If You’re Overwhelmed, You’re Not Alone

I’m having one of those days where time is short and it’s moving much faster than I am! I’m feeling behind and a bit overwhelmed. My boys were wild this morning and it took every ounce of strength I had (and then some) to keep it together. 

I stood in the laundry room and tried to imagine there wasn’t that huge pile of clothes to be sorted and put away. And I wondered who else might be doing this same thing. I wonder how many mamas are staring at their tasks, while children run wild circles around them and feel like they are vanishing, sinking unseen beneath the demands of time, dishes, laundry, family, and special needs parenting. 

So when the piles of laundry stiffen on top of your machine . . . 

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You’re not alone.

When toys are scattered and so are you . . . 

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You’re not alone. 

When your kids are screaming and you want to too . . . 

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You’re not alone.

When your heart could burst with both frustration and love . . . 

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You’re not alone.

I find on days like these, it’s hard to see progress. I am often blind to the fact that sometimes tasks left undone are signs of more important things being accomplished.

So I’m going to slow things down this afternoon and see if my eyes can’t be opened to the good things. Maybe I’ll get to some tasks and maybe they will wait for another day.

But when I see good things, I’m going to give thanks for the piles of laundry and dishes in the sink and all the signs that maybe, just maybe, that might mean I’m spending my little time on the precious things that matter. 

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Sensory Diet for Two Kids

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What do you do when both of your children have sensory processing difficulties and need a sensory diet implemented each day? Both of my sons have Sensory Processing Disorder. Both need a sensory diet each day, or, a prescribed set of activities to stimulate (or calm) their sensory systems.

This has been difficult to do because their needs are very different. While my first son needs a lot of input into his body to stay calm (sensory seeker) my younger son needs a lot of input into his body to wake it up (sensory avoider). I struggle to find activities they can do together since their needs differ and their age difference makes it tricky. This has been especially difficult this winter being cooped up in the house! 

I find that if I do the sensory activities in the morning, they tend to be calmer, happier, and more focused throughout the day. So, how do we fit this in? Here’s what I’ve been doing recently.

I used to let my kids watch a short TV show or two after breakfast so I could get a shower and plan their sensory activities. I realized that wasn’t working for us because they would never want to switch from TV to “therapy time” as I call it. Who would, right? I also found that trying to do therapy time first with both boys wasn’t working either! I wasn’t able to get dressed and ready for the day. Either way I felt like we would end up struggling through the morning and not accomplishing anything! So, I decided to make TV work for us! Just FYI, what follows might seem completely obvious you and I apologize if it seems overly simplistic. With that, here’s what we do . . . 

I let them each pick a show to watch at different times. While one is watching their 30 minute show, I do therapy time with the other. Then we switch. My youngest, Little Man, is a lot more flexible so he usually gets to watch his show first while I work with big brother, LIttle Dude. He is more willing to transition from TV to therapy and then back again. Then when that show ends, I switch and work with Little Man. 

When they are both finished with therapy time, I let them relax with a final short TV choice together, usually a nature video. This allows me to quick grab a shower and plan the rest of the day’s activities. While I don’t love the idea of my kids watching an hour of TV in the morning, I feel it is working for our schedule. The boys both get one-on-one time and focused attention from me and it gives me the structure to meet their sensory needs each day.

This is also the only TV I let them watch all day. In the evening I try to encourage them to build things together with blocks or legos but may allow them some computer or iPad time if they are playing educational games. Our favorite games or apps work on executive functioning, social skills, fine motor skills, or academic skills. 

I have found that the therapy time we put in at home is so important and I have been realizing lately how much my children benefit from that time set aside to work one on one with them. We aren’t able to do this every day. But I make it a priority to give my boys those sensory activities in a structured way at least three to four times a week. I do the best I can for them and leave the results in God’s hands. I trust Him to take what I can give and multiply the effects in my children’s lives. 

I realize this post is practical information but it gives you a glimpse into our lives! I am hoping once the weather warms up a little we can plan for more activity outside so we can ditch TV altogether! 

I’d love to hear how any of you make it work for your families! 

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Not So Typical Mom

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I’m not your typical mom. I always thought I would be. On my journey of motherhood God decided in his wisdom to give me one incredible boy with ASD and one incredible boy with motor delays and well, our family can seem a little quirky.  

