Posted in Adult Homeschoolers Series, Parenting Ideas, Uncategorized

Homeschool, Public School, and the heart of Socialization

Socialization: if ever there was a polarizing issue in the homeschool movement, it is this.

I was homeschooled from 1st-12th grade in a time when parents, like my own, were forging a new education path for themselves, their children, and for future generations.

So much has changed in the homeschool movement (Example: I just read a novel where the main character was homeschooled and it was a NORMAL thing, not some fringe, weird, reinvent-the-wheel movement. WHAT??? Incredible!).

However, so many of the attitudes and beliefs within the homeschool system remain the same, especially ideas about socialization and the negative influence of public schools.

I read a blog post recently about this issue. The author is a homeschool mom who wrote about the negative socialization issues that her children are avoiding by being homeschooled. Here’s an excerpt from her post:

 Yes, my kids are missing out on being socialized in a schooled environment. And you know what else? I’m extremely happy about it!
I do not want them socialized to conform, fit in, gossip, bully, compete, and lose their compassion and individuality.
I want them socialized to have empathy and understanding for others, to be helpful and cooperative, to be friendly and accommodating.
Putting a group of kids of the same age and social skills together does not achieve this. We’ve all been there.
If you’re worrying about homeschooled kids being socialized, you’re worrying about the wrong group. We’re doing just fine thanks.

I was brought up to believe and defend this notion myself, the idea that the homeschooled environment of family, education, and faith would “save” me from the pressures and social corruptions that are inherent in the public school environment.

However, while my homeschool socialization was different and positive in many ways, there were still cliques, mean spiritedness, and shutting people out. Human nature is still human nature.

Here’s a sad story to illustrate my point:

When I was in high school, my friends and I wanted to have a party. No, not THAT kind of party—a happy, fun, homeschool kind of party! A GAME NIGHT!

I organized the whole thing, a tournament board game night. We had to have a certain amount of people to make the tournament a success so I chose the guest list with care.
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I only wanted my best friends there, my fun friends (not anyone annoying or weird).
So I purposely excluded one of my friend’s brothers.

The night of the party, my friend confronted me and asked if her brother could come. I actually protested: “We need a specific number of people to make this game night a success. Sorry…”

She was disappointed and frustrated: He really wanted to come. He didn’t’ get invited to very many things. Can he come?

“Fine,” I huffed. “He can come.”

I was in a bad mood for the whole party.

As an adult, I am so ashamed of how I acted. My heart really aches to think of my attitude and actions, as, knowing what I know now, I would guess that this boy was on the Autism spectrum, just like my son. He was very smart, socially awkward, and very, very keen to talk about his special interests. I didn’t know anything about Autism back then. All I was thinking at the time was that he was annoying and awkward and I didn’t want him at my party.
I was mean, petty, excluding, and a snob. I was a “popular girl” who didn’t want to invite the “weird kid” into my group.

I was a homeschooled girl who never went to public school and never hung out with “bad influences” (ie. Public schoolers).

The “Socialization” the author talks about in her article wasn’t a public school vs. homeschool issue.
The way I acted was a result of a selfish, sinful heart.

Many parents, both today and when I was growing up, believe that the homeschool environment will “save” their children from “evil,” social or otherwise.

But this isn’t true.

Bullying doesn’t have to happen in a classroom; it can happen in sibling relationships.
Competition and feeling superior to others happens at kitchen tables, not just in classrooms.
In my homeschool group, full of children who could spout off thousands of Bible verses, “prayer request” was a synonym for “gossip.”
And you all just read my damning story about my own lack of compassion for a boy who I felt was too “different” to be my friend.

As much as we want to protect our children from the world, we, as parents, can’t save them from their selfish, sinful human nature. Ultimately, only God can do that.

I appreciated the desire and sentiment of the mom who wrote the article.  I get it, I really do. I was homeschooled myself and I had to defend my homeschooling experience as “just as good” or “even better!” to every person I met.
However, after growing up and gaining some perspective about my educational experience, and now being a public school parent, I’ve realized that my homeschool experience was simply “different.” And different is great—but it doesn’t make it morally or socially “better.”

Homeschool or Public School both offer gifts and challenges to a parent, and it is up to the parent to shape the character of his or her children with the gifts and challenges presented.

I remember many mornings when I walked my boys to school and we saw a boy getting off the bus. The boy had some special needs and often had a hard time making the transition from the bus to school.

As the boy screamed or flailed, my son frowned and said, “That’s Landon. He screams a lot.”
“Why do you think he screams?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t like him. I don’t like to sit with him.”
“I think Landon has a hard time communicating what he needs or wants. What if you couldn’t tell people what you needed or wanted? How would you feel?”
A pause. “Mad…and sad.”
“Maybe you would feel like screaming too.”
“Yeah, I would feel like screaming.”
“I bet Landon feels the same things you do. He wants to be understood, and he wants a friend. If he makes you feel uncomfortable, I understand. But I always want you to be kind to him. He’s a person, just like you.”
My son nodded. “Okay, Mom.”

Character shaping and enlarging small hearts can happen any time—around the kitchen table learning fractions, or walking to school each morning. But an immature and selfish heart will find it hard to grow when the barriers between “us” and “them” remain intact.
Heart2
It’s been many years since I was that snobby, selfish high schooler. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve had my own children. I’ve learned even more since my own children have been diagnosed with special needs.

I’ve learned that my experiences as a first generation homeschooler were unique and different, yet neither “bad” nor “better.”
I’ve learned that socialization is usually “mainstream” or “avant-garde” but that doesn’t make it right or wrong.

I’ve learned that it is up to parents to teach character, morals, and how to treat others with kindness, compassion, and respect and that, homeschooled or otherwise, it takes effort and patience to instill these Positive Socialization values within our children.

