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Friday, May 1, 2015

I'm Not Qualified for This Job...

Have you ever been thrown into a job that you were completely unqualified to do, but had to do anyway? I know that can describe parenting in general, but it's been extra obvious to me as of late as we continue to navigate Charlie's diagnosis and what that means for him.

The thing about Autism that I never realized before now is that there is no "Autism doctor." There is no one specialist that you go to for your Autism appointment to address your Autism at regular check up intervals. In reality, there is an unending list of therapists with varying specialties, a thousand theories and methods to address, treat, and even "cure" the disorder, and don't even get me started on getting all of this covered by insurance. There is literally everything from dieticians, to physicians, teachers, therapists, to heck...swim instructors, camp directors, and horseback riding programs, all toting their methodology as being best for children on the spectrum.

Where do you even start? What is right for your child? I'll be the first to admit - right now, I have no idea what is best for my child. I don't know what he needs; I don't know how he's feeling and he won't/can't tell me.

While we are waiting on his medical assistance paperwork to be approved (commence breath holding...) all we can do is try to support his anxiety and behaviors at home. The struggle never seems to end though; is this because he's four and four year olds are unruly at times? Or "is this the Autism..." Which just feels awkward and dehumanizing to think of in that way. Essentially wondering, is this normal? Should we challenge him on xyz because it'll help him grown and learn? Or will challenging him on this particular thing hurdle him into a panic attack?

Might as well flip a coin, because your guess is as good as mine.

The truth, a truth I can't seem to get through my head, is that it doesn't matter what typical development looks like anymore. Typical is not necessarily typical for Charlie. Sure, he'll adhere to some trajectories, but for the most part, he is going to be on his own path through his own forest. Maybe my frustration isn't frustration at all; maybe it's fear that we will lose him in that forest.

As the past several months have gone by, Charlie has started to shut out activities he once enjoyed like puzzles, Legos, and coloring (not writing, just coloring). He spends an obsessive about of time each day focused on letters; spelling, saying, writing, pointing out letters. 

Most attempts to leave the house have turned from resistance to sobbing meltdowns. Over the past few weeks, he's developed a few new stim/tic type behaviors that friends have suggested, coupled with the shutting down behavior, could be anxiety from moving and/or Ginny's surgery. It breaks my heart to know he's hurting or confused, but doesn't know how to process or communicate it.

This is where I feel unqualified for this job. I don't know how to help him right now. I want to think that getting medical assistance and starting some kind of therapy or getting a TSS will be the magic bullet, but I know it won't be. It's only part of the equation.

They say that a bumblebee, when considering the laws of aerodynamics, shouldn't be able to fly, but being unaware of those laws, it flies anyway. So much of this has to do with us, Jeff and me, realizing and accepting that to Charlie, his world is completely normal and any insinuation contrary to that comes from us and others around him. Even if I can't do anything else right now, I need to keep reminding myself of that.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Cleaning Up the Drafts

When I logged back in this past weekend, I created a new post, typed it up, and submitted it. Once you submit a post, you get a view of your overall post dashboard. There were a lot of drafts; ideas in various states of fulfillment. Some were a paragraph, some just titles with a few bullet points I wanted to cover. There are posts about crafts, kids, DIY, running....the whole nine. I'll delete a few, write a few, and create more I'm sure.

I guess my question is, what do you want to read? What do you want to know? Help me get out of this writing funk!

For your contribution, here is a cute kid picture. Enjoy.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Three Months

Wow, worst post and run ever. I didn't mean to go missing for over three months, but here we are. The truth is, I just didn't feel like writing. I started this post over and over, but had no motivation to actually write. Call it a blogging depression. Wait, I think that's called writer's block? I don't know. With so much going on around here, I guess I've done a lot more thinking than writing, but I think it was for the best.

So where have I been?

Since Charlie's diagnosis in December, we've had his IEP meeting and gotten services started at daycare. He receives speech once a week and specialized instruction and occupational therapy each twice a month on alternating weeks. While helpful, these services focus on school goals, not home/life goals, so it's a little...spotty. Because of this, we feel like we are floating in an awkward purgatory of knowing there is more we can do for him, but being completely unequipped to do anything about it. As educated and well meaning parents, this has made Jeff and me feel really crappy.

