling how to play this game just so I can hold my own. If this is how my son wants to bond with me than I’m going to give it my best try.

I did end up letting him take the binder to school. I figured it was a battle not worth fighting.

What’s My Platform?

I’ve been writing for a long time. Actually, when I was updating my bio for my website, I just about choked on my grapes when I did the math and realized it’d been 15 years since I started college. 15 years? That makes me feel old. My focus has changed since then, of course, since I have children now and my beat went from restaurant writing to “restaurant tips with kids”. While my subject matter has changed quite a bit – my love for sharing what I know has not.

My platform (aka) what I think I know enough about to share with others and care enough about to spend time on, is helping other moms. Not just giving advice here and there, although, that is helpful, but really getting in the trenches with other moms and encouraging them one by one. When I see another mom hurting or crying or having a hard time with her child – I just want to hold her hand and tell her I understand. My first thought is to ask what’s wrong and then see if I have any tools in my toolbox to help her through the situation.

Most of the time, moms are open to letting me share what I know. Sometimes they’re a bit more private and that’s okay, too. I just want to share what I know and what has helped me along the way in any way that I can – whether that’s face-to-face or through my writing.

There are many things I like to research, talk about and write about, but when I whittled it down to what gets me excited about life and looking forward to my next assignment, well it would be parenting. Since there is no one-size-fits-all for being a mom, why not share what I know and help other moms in the process? It seems like a win-win to me.

I finished a manuscript this past October and I’m pretty excited about it. It will be a book about my parenting journey, what that looked like (and looks like now) and real-life tips that I hope will inspire you to take control of whatever it is that you might be facing as a mom right now.

“Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti” Bob Goff, Author of “Love Does”

I recently flew back to my hometown in Massachusetts. I took a few days (without the kids) to visit my family and I just have to say, it was wonderful. I missed my kids but I found that I was able to enjoy the little things and have a clearer sense of what was going on around me.

It started with the plane ride. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself when I sat down and looked around. I pulled out my book of crossword puzzles and listened to the conversations around me. Occasionally, I looked out the window to think about how excited I was to see my family. It only happens about once a year.

When I got off the second leg of my flight, I noticed a young mom, baby on her hip, waiting for her stroller and car seat that she had checked plane-side. She couldn’t have been more than 23 or so and the look on her face is one I have had many times when flying with my children. When her items showed up, she was trying to open the stroller with one hand while holding the baby and there was a cold, misty wind blowing in through the open door. The baby’s blanket was falling down and this sweet young mom was trying every trick she knew to get that thing open. I noticed everyone around her (about 20 passengers, or so) just watching. I went over to her and started helping. I’ve been through this stroller thing a time or two and I know how frustrating it can be; especially when it’s a small place and you’re trying to get the heck out of dodge.

It wouldn’t budge. I asked to hold her baby so she could try again and the look on her face was part worry and part “thank you”. I told her I would stay right next to her. She handed her sweet little baby girl to me and tried again to open the stroller. It wouldn’t open. She and I made eye contact and in an unspoken language that only mothers can interpret, decided to walk to the terminal dragging the stroller. When we got to an area where we could put all of her bags down, she kept saying, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

I noticed another woman behind me who started helping with the car seat. There was no talk about do this or do that. The three of us just knew what to do. I handed the baby back to her mom and got to work on the stroller. We laughed about how this had happened to me before and how frustrating it was that strollers and car seats seemed to be things that were damaged the most. “Next time, put your stuff in a big duffle bag or trash bag,” the woman said. “This has happened to me before and I learned the hard way.” The three of us laughed and just then, the stroller popped open (with a broken wheel from the flight) and the car seat was back together.

“Thank you so much,” the mom said.

I just smiled and told her “Us Moms” need to stick together.

I said goodbye and headed out of the terminal to meet my sister who I hadn’t seen since the summer. We tackled each other with hugs, like we always do, and a smile bigger than you can even imagine naturally stretched across my face. “Sorry,” I said to her. “I was helping another mom with her stroller.” I continued to tell my sister the story about this mom as we left the airport. We plopped down in her car and picked up right where we left off – as if 5 months apart was like 5 minutes apart.

I can’t tell you how happy it made me to be able to help another mom. Sure, I would have done it even if I had my kids with me but the fact that I had two free hands and no one else to take care of made it so much easier to help.

“Throw kindness around like confetti,” Bob Goff, says, author of ‘Love Does’. Okay, I will 🙂

What act of kindness will you show today? Tell me on my Facebook page.