PS. My kids are now the Public School Kids I used to judge
The Day I Taught my son the F-Word

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Posted in Uncategorized

Dear Followers, I’ve moved!

Hello dear BamBlog followers. I recently moved to a new host. My domain name is the same but I am no longer hosted by wordpress.com.

If you would like to keep following TheBamBlog on your WordPress reader, please go to www.thebamblog.com and click the “Follow on WordPress” button on the right side of the page.

I have so enjoyed building community with each of you! I hope we can continue to build community together on my new and improved blog!

Thank you!

All the best, Brittany

PS. Here are a few posts you may have missed from May:
Grieving the Gap between “Am” and “Was”My therapist told me it was okay to bribe my kid
When self-improvement looks like a hot mess (aka my blog move)

Posted in Autism, Parenting Ideas, Special Needs

Are you making Choice A or Choice B?

A friend asked me, tongue in cheek, if I would write a 600 part series with advice about parenting her SPD/ASD daughter. I gulped and laughed. I wish I had that series myself. I am NOT an Autistic Parenting Expert by any stretch of the imagination. I am new to this journey and am figuring it out as I go along.
However, I want to help and encourage others in their parenting journeys so I told my friend that I had three ideas for posts about techniques that work for us…sometimes.😀 Read Part 1 here (How to become a Meltdown Prepper).

We were at soccer and my 8 year old son was falling apart. Benji is Autistic and as much as he was wildly excited about indoor soccer practice, he had a meltdown each week, about 10-15 minutes after we got there.

He would get overwhelmed and angry, would storm off, run away from the other kids and coaches, and would not be able to communicate. One time he even ran out of the gym into the parking lot. That really scared me.

I was starting to drown in the panic of “I don’t know what to do,” so “soccer” became a main topic in our sessions with Benji’s counselor.

She introduced us to the “Choice A or Choice B” concept.

This behavior tool was developed for children with Autism and can work well for ages 3-9. Our therapist gave me this short book to read to familiarize myself with this tool.

The concept is pretty simple in theory (a bit more tricky in practice):

Choice A is doing what will make both the child and the parent happy.
Choice B is NOT doing what will make both the child and parent happy.

The child can make choice A and reap the positive consequences
OR
The child can make choice B and reap the negative consequence

The child can also ask for help in making Choice A (asking for help, asking for a break, admitting that he wants to make choice B and needs help to make Choice A).

The theory behind Choice A and Choice be is to REDUCE choices, as too many choices can overwhelm a child, especially an Autistic child.

Benji, like many children with Autism, thinks in a very black and white, either/or fashion so presenting him with “Choice A or Choice B” made sense to him.

Soccer was our biggest challenge at the moment but we had to be creative as to how Choice A or Choice B would look at soccer.

First we had to define Choice A:
At soccer, Choice A looks like Benji participating in soccer drills, listening to his coaches, playing with the other kids, and being a part of the group. This choice will make us (parents) happy, his coaches happy, and most importantly, it will make HIM happy.
Mengs_51-1716401590-OChoice B looks like Benji storming off, running away, throwing a fit, and will have a consequence of not participating in soccer and maybe sitting out in the car for a Calm Down time out. This will make Mom, Dad, and Benji unhappy.

After defining Soccer Choice A and Choice B with Benji, we also came up with a plan for if and when he did start struggling:

If Benji wanted to make Choice B, he could ask us for help (Mom, please help me calm down), or tell us that he needed to take a break.
Our therapist encouraged us to make the break short so that sitting out didn’t become the norm and we could quickly get back to Choice A.

Unlike other tools we had used to try and help Benji, I was excited about the Choice A/Choice B method because it seemed to jive with his personality because it was a simple, black and white approach.

And it really seemed to help.

Before the next soccer practice, we talked a long time about Choice A and Choice B and the tools we wanted Benji to use if he needed help.

“Remember Benji,” I told him as we parked the car at the gym. “Choice A will make you happy because you want to play soccer and have a good time. If you feel like you are starting to make Choice B though, Dad and I will be there to help you. You can ask for help or a break if you need it, okay?”

I crossed my fingers, said a quick prayer, and hoped for the best.
Sure enough, he started out great. Then, whatever it is that caused soccer to be challenging–sensory overload, communication challenges, personal frustrating, motor skill difficulties, whatever–kicked in and Benji stomped off the the edge of the gym.

I walked over to him. “Are you making Choice A or Choice B?”
He wouldn’t look at me and skirted away.
I ran after him, put my hands on his shoulders and turned him towards me. “Choice A or Choice B?”
“Mooooom!”
“Benji…!”
“Ok, Ok! Choice B!”
“Is that making you happy?”
Silence. Then, “No.”
“Do you need a break? I will help you.”
He was struggling. It is tough to work through frustrations and the twisting, aching turmoil that Autism brings. I really don’t even know. I can only guess.
I waited a few heartbeats, a few breaths.
“I want to make Choice A!” he barked, a frown on his brow. “I want to play!”
“I know you do, buddy. I know you do.”

So we talked for a few more moments, about expectations, about kicking the ball to other kids, about how being the goalie isn’t always exciting, about listening.

Then he took a deep breath and ran back to play. He made Choice A because that was the choice that was ultimately going to make him happy.

It made me happy too.
Choice A

Here is another scenario for how Choice A/Choice B might look for a situation like Getting Dressed:
Choice A: If you get dressed quickly, you are happy, Mom is happy, we are not rushed getting out the door, and you get a sticker for your Get Dressed Chart.
Choice B: You mess around, throw a fit, refuse to get dressed. You are unhappy, Mom is unhappy; we are late for preschool and may miss your favorite Good Morning song; you do not get a sticker for your chart.