Thankfully, in this awful settling stage, we've made connections with other parents who find themselves in a similar situation and though we obviously wish this club on no one, it's comforting to know we're not alone.

Once Charlie is set up with medical assistance, we'll be able to get him additional services and maybe even a TSS to help get us on track at home. Otherwise, he's doing wonderfully. He has been healthy all winter, has developed a slight obsession with Legos and space, and starts soccer in a few weeks.

Ginny is doing well, just turned two! I'll recap her birthday soon (seen as I never did a post for Charlie's last October). She is talking up a storm and has been developing such a fun imagination, mostly surrounding her love of baby dolls and taking care of them. Unfortunately, she's scheduled for surgery in a few weeks, but more on that in another post after her pre-op appointments.

Jeff and I are doing great. In January, Jeff got a job managing a new sporting goods store in the area and we've both been doing a lot more running - even ran a race together! We're planning another Disney trip for the fall, working on some heavy spring cleaning, and finding time to be together amongst the madness. The less great news is that I haven't had much time to do any kind of craft or project, which has me feeling pretty blah. Hopefully, with summer coming, I will find time to make something.

So that is the brief update. I'm hoping to fill in the gaps and catch up over the next...however long. This time without three months radio silence. I promise.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Nothing Has Changed, Yet Everything Has Changed

Emily Pearl Kingsly wrote a short story that became a beacon for a group of parents around the world. She asked the reader to imagine planning a fabulous trip to a place they've always wanted to go. You read the guide books, make lists of what you want to see and do, and learn the language. Imagine that you pack your bags and set off on your trip, but when you arrive, you're not in the place you'd been planning for; you're in a different place and can't leave. It's not a bad place, but it's not at all the place you'd expected to end up.

Kingsly's story, "Welcome to Holland" illustrates the shock, confusion, and grief of finding out that your child has special needs.

On Thursday, Charlie was diagnosed with Autism.

Whether we'd openly admit it or not, Jeff and I have always known in our hearts that something was different about Charlie. As our first child, it's always been an internal battle of wondering and worrying what was normal, what was concerning. Were we expecting too much? Were we making excuses for concerning behaviors?

When the evaluation process began a few weeks ago, I posted about his upcoming appointment, but never follow up about it. I was waiting to hear the whole story before attempting to retell it and even now, it's still a jumbled mess in my head. That day, he met with a psychologist, a speech therapist, and an occupational therapist. They played, they talked, did puzzles, and colored while I met with a case worker who asked me questions for about 2 hours. Coupled with his preschool teacher's evaluation and the therapists' experience that day, they concluded that Charlie has developmental delays surrounding cognition, language, and sensory self regulation and that he qualified for several types of therapy and special education instruction.

Charlie doesn't converse with us like a 4 year old should because he doesn't fully understand what we're saying. He's very intelligent, but without being able to process and communicate, it's all trapped in his head. Covered with a thick layer of anxiety, the psychologist said that the world is a pretty overwhelming and confusing place for Charlie. She said that he has many skills, but that without therapy, he won't have access to them. She also said that their interactions that day concerned her and that she wanted to conduct the ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule); the "gold standard" in testing for Autsim spectrum disorders.

Last Thursday, December 18th, we returned for the ADOS. Charlie met with the same group as before and gave them all hugs when he saw them again. "Mommy's friends" he called them. I sat in a little room connected to the assessment room and could hear them talk and play through the two way glass. At first, all I could hope was that he passed everything with flying colors, but as the test went on and I heard them having the same one-sided, confusing conversations with Charlie as we do at home, my heart settled. They were seeing exactly what we were seeing; we weren't asking the wrong questions or talking to him in the wrong way.