New! “Overwhelmed to In Control 10 Day Mom Challenge”

I am so excited to announce the launch of my new mom challenge. “Overwhelmed to In Control” is a 10-day series that I have put together to help you get up and out of bed day after day. Being a mom is hard. Sometimes it’s hard to think about getting up and doing it all over again the next day. But this is what this challenge will do for you. I will give you tips every day for 10 days on how to get the strength to not only get out of bed but flourish as a mom. For those of you have children with special needs – this challenge will be so good for you. You have a double dose of stressful situations every day and I know how to help you. Let me help you. I will keep each challenge short and simple but each one will be packed with helpful information that you can use long after the challenge is over. Will you join me in empowering each other one mom at a time?

Once you sign up and pay for your 10 Day Challenge, you will receive a confirmation email from me. You will start receiving your challenges right away!

West




When the Dust Settles

This is a hard post for me to write. But, I think I’ll find freedom in sharing it with you. My life is good. Really good. I have three amazing kids and a husband who loves me more than I’ll ever know. We live in a beautiful home in a nice neighborhood and are all happy and healthy. I’m in my seventh year of being a stay-at-home mom and have settled in nicely to my role. But, there is something I struggle with day in and day out…my words.

Sometimes, when my son is having an especially hard day and he can’t quite help himself with all of the stimming he’s got going on – I find myself short, rude and impatient. I say things before thinking. I give him weird looks without realizing the effect they will have on him. I yell when I should be taking a “time out” for myself to collect my thoughts. It’s not until the dust settles that I realize just how awful I’ve been. Often, it’s too late. My apologies are accepted and we’ve both gone on to other tasks but I can see it on his face. I can see the scars I’ve left and am still making all over his sweet soul.

I spend the rest of the day beating myself up about the way I’ve just behaved and beg for mercy that he’ll give me another chance to be the right kind of mom. I pour myself into parenting books and cater to his every need in the hopes that I will change my ways the next time. I talk to him all the time about bullies at school but inside I’m thinking, “I’m the real bully.”

Not all days are like this. We have really good days, mediocre days and terrible days. It’s only on the unbearable days that I let my words flow out of me like poison. Why is it so hard to be a parent to a child with special needs? Because not every day is the same. What worked today won’t work tomorrow. Because I want my child to be happy and to not have to have special circumstances that call for stress balls, rice buckets or medication. I want him to be free of worry and doubt. I want him to relish in the innocence that is childhood.

So when I see one of his friends being mean to him after I’ve just yelled at him – it’s all I can do not to curl up into a ball and just roll away. I have to make this life a better place for him I think. And so, I tell myself that I will do better tomorrow and I do.

I promised to keep this website real, and to share the things that have worked for me…so here are a few tips that have helped.

1. Take a breath. A big one.
2. Tell yourself he’s only 6 (or 4 or 5 or whatever age your child is)
3. Pre-plan what you’re going to say. Meaning – if you think your interaction could go south – think about what you’ll say or won’t say to avoid mean words spewing out.
4. Take a time out for yourself. Tell your child you need a minute and you’ll be right back. (Obviously, only leave your child alone if they are old enough).
5. Keep reciting the good things about your child in your head. This will help you stay positive.
6. Give yourself grace. No really. Do it. This is something I have to continually work on. I can say it but I don’t always do it. Parenting a child with special needs is so hard. Harder than anyone will ever (truly) tell you. You’re doing the best you can. Today is done. Tomorrow is a new day.

Thanks for letting me be real.

The Frustrated Child: When Imperfection Becomes a Catalyst for Behavioral Challenges

I started writing this article for a friend who was seeing her first grader act out in a way that was not in his character. She asked me if I had any tips and tricks on how to help him get through those moments when he is trying to learn how to write but cannot seem to get it completed the way he thinks it should be done. I can relate. I deal with these battles every day with my child and have had to become quite resourceful on how to diffuse the situation and stop it from becoming an even bigger issue.

If your child gets easily frustrated with herself over tying her shoes, drawing a triangle, making animals out of playdough – whatever the activity may be – I have a few tricks up my sleeve to make things a bit easier. Here are 8 kid-friendly ways to help your child go from frustrated to confident.

1. Make sure the task is age-appropriate. Children can get easily frustrated when something is too hard for them. If your son sits down to write a sentence but gets upset because it doesn’t look the way he wants it to, make it one step easier. Instead of using pencils, pens and crayons, get him one of those dry erase boards with the lines already on them. This will give him an exact place to write his words and he can simply erase any mistakes he makes along the way. When he’s ready, move him on to pencil and paper.

