My son reminds me so often to celebrate the little things. He gets excited for every holiday – EVERY holiday. From Groundhog’s Day to Battery Day (February 18) to the traditional New Years’ to Christmas Day. Need some fun creative days to celebrate, check out this fantastic calendar! He reminds me that each day has a reason to be celebrated.
But, he also reminds me daily how hard it is to be a parent. Some days, weeks, months (if you have that teenager), it is so easy to focus on the negative. “My kid isn’t…. (fill in the blank) and should be.” Grades are down, a call to the principal’s office, a truancy notice. Some days it can be hard to want to love on our kids.
But, this month of love, I think we can (and should) do better. Our kids need to know they are loved just as much as we need to know our spouse or significant other loves us.
Here are some ways to bring more love into your relationships with your kids:
Encouraging words. We parents are often so quick to bring to light the negative actions of our children. And there is a good reason for that (discipline is essential to growth and development). But how quick are we to bring encouragement? When was the last time you told your kid you were proud of them? Impressed by them? Complimented them? This month, I encourage you to try to do this once a day and see how much richer your relationship with your child gets.
2. Play. This is so hard! Most parents work and parent. By the time work is done, we are exhausted and tired and the last thing we want to do is get on the ground and play blocks or Lego with the kiddos. We don’t have the energy to play a video game or draw. When we spend time with kids, the adults typically chose the activity. I encourage you this month, to purposely set aside 30 minutes a day where your child gets to pick the fun activity and then pour heart into it. After all, aren’t they more important than a replaceable job?
3. Cook. It is amazing what bonding happens over food. The smells. The textures. The colors. Cooking together is a great way to get quality time naturally. Teaching how to cook or experiencing new recipes and flavors together invites conversation, laughter, and play into the home. Enjoy the mess. Enjoy the yummy product. Enjoy the time with these precious children.
4. Apologize. How often have we yelled at our kids out of anger? Frustration? Exhaustion? How often have we gotten on to them about disrespect? Self-control? The choice of words? Too often as adults, we do not practice this vital step in our relationships with our children. Then we wonder why the attitude doesn’t change or the disrespect increases. We must be willing to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness from our children when we respond negatively to them. They will practice what is modeled to them. Apologize. Talk it out with them like you would in the reverse. Grow together. Be stronger together.
5. Date night: We make it a priority in my home to have a date night with my spouse. But, I think this same tradition should be made with the kids. Quality one-on-one time with each child is essential. It allows the child the opportunity to speak freely, laugh honestly, and get needed coaching without an audience of siblings. It is a perfect time to pour in honest discipleship into the next generation – who loves you above all other people. Once a week, take your kid out or spend some time in, just you two, and see how they prosper.
What are you doing to fan the flame of love in your children?
In the dark of night, under the cloak of secrecy, she said, “I do” to the man who had walked with her through the pain and terror and the excitement and laughter of the past two years. Quietly, guided by the whispers of the Christian priest Valentine, he said, “I do,” with a silent prayer that it would not be for the last time. In the morning he would be headed off to war – to battle – called to fight for Claudius II Gothicus, one he does not believe in for a cause he does not agree with, at the penalty of death. His only earthly light was the love of this woman beside him. The least he could do was set her up to be taken care of should the unspeakable happen.
There are many stories behind the history of Valentine’s Day. Some say it was because St. Valentine performed secrete marital ceremonies against Emperor Claudius II Gothicus’s decree against engagements and marriages in Rome. Some say it was to Christianize the pagan celebration of Lupercalia (a celebration of purification and fertility).
Whatever the reason, the reality is we celebrate the day in practice as a way to celebrate those we love. The day has become one to celebrate your significant other. But, it is more than that.
For those of us who have to spend days like this apart from our “better-halves” or for you single parents who are widowed, left, or worse, it is a day to remind you that you are alone.
I do not think that is true. I think this day is a great way to remember those who love you and those whom you love. It is a day to act in love, mercy, and kindness. It is a day to remember that you are never alone. A day to count your blessings.
In a social distancing world, where we have pitted ourselves against the other because of a sniffle or politics or the way we dress, this is a great time to remind ourselves that we all bleed the same. We all cry, laugh, mourn and dance. This is a time to change our hearts and practice what we preach – love.