Here are some of the ways that I am reminded that we do things a little differently. See if you can relate!

When school asks us to bring in milk cartons and shoe boxes for a project I have to borrow an empty milk carton from a neighbors recycling (being dairy free we don’t have many of those lying around) and I have to borrow a shoebox from my mom because I buy all my boys clothes resale. 

On baking days at my son’s school I’m the mom sending in organic beet juice so he won’t touch the red food coloring. 

We bring our own food everywhere we go. I often receive crazy looks when people put out the fruit snacks and apple juice and I say, “My son can’t have that.”

While other moms at the park are telling their kids not to climb the slide, I am praising them for it and am thrilled they are trying something new and, also cheering inside because it’s great heavy work activity and I know it’ll calm them down later!

I have an enormous trampoline ball pit in my family room for the boys during these winter months where we can’t get out much. And I’m okay with it. Most of the time. It’s a little deflated in this picture.

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On our counter is an enormous box of vitamins and supplements, all of which, my son takes on a daily basis. He is such a trooper. I feel like I spend a lot of my life sorting pills. We recently stopped 2 of these things so that makes life easier right?

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We don’t have many “normal” toys. Think scooters, plasma cars, chewy sticks, weighted toys, and therapy balls. This picture is kind of blurry!

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I have no idea what shows or songs are popular or what celebrities are doing or what  is going on in the news. But I can tell you a lot about autism, OT, ABA, Speech, special diets, fermented foods, etc.

Sometimes I watch typically developing kids interact with their parents and something within me aches. And to me, it seems unnatural, even though it’s what everyone else would say is natural but has not always come as naturally to us. And when my sons interact with me in sweet ways, I choke back tears of hope and joy. I’m hoping someone out there will understand this. 

I love my life and my boys. I’ll be honest. There are days when it just feels hard. It’s hard to see the parts of my children that are typical from the parts that aren’t so typical sometimes. I confess, I have days (even seasons) where I let it get to me more than I want it to. I’m learning that for me to live it well I have to constantly engage in the process of embracing what is and letting go of what isn’t. And thanking God not just for the good but for the hard parts of each day that remind me daily that raising special needs kids takes a whole lot of courage. 

So for those of you who can relate to any of this, you are not alone my friend. There are those of us who are on a slightly different route in parenting too. I’m glad to be traveling with you brave souls.

– Amy

Why I’m Glad I Didn’t Get My Way

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When Preston was four, he went through an amazing early childhood program. I was a little nervous at first, but came to love this program. His teachers said it would be his “bloom” year. And they were right.

This school was where he needed to be. When my LIttle Dude entered the program he had very little original speech. He was highly talkative and very verbose but he only spoke in lines from movies or TV shows. Everything he said was scripted and sounded scripted. By the end of the year, he no longer relied on scripted speech and his conversations lengthened and became more natural sounding. He was even starting to show interest in relationships with his peers. This seemed miraculous to us!

My husband and I commented many times on how this program had done so much for our son. By the time the school year came to a close, Preston’s growth was so amazing that I couldn’t imagine him going to school anywhere else. We knew that socially he wasn’t ready for Kindergarten even though academically he was WAY ready. I was nervous about a mainstream classroom preschool class and wondered about the challenges of that program. The early childhood program was so safe, so visually based, so perfect for him. I asked (begged) the school district to let him stay. I really wanted to give him one more year in this safe and enriching environment.

That was my best plan. It didn’t work out. We found our “Plan B,” a local park district program where he could have an aid in the classroom. Today, I can say with confidence that my best plan then would have held my little boy back in this season. I was trying to hold onto an old thing when God was trying to do a new thing. I am so glad I didn’t have it my way.

Little Dude entered a mainstream Pre-K class this year and struggled at first. It was a long, tough transition. I wondered if this was really right for him. He kept trying. I realize now it was the perfect amount of pressure. Not enough to break his desire to try but enough to push him and help him see how much he is capable of. I have to say, even though this year has been challenging for him, I have seen him grow more this year than even last year. He is needing his aid less and less. He is forming relationships with other kids and demonstrating some pretty amazing social skills. And I realize now that this was God’s best, and I almost kept him from it.

My plan would have been less of a transition, less struggle, less hard. Yet my plan would have yielded less growth, little progress, and few lessons learned.