The Choice A/Choice B tool isn’t perfect. It’s important to note that Choice B is not a punishment, but there may be negative consequences for choosing Choice B (sitting out, not participating in the group, Mom is sad, you are sad, the fun thing we wanted to do is not possible now, etc) .

The important thing about this method is giving the child the power to make a Choice, instead of feeling powerless and out of control.

This tool works better in some situations than others and it requires creativity, preparation, practice, and clear expectations.  We have used it intermittently since Soccer ended. But, ultimately, I really like it because it is simple, it requires personal responsibility, and it clicks with who Benji is as a person.

Have you used the Choice A or Choice B method with your child, Autistic or not?
How did it work for you?
Share you story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in marriage

Advice I would give myself as a Young Bride (10 years later)

Our 10 year wedding anniversary is May 26th. 2006-2016. Wow. I can’t believe it has been 10 years…

…and then I look at  our four (!) children and think, “yeah, I can believe it.”

When I think back to my days as a 22 year old bride, I want to pat myself on the back, laugh, and tell myself, “Girl, you just need to chill out.”

I wanted to be a good wife–the perfect wife! But I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.

Here are 5 pieces of advice I would give to Young Bride Brittany…after 10 years of marriage:

1. Don’t throw away his stuff

My husband had this red baseball cap…well, it used to be red. It was faded to pink in some spots and was smudged with dirty brown in others. The brim was curled and the fabric was unraveling.

It smelled terrible.

So, one day, when I was cleaning up, I threw it away.

I thought he wouldn’t notice (I did not know the man I married–at all).

I will let you imagine our conversation:
My husband was aghast (“That was my favorite hat! It took me years to get it that way!”).
I was self-righteous (“I was cleaning! It was gross!”).

Here is the advice I would give myself: Don’t ever, ever throw away your husband’s stuff without asking. You will never hear the end of it

My 10 year takeaway: What’s important to him may not always make sense to you. Try to be accepting of what he loves, even if it drives you crazy.
100_1916.JPG2. It takes time to grow a family

I thought getting married would be like, BOOM! Instant family, with all the comforts and traditions that I was used to.

We lived very far from both of our families and we both found ourselves missing the familiar rhythms of family life. Everything seemed new and awkward. I was lonely and confused. Is this marriage?

Slowly though, we discovered OUR dinner rituals, OUR holiday traditions, OUR inside jokes and the awkward loneliness disappeared.

Getting married is like planting a seed. It takes time and patience to grow a family that you feel comfortable in.

My 10 year takeaway: Be patient, girl. Try new things at Christmas. Laugh. Store away those jokes and whip them out when you both need to laugh. Give it time. Your new family is young, but it’s growing.
100_2192.JPG3. The tough conversation doesn’t always need to happen right now

As a young wife, if I was upset about something, I needed to talk about it RIGHT NOW. It didn’t matter if we were in the middle of church, if my husband had just walked in the door from work, or if it was 3am.

My timing was usually terrible, and choosing the wrong time to talk often made me even more frustrated.

After 10 years of marriage, I’ve discovered that there are better and worse times to have tough conversations, and I’ve gotten a lot better about choosing the right time to say “Can we talk?”

Instead of hashing it all out in a 30 minute lunch break, I’ve learned to put a bookmark in my racing thoughts and say to my husband, “I want to talk about ‘x’ but we can wait until we have more time.”

As a young wife, I would have been terrified of waiting to talk–This issue is important and this conversation has to happen NOW!

But 10 years of marriage has shown me that you forget about the little stuff (or you can laugh about it in 3 hours) but you won’t forget about the big stuff. That tough conversation WILL happen.

My 10 year takeaway: Choose your timing wisely. Eliminate distractions. Make your talking time productive. And don’t hold an emotional grudge until the conversation can happen. Just pause, breathe, and plan the right time to have that tough conversation.
100_48674. Always take your husband’s hand when he offers

My husband doesn’t really like to hold hands. It just isn’t his style. Our pattern is usually a quick squeeze across the car console, and then we let go.

I do like to hold hands so I am usually the one reaching for him. He knows this, so when it really counts, he reaches for my hand.

The thing is, those “really counts” moments are when we’ve had a spat and my feathers are all ruffled up. I do not want to be smoothed, thank-you-very-much!

But deep down, I know he is offering me more than just his hand for me to hold. He’s offering his love, his forgiveness, his apology,  his “I (still) Do.”

Sometimes, I want to look at his hand, turn up my nose, and cross my arms. Nope! I’m too mad. No hand holding for you!

But deep down, what I really want–more than being right, more than feeling justified in my position–is connection.

So I take his hand.

It’s always the right choice.

My 10 year takeaway: A pity party feels good but it gets lonely. If he’s trying to fix what’s broken between the two of you, always, always, take his hand.
IMG_53645. Read your man, not the marriage books.

I wanted to be a great wife so I bought a bunch of marriage books and poured over them as a new bride.

Out of all those books, I read one that had one piece of advice that I still use today (Thank your husband for being a hard worker).

All the rest were just confusing (My husband’s love language changed daily) or laughable (one book said that separate bathrooms was a must for any marriage so that the husband wouldn’t intrude on the “magic” of his wife’s beauty routine, therefore preserving the “spark” in the marriage. For real, folks).

Marriage books can be great but they are general (and sometimes weird).  In our 10 year marriage, I’ve learned that the best thing I could do was to “read” my husband, like discovering what he needs from me in stressful situations,  figuring out our communication style, learning how to encourage him, and talking about what we like and don’t like,  anything from food to affection.

I wanted a book to tell me how to have the perfect marriage. The truth is, books can give us some great principles but only we can discover what works in our marriage and what doesn’t.

