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Confessions of a 40-Something Postpartum Mom

Hi. You may not know me. I’m Kristi. I’m a 40-Something mom to two boys who I call Big (13, Autism, ADHD, Anxiety, Cleft Lip and Palate, and Profoundly Gifted. Oh. And Lazy) and Wee One (11, NTish, Self-Proclaimed Nerd, Control Freak, and my Big Headed Baby.) Because life seemed to be running too smoothly, husband and I decided (no we didn’t. That would imply we make decisions rather than letting things happen to us.) to have a baby at 40 something.  We call her #NotoriousVIG; she’s 15 weeks old and counting.

Last school year I went back to work full time for the first time in 13 years. I was a pre-k teacher at a small, local, private school. I loved my job, but there must have been something in the water over there. Two of us “geriatric” moms got pregnant. It wasn’t on purpose, but man, was it the best thing that could have happened for our little family.  But here I am. BACK at home. With an infant. And postpartum hair loss, not quite sure if my hot flashes are from my hormones trying to balance back out, or if I’m starting peri-menopause.

So, here’s my first “confession” to you all:  I feel my anxiety and depression creeping in. Don’t worry, I know the signs, so I’m taking the steps I need to take to help myself. Mostly, through self care. I’m already back to my pre-baby weight. Want to know my secret? I was short and fat to begin with. It’s not hard to bounce back when your shape was round to start. This weeks goal is to get dressed every morning. I don’t mean keep wearing my same ol yoga pants I wore all last week, not that theres anything wrong with that. Here’s what I’m doing, if you’re interested. At the five am feed, I change and feed the vampire, set her in her swing to nap while I pack lunches, make breakfasts and wake all the mens. Then, now this is some sort of far out concept, are you ready? I get dressed. Like pants, a fresh bra and tank top, shirt and cardigan (that’s my mom uniform).  I have curly hair, so I don’t wash it everyday. I’m down to twice a week (okay, once). Today is day three hair, so I combed through after spraying my refresh spray. I don’t do make up during the week if we aren’t going anywhere, because lets face it, I’m not taking that much care of myself. I can’t count on myself to wash my face at the end of the day. Today, I even put. on. shoes. #fancypants I know it’s not a lot, but it’s a start, and it makes me feel better.

I’ve gotten all my dishes done, started laundry, swept, and now I’ve even carved out twenty minutes to do my confession, which has led to my second confession. I went to add a pic of myself to this post and my face shine was reflecting so badly that I had to add loose powder and a gloss. So, look at me, I am wearing make up on a Tuesday. #doublefancypants  Maybe, we’ll start meeting up like this on Tuesdays for #coffeeAndConfessions? Do you have a confession you’d like to share?

Photo on 2-20-18 at 8.05 AM

Evidence that I got dressed and “fixed” my untamable hair.  Also, this is the thick pregnancy mane that I will be envious of after the shedding stops. #NoFilter

xo

 

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Oh Girl!

Today, as I perused Facebook with my coffee before waking children and the hustle and bustle of the day, I saw yet another article/post about a parent standing up for their daughter and the school dress code. It got me thinking.

Yesterday, I saw something a friend posted on Facebook.  It wasn’t anything new; it’s been going around for a while.  It was an article about Sam Carter, the front man for the British metal band Architects stopping a show because he saw a woman being sexually assaulted while crowd surfing. It got me thinking.

I’m 41. And pregnant. With a daughter. I grew up believing that my short shorts were a distraction to boys. I grew up believing that what little cleavage I might have had when I bent down to write was a reason for boys to pop my bra straps in the hallway.  I believed that my cheerleading uniform, that was somehow okay in the dress code even though it didn’t’ cover my ass, was reason for boys to slap it.  I was a distraction.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe in dressing appropriately for the situation. I don’t like tank tops on boys or girls, personally, because arm pits are gross. Tank tops, short shorts, miniskirts, and midriffs are not why boys cannot concentrate at school. A girl could wear a potato sack and still be a distraction to a teenage boy.