At one point, they tried to get him to play with a doll house. "Do you want to be the Mommy or the Daddy?" they asked, holding up little plastic figures. He ignored them, arranging and rearranging the furniture. When he finally took a figure, he mimicked the motions and sounds of "play," but was obviously confused as to what they wanted him to do. Again and again through the little interactions and conversations, he came up quiet, confused, or focused on arranging/counting/spelling instead.

After about 90 minutes, they went to discuss and came back in with their findings. This is the part where I remember bits and pieces, but most of it is a blur. The psychologist said that Charlie has a really, really hard time interacting with others. He isn't sure how to read people or situations, doesn't take part in conversations, and has a hard time transitioning from one thing to another. Socially and cognitively, he is on par with a much younger child. She said that she was diagnosing him with Autism. She said that based on the language and skills that he does have, therapy will help tremendously, but that this would be a long road of keeping him on the right track developmentally.

We talked about services, went through a huge stack of resource materials, and they answered whatever questions I could cobble together in my spinning head. The psychologist could tell I was overwhelmed; anyone would be.

"Go home," she said, "Enjoy the holiday and we'll talk about the details in the new year. Oh, and Mom," she added, "You get wine with dinner tonight."

So here we are in Holland. It's not where we'd planned to be, but where we feared we'd end up. We are heartbroken and anxious, but getting the diagnosis also gave an odd sense of relief. We could finally stop worrying and wondering and start doing and helping. Nothing has really changed, he's still Charlie, he's still the same exact person he was before. The only thing that has changed is our level of understanding and information about him and what he needs.

As confident as that sounds, I go back and forth between grieving the loss of the future we thought Charlie would have and being at peace that we can do this and he will be successful in his own right. And back and forth and back and forth. I'm scared and I'm already exhausted just thinking of the road ahead filled with therapy, special schooling, routine changes....and not letting it all absorb so much of our lives that we forget we have a second child.

Today, I'm having an "at peace" day. This morning, at least. I found this quote yesterday and it almost put me in tears. I find it appropriate that it's by Joseph Campbell, as I feel like Charlie's diagnosis is my call to adventure. I don't claim to be an epic hero by any means, but we are certainly embarking on a life changing journey.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Top 5 Stocking Stuffers for Runners

**This week's Fitness Friday is sponsored by FlipBelt. This review was a match made in running heaven; I love FlipBelt, they love sponsoring bloggers, thus we bring you this gift countdown! This post also contains external and affiliate links.**

It's getting to Christmas crunch time and if you're anything like me, stocking stuffers always end up last. Let me help you out with the runner in your life! Here is my top 5 favorite inexpensive, stocking sized products that I think every runner should own.

5. Feetures Socks

These are by far my favorite socks for running. Feetures are lightweight, comfortable, prevent annoying rubbing and blisters, keep your feet dry, and the Merino wool ones are incredibly warm. There are a several cuts, cushioning levels, colors, and styles to match your needs, but all provide incredible support and comfort - even on long runs. I buy mine at my local running store (woo-hoo B3G1 sales!), but you can also find them on Amazon or through the Feetures website.

4. Sweatbands

I know what you're thinking - welcome back to the 80's. I'm serious though! Both Jeff and I swear by our sweatbands. When you're running, mostly in the warmer weather, and you have nothing to wipe your face on it's incredibly annoying. The simple, yet brilliant, sweatband is the answer. We have Adidas brand, but almost any will do the trick. Mine are pink - shocker, right? Get your 80's on.

If you're looking for something a little more stylish, the Handana has been on my own wish list this year. Worn wrapped around your hand, the high performance material absorbs sweat and dries quickly. Since it's antimicrobial it won't get funky, which is always a plus!

3. RoadID

I've written about RoadID before and still agree that it's a running must have. These super customizable wrist bands have up to 6 lines of writing to inform others how to help you in an emergency. Information like your name, birthdate, emergency contact information, blood type, allergies or medical conditions can be invaluable when seconds count. I know a few people who have had to rely on their RoadID to speak for them when they couldn't and they are endlessly thankful they had it on when it mattered most.

Don't know what to put on a gift ID? Get a gift card and let them design it!