We are faced again with a few options for school next year. So as I approach decision time again, I do so with new perspective. Open to God’s best, I will try to lay my plans at the feet of the one who made my son and knows the right path. I chose to accept his best regardless of the circumstances he brings. I place my son into the protective hands of the one who decides when programs or therapies get old and when it’s time for a new work in my child’s life. After all, I am not writing my son’s story. I am only a small piece. So I peacefully give our plans to God, the Author of life.

So what about you? Do you feel like your plans aren’t working out? Do you feel like you are holding onto an old way of life because it’s safe? Has something served it’s purpose for a season? Do you sense God is moving you to something new in your life? Perhaps time to let God lead you to the next chapter in your life …

A Letter to My Son on His First Day of School

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Dear Little Dude,

You are precious to me. Each year about this time, my heart swells with pride as I watch you put on your tennis shoes and grab your backpack for the year’s first day of school. And my mommy heart is excited for you, and anxious with you. I know this year, like the last two years I’ve sent you off to preschool, will bring another huge growth spurt, so many things will be learned, so many new experiences will expand your horizons.

As I drove you to school, my insides twisted up with mixed emotions about starting another year, you said, “Mama, I’m nervous. What if my teacher doesn’t like me?” I wanted to pull over and hug you. Part of me wanted to cry and comfort you and tell you it will be okay, another part of me wanted to smile and tell you all the million reasons why your teacher will like you!

I watched you for a moment after I dropped you off. How you used your walking feet and went and sat calmly down on the reading rug. Your face a big bright smile, your big blue eyes so kind. And I choked at how these small things are huge victories for us. How 2 years ago, these small things were so hard because we didn’t know what was going on. And I said thanks to God for you and all you’ve already overcome. And then I left you to enjoy your first day at school.

Little Dude, as I send you off, let me remind of you of what you bring with you that will help you along the way . . .

First, you are responsible. When I put you in charge, you always follow through, even if imperfectly, I can trust you to try. And more often than not, you exceed my expectations. I love how you surprise us all with what you can do. I hope you never stop doing that.

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You have the most helpful spirit. I love how you always volunteer to be a helper. Just remember that helping means doing what the other person asks, and not what you want to do. Keep this in mind, and you will continue to be a blessing to those around you.

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You have the energy! Some days I wish I could borrow some of your exuberance! You have a way of revving people up and getting us all excited about a new game or a special outing. You are charismatic and others want to be around you. Your excitement is contagious. Use your energy to encourage others to do what’s right, and you will be one heck of a leader someday!

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Finally, you are an encourager. I love you how tell others when they are doing a good job. There are some words not worth saying. Leave those in your head. But a word of encouragement is always worth saying out loud. If you use your words to lift others up, you have friends wherever you go.

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So when Mama’s not around, remember that you carry within you the tools to succeed at whatever you try. Don’t look at your struggles as obstacles, but instead as opportunities for God’s power to make you strong. And how much sweeter the reward when you work hard and overcome, as you continue to do.

Look at these unique qualities you have. Isn’t it amazing how you were made? I marvel in you all the time. And I marvel in you now.

Happy first day of school sweet boy. I love you.

Love, Mama

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My First Blog Post

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I am so excited as I type this – my very first blog post! This blog has been many months in the planning and I am thrilled to finally get started!

I am the mommy of two little boys with special needs. My Little Dude (age 5) was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, an autism spectrum disorder) last winter. My Little Man (age 1) has low muscle tone and delays in his gross motor development. You will be able read Little Dude’s story and Little Man’s story shortly.

The reasons I started this blog are: 1) to encourage other families who are raising children with special needs, and 2) to be a resource, and 3) to challenge myself to continue to find creative and fun ways to meet my families needs. Over the last year I have learned so much about sensory processing, gluten-free/dairy-free/sugar-free diets, and autism. I’d love this blog to be a place to share what I’m learning on my journey as a parent, but also to learn from you too! I truly believe that we are stronger together.

Finally, you have to know that I am a woman who loves God and that drives everything I do. I will probably mention Him from time to time – as he is the reason I can breathe and blog and do therapy after therapy and find joy when it shouldn’t be there.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll find Our Special Nest to be uplifting, encouraging, and practical!

– Amy