A few nights ago, my favorite movie came on. Sixteen Candles. I can recite the whole movie. I was sorely disappointed in my sixteenth birthday that some Jake Ryan looking guy with a Porsche didn’t roll up to my non-existent sister’s wedding and whisk me away to his house for a birthday cake on his glass dining room table. There’s this scene where Jake is talking to Ted in the kitchen after Jake rescues Ted from the coffee table. They are talking about Sam and Ted tells Jake if he wants to be with Sam, Jake had better treat Sam right. Jakes reply, “I’ve got Caroline in my bedroom right now, passed out cold. I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to.” So, the MOST ROMANTIC movie of my life is a little rapey. A little more than a little rapey. There’s another scene with Ted and Caroline later, but you get my point and as you’ve no doubt seen this movie, you know. My point is this, in 1984, our whole thought process was different. Like so many other things once you see it, you can’t unsee.

I cannot tell you how many shows I went to in my youth where I crow surfed, moshed, and got groped. I always fought back, but at the same time, it was something I expected. Something that “just happened.” I don’t know how many girls didn’t’ fight back, didn’t’ say “Stop, you f—-r!” Whose experiences at shows went further and were much more traumatic than mine.

In early 2004, when I found out I was pregnant with my first son, I was relieved he was to be a boy.  I know, most moms dream of sweet little girls, but I was honestly terrified of bringing girls into this world. In early 2006, when once again I found myself expecting a little boy, I was comforted. It’s not that the thought of a daughter didn’t appeal to me.  I’ve always had a vision of what a girl of mine might be like:  cute in that mostly wild way, a little rough and tumble, sassy, wicked smart, and brave.  I was the type of little kid who wore my boy cousin hand me downs but could also wear a dress when required. I got a long with boys better than girls, for the most part, because girls baffled me. I have always pictured a theoretical daughter being the best of me, but with better hair.

But I was always thankful to have boys.  Not because I don’t worry about my boys in this crazy world, I do. I worry about the easy access to pornography at our fingertips, online bullying, my oldest not understanding the social norms, my youngest fighting for his brother, that fist fights rarely stay fist fights anymore, and on and on and on. But I haven’t worried about rape culture. My job as far as that has gone to this point is to raise decent human beings, to talk to them about enthusiastic consent. To teach them from an early age their body is their own and that rule applies to everyone. To tell them that just because you “only want a hug” doesn’t mean you get one unless the other person says so.

But, all of this shifted in late February when we found out we were pregnant.  I just knew it would be another boy.  But as with everything else, #NotoriousVIG had plans of her own from the very beginning. When the nurse called to tell me the results of our bloodwork, I was simultaneously excited to have a girl and scared. It all starts so early: the comments about dating, being pretty, being perfect, a princess, and on and on.

But over the last several years there has been a shift. A cultural shift. One that says, “Hey! NO. MORE. OF. THIS.” One where a girl or woman doesn’t value only because she is someone’s wife, mother, daughter or sister. She is valued because she is a woman; a PERSON in her own right. More MEN are standing up and saying “THIS IS NONSENSE!” We will not ask women what they were wearing at that show when they got groped. We will not ask them how much they had to drink at that party when the guy followed them to the bathroom. No. More. Men, even those like my bearded, heavy metal loving, tractor driving, engineer husband who lives in a very traditional marriage, are embracing the word feminist. 

My hope for little girls today is that this shift in thinking continues. That men and women continue to know how important this is and that they don’t let people who tell them otherwise win. That we continue to speak out, speak to our children, to STAND UP for our girls. For when we stand up for our girls, everyone wins.

As I’m typing, I feel my daughter moving. She is currently kicking my ribs and doing a handstand on my bladder. She is strong. I feel hopeful.

 

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Be the ONE.

Yesterday we took BigBrudder’s paperwork to register for seventh grade. In our town, that’s Junior High. Early next week we have a sit down with his new teachers and team. I asked Big if there was anything specific he wanted them to know; he just said to “Be sure they tell subs I’m allowed to have my clay.” For a kid that struggles with transitions, he’s really pumped about JH. I am not.