2. YurBuds headphones

I'm 99% sure these are the most comfortable headphones on the planet. Seriously. Made of medical grade silicone, YurBuds are molded in a way that they lock into your ear and don't fall out, even when running or doing other high impact movements. They're sweat and germ resistant so they don't get funky and the package comes with two insert sizes so they're almost guaranteed to fit. I've worn these for a few half marathons and forget that I'm even wearing them. Plus, and this is important, they come in a rainbow of awesome colors.

1. FlipBelt

This is one of my new favorites (and no, not just because they gave me one to try out). I've worn my fair share of running belts, but this one is amazing! The FlipBelt is a circular tube of stretchy, comfortable fabric with a continuous pocket that runs around the whole thing. With four openings, you can easily insert and remove the things you need to carry. Need easy access to everything? Wear it with the openings on the outside. Don't worry, your stuff will stay in! Need to lock it away for safe keeping while you barrel through miles 11 through 13? Flip the belt so the openings are against your body. Your stuff is going nowhere!

I find this belt to be incredibly comfortable, even full of stuff. Since it hugs your body like the waist band of a good pair of yoga pants, it doesn't bounce. The belt is sized, so if its a gift, make sure you order the right one! I wear a size 8 pants and ordered a medium.

Would you like a coupon code for 33% off a FlipBelt? Send me an email and I'll send one* your way! Miss out on the 33% code? No worries - all readers get 10% off their entire order with coupon code Sweat10 at check out! Thanks FlipBelt!

(*One per person, to the first 15 people who contact me)

Have fun stuffing your runner's stocking!

Monday, December 1, 2014

We've Been Waiting for Tuesday

For the few weeks, we've been waiting for Tuesday. Tomorrow, the 2nd. It's been marked on the calendar for one thing or another for weeks now and it's almost here. I know I've been a little sporadic lately around here; it's been busy and yadda yadda yadda. I want to post; I have ideas and draft after draft started, but I've been distracted by too many other things to count. 

So what has been going on? Two major things, really, that come to a head tomorrow. Firstly, Jeff is still unemployed after being laid off from his teaching job back in June. We've been making it work, but it has obviously been a goal to get him back into the working world. On a random stroke of luck, I ran into a recruiter for Target while at work one day. I talked to her about Jeff and his experience and she gave me her card. I passed on the info to him and he applied. After a on site interview and a phone interview, tomorrow is his final interview for a leadership position at a local store. A salaried management position that could get us back on track. A position he would enjoy doing, be able to pour himself into, but then leave at work when he comes home. We need this so badly for so many reasons; namely his sanity and confidence, but I'd be lying if I didn't say it was financial as well. 

Who knows how long after the interview he'll hear anything. All I know is that tomorrow at 4PM is make it or break it time for this opportunity and I'm pulling for "make it" with everything I have. 

Now the other thing. It's more complicated and I'm still not sure how to wrap my head around it. Charlie. Charlie, my sweet, brilliant, quiet, quirky boy. When Charlie started preschool a few months ago, we were approached by his teacher a few weeks in. She had....concerns. Not "earth shattering, stop the presses" concerns, as she said, but rather, "keep an eye out" concerns. Alright... 

Jeff and I have always wondered if Charlie was brilliant, different, quirky, or all of the above. It's not that we aimed to label him, but as educators and generally worried preemie parents, his development is on our minds quite often. When Charlie learned his alphabet, upper and lower case, at 22 months from a talking toy, we were proud. When he learned the letter's phonetic sounds by 26 months from the same toy, we were impressed. When he started spontaneously writing letters and spelling his name, we were pretty shocked. He's always been this way. He picks things up with very few exposures and blows us away with the things he knows. When he began to forego pretend play and toys that didn't have to do with letters, numbers, etc., we were confused.