2. Build her confidence. Children typically want to please their parents. Don’t wait until your daughter is excelling at her homework to tell her she’s doing a good job. Make a big deal about her progress even when she’s just doodling or doing something just for fun. Start instilling in her the self-confidence that she is capable of the task at hand. Encourage her and show her by example that her drawings and writing will get better over time.

3. Make it fun. I remember writing in those small blue books in school. I’m talking about the light blue, flimsy, white-lined books that you took some sort of awful test in. Some children need visual stimulation to get their brains going. Let your child decorate his notebook with action hero stickers. Encourage him to write a few sentences about what Superman is doing in the picture. Replace random words like pencil, kite, kitten or ball with cheap stickers you can pick up at the store. I see this done in elementary-aged books all the time. A sentence might look something like this: “I went to the [put a picture of a grocery store here] with my mom today.”

4. If your child is encouraged by rewards, go ahead and have a stash of her favorite candy, chapstick or any other small item that will get her working towards her goal. Maybe it is a bigger reward that she cannot see yet. Tell her after she works on writing complete sentences for one week, she can go to the store and pick out a toy. Learning can be hard and challenging sometimes. Change it up and give your daughter something tangible to look forward to.

5. Get on their level. Something that has always worked with my children, hands-down, whether they are sad, mad, frustrated or scared is when I say, “I felt that way too when I was your age.” Or, “Yeah, I understand why you feel that way. I remember when I had to learn that in school and it was really tough for me.” This always opens the door for communication because your child will inevitably say, “You had to do this too? When you were my age?” Kids have no concept of their age and your age. Remind them that you know exactly what they are feeling because you experienced it too.

6. Take a timeout. No, I don’t mean put your child in time out. Learning should be fun, not discouraging. If your child is getting upset over things that are out of his control, take a break from the activity and do something else. Get a drink of water, have a snack, run a lap around the house, pull out the rice bin and take a mental break from the assignment. Kids get overwhelmed with information just like adults do. Sometimes they just need a break.

7. Redirect their behavior. If your child has been acting out (think yelling, being defiant, rude, bothered, unmotivated, etc.) by all means, let him know that the way he is behaving is unacceptable. Explain that everyone gets overwhelmed at times but it’s not okay to act out in a way that affects the family dynamics. This is going to happen. It just will. Kids are still learning how to control their emotions and since everyone is born with their own temperament, this will look different from child to child.

8. A mood chart. This is a tool I have used over and over again with my kids. You know those silly looking smiley face charts you see in your pediatrician’s office? The ones that say, “Rate your pain” and have a happy face with the number one all the way up to a sad face with the number ten. Yeah, make one of those. Most children do not know how to express what they are feeling. Teach them what it means to be upset, angry, frustrated, tired, mad, angry and bored. Keep this chart handy the next time your child is doing her homework and ask her to show you what she’s feeling. Once you understand why she is feeling that way, validate it and move on.

how-u-are-feeling1Hang in there. Your child will get through this phase in their life and things won’t always be a battle. The older they get, the easier it will be for them to channel their feelings in a more productive way. Revisit the writing activity with these steps and you will see immediate success.

How To Make a Sensory Rice Bin

 

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The first thing I give my son when he gets home from school is his rice bin. This is a great sensory activity for children with Sensory Processing Disorder because it has such a calming effect on the brain. Putting one together is really, quite easy. Follow these 5 simple steps:

1. Head to the dollar store and pick up a plastic shoe box.

2. Buy a large bag of rice.

3. Let your child pick out a few cheap trinket-like toys to hide in his rice bin.

4. Dump the rice in the bin. Dump the toys in the bin. Let your child play. Volia! Sensory Rice Bin for your child.

5. To keep this sensory activity up-to-date, let your child pick out new toys from time to time to hide in the rice. Be sure to keep a lid on the bin once your child is done playing.

Enjoy!

Invest in Yourself

Good Morning! I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about when I do my writing. Specifically, “How do you have time to write and build your platform with little kids at home?” Well, I’d be happy to share my secrets with you.

From reading my ‘About’ page on my website, you know that I have always loved to write so finding the time is really about priorities. Sure, when I had my first baby, I was still figuring out how to function on a daily basis but three kids later – I’ve got this down pat.

I was reading a magazine one day while I was nursing my son and came across someone’s review of a book called, Writer Mama by Christina Katz. I went to my local library and checked it out. That book was the catalyst for teaching me how to continue writing (for profit) while raising my son. That book was so helpful that I decided to take classes with the author online. Fast-forward six years later and I am still working with her.