I decided that instead of my normal try-to-make-Big-seem-like-a-real-person-with-real-needs-letter-that-never-gets-read-or-taken-to-heart-or-whatever, I’m giving an “IEP at a Glance” with his accommodations bulleted out along with some helpful hints and our “Meltdown Protocol.”

I don’t know the answer to the question “How do I get people to UNDERSTAND that “high functioning” autistic kids (adults too but we’re talking school) NEED supports to be successful?  I really think they know it.  I really think they believe they understand. I really think they try to understand. But mostly, they don’t. Is it time? Is it too many kids in a classroom? Is it exhaustion? Is it that by assuming they know, they turn a blind eye to real, often simple solutions?

I hear too often “He’s in honors classes, I shouldn’t have to (fill in the blank of something someone thinks they shouldn’t have to do.)” Or,  “He’s twelve, he should be able to (fill in the blank of something someone thinks he should be able to do unassisted). Maybe. But change and self-reliance don’t happen over-night. A kid doesn’t simply become able to manage his whole schedule with no help because we want him to.

Thinking about posts I’ve seen online regarding schools not letting parents “bail kids out” when they’ve forgotten a lunch or left their homework at home, I think to myself, why do we hold 12 year olds to a higher standard than we do ourselves? If I forget my lunch, I have a car and can go pick something up. If I’ve forgotten a file I need at home, I can call my husband to email it; my boss doesn’t care how I get it, only that I have what I need.

I often use the example that my husband and I have a series of checks and balances for our bills. As I’ve told y’all on my Facebook page, hubs lives and dies by the spreadsheet. Excel is a God in his engineer brain. He has our life planned out to the nickel for the next ten years. He knows when every bill is due, when the last time we moved money, he is a projector. Yet, we ask each other questions. “Did you remember we got the medical bill from the (fill in the blank of seventy-eleven specialists our family sees)?” If he asks me to mail something for him, he often texts to make sure I remembered and vice versa. Because we are a team.  That doesn’t make either of us irresponsible. In fact, building yourself a support system is the opposite of irresponsible. Why would we not let children have a support system?

Can you tell I am an anxious hot mess? I am every year at this time. I feel hopeful about this year, mostly because Big is.

Every year my prayer is that there is ONE teacher that gets it. ONE teacher that gets and APPRECIATES him. ONE teacher that advocates for him. ONE teacher that stands up for him. One. We didn’t have that last year in the classroom; he had one on campus, for sure, but none in the classroom. One. That’s all it takes to make a difference. Teachers. Be the ONE for a kid.

teacher

Follow all the blue links for past letters to the teacher and other samples of what we’re giving out this year.

parenting, Uncategorized

New (School) Year, New Letter to the Teacher…

Friday, August 19, 2016

Dear Team,

I’m excited to get to know and work with you all this year.  I want to take this opportunity to fill you in a little bit about Big and our family.  I’m sure most of you already know Big, but there are lots of things an IEP just can’t tell you about him. First, he is a kind, loving, smart, creative and amazing boy who happens to have Autism, Anxiety and ADHD. He IS medicated; however, as we begin the new school year and undergo some changes at home, it may take him some time to find his groove at school. My husband HUBS and I expect for Big to be challenged and to behave at school.  Like my dad has to remind me: “Even good transitions are stressful.”