When his teacher said she was concerned, I knew exactly what she was concerned about. He lacks imagination, struggles to carry on conversations with peers and adults, doesn't ask or answer "why" questions, still engages in parallel play, at best, and often plays with toys incorrectly (spells letters with train tracks or sorts play food by color, for instance). His peers get frustrated with him because he swats at them for disrupting his organization or when he talks about letters and numbers instead of playing... There's so much more that I can't even put into words at this point. Lately, he's gotten a little better. We encourage pretend play quite a bit at home, but most of the time he just doesn't seem to get it. 

People tell me not to worry because he's smart. Yes, he is smart, but there is more to development than "being smart." Is he gifted? Maybe. Could he be bored with such little kid play? Maybe. What of this is normal 4 year old stubbornness? What is normal Charlie? What should we be concerned about, if anything?

Tomorrow at 1PM, Charlie has an evaluation with the Early Intervention program. We've gone this route before for a gross motor delay when he was younger, but not for something like this. I don't know what to expect, I don't know what will happen. My brain and my heart are so tired of worrying. I'm not afraid of a label and I'm not seeking a diagnosis. I would, however, like to know if there are areas he needs to focus on and if there are things we could be doing for or with Charlie to help.

Tomorrow is a big day and the worst part of it is that after it's all done, we won't know much more than we do right now. Once it's done, we'll be waiting. Waiting for a phone call, the next step, next appointment. Only time will tell.  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tis the Pinterest Season

That day you go into the store and the Christmas decorations are out (you know, around October), you begin thinking about the impending holiday season and all it brings....your to do list. Decorate the house, put up the tree, find matching outfits for kids, send approximately 8,564 cards, the ever growing list of gifts to hunt down, and don't forget about the holiday themed festivities at daycare, school, work, Mom's group...

Holiday prep is fun and I genuinely enjoy spreading the love, but over the years I've noticed myself turning my focus further and further from my family and my home; gifts to buy, things to do, people to see, places to be. With an addition of Pinterest inspired desserts, gifts, and projects to the already crushing layer of Christmas cheer, I feel like the expectations (whether real or imagined) are more overwhelming than ever. This year, I'm taking a step back and changing my focus using the culprit of holiday pressure itself; Pinterest.

Why Pinterest? Why not. It's already a tremendous collection of creative ideas ranging from hand print art to stunning ornaments that cannot possibly be made by a normal person. Why not take advantage of it. Plus, this way we can share.

Follow Jen (All Four Love)'s board Advent Calendar on Pinterest.

Follow Jen (All Four Love)'s board The 12 Dates of Christmas on Pinterest.

We aren't doing fancy Christmas portraits or matching holiday outfits. I'm not going to obsess over menus for Christmas breakfast and dinner. If holiday socials don't fit into our family schedule, I'm not going to stress about it. Now, don't get me wrong; this isn't about locking my family in the house and ignoring everyone for a month. This December is, however, going to be about us and sharing the things we love with those we love.

A few weeks ago, I started two Pinterest boards; Our Family Advent Calendar and the 12 Dates of Christmas. One for our family and one for Jeff and I as a couple. As a family, we've been scouring Pinterest and our imagination, adding activities to these boards; activities we're excited to do together as a family or as a couple. There's no order, no requirements; just 24 activities (and 12 dates) that we hope to enjoy as we countdown to Christmas, together.

The activities aren't rocket science and don't require a BA in Fine Arts or a culinary degree to accomplish. It's simple things like baking cookies for a neighbor, bringing Great Grandpa holiday decorations for his retirement home, watching a holiday movie together, or having a camp out in the living room around the lit tree. It sounds simple because it IS simple, but it's things that I, admittedly, haven't made time for in past years. As the kids get older I want them to look back on the holiday season with memories of love, kindness, family, and fun.

I'm hoping our new Advent calendar sparks tradition for years to come, but if not, that's okay too. We'll try something else, pick new activities. Maybe that will be our tradition. Regardless of what works for us, the important part is that it works for us and doesn't become a season of stress and rushing.

That is my wish for you out there. Drink hot cocoa before bed, make more popcorn and Froot Loop garland than is logically necessary, watch cheesy movies, and keep your lap warm with little ones in Christmas PJs. May you have a holiday season full of love, kindness, family, and fun.