Category Archives: Mothering

Winds of Change…again


I could make this really dramatic, but these details are boring. Basically, I’m no longer employed. So for the first time, I am “just” a stay-at-home mom. I’ve always worked part-time, or been in school full-time since our kids were born. I went to work when Jonathan was 6 weeks old.

I’m thrilled.

Of course, there is the stark terror of losing 1/4 of our income. I’m not sure how the math is going to work out next month. And I keep having this compulsion to check my email (nope, nothing interesting) and I keep having the feeling that there’s SOMETHING ELSE I should be doing. I didn’t realize how much mental stress I was under while working from home. I actually cleaned the floors yesterday. All of them. And today, someone got jelly on the tile…so I was actually able to steam the floors AGAIN. I don’t think I’ve ever cleaned the floors two days in a row!

I’m spending lots of quality time with Josh and Izzy this week. Playing on the (super clean!) floor with them, reading to them, playing outside in the garden (although my lizard-hunting skills are really rusty). I have time to make dinner, make lunches, prep breakfast. I did ALL the laundry yesterday. And I’m almost done putting it ALL away. The last time I did that was…never.

I have TIME to coupon. I have TIME to blog. I have TIME to garden. I may even…gasp! have time to finish my book!

Oh the adventures! The drama!

I’m REALLY missing my big kids, though. With one car and their school 40 minutes away, they are gone as long as Anthony. Now that I can focus on my kids, I want them HERE with me….

Expect more from me in the future. I have time to explore my dreams. And I think it’s worth the trade off.

Teaching Izzy how to eat!

Loving Joshy’s wild side!

Missing my big kids!!

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My Autism Interview


(This is taken from a website I’ve just joined, myautismteam.com. I processed so much while answering these questions, that I had to post it here.)

Q: Tell us your autism story.

A:

While completing my degree, then-three-year-old Jonathan and one-year-old Hannah went to the university preschool. That was when we first heard that Jonathan might be autistic. His teacher had a specialist evaluate him (IN the room with 30 other kids running around). Needless to say, he didn’t do well on that test, and the specialist (who was quite insensitive to us) said he was likely autistic. We got a second opinion at a smaller preschool, where they evaluated him in a quiet room with just the teachers. He did much better then, and was labeled developmentally delayed with some social and speech issues (mainly lack of eye-contact and echolailia – repeating/parroting words/sounds, and non-conversational language).

We immediately enrolled in an early intervention program that we attended twice a week with him. He made great strides and by the time he was 5, was bright, energetic, and loved learning. He has an amazing ability to hear something once and be able to remember it. We moved to a new state and I homeschooled him. It was a fun year, teaching him how to read, exploring his favorite subjects (marine biology, history, space), and spending lots of time with him. I did have a hard time with his handwriting…no matter how much we worked on it, it seemed like every day I would have to re-teach him how to write letters. I suspected then that he might be dyslexic, because he was constantly flipping letters.

For kindergarten/pre-first, we enrolled him in a Montessori school. He loves school and his teachers, but his teachers again noticed things that were “off” about Jonathan. He was brilliant, but had no patience. He made lots of friends, but didn’t know how to talk with them. He talked AT everyone, had a hard time sitting still and listening, and had an incredibly short fuse. He was easily frustrated and would get angry very quickly. We noticed a lot of the behavioral stuff at home. He would go from being in a great mood to throwing toys across the room and growling. He would be sitting, playing quietly to suddenly yelling and screaming at apparently nothing. We discussed these concerns with his teacher in his first evaluation (Fall 2011), and she asked our permission to have him tested. We finally had a meeting in April of 2012 with the school’s special education resource person, a child psychologist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, his teacher, and the principal. They were WONDERFUL! Each had done a detailed evaluation of Jonathan and they all seemed to really GET our boy. Through their in-depth testing and discussing all the results, we agreed with their diagnosis that Jonathan has Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism.

We are now in the process of researching therapies, diets, medications, etc. to help Jonathan succeed as he goes into first grade. I also strongly suspect that our two-year-old son, Joshua, is also on the autism spectrum, perhaps even to a greater extent than Jonathan.