My 10 year takeaway:  Read your man. There is only ONE man you are married to and that man is a unique person–your marriage will look like YOUR marriage, not any one else’s.

Our marriage has not been easy. I almost wrote “has not always been easy” but that’s not true. Even after 10 years, it still isn’t “easy.”

But it is good.
Wedding
We have formed a family. We have built a firm foundation of love, trust, communication, forgiveness, laughter, and tenderness.

I’m so proud of our 10 years. And I can’t wait for 50 more with my wonderful man!

Did you ever throw away your husband’s stuff?
What advice would you give to yourself as a young bride?
Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Autism, Benji's Story, Parenting Ideas, Special Needs, therapy

Parenting your Autistic Child: 6 Ways to become a Meltdown Prepper

A friend asked me, tongue in cheek, if I would write a 600 part series with advice about parenting her SPD/ASD daughter. I gulped and laughed. I wish I had that series myself. I am NOT an Autistic Parenting Expert by any stretch of the imagination. I am new to this journey and am figuring it out as I go along.
However, I want to help and encourage others in their parenting journeys so I told my friend that I had three ideas for posts about techniques that work for us…sometimes. 😀

Have you seen those shows about people who prep for DoomsDay/Zombie Apocalypse? They self-identify as “Preppers.” These people stockpile underground bunkers with food, ammo, and daily necessities to help them survive, what they believe to be, impending Doom. I watch these preppers in fascination…as I roll my eyes..

However, as much as my eyes are permanently stuck in the back of my head at the idea of being a “prepper,” I’ve realized that preparing for worst case scenarios is something that I do on a daily basis as I raise my 8 year old Autistic son. I come to realize that prepping is essential for my son’s daily well-being (and our family’s well-being too!).

Because many ASD people build their reality around personal experiences, encountering new experiences can very scary, can cause anxiety and panic, ultimately leading to a meltdown.
Sensory overload to daily events (crowded playgrounds, mom using the vacuum or hand mixer, new clothes, etc) can also cause meltdowns.
Feeling secure and safe is important to all people, but because the world is a scary and unpredictable place to many autistic people, preparing your child for daily encounters (even if you do the same routine every day) is important for emotional and physical security.

The techniques listed below are things that we have learned from our therapist, as well as practices that I have learned and applied through trial and error. We have had more success than failure with these techniques but they don’t work (ie. prevent a meltdown) all the time.

6 ways to become a Meltdown Prepper

1. Prepare for every situation 

With our son, we have learned that if we talk through scenarios that seem threatening to him (like a doctor’s check up) or situations that may trigger a meltdown (like a play date) before they happen, it helps him “experience” the situation, therefore making it less scary.

Church has been a huge struggle for us and I was especially dreading the Easter Service  because there is lots of music (sensory trigger for my son) and it is a family service (no Sunday School). I wanted to avoid a meltdown so here are some ways we prepped for this stressful situation:
-We talked about the Easter service a few weeks to prepare him for the new format
-We spent an entire counseling session with his therapist talking about ways to cope
-On the advice of his counselor, we role-played potential tricky situations and how Benji could respond if he felt overwhelmed or anxious (Me: What do you think you could do if you feel anxious or upset during the service? Benji: I can ask you to roll my back with the yellow train.)

FullSizeRender
That yellow train is a Church Essential. It lives in my purse, along with the white Therapeutic Brush in this picture.

To me, the prep for Easter felt excessive (and Benji even started saying, “Mooom! I know!“) but it paid off.

We had a very smooth and happy Easter Sunday. Benji asked for what he needed; we were able to comfort and help him; and, best of all, no meltdowns! To quote Benji, “This was the best day EVER!”

2. Anticipate Triggers

For us, a key to avoiding meltdowns is to to anticipate the changes that could cause anxiety in our son. Obviously, preparing for every worse case scenario is impossible (plus, who knows why kids throw fits sometimes!) but if you see a pattern in your child’s life, try to  pinpoint the trigger; then address the trigger before it happens so you can prevent the meltdown.

For example, my son is very sensitive to hunger. He gets a fruit or veggie mid-afternoon snack at school but sometimes he comes home, starts homework, and dissolves into a “mood.”

While several factors may be in play, the first question I ask is, “did you eat your snack at school today?” If not, I feed that boy ASAP!

Taking care of his physical needs is essential to helping him regulate his emotions.

3. Practice “Calm Down” techniques when your child is calm

Have you ever tried to tell your child to “Calm down! take a deep breath!” when he is in the middle of a full-fledged fit? How did that work for you?
Yeah, me too. It doesn’t.
When kids are out of control, they lose the ability to cognitively calm themselves if the “Calm Down” habits are not established.

Our therapist encouraged us to practice “Calm Down” techniques when Benji is calm and happy. That way the technique is associated with the calm mood, not the meltdown. Also, practicing creates a habit-path so that the child can more easily reach the calm place during a stressful situation.

Some calm down techniques we’ve used include:
-Deep breaths (5 at most) (“Blow away your angry feelings!” or “Blow out the birthday candles!”)
-Squeezing a stress ball 5 times
-Placing your hands on your thighs and squeezing for 5 seconds, then relaxing for 5 seconds.
-Guided sensory imagery to a ‘Happy Place’ (close your eyes: what do you see/hear/smell/feel?). This exercise “resets” the emotional state.

We have had varying degrees of success with practicing “Calm Down” techniques. The habit seemed to work for little upsets but not for huge meltdowns. However, I think if I was more consistent in making my son practice, we would probably have better results.