Often, one of the hardest things to determine is whether a behavior is “autism/anxiety/ADHD” or just a nearly twelve-year-old boy. When Big feels anxious, his behavior can deteriorate rapidly.  He has learned lots of coping mechanisms, some good, some not-so-good. Mrs. XXX and Big have worked for five years on social skills and knowing how to react in a given situation. Big knows the ways things should happen, but in the moment has difficulty putting his knowledge to action. Like many on the spectrum, anxiety can show itself as stimming (for Big, it can be a vocal stimm such as squawking or having to repeat the beginning of a phrase multiple times before being able to complete, or needing to repeat a phrase or question over and over). Other stimms Big exhibits are, finger flicking, pinching his forearms (not hard), and nose picking. That last one is one we’ve been working on forever…and may be the one I’m most easily frustrated by. Another way to tell when Big’s anxiety is peaking is when he becomes less flexible in his thinking. Many of you saw an example of this at meet the teacher when because we had sorted the supplies by class, Big couldn’t handle not delivering the materials as he planned. When he has “met his limit” (especially on group projects), he can become especially rigid. Big has come a long way in becoming his own advocate; he will often ask for time away from the class to get it together, or to draw or another soothing activity. He’s gotten really good at avoiding meltdowns and heading them off on his own. He does sometimes need the verbal cues “breathe” and “rational thoughts.” We do not force eye contact with Big. Usually, we ask for initial eye contact and then he’s free to look wherever he needs to.  Occasionally, we give the verbal cue “eyes” to remind him. I have to remind myself that he can either look at me or listen to me but rarely both.

As well as Autism, Anxiety and ADHD, Big has auditory processing disorder. This will lead to situations where he asks you a question after you’ve already given instructions. It’s hard, sometimes, to determine if this is an aspect of ADHD (not listening) or the APD. At home, I usually ask him to repeat back to me what I’ve already stated. Most of the time, he can, and then the information clicks. If he cannot either legitimately recall, or just needs to hear again, I will repeat.

Big’s two biggest challenges academically, in my opinion, are organization and handwriting. I know that most sixth graders can remember to turn in their papers, etc. I can promise that IF by the time Big gets home from school he remembers an assignment and it’s in his folder, we will make sure it is complete. If there is a missing assignment 9 out of 10 times, it is in his folder.  IF there is ever a time that he is missing assignments, I ask that before you send him to the homework table, you ask him directly (IE not the whole class…he might not remember because of the APD) and consider helping him look in his backpack or shoot me a text.  Something small such as homework table can ruin his whole week.

I am going to work exceptionally hard at giving Big the room to grow even more this year. In order to do this, I have to know that we are all a team. I don’t have to be told about every minor hiccup in his day, but if major things (such as a meltdown) happen, I ask that you let me know.  I’m a BIG believer in communication. If you ever have questions or concerns, I have my cell phone on me at all times. My number is xxx-xxx-xxxx and my email is austisminourhouse@gmail.com Hubs is also often available.  He may not answer immediately but his number is xxx-xxx-xxxx and his email is blahblahblah@gmail.com  You should know, that should we (parent/teacher) ever have a situation where we may not see eye to eye, Big will NOT know this. We strive to let him know that this is a working relationship we value.

WhenBig has a meltdown, it is important to know several things:

  • Don’t touch him unless it is for his own safety. (In general, Big does not like light touches. If you ever want to hug or touch him, firm is best.)
  • Don’t try to talk him out of a meltdown.
    • Instead, remind him to breathe.
    • Remind him that when he is calm he is smart.
  • PLEASE don’t let him meltdown in front of the whole class.
    • Offer a walk to get a drink.
    • Offer a soothing activity such as a piece of clay, drawing or just sitting for few minutes.

I promise, Big and you will learn so much from each other this year.  I am so excited to see how far he will come. The second page below contains his schedule and then a list of each of the people on our team this year along with their ISD email address.

Thanks,

Kristi

CLASS SCHEDULE

CLASS                         ROOM TEACHER                   TEACHER E-MAIL

  1. CLASS                     123       TEACHER                     TEACHEREMAIL@SCHOOL
  2. CLASS                     123        TEACHER                    TEACHEREMAIL@SCHOOL
  3. CLASS                     123       TEACHER                     TEACHEREMAIL@SCHOOL
  4.        …
  5. …             

OTHER IMPORTANT TEAM MEMBERS:                    EMAIL

On Campus                                                      

PRINCIPAL X                                                                  EMAILADDRESS@SCHOOLEMAILNAME

Off Campus              

NAME XXX                  LSSP                                        EMAILADDRESS@SCHOOLEMAIL.COM

(NOTE: I included every member of our team: every teacher, the principal, speech, OT, School Psych, etc.)