So, to answer your question, I find time to write by continuing to invest in my craft. The more I sharpen my skills as a writer – the more I want to write. The more I write – the more money I make. Simply put, you make time for what’s important.

As I begin this exciting journey of website building, manuscript writing and public speaking, I can’t help but get excited at the idea of reaching millions of women across the world and empowering them to be the best version of themselves.

This might look different for each woman. That’s okay. My writing coach told me that time is my friend and not my enemy. So what’s your dream? Are you pursuing it?

Invest in yourself and do what you love.

Writing Books

 

Integrating Special Needs Families Within the Church: 5 Simples Steps that Helped Me

Today was a day of many firsts. I networked with my children’s pastors from church to talk about ways to integrate special needs families within the church. How do we make families feel more comfortable? How do we share our resources? I was pleasantly surprised to hear that our church has access to sensory toys and has accommodated several children with special needs. I think this is a great thing. All we want is to feel ‘normal’ and fit in with everyone else. However, I think there is a negative connotation when it comes to the term special needs. Why is that?

Well, I think it’s because we don’t really know how to define special needs. If a child has a behavioral disorder – is he or she considered special needs? Or is that term only coined for those who have physical disorders that we can see? I mentioned on my web page that I didn’t even know I had a child who was considered special needs until I was talking on the phone with a friend. I remember what happened after that phone call – clear as day. I thought, huh, why did she say that?

I took my question to one of our pediatric doctors and asked him what he thought. Does my child have special needs and I just didn’t know it? His response to me was something that helped me process and make my own decision. He said, “I think any child who has special circumstances or needs some sort of additional help to allow them to succeed or function in certain settings/environments would be someone who we would consider to have special needs. Literally, what it says…this child has special needs in order to learn and behave the way he or she is supposed to.”

Okay, that helps. It sucks. But it helps. It’s helped me be more patient. It’s helped me see things more clearly. And I think it’s helped me be a better mom. When I know better, I do better. So back to my original question, how do we integrate special needs families within the church? Here’s what I think based on my own experiences:

1. If you’re looking for a church, get online and listen to a few different sermons. Is the pastor engaging? Is he saying something in a way that gets you excited about the Bible?

2. Once you’ve picked a church you want to visit, drop your children off in their rooms. When service is over and you’ve picked them up, check in with your children about how it went. There’s no need to point out what this person has or that person has unless you feel like your child would benefit from their teacher having that specific information. I will say this, I don’t walk into a room and announce that my son has XY and Z. But I do keep my eyes and ears open. What I mean by this is, if a teacher says something to me about something that may have happened, that’s my opening to say, okay, yes, I’d like to talk with you for a few minutes about this. And then go on with whatever it is that you want to say about what would help your child in the future. This is a great opportunity for open dialogue between you and the children’s pastor.

3. In my experience, most families don’t want to talk about their child who has special needs. Often times, it was hard enough for them to just show up, in one piece, to attend church. They live the hard times every day and want church to be a place of rest for them. It’s a place to recharge. Unless there is blood, or some sort of emergency, don’t bother the parents in service. They need a break. On the flipside, if you have a child in the nursery who won’t stop screaming, then by all means, bring it to the parents’ attention and ask them what you can do to help. You can’t make someone tell you what’s going on with their child but you can show concern, empathy and sympathy for a situation that looks like it might need some prayer.

4. Small groups are a tough thing for me. I love the idea of small groups and up until just recently, it wasn’t something our family could continue to do based on our situation. I’ve noticed that churches group people in common themes for small groups (young adults, 50+, singles, etc.) Offer a special needs group if you think there’s a need for it, or if you don’t want to call that much attention to it, make a group that provides childcare so the parents don’t have to worry about watching their children while they’re fellowshipping. Some families can fellowship alongside their children. But some families are in the thick of it and are getting diagnosis, medications, you name it…and just need some space from their kids. They need to feel like people again. For us, church was the only time when we could have time alone – away from our kids – and know that they were in the same building being well taken care of. So, I’m sure this is true for many other families. Church might be their only time together, to reconnect.

5. Acceptance. I think this goes without saying but we just want to feel accepted. What does this look like? This is, saying hello to every member of the family. This is smiling. This is encouraging and praying for the family. This is reaching out to the family and inviting them to something. I was just telling a friend today that it’s been six years that I’ve been hearing the same message, “We have elders in the back and the front who are ready to pray for you and with you.” And I still haven’t had the courage to get up there and say, “Yes, I need prayer for my family.” So, I know there is only so much that a church can do to extend their help – especially when the family chooses not to share it. But, keep asking, because one day, that family will say something and it will be life-changing for them.

xoxo Meagan