Q: Most days I find myself…

A:Waking up to make coffee and lunch for my husband, trying to have a few minutes of quiet time reading or Facebooking before the kids get up for their breakfast. I work from home as an editor, so once the breakfast chaos is over, I bounce back and forth between settling the kids with snacks or activities and getting work done. I try not to let the TV babysit, but it’s especially hard during the summer when it’s too hot for the kids to play outside!

Q:When did you know your child was on the Spectrum?

A:This year, when Jonathan was 6. We didn’t agree with the initial evaluation when he was three, but that was mostly because the way it was presented to us was harsh and totally out of the blue…basically the specialist said that we must not have been paying any attention to our son because he was clearly autistic. We just couldn’t accept that, since he seemed totally fine to us. However, the second evaluation (at age 6) was much more thorough, we were included in every test and the results were very clearly explained to us before the diagnosis was determined.

Q:What therapies (if any) work best for your child?

A:Jonathan definitely has sensory processing issues (sound, mainly), so we try to give him a varied “sensory diet.” He especially responds to deep pressure. When he starts freaking out and getting overwhelmed, we will lay him down on the couch, cover him with the couch cushions (except his face, of course), and lay over him. It sounds crazy, but the “couch sandwich” settles him down SO quickly (it also works with our 2-year-old). We have also noticed that he does much better with a protein-packed breakfast. Days that start with cheesy eggs and sausage go MUCH better than milk-and-cereal days.

Q: What do you wish you knew then, that you know now?

A:Autism is NOT a big, scary word like cancer. You don’t die from it. It’s just a different word that helps describe my child.
Jonathan has blue eyes.
Jonathan has curly hair.
Jonathan is tall.
Jonathan is autistic.

Also, I wish I was more confident in myself as a parent instead of instantly blaming myself. Jonathan’s autism isn’t my fault. It isn’t because of something I did or didn’t do.

Q: What are your biggest challenges or difficulties?

A:We are still working on Jonathan’s intense mood-swings. We are looking into finding a therapist or child psychologist to help him and us come up with better strategies for keeping him from going off so often. In school, he has several goals with respect to handwriting, sitting still, finishing tasks, etc. We are also trying to make our life more predictable, since surprises or changes in schedule are really tough for ALL the kids in our family.

Q: What would you share with parents new to autism?

A:When we walked out of the meeting where Jonathan was officially labeled as autistic, I remember this odd sense of newness, heaviness, strangeness. It wasn’t until we walked into Jonathan’s classroom and he ran up to my husband and me and hugged us that I had a mini-revelation: he’s the same boy. We didn’t get a new kid in our lives, we got a new word. It’s a word with a lot of weight, sure, but our son hadn’t changed one single bit. We had. And we continue to. It’s OK to grieve a little bit, to feel a little bad. We gave ourselves the weekend to mull over the newness of autism in our lives. After that, it was back to normal. Our focus now is how we can help Jonathan.

The autism label has helped us understand some of Jonathan’s behaviors. Things that we used to think were discipline issues (chewing on his shirts, making annoying repetitious sounds/movements), we have realized are clues that he needs sensory stimulation and it’s time for him to go spin, jump, lay down for the couch sandwich, or eat. Autism has given us a different lens to view our son through. It’s not a scary thing, it’s just new. But the great thing is, there are SO many other people who have pioneered the way. Parents new to autism NOW don’t have to go blazing trails, we just have to start looking around and asking for directions.

2011 Lesson #2 : Don’t Carpe Diem » Momastery


Wow. I really, really needed to read this post last week. Mothering is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t enjoy every single second of it. But that’s real life!

2011 Lesson #2 : Don’t Carpe Diem » Momastery.

Creating Christmas in My Heart


As often happens when I read posts by Susan Gaddis, I start to comment and then find I’ve written an entire blog post myself. Please go check out her beautiful post: How to Celebrate Christmas When You’re Not in the Mood

The last few Christmases have been a challenge for our family, financially, and living in a city without much of our extended family nearby makes it even harder to get in the mood to celebrate Christmas. But we’re doing our best!

This year, the kids and I made a Terrific Mess cutting out paper snowflakes to paste on our windows which we’ve surrounded with blue twinkly lights. Our little one especially loves to just sit and watch as they blink off and on, coloring the snowflakes white and blue. If I focus on just the beautiful window, I can almost ignore the desert landscape beyond. In our trips around town, I keep a Christmas station going in the car, and it’s fun to hear the kids’ sweet voices stumbling through the words (Oh Holy Night has become a mish-mash of made up words, Sunday school lessons, and I think even Optimus Prime got in there at one point…). Their current favorites are the rock-opera-style Trans-Siberian Orchestra versions of Carol of the Bells and Oh Holy Night.