Here are some ways to bring more love into your marriage:
Schedule priority time together. I have said this again and again….dating should not stop just because we said, “I do.” Dating should just be beginning. We change so much as we grow. Dating helps keep us connected to the changes of the other person. This is valuable invested time in the marriage. Pull out your calendars and set a date every week or two—just to spend time together and talk.
2. Laugh together. One of the reasons I married my awesome husband was he made me laugh. That sounds cliché, but in reality, it is really hard to get me to laugh – much less guffaw. Laughter truly is the best medicine and brings healing and bonding. When was the last time you shared a funny story and chuckled with each other? We like finding little jokes and sharing them with each other (especially when we are apart for work). As the song goes, “Girl, let your hair down.” Laugh freely – give yourself permission. Live lightheartedly!
3. Play together. I love this one. It is so easy to forget how to play as adults when faced with the reality of the world. We get stuck in bills, taxes, doctor appointments, and dinner we forget how to play. That childlike view of the world disappears. Another reason I adore my husband, he makes it easy to find that child again. We love to play together. We especially like crating together (and yes, I will watch the stories of the video games he plays…they can be quite good). I encourage you to find a hobby or activity you both enjoy: fishing, bowling, tennis, hiking, biking, crafting. It is also ok to take turns on things only one of you enjoys and spend time doing what the other likes. You learn a lot about your mate that way.
4. Be romantic together. It is no secret to those who know me well, I love words of affirmation. I love hearing compliments. I love quality time hanging out with Hubby. My husband, on the other hand, loves gifts and service. He feels most loved when something has been done for him or a special trinket arrives for him. Our love languages are different, but not incompatible. For my birthday I asked my husband to write a letter, poem, or story of why he loves me. For his Christmas present, I cleaned the garage and got him the gaming system he wanted. Send your spouse a note of encouragement in the mail every once in a while, just to say, “I love you.” (I keep a list and little sticky notes around my office and bathroom of the romantic and uplifting things he has said to remind me on days that feel distant). When possible, spend one or two weekends away each year just with your spouse. (No buddies or children allowed.)
5. Be grateful. I was reminded this week how much we take for granted in marriage and in partnership. It is easy in marriage to compare the circumstance of each other and think one has it harder than the other. In reality, it is just as hard for your spouse as it is for you. That is why love is a choice. Love is work. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love keeps no records of wrongs. So, say “Thank you” to your spouse. You know you are not perfect. They choose to love you anyway. They choose to work through your baggage with you. They choose to walk through life with you. So thank you. Purpose your days to see all the things they do that make your life better and acknowledge that.
While Valentine’s Day is a good time to put some spark into your relationship, the only way to fan the flame of a good relationship is for every day to have a Hallmark moment.
What are you doing to fan the flame of your marriage?
Congratulations! You survived 2020! Whew! If you are anything like me, it felt touch and go there for a while.
Welcome, 2021! After last year, it will be really easy for you to be better.
But, how can we be better? Better physically? Emotionally? Mentally?
Five days into 2021 and the world was shocked by riots in Washington, DC. I had a few friends reach out in utter dismal disappointment. Five days. That was all it took for them to feel like they had no hope in the world.
I introduced this group of friends, whom I love dearly and have known most of my life, to one of the five practices I will share with you today. That group text went from disappointment and fear to light and edifying.
How can we be the best we can be in 2021? Here are five simple steps I use that may help you.
Live Loved: Don’t be a slave to emotions. The last year was a roller coaster of emotions – fear, anger, depression, hope, joy, defiance. We have all felt them in such intensity for so long, it is easy to forget the most powerful emotion, word, magic, verb in the world: Love. As Lysa Terkerst so aptly put it, “No one can soar to the place of living loved when it’s a performance-based endeavor.” It is time to stop treating ourselves like we are reacting vessels. It is time to start acting. Time to reclaim the gift you are to the world. You are uniquely and wonderfully made for a purpose for a time such as this. Claim this. Love yourself. Love all the uniqueness that is you. Love the quirks. Love the weaknesses. Love the strengths.