4. Give transition warnings

Transitions are a huge meltdown trigger for my son, especially when he was preschool age. I had to start giving transition warnings for every activity:
“In 5 minutes we are going to stop watching TV and eat breakfast”
“In 15 minutes (then 10, then 5, then 1) we are going to leave the park”
“Right after this show is over, it’s time to go potty and take a nap. Do you understand?”

As he has gotten older, he hasn’t needed the transition warnings as much. However, when I forget to give a verbal transition warning, especially if he is doing something he enjoys, like playing the ipad or watching a movie, he gets very upset and it’s hard to “reset” him without great effort on my part.

Picture schedules have worked really well for us in the past too–that way your child can look at the schedule to see what is coming up next, therefore feeling more autonomous (and so you don’t feel like you are losing your mind by giving the constant transition warnings).

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A (blurry…sorry!) picture of our picture schedule from a few summers ago

5. Remove sensory triggers (or remove yourself/your child)

Sensory triggers can be baffling to someone who doesn’t have SPD. I finally realized that I can’t “logic” my child out of his sensory issues (::facepalm::); I just have to accept them, anticipate them, prepare for them, or remove them.

Benji’s pants have to have elastic in the waist. For a while, I tried to buy “slim” pants that still had the tight feel he craved.
It didn’t work. Thinking about the “pants meltdowns” we’ve had still makes my heart pound.

It isn’t worth the battle. He needs elastic pants? He gets elastic pants!

Same for food: If I’m serving applesauce to the rest of my kids, I just cut up an apple for Benji (or give him another type of fruit or veggie). Applesauce type foods are a no-go. (Thankfully, he does eat a wide variety of foods. Many ASD children do not).

There are some sensory issues you can control as a parent; there are others you cannot. If your child cannot cope with sensory input and he or she is starting to meltdown, the best thing to do is to remove your child from the situation, even if that means going to sit in the car with her while she holds a favorite toy or blanket until she calms down.

You can’t “tough” your way out of sensory issues, though you can prepare for challenges if avoidance is impossible (see 1 and 2 again).

6. Remember that a bad moment doesn’t mean you have a bad life.

Sometimes the prepping pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. You can prep, and anticipate, and prepare for weeks, days, hours, and minute by minute but you can’t prep the Autism out of your child.
Meldowns happen (or insert your word of choice here).
Sometimes you just have to ride it out, talk it out when it is over, hug your baby, and start over again when the storm subsides.

If you have a prepper mindset, it’s easy to see “DoomsDay” around every corner. It’s the same for meltdowns. I have experienced seasons in my life where my own anxiety of “when is my son going to meltdown next” was almost debilitating.
MeltdownPrepperI had to change.
For one, I started being more consistent in helping to avoid meltdowns.
Secondly, I had to start thinking long term. Prepping myself and my child is more than just preparing for the next meltdown. It’s really is about preparing my child to successfully navigate life in a healthy way.

Eventually, I want him to be able to anticipate life changes, transitions, sensory triggers, and autonomously utilize ways to calm down.

Until then though, I have to help him because he can’t help himself. He needs me to come along side him when his body, emotions, and world feel scary and out of control. I need to be his rock, his safe, secure place.
I’m his bunker.

Yep, I’ve become a Prepper.

Are you an ASD “Prepper”?
What helps you and your child navigate through challenging situations?
Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share via your favorite social media! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in marriage, Own your Story

The #1 thing we fight about in our marriage

They say that the number one thing couples fight about is money. In our almost-ten year marriage, I think I can count our “Money-Fights” on one hand.

No, for us, the number one thing we fight about is this: Who is more tired.

Do you have this fight? It’s subtly nasty at our house. It usually looks a little like this:

Husband: (yawn) Wow! I’m tired.
Me: Oh yeah? Me too. How did you sleep last night?
Husband: Oh I slept pretty well. Alarm just came too early.
Me: Huh. Well, at least you didn’t have to get up with the baby three times last night!
Husband: Yeah? Well, I didn’t see you rolling out of bed at 5 to go to work with me!

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Me in exhausted newborn twin mode (2007)

 

And so it goes. We slap down our “I’m more tired!” card like some vicious game of Slap Jack until someone eventually gives up with rolled eyes and the winner feels smug in his her her debilitating fatigue.

Of course, this fight leads to all the other fights, like the dreaded “Division of Labor” fight.

Me: (slamming dishes) Why do you never help clear the table after dinner? Don’t you know I’m tired?
Husband: I worked all day! I want a moment to sit down!

For me, the weekends are even worse when I see my husband fall swiftly into NapTime Land on the couch.

I often feel like smothering him with a pillow because, even if I have the same opportunity to rest, because I can’t fall asleep easily.

Sleep Jealousy: It’s real, folks.

Somewhere, though, in the middle of the years of baby induced sleep-deprived-jealous-fighting, we finally waved the white flag and realized something important:

We are both tired.

Fighting about who is more tired was just making us both miserable, as if we could keep tally on something so abstractly personal.

Because it is personal. My husband’s exhaustion is HIS exhaustion. He is such a hard worker and he works 50-60 hours a week to provide for our family. He is tired.

My exhaustion is my exhaustion. Night time parenting is hard. Nursing a baby takes a ton of energy. Taking care of four kids and a house is tiring, physically, emotionally, and mentally.

We have different kinds of tired but one doesn’t trump the other.

So we stopped our stupid “who’s more tired” pissing contest and these days we try to acknowledge the other person’s feelings as real, even if my husband’s version looks different than mine.

It’s stretching, this type of acknowledgement. I’ve had to realize some important truths about myself.

Like, it isn’t my husband fault if I can’t fall asleep during an afternoon nap. His ability to fall asleep quickly isn’t a reason for acute rage (sleep jealousy, people). Napping is really, really good for him.

And, when my husband and I accept each other’s feelings as real, without feeling threatened, or devalued, it helps us to love each other more fully.