Soon, I’m planning on making cookies with the kids and decorating them to take downstairs to our elderly neighbors who don’t have family around. I keep reminding the kids (and myself!) that we celebrate Jesus’ birthday, not getting gifts and presents. We may not be able to afford a tree or gifts this year, but between devotionals (an Advent calendar), practical acts, and praise, we’re trying to keep Jesus the focus of our Christmas!

I’m feeling especially close to Mary, Jesus’ mother, this year… being ungainly pregnant; an impending move looming right next to my due date; the alternating joy of new life within me and the crushing terror of how the heck we’re going to care for another child with our limited resources. Years ago, as a teenager, I was inspired to create a dance to Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven” and have danced it almost every Christmas for the last 10 years… so it’s a familiar song, but every time I’ve heard it this year, I’ve broken down weeping. It’s so near my heart… God what are you doing? Is this really Your best plan for my life right now? Help me be strong… help me be… help me.

But the Hope that is Advent… God encasing himself in the flesh of a helpless baby, to live like us, be one of us, so that He could save us from our pathetic existence… THIS is what excites me about Christmas. It’s what shakes me from the lethargy of my depression and causes me to turn my eyes towards the Hope of Eternity Future. This isn’t all there is to life. There is more coming. Christmas gives me a glimpse of that Joy Unspeakable.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, the-God-Who-is-with-us, is coming!

Some Soapboxing


My little brother (#2 of 3) posted this video on the gender wage gap “myth” on my Facebook yesterday, and it inspired my impromptu blog/rant/soapbox lecture which I will share with you below. I realize that most of my blog is NOT feminist or political, but I obviously feel very strongly about this and I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts about the subject. So watch the video, read my commentary, and please add your own!

Personally, I think it’s a HUGE problem that girls are not encouraged towards the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I remember hearing “don’t worry if you don’t understand math; girls usually don’t.” Yes, I struggled with math and had a HUGE learning curve, but once I got it (in college), I got really good grades and actually enjoyed my classes. It’s not a field I wanted to CONTINUE studying (especially after taking Physics, where my professor basically dismissed all my requests for help), but I wonder if I would have caught on sooner if I hadn’t been told over and over that girls aren’t good at math. But if the fields that make the most money are not fields that girls are encouraged to study and be a part of, don’t you see THAT as being a big problem?

Secondly, our society is just not set up for women to easily continue working in their careers after having children. Child care is obscenely expensive, workplaces are often not flexible with parents taking time off to care for their newborns, sick children, etc. Even breastfeeding laws that protect a woman’s right to take more frequent breaks to pump or nurse are not well enforced (work places are supposed to provide a private place for this to happen and bathrooms do NOT count… but most women are only given a bathroom as the private place. Would YOU prepare food for your child in a bathroom?). Because of factors like this, WHAT CHOICE DO MOTHERS REALLY HAVE? We have to choose careers that allow the flexibility that mothering requires, and sadly, those careers don’t pay as much as other “choices.” I’ve personally worked exclusively part-time jobs since becoming a mother because I couldn’t find full-time employment that allowed me to also mother my young children.

Finally, I do appreciate his conclusion that to overcome some of these issues, we have to change the gender perceptions that woman JUST take care of children and men JUST earn money. There has to be a more even division of the household responsibilities and the wage-earning responsibilities. Growing up, we were SO BLESSED to have a dad who made enough money for mom to stay home with us (although she worked part-time when it was just 3 of us), and that was common among the families that we grew up with, but it is ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE in this generation for a mother to not work. And what about women who don’t find their sole definition in mothering? It isn’t wrong for a woman to be both a mother and a career woman. The Proverbs 31 woman is shown doing WAY more working than mothering her children… and she’s the ideal that Christian moms are held up to!

OK, one more point. *IF* stay-at-home-mothering is such a value to the family/society etc., than why is it not something that mothers are compensated for? I just calculated my salary from this website http://swz.salary.com/momsalarywizard/htmls/mswl_momcenter.html and, as a work-from-home-mother, my uncompensated work is worth about $63k a year! What’s yours?

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