Special Needs, Special Moms

Today I had my son’s IEP. That’s an Individual Educational Plan for those of you who don’t have a life filled with acronyms. I met with his teacher and other specialists to discuss his progress throughout this school year and goals for the upcoming year. Throughout the 5 plus years since my son’s adoption I’ve been to countless meetings, met with over 50 professionals and been given both heartbreaking and heartwarming news. We adopted our son knowing that he had some special needs but really had no idea what the extent of his needs would be and how our lives would be changed because of them.  In the world of disabilities his are considered mild but they still affect our lives every day.

Before I became a mom I  worked with children with special needs for many years. I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about just about every disability.  Boy, was I wrong! The thing I was most wrong about though was not recognizing just how difficult this process can be for parents, especially the moms. We hang on to every kind word, every positive report, every (rare!) admission that we were right.  And for all those times that we receive bad news, that the diagnosis has changed, that the chance for improvement is slight, a little piece of us curls up and cries.

Before the meeting today I ran into another teacher at my son’s school. Her daughter, who I had the privilege of teaching many years ago, graduated from high school yesterday.  She has Down syndrome and she wants to be involved in the fashion industry. It was so wonderful to see pictures of this beautiful young lady who I remembered as a toddler in her graduation cap and gown. I felt so much empathy for her mom, realizing all of the struggles and therapies and stress that she has gone through all of these years.  As moms it’s important for us to reach out and support the other moms around us, whether they’re parenting a child with special needs or “just” parenting. Celebrate the victories together and be there when we need a shoulder to cry on.

Every mom is special by virtue of being a mom. Moms of kids with special needs are special with a cherry on top! Let’s be there for each other.

Slowing Down

Lately I’ve realized that it’s time to slow down. Even when I’m really enjoying what I’m doing; writing every day, journaling, taking an online class, making Zen Tangles, I become easily overwhelmed. I’ve been reading Martha Beck’s book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.  

Yesterday morning while I was out walking I met a rather large turtle near the road. She may have been going to lay some eggs or some other turtle business but when I saw her she was just being still inside her shell.  As I stood there talking softly to her and making sure she stayed out of the path of any cars that might come our way she gradually came out of her shell.   I stooped down to get a closer look and the message I received was “slow down”.  It’s not the first time this week I’ve heard this same message. I’m not hearing voices, it’s just what’s inside of me and I know it’s what I need to hear. Then she meandered into the underbrush to do whatever turtles do. So even though I’ve got a lot going on between finishing the school year, packing for our vacation, making reservations and starting our kitchen renovation, I’m going to heed the advice of the turtle and slow down.  I plan to continue to do all of the things I’m doing but I’m going to be doing it a lot more slowly and intentionally.

Sometimes when we’re too rushed and busy slowing down is the best thing to do.  Let me know if it works for you too.

 

Saying “No” Gracefully

Sometimes I say “yes” when I really want to say “no”.  Learning how to say “no” gracefully is a skill we should all cultivate. When your mind and body are not in tune with what you’re doing you probably won’t do it well. You may feel resentful or stressed or even angry as you’re doing the unwanted task.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to say yes or no to something that I only halfway wanted to do. It was something I felt I “should” do and something that I even found interesting and often enjoyable. However, it would be happening during my long awaited vacation, and while it wasn’t exactly work, it wasn’t exactly play either. So after telling the person who invited me to participate in this event that I would think about it and get back to her I stopped and felt what was happening in my body and my mind. I was starting to feel stressed. I was starting to feel anxious about missing saying goodbye to my son when he’ll be going away with his grandmother for a week. I started to feel like I really didn’t want to do this thing. So I called back and said “no”. I did it gracefully and with conviction. I didn’t feel guilty about it. My body and mind instantly relaxed and with that sense of relaxation came the sure knowledge that I had done the right thing.

Sometimes there are obligations and things that we do because we really feel that we must. However, when you have a choice and are leaning toward saying “no”, listen to yourself. Do what your heart tells you.  Only say “yes” to things that resonate for you and that you really want to do.

In the upcoming weeks one of the things that I want to do is develop an online course to help other moms rediscover themselves. I’ll be inviting you to participate and to provide feedback. If that resonates for you and you want to do it, please say “yes”. If it doesn’t resonate and you don’t want to, please listen to your heart and say “no”.

 

 

Feeling overwhelmed

Sometimes even with all of the strategies I’ve put in place to help me deal with stress I find myself feeling overwhelmed. This week has been one of those weeks.  Lack of sleep, preparing for the end of the school year and a long anticipated vacation, taking a really exciting online course and dealing with everyday stress has left me feeling somewhat frazzled.  In response I’ve been meditating more, doing more conscious breathing and writing less. I’ve also found myself doing things that I know are NOT helpful like eating a giant chocolate chip cookie that was on the kitchen counter at work, doing less yoga and having a “pink drink” before  dinner. (E-mail me for the recipe for pink drinks- they’re awesome!) It’s easy to slip into habits that are counter-productive. It’s easy to slip out of habits that are helpful. The snooze button has been calling out to me again. After a week of being really diligent about getting up 30 minutes early to write and have some “me” time I just groaned and rolled over yesterday and again today. In the past I probably would have decided that falling back into bad habits was a sign of my inability to get my act together. Today, in the spirit of acceptance and forgiveness I’ve decided to give myself a break. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. I’m going to give myself the same pass that I’d give to a good friend in the same position. What would I tell this friend?