2. Love your body: It took one hour for my inbox to be flooded with weight loss and exercise tips and workout boot camp invitations from when the ball dropped on December 31, 2020, and January 1, 2021. First, let me remind you: the weight loss industry is designed for you to FAIL and they KNOW it. So, ignore that. You know what you should eat and how you should work out. The healthiest thing you can do is start where you are and love your body. I love the above picture – she is so graceful and confident! Find one thing on your body you like and look yourself in the mirror daily and complement it. Eventually, you will come to love it and be able to find more things to love about yourself. When you love yourself, much like when you love a child, you want what is best for yourself. See yourself as the healthier version of you now and you will find you start choosing the healthier food at the store, ignoring the food table at gatherings, and investing in the people you are with more.
3. Speak Life: This past year has brought out the worst in people. Our language has turned against each other – our politics, our friends, even our families have been divided over how we view the state of things. Division is high and our language isn’t helping. Instead of listening to the views of others, we ignore them. Unfollow. Unfriend. We spread hate and insult those who disagree. We speak negativity and hate. But, our words have power. 2021 is a time to take our tongues back. It is time to speak love and life. We are uniquely made, so we have different opinions. That does not make one stupid and the other brilliant. It means our lives are different and the realities of what is happening in them are different. Stop. Listen. Then speak love. When we change our language to love and light we open doors to unity, growth, wonderful friendships, and grand love.
4. Be grateful: If follow me, you know how much I believe in the power of gratitude. There is a change that takes place in the heart when we recognize things we are thankful for. This year, thank you body. Your body does amazing things all day with your consciously thinking about it. Blood cells move to make sure organs work. White blood cells come to fight off bacteria and viruses. You have completely new skin every 27 days! Thank your body. Your family knows the worst of you (you know what I am talking about) and loves you anyway. Thank your family. Your teachers, therapists, and doctors are working diligently (some more than 60 hour weeks) to help ensure a healthy and smart community. Thank them. I practice a discipline of gratitude daily. I attempt to write out 3-5 things daily I am grateful for. This is particularly helpful on those days I am tired or short-tempered. It recenters me.
5. Take Chances: The new year is a great time to evaluate where we are and decide where we are going. What will your path be this year? One of anger and hate? One of love and acceptance? One of accomplishment? One of excuses? Be honest with yourself when you make this evaluation, and start moving those dreams to goals. Dreams are passing thoughts – goals are paths to reality. Goal setting can be easy and fun. So dream big and start making the reality you have always wanted. If you are new to goal setting, pick a small goal. Maybe you want to lose weight and have yo-yo dieted for years. Instead of a diet, set a goal to drink more water daily, or eat less sugar. This is quantifiable and you can it in baby steps. The single change will have a big change. Maybe your goal is to write a book – but you are not sure you’re an author. Set a goal to write 10-15 minutes two days a week. This is measurable and will get you in the practice to write the book later. Whatever the goal, if you survived 2020, you are set up with more grit, strength, and perseverance than you ever had in the past. Claim that and use it as fuel to take chances of making your dreams a reality.
If 2020 taught me anything, it is that I am stronger than I ever knew and able to do great good. I want you to know: you are loved. You are smart. You are important. You can do all you set your mind to. You are uniquely made for such a time as this.
I would love to hear your goals and thoughts on how you are going to make 2021 the best year yet. Drop a comment. If you like what you read, please share. Together, we can make this world a positive one.
Remember those days when you first met your partner and everything in the world was seen through rose-colored glasses? That person could do no wrong. All you wanted was to spend every last minute with them.
Then you got married.
Then you had kids.
Then you realized being an adult requires more work, patience, and determination that you ever thought possible.
Where did all the romance go? With the doctors’ visits, the football practices, the late-night homework sessions…oh, yeah, and the cooking, and cleaning, and the working two full-time jobs that sometimes take even more time.
This is particularly difficult for those who have children with special needs. It takes longer to trust other people watching your kids. If you are lucky to find someone qualified, they usually charge an arm and a leg for their services. As one of our daycare providers in Maryland once said, “We charge more because we know we are the only ones in the area who does this.”