A  Big Fat PS to you, my lovely blog readers, I’m anxious about this transition. Like SUPER, DUPER anxious. But, you know what? It helps knowing you’re not alone. It helps knowing that you have friends:  real-life, on-line, imaginary and otherwise holding your hand or your hair as you feel the wave of nausea.  Love you all oodles. 

 

 

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My Heavy Heart

Well that was a “wonderful” nights sleep. I can’t even blame my kids, my dogs or the full moon. All I can say is that this world we live in was heavy on my heart. 
Have I told you that we’ve had to put a stop to big watching the news? We have. It consumes him. Every. Single. Story. Have I told you that beginning in high school I loved the news; I was in speech (I dreamed briefly of being a lawyer) and I genuinely found it interesting. Then, about the time I got pregnant with big, I decided it was taking a toll on me, the news. I hadn’t been able to shut my brain off at night in years, so I decided to quit watching the news. I realized that all these people. The good guys, the bad guys, the politicians, the really bad guys…they are someone’s children. Someone, somewhere loved them once, or still does. I quit reading the news. I was happier for it. Sometime over the last year, I’ve started reading more news again. I don’t know if it’s the veil of “privacy” on the Internet, but the things people say. About other human beings, y’all. I can’t even with that any more. People, some of whom I think of as decent human beings, have some of the most hate filled things to say with absolutely no regard for anyone else. If that’s decent people, you can imagine what the not so decent people say…
We are not talking about “political correctness” here. We’re talking about thinking about other people before you speak. It’s one of the first things we teach our toddlers as they begin to talk. We are not talking about political discourse here, either. I believe, honestly and truly, that political debate is needed. I believe we need people to stand up. To speak out. But do so rationally. My favorite thing I learned from Dr. Tony Attwood is the phrase, “When you are calm, you are smart.” I am talking about, however, asking people to stop and think. To practice some empathy. To UNDERSTAND that just because you don’t practice overt racism, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. And understand, that when mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters say #BlackLivesMatter, they are not saying at all that your lives don’t matter too. They are saying it’s really scary, even in 2016, to be black. Not that it’s scary because they are doing something “wrong” or “dangerous.” By very virtue of skin color can make simple things scary. 
Did I ever tell you about the time in college I was driving with my friend and some guys? We were in my Volvo on the way home from the movies, and we got pulled over. The officer asked me and my girlfriend to get out of the car. I was freaked out…the officer very politely asked if we were okay. I’d ridden in a car full of boys before and have since (albeit not in 20 years now). But in 2005, we happened to have three large, black boys in the car with us. Our friends. My girlfriend and I were livid. We couldn’t believe that someone could do that. After all, this wasn’t 1960s Texas. We were livid and wanted to file a complaint, write letters. Our friends said “Don’t.”. They weren’t surprised. 19 years on this earth and they weren’t surprised someone assumed that two white girls weren’t okay because they were with them. Their friends.
We live in a world where people claim to be color blind. But, is that really how we should be? Because if you cannot see the colors, you can not begin to appreciate the beauty of the differences, the richness the colors of our skin, the culture that often comes along with the pain of the past -distant and recent- and the beauty of thriving and growing and living. Of course, of course we are all human beings, but we have to celebrate one another’s differences. Not in spite of. Because of. 

So, here I am. A white, suddenly middle aged, woman writing about something that makes me so very uncomfortable. Race. I seek to acknowledge my own shortcomings, own them, learn from them, grow from them. And I do have them. Shortcomings. But I promise here and now, I am not going to let the news, the hateful comments, the Internet change what I know to be true. As I was doing a guided relaxation trying to calm my upset, racing mind last night what came to me was this:  God loves each and every one of us the same. All of us. Conservative. Liberal. Hate Spewers. Tree Huggers. Black. White. All the colors. He made all of us, in all of our shades, by His design. 

“…help me to be good and do the things I should. Help me to love others as You love me. Amen.” 

My favorite prayer at the preschool where I work.

This prayer is so simple. But isn’t that IT? Be good. Do the things you should. Love others.