“You’re a good person. You’re a good mom. You’re doing your best. Get some rest and soon you’ll feel better. Maybe that chocolate chip cookie had secret healthy ingredients tucked inside and you might have pulled a muscle if you’d done more yoga today.” (Yes, I have been known to make up stories to help my friends feel better).

Be a friend to yourself and take a break when you need it. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.

 

 

Friendly Wishes

I use Friendly Wishes (also known as Loving Kindness Practices) daily with my students, my son, and myself. No matter how I’m feeling I always get a boost from repeating the wishes and hearing them said.

The wishes are very simple:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be safe.
  • May you be healthy.
  • May you be loved.

I then make the same wishes for  myself:

 

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be safe.
  • May I be healthy.
  • May I be loved.

And that’s it! Repeating these throughout the day at key times (when I’m leaving the house, before entering my classroom, at bedtime) sets a positive tone.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

Reclaiming your time: Part Two

Finding time, losing time, losing track of time, not having enough time… These are all themes I hear on a daily basis from the people around me. Today let’s identify another way to reclaim your time; identifying time leeches, vampires and black holes. I know it sounds a little sci-fi but bear with me.

Time Leeches- these are the little moments of our day that get almost imperceptibly sucked away. For me it starts with the snooze alarm. Five minutes, ten minutes, uh oh I REALLY need to get up now- it’s been 30 minutes! Other leeches include finding something to wear, deciding what to pack for lunch for myself and my son, looking at email at work, looking at catalogs from the mail, following a vaguely interesting link online, even reading the newspaper. The ways that I’ve started avoiding time leeches is first to identify them and then to consciously choose not to engage. Getting up 30 minutes earlier was a conscious choice (and very unpopular with my non-morning person self). Getting dressed was simplified by reducing my wardrobe to jeans and t-shirts with Fridays being the only day I wear a skirt. I have a list of lunches my son will eat. It changes occasionally but is pretty standard most weeks. I try to make enough food the night before to pack left-overs for myself or make a big batch of Nom Nom Paleo meatballs on the weekend and eat those with frozen veggies during the week. I stopped looking at catalogs and have reduced my newspaper intake to the weekends and the cooking section on Thursdays. Identify your leeches and get rid of them. They add up over the course of a day and you could use that time for something you really value.

Time Vampires -These are bigger chunks of time that go missing. For me it’s primarily internet related as I lost the television habit years ago and have freakishly avoided Facebook, Twitter and other social media like the plague. I’ve seen what it can do!  For a lot of people TV, internet and social media can suck the hours away with no effort at all. If that includes you and you want to reclaim some of that time limit yourself. Set a timer for 30 minutes or whatever you feel is doable and stick with it. If you cheat, you’re cheating yourself. Doing homework with my son used to be an unpleasant Dracula experience for me. Now I reward him for doing his homework in aftercare on his own and review it with him if he feels he needs it. That 45 minutes to an hour is now spent writing for me and on the computer doing fun stuff for him. It works for us. Think about what will work for you.

Black Holes- When a whole day or even both days of your weekend are lost you know you’ve encountered a Black Hole. For some of my friends it’s sports. Practice two to four times during the week after school, games on the weekends, and suddenly the idea of having an uninterrupted, unscheduled two days seems like Heaven on Earth. For others it may be birthday parties, “required” family events, or even housecleaning. As a family we have decided to forgo sports. It’s not important to my son and he gets his exercise in other ways. We’re really choosy about which birthday parties we go to and we schedule short and sweet play dates once a month or so. If your child can’t live without play dates make sure they’re as low stress as possible for you and don’t require your constant supervision. Housecleaning? Not my favorite. We divide up some chores and others go undone. I have yet to be arrested for my messy house. Besides it gives the other moms who bring their kids over for play dates something to feel good about. I like to help other people feel good 🙂 “Required” family gatherings? Politely decline if you don’t want to go or suggest that maybe you could just drop off your little ones for an hour or two and then go do something good for yourself. If this won’t work you may have to get a little creative. No one knows what a migraine headache looks like and maybe you have one right now. Locking yourself in a darkened room and insisting on quiet is the right thing to do if you need it.

Take a close look at your own busy schedule and identify the baby bear, mama bear and papa bear ways that your time is being stolen from you. Then resolve to TAKE IT BACK and guard it like Goldilocks would if someone tried to take away her just right oatmeal. See, it’s not really science fiction, it’s actually a fairy tale!

Happy early Mothers’ Day to all and enjoy your time.