Author Iris Murdoch said, “Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.”

These days, when I say “I’m tired” my husband is more likely to say, “I’m sorry. Let’s get dinner out” or he encourages me to slow down and rest, something I usually resist.

When he vents about a long, exhausting day at work, instead of trying to one-up him, I try to listen and affirm with a whole-hearted, “Wow, that’s exhausting. I really appreciate how hard you work for our family.”

My tired isn’t the only reality, and my husband’s exhaustion doesn’t mean that my hard day doesn’t matter.RealLove
Our tired is real. Our feelings are real.

And by acknowledging that, we’re working on the Love.

Do you fight about who is more tired in your marriage?
How do you support and love your spouse during exhausting days or seasons?
Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Christianity, Encouragement, life, Own your Story, Uncategorized, Waiting Sucks

The Waiting Place

My husband and I are waiting for a phone call. If we hear a “yes” on the other end of the line, our entire life is going to change. Wild, scary, exciting, growing types of change.

In January, we were told that we would get this phone call on March 8.
On March 8, we found out the date was pushed to April 15.
On April 15, we were told we would have to wait at least another 3 weeks.

So many times we have looked at each other and  sighed, “I feel like our entire life is on hold.”

We’re in the Waiting Place.

I’ve been in the Waiting Place a lot in the past year.

It’s an infuriating place to be.
You feel stuck.
You want to fly out of your skin but you’re forced to stand still.
You want to scream to the the sky, the doctor, the therapist, the school, yourself, God–HURRY UP!!!!

FullSizeRender
From Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess

There are long sleepless nights of “What if…this? What if…that? What if…nothing?”
There are long conversations discussing every scenario under the sun and every response to “this one” or “that one” but you can’t pick any one because you are in the Waiting Place.

I wish I had some big, wise, amazing thing to write about “How to be patient” or “How to Wait Well.”

I don’t.

Right now, I feel like I’m in that quiet place you get to when you’ve cried your eyes out: Your shoulders stop heaving; your breath comes in shaky waves, but it’s slowing.

And you feel still.

I’m spent with the waiting. I was spent last year when we were waiting for answers from the school about Benji’s Child Study, about whether or not he would pass first grade, about the Autism testing.

I’ve reached the still place at the end of all my anticipation, scenarios, worries, and what-ifs.

“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

I can’t fight my way out of the Waiting Place, like the boy does in Oh! The Places You’ll Go.

It’s too exhausting.

WaitingPlace
From Oh! The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess

But, if I’ve learned anything in the last year, waiting doesn’t last forever. It does come to an end.

And in the meantime, while my soul is still in the Waiting Place, life goes on. We may feel like our life is standing still right now but it isn’t.

Our Real Life is happening right now, not three weeks from now, not next month, not in the fall, not next year.

I have dinners to cook, stories to read, homework to check, friends to visit, boo-boos to kiss, a husband to dream with, a house to care for.
I have my family to love.

Love always moves forward. There is so much Good to be done.

Even in the Waiting Place.

Are you in the Waiting Place right now?
How do you cope?
Teach me how you “Wait Well!”

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Encouragement, Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Own your Story, Self Care, Uncategorized

My 30’s suddenly got very Expensive (and why that’s ok)

I’ve always considered myself a pretty low maintenance girl. Except for a brief stint in my teens where I refused to leave the house without curling my bangs (the need for poof was real, folks), I’ve always been pretty comfortable with a minimalist beauty routine.

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“The Bangs” (I think I was 15 here)

My skin was perfect as a teenage (much to the chagrin of some of my girlfriends). I used plain water or makeup wipe to wash my face in the evenings (if I remember to do anything at all).

A pat of Covergirl foundation, a swipe of mascara, and chapstick completed my regular makeup routine. I felt like a million bucks.

Fast forward about 15 years. The bangs are gone, thank goodness (best decision of my entire Senior year in high school).

But my minimalist beauty routine was failing me–mostly because puberty decided to catch up with me in my early 30s.

After my fourth baby was born at the end of 2014, my skin started freaking out: acne, dry patches, oily patches– my face didn’t know what to do. Thank you, postpartum hormones.

I also started noticing that my hair wasn’t as silky and smooth as it used to be.

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Not the bangs, again! Thanks postpartum hair regrowth…

So this is it, I sighed, looking at the small forest of gray hair sprouting from my temples. There were too many to pull out any more. I’m getting old.

I don’t know if it was my postpartum hormones speaking, but I started to feel ugly.
Fatigue probably had a lot to do with it too. Sleep deprivation is not kind to one’s face…or self esteem.

IMG_4917
Photoshop, who?  This is real life, folks.

Are Moms supposed to be beautiful? I wondered. My husband assured me that I was.  I felt mollified but not content. I didn’t know who I was when I looked in the mirror any more. I was doing what I had always done but it wasn’t working anymore.

By the time my baby reached a year old, I was tired of waiting for my “postpartum hormone” to calm down.

I had to realize the truth: my body was changing. Though I am far from “old,” I am getting older.

So, although my frugal ways and pattern of minimal beauty habits screamed against it, I decided to start spending more money on self-care.

I threw out my bottle of $14.95 face lotion (that seemed “too expensive” when I bought it) and, at age 31, I purchased a full skin care regimen–my first ever cleanser, serum, lotion, eye cream, and night cream.

It cost about six times what I had paid for that tube of drug store lotion, and I felt super guilty about the purchase. Am I just being frivolous? I wondered.

But in the days and weeks of consistently taking time to wash and moisturize my face, I saw a huge difference–the dry patches and uneven skin tone were soothed, and the adult acne settled down too.

Using a quality product for my changing skin was actually a good thing (Imagine that).

A few months later, I crossed another boundary and bought shampoo and conditioner for $10 a bottle–each. I KNOW! Talk about guilt! Especially when I normally spent $3-4 on hair care products.

I justified the purchase by telling myself, “It’s okay. You only wash your hair every other day.”
I am a busy  mom of 4, after all.

And do you know what? The expensive stuff was amazing!  My hair wasn’t losing it’s luster! I had just been using crappy shampoo for years.

I’ve slowly branched out a bit more. I bought makeup that cost more than $5.95.

I’ve decided to invest in clothes that I love and are well-made, instead of talking myself into liking a garment just because it was on sale.

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A new haircut always helps (my baby was 9 months old before I “splurged” for this chop). See my silver? I’m embracing it!

All of these changes may seem kind of shallow.

But feeling bad about myself because my skin and hair were unhealthy just made me self-conscious, and ultimately made me feel shallow because I was thinking about looks all the time.

But when I decided to embrace that my 30s are going to require a bit more money and self-care, and started using products that help my body feel its best, I actually think about myself less because I’m not so self-conscious.

Beyond even the money issue though, I had to let go of my perceptions of what it means to get older, as well as what it means to be both a mom and a woman. I had to embrace these truths:

It’s okay to take care of your face and hair.
It’s okay to spend money on yourself.
It’s okay to want to feel beautiful.
You matter.

You are a woman first, not “just a mom.”

Taking care of myself is important. I’m glad that I feel like “me” again–older yes, but when I started take the time and money to care for myself, I feel more vibrant, confident, and beautiful.

What about you?
Did your 30s get really expensive?
How has self-care changed your self-esteem?
Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in boys, Christianity, culture, Education, kids, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Parenting Ideas, public school, Uncategorized

The day I taught my son the F-word

Teachable moments. You know the ones–they come up out of nowhere and scare the living daylights out of you.

“Mommy, is there a bad F-word?”

My heart stumbled. I cocked my head at my first grader. “What do you mean, honey?”

“Some kids in my art class said there was a bad F-word.”

First grade?! Already? Is this what I get for sending my kids to Public School? “Can you tell me the word?”

He smiled sheepishly and whispered, “Fruck.”

Laughter bubbled up, unbidden. So he’s still a first grader. “Well, honey, there is a bad F-word, but it’s not ‘fruck’.”

“So, what is the bad F-word?” He asked, sticking his pencil in the corner of his mouth.

“Uhhh…”
scarterstudios M018I paused, my heart tripping over itself once again. Is this what the Teachable Moment looks like? Wide-eyed, innocent, and 7 years old?

While my pause was calm and calculated, the tension I felt inside twisted tighter until it was a palpable ache: I wanted to preserve his innocence. I wanted to tell him, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t want you to worry about bad words.”
But as much as I mentally chided myself about the “bad influence” of public school kids, I knew that was a non-issue.

Public school or not, my kids were going to hear things and learn things from others as they grew up, public school, private school, homeschool, or Sunday school. I can’t control the moments they are not with me.

But he was here with me right now. This moment, at our kitchen table, in our home, was a safe, teachable moment.

If not now, when?

He was asking me for truth. And the truth was, “asking Mom” wasn’t always going to be his first choice.

So I took a deep breath and said, “Well…yes, honey. There is a bad F-Word.”

I told him what it was. I said the word and he repeated it, making sure he heard me right. I tried not to cringe at the profanity coming out of my baby’s mouth. Instead I pushed forward, plunging down this new path.

“Sweetheart, I’m telling you this because I want you to know the truth. But with knowledge comes power and just because you know this word doesn’t mean you should say it or teach it to anyone else.

It is not your job to tell kids at school that you know this word. That’s their parent’s job, not yours. I am very serious about this. Do you understand me?”

He nodded, his eyes wide. “Yes, ma’am.”

I looked at his face, at the soft, smooth skin on his cheeks, knowing that they wouldn’t always be soft and smooth. I would be kissing stubble on my firstborn’s face before I knew it.IMG_4869I pulled myself back to the present, savoring his innocence and openness and the questions that he asked without fear or embarrassment. That precious door was wide open and I wanted to keep it that way.

“You know, sweetie, sometimes kids talk about stuff at school. Kids think they know stuff. But that’s not always true. But Mommy and Daddy—we do know stuff. So if you ever have questions about anything that kids talk about at school, you can come to us and we will tell you the truth.”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

And then I helped him do his homework.

It was such a bittersweet conversation.

As much as I want to plant goodness into every corner of my children’s lives, the fact is that the world is full of hard, nasty, evil things. I want to shelter them from that darkness. But I also want to help my sons grow to be men who will be lights in a dark world. And if I am going to teach them to be lights, I can’t ignore the darkness.
F-wordI I have to be proactive.

So, when he asked, I taught my son the F-word.

Should I have told him that we would have this conversation when he’s older? Perhaps. Maybe it was too early.

But at 7 years old, his first instinct was to come to me.  As he gets older, that instinct will fade.

The conversations we have now about language, what’s right and wrong, about light and darkness are forming his very soul.

The Teachable Moment is terrifying but, for me, being keeping the door open in order to teach my children the truth is a gift that can’t wait.

PS. House Church, Cussing, and ASD (teachable moments that DO NOT go as planned!)

How do you navigate these terrifying Teachable Moments?
Have you taught your child something huge and scary? How did it go?
Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂

Posted in Encouragement, Expectations, Mom Confessions, Own your Story, Self Care, Special Needs, WAHM

7 Signs that you’re doing Too Much (and what to do about it)

So, how DO you know if you are doing too much? Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the line is between “I got this!” and “I’m going to have a mental breakdown.”

I am the Queen of “Doing Too Much.”