In the special needs’ world, it is extortion at its best sometimes. According to MarketWatch, in America, 29% of people aged 18 to 34 are more than $500.00 in debt from overspending on dates spending an average of $1,596.00 a year on dates! Just dates. For those math folks, that is $133.00 a month and $33.25 a week.
Watching my parents, who married at age 16, had their first kid at 18, lost a child, had 7 more, and have gone to college (earning JD and PhDs) while raising us, I learned a successful marriage requires date night. My parents did it at least once a week – leave the kids and spend time with your spouse. So, when I married my husband, we agreed this is a requirement for our marriage too. Thank God, he agreed!
How do you find time for romance in the chaos without breaking the budget? First – make a budget. When you have a good budget, you can really enjoy things more.
Also, for those who qualify, look into your local Respite Care providers. Respite care is short-term relief for primary caregivers. It can be arranged for just an afternoon or for several days or weeks. Care can be provided at home, in a healthcare facility, or at an adult day center. We use this to help with grocery shopping, errands, prepping for holidays and so much more.
Before You Get Started
Before you get started, make sure you are scheduling this and putting it on the calendar. This is a priority. Then take turns planning them – surprise each other. Use this time to talk to each other (not about work, kids, or household). No excuses – date night is a priority. Never make excuses outside date night. I promise you date nights in your marriage will help you in parenting, relationships, and life in general.
Here are 12 creative no cost dates that helped our marriage cultivate instead of breaking our budget:
Without a sitter
1. Movie and Wine: When we first married, this was a great one! We would move the couch out of the way, lay down some pillows and blankets, and start a fire. The lights low, the cozy setting was perfectly matched with our favorite wine and a good movie. It is important the movie is something you both can enjoy. Some of our favorites are The Princess Bride, The Greatest Showman, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future series, and Indiana Jones series. ***This is great because you get to talk to each other during the movie without bothering anyone else. Talking is essential.
2. Craft night: This is one of my favorites! My husband got me a subscription craft kit for Christmas. Instead of doing the craft alone, he does them with me. We like Adults and Crafts. For $33.00 a month, we get everything we need for a great date night. Once the kids are in bed, we enjoy time creating together. The nice thing about this date night is it can happen over multiple days sometimes. Certain crafts require setting/drying time, so date night becomes date weekend.
3. Themed movie marathons: This is a fun one that can also extend beyond the single night. We like to do movie marathons. Movies with sequels are great, but you are not limited to just this. We did a marathon of watching all Disney Animated movies in order. Our next one will be to watch all their live-action movies in order. This is also a great time to binge your favorite shows! This is great because it lets link back to our childhood, and often springs great conversation. ***This is great because you get to talk to each other during the movie without bothering anyone else. Talking is essential.
4. Play video games: So many times, I hear wives complain their husband spends his time playing video games instead of investing in them. Use this. Before I met my husband, I did not know video games had stories…like movies! Apparently, they do – and some are really interesting. Husbands, play the stories. Wives, watch the story (and your beau) conqueror all cheering him on. Not interested in the story, I paint or do a craft while listening sometimes. I am with my spouse, participating with him, and learning more about him.
5. Game night: This sounds like a cliché, but there is truth in this. Games have the power of sparking great conversation, building trust, and bringing the gift of laughter. We particularly like this night when we find new or unusual games (but the classic Sorry, Boggle, Scrabble, and Chess is just as good). Some of our favorite games are Shut the Box, Liars Dice, Vertell’s, and Qiddler.
6. Read books: I am an avid reader as it is, but it is so much more fun reading with my hubby. I like things like novels where he likes ghost stories. We have both really enjoyed historical pieces as well. This often has given us ideas for travel, routines, and date nights. We often switch between the two. Or, my favorite is when we start with his ghost stories and finish with my devotional or scripture reading.
7. Karaoke: There is something special about getting crazy in front of a mic with your special someone. No matter your skill level, this is a great date. Not ready to show off in public, show off in the safety of your living room with those you trust the most. Laughter is guaranteed no matter what on this date.
With a sitter
Movies and dinner are great. But search out happy hours, Taco Tuesdays, and specials first. The occasional, movie, fancy restaurant and trampoline park are great. But do not make these the go-to.
8. Coffee/Brew dates: These are so much fun and cost as little as $5.00 a person. We like to find a local brew company or coffee shop and enjoy the local fare. This is great for nights that have trivia or open mic. If nothing else, it is cheap entertainment supporting the local small businesses in the community to reminisce about for years to come.
9. Painting with a Twist: This is a great night out as a couple. Creating art (with someone to help if needed) and some wine/beer of your choice. You both get to be a little goofy and come home with a souvenir at the end. This is usually a splurge night for us as a couples event can range from $15.00 per person to $50.00. It is best to look in advance to ensure you like what is being taught to make in advance. We especially like to do this on fundraising nights as we know the proceeds help a local non-profit.
10. Dinner at a bar: This can also be a splurge night. But we like to go during happy hours and specials. With the right happy hour and special, we can spend less than $50.00 in total. This is a great way to sample new places. It is also fun to re-enact the first date or enjoy the simple pleasure of trying something new on the menu together.
11. Fishing/hiking: We love the adventure of the outdoors. A great hike (even in the winter with some hot chocolate) or sitting on the side of the bank with a book while he fishes are perfection. This FREE activity lends itself to experiencing nature, getting much-needed vitamin D, and feeling like you accomplished something together. Fish at the end of the day is also a great FREE meal.
12. Beach day: There is something about the sound of the waves crashing onto the sand that brings a peace in the sole. The sun, surf, and sand are a great way to get out and be silly. We like to pitch a tent and then enjoy playing in the water, watching dolphins, and building sandcastles.
13. BonusSex: I debated putting this here, but I think it is vital to all marriages. All marriages. Going too long without sex is detrimental to the foundation of the marriage. Many marriage counselors, pastors, and your parents (who are still together after decades of marriage) will all say sex is essential to the relationship. Sex reinforces the foundation, reconnects intimacy, rebuilds, and strengthens relationships and so much more! For more on this, check out this great article on healthy sex in marriage, and this article on why married sex is the best sex.
The phrase “Getting back to normal,” has been used a lot lately as we start to look forward to the end of #quaratine and #socialdistancing. We can’t wait to sit next to that annoying coworker, drive a car, get coffee with a friend.
As a parent in the special needs community, I hear a lot of people wishing for their child to be “normal.” If only they could play ball with their boy or go to a dance recital with their little girl. So many times, they start sentences with “If only…” or “I wish…”
We live in a generation where everything is instant. We compare ourselves, our children, and our lives to the fake world broadcast on social media. We use social media as a tool to measure “normal.”
But we do a disservice to ourselves, our children, our communities when we use this measurement. No one is normal.
I’ll say it again – NO ONE IS NORMAL.
Your spouse is not normal. Your child is not normal. You are not normal.
Those who think you are normal – HAVE NOT MET YOU.
What #socialdistancing is teaching us is patience. Patience with our family. Patience with our community. Patience with our governments. #Socialdistancing is teaching us the value of time. Time with family. Time for self-growth. Time for laughter. Time for love. #Socialdistancing is teaching us who we are – at our core when no one else is watching. We are learning who we are without the world telling us who we should be.
So, instead of wishing for normal, why don’t we celebrate the EXTRAORDINARY and look forward to what can be an amazing new normal.
1. Different Children with Different Needs: I have said it before, and will say it again. Our children are different from any other child – even siblings. What makes this world so special is the differences. Different, by definition, means NOT normal. Let’s celebrate these differences and not a world of cookie-cutter sameness. That world lacks depth, color, and beauty. That world will also never truly come to pass. It is about time we realized and embraced that.
2. Overcoming challenges: We all have challenges in life. Every one of us has overcome something – sickness, depression, addiction, self-esteem. That is a HUGE accomplishment. We should celebrate that not dwell on the past of “normal” where we lived in those things. Every kid has challenges – whether they are on the spectrum, have a special need, or are labeled “normal” or “neuro-typical” by the world. Every kid is beautiful. We should celebrate the bravery of facing those challenges. Celebrate the hard work that goes into overcoming challenges. Celebrate the stronger, more compassionate, more confident individual who comes out on the other side of those challenges.
3. Craft a new normal: As the discussion of how to “return to normal” after #socialdistancing and #quarantine start, I encourage you to stop. Stop thinking about returning. Start thinking about the future. Why would we want to return to world measured in likes, memes, and insincerity? We have been offered an amazing opportunity to do radical change in our personal lives, our community, and the world. Let us craft a new normal. A normal of Love. A normal of Compassion. A normal of Encouragement. Let us stop measuring normal and start celebrating the uniqueness, bravery and beautiful creature that is the individual in the mirror, sitting next to us, across from us, or passing by.
I know it is easy to crave “normal.” We want to have a routine, to have a semblance of balance, to want what we know. But humans have NEVER been called to accept the status quo. We have never been called to be complacent. We are mechanisms of change.
We have been offered an unprecedented opportunity to cultivate incredible change for good. It is our responsibility to let go of the “old normal” and embrace the “new normal.” Let us re-prioritize our life to honor this opportunity. Celebrate the gift that has been so lavishly poured out upon us – time with family, getting back to basics, being real with each other and ourselves. As we move forward to “new normal,”” I pray we keep this in mind and look forward to the incredible change for good in how we treat each other and ourselves.
For those new to homeschooling, it can be very intimidating. Do we know enough? Can we have the patience? How do I balance everything?
You have come to the right place.
The last elementary school our son went to in Maryland implemented a FUN Friday routine. (Thank you, Tara, for all you do!)
When we decided to home school and work from home, we chose to implement this same thing. Using this incentive routine has been so beneficial in helping our son take responsibility for his own learning – and chores – throughout the week. For more on how to use incentives, check out this blog Let’s Make a Deal). Here is how it works:
1) Monday Start: On Monday have a checklist created of the school tasks assigned for the week. If you missed how to do this, check out last week’s blog Finding Balance: Telework and Homeschooling. Upfront, the student knows what is expected. This helps them plan their own week (a key executive function). It also reminds them their education is their own. You cannot be there all the time.
2) Four Day Week: No one wants to work more than they need. We spend two to three hours a day at school. With great focus, this is all we need for the entire week. The most we have ever needed was to spend four hours in one day. Whatever is not completed Thursday will roll over to Friday.
3) On Friday: Just because it is Friday does not mean our responsibilities cease. In the “real world,” we would still have family obligations (sometimes work depending on the schedule), and regular household tasks. The same is true for our son. The following must be completed PRIOR to FUN Friday commencing:
a. Chores complete: Who wants to play in a messy house? No one. All chores must be completed.
b. Thirty minutes outside: Sun is essential for healthy bodies. Imaginative play is essential for healthy minds. Time playing outside is a requirement. Thirty minutes is our minimum.
c. Read a book: If you have younger kids, a single kid’s book is fine. If you have older kids, depending on the book, at least one (sometimes two) chapters must be read.
d. Be Creative: Imaginative is play is important to development. Art and play are vital to many engineering skills, communication skills, and sometimes give insight into emotional health for a parent. Our son must be creative. Sometimes that is writing a comic book, building Lego, painting, or playing in clay. The options are limitless!
4) FUN Friday is here: This part of the day consists of whatever the child wants (within reason). Our son does not get a lot of screen time (see how we use it in this blog Is Screen Time Your Friend or Enemy). He usually asks for a movie. But sometimes, we use this time to go to a zoo, the aquarium, or another outing. During #socialdistancing, we do games, movies with popcorn, build forts, and so much more. The day is limited only by imagination.
We discovered this small change to education, has increased focus during school, allowed us to start teaching a new language, build on social skills, and increased our family connection in a positive way.
Now that homeschool is becoming a norm, I encourage you to try FUN Friday in your home. See how it goes for a while. Remember, you earn income, paid vacations, flex work hours for your hard work and focus at work. Let’s extend that to our children who need incentives just as much.
In most American schools, and the average day at school is six hours. Add in travel time, lunch, extracurriculars and this can easily become a ten-hour a day event. This is a great balance for working parents. Children are educated while parents bring home the bacon.
But this is no longer a reality.
With more people teleworking from home, and schools across the nation closed for the year, many are asking “How do I work full-time and teach my child?”
As a two-income working house, and I work 40-60-hour weeks, I understand first hand the struggle of education and income. We are a tenured homeschool family who has been schooling well before #Coronavirus or #COVID-19 were household