I have four sons, two of which are 3 and under, and two with special needs.

I have a husband and a house to care for.
11539035_10102113386324218_888264570455143371_oI also love to help people, volunteer, get together with friends, host parties, mentor college girls, and sew, read, write, and cook. Until very recently, I was a work at home mom (adjunct professor).

However, in the past six months, I have experienced major burnout and have had to cut back on non-essentials–and even some essentials–in order to regain some mental sanity, emotional peace, and physical health in my life.

If you’re flirting with that line, here are 7 signs you can look for to determine whether or not you are doing TOO MUCH in your life right now:

1. You start to forget things

We all forget things, especially as we get older…and especially when we add 1-2-3-4 (or more!) kids to the mix. For me, the tipping point was when I was was using my calendar to write down activities and appointments… and I was still forgetting them.

My brain was so full that it could not store any more information. I literally felt like I was losing my mind.

2. Little tasks feel overwhelming

For me, it’s the little things that put me over the edge. When my boys tell me that all their pants are in the laundry, something inside me just boils over. I am furious with myself–usually because we are already in a rush to get out the door, but mostly because I haven’t kept up with the laundry.

But on the jam-packed days, when I was juggling therapy appointments, grading papers, and evening volunteering, the sight of an overflowing laundry basket was just too much to tackle.
IMG_37813. You yell all the time

Our pastor once said during a sermon, “There’s always anger in hurry.” The truth of that statement has played out time and time again in my life.

When I’m too busy, I am constantly in this panicked state of “HURRY UP!” Doing too much caused me to slip into the habit of hurried anger.

4. You don’t have time to be kind

My “hurry up!” attitude was causing me to be unkind to my children on a regular basis. But even more than that, I was too exhausted and busy to be the loving person I wanted to be.

I love to cook for others, but my schedule was so full that I found myself saying “I just can’t” when I wanted to take a meal to a mom with a new baby, or have friends over for dinner.

5. You don’t have time to take care of yourself

In the blur of my busyness, I struggled to take care of myself on a basic level–remembering to drink water, brush my teeth twice a day,  wash my face in the evening, eat regular, healthy snacks.

Forget exercising and scheduling doctor’s appointments for myself!

6. You can’t rest when you’re tired

Well, to amend #6 a bit–I wouldn’t rest when I was tired because I had too much to do! The papers HAD to be graded. The laundry HAD to be washed (remember? no pants!). Dinner HAD to be made. Homework HAD to be supervised.
IMG_4854And if I wanted to spend very-needed time with my husband or friends, or fulfill my volunteering obligations (“I told them I would do it and I will!”), then there really was no time to rest or even go to bed at a decent hour.

7. You don’t have time to do the things that make you feel like “you”

Doing things for myself, like sewing, blogging, shopping, or reading always felt like a guilty luxury, one that I probably shouldn’t indulge in because, really, there was no time for that. But when I didn’t take time to do the things that brought me joy, I felt myself slipping into depression.

I was a big, hot mess. Something had to give.

In the past few months, I have taken several very important steps to regain my sanity, health, and happiness–because, do you know what? It really matters that I am a happy and healthy person.

Here are the steps I took when I felt like I was going to lose my ever-lovin’ mind.

1. Admit it

Saying the words, “I’m doing too much” can be life-changing.

2. Reduce (if you can)

Some seasons of life are just overwhelming, like when you have a new baby, or a family member has a health crisis and you are the primary caregiver. Sometimes you can’t reduce–you just have to ride it out (or see #3 below).

But sometimes, you can and should say “no”. It isn’t easy, but it’s needed. Last summer, I stepped down from an volunteer position that I loved. I didn’t want to, but I needed to let something go.

3. Ask for help

When I was in grad school, I had two college girls watch my twins and clean my house. It felt like a huge, guilty luxury but I really needed that help while I finished my master’s degree.

Lately, asking for help has looked like like enrolling my 3 year old in preschool last fall, teaching my older boys to load and unload the dishwasher, and coordinating with  my husband on busy grading weeks to let him know that I just couldn’t “do it all” when I had 50 papers to grade.
IMG_4619I hate asking for help (I think we all do) But admitting that I can’t do it all by myself lifts such a burden, even if I feel guilty at the time.

4. Ask yourself: Is this activity/responsibility helping me to be or become the best version of myself?

Recently, I’ve had to cut back even more, especially as Benji, my son with Autism, has started weekly therapy.

The stress of balancing marriage, four kids, house work, 4 appointments a week, and grading was starting to affect my mental, emotional, and physical health. So, I made the choice to stop teaching online so that I could focus more on being the type of mother that I wanted to be, instead of a yelling, stressed, “hurry-up,” angry, half-version of myself.

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my resignation, and the other day, I asked my husband, “So, how has it been? Different?”

He nodded, “Yeah, it’s been better. You don’t seem as overwhelmed by little things. I mean, you weren’t bad before but…I can tell a difference. You’re getting better.”
DoingTooMuchI hate saying no to things I really want to do in my life, but at this unique season of small children with big needs, recognizing my own limitations has put me on the better path, one that leads to less stress and more rest.

Even more so, I’ve had the time do focus on the things that make me happy–like reading, blogging, making meals for people,  visiting with friends, and actually resting when I’m tired.

I’m getting better. I feel like I am becoming more “me.”

PS. When you can’t do it all, ask for help
Why you need to say “yes” more often
I quit my job (because I can’t do it all)

What is the “sign” that you are doing too much?
What are you actively doing (or not doing) in order to become the best version of yourself?

Share your story below!

I hope that my story can bring hope, healing, and happiness to you. TheBamBlog is trying to grow! Did this post encourage you or would it inspire someone you know?
If so, please share! Thank you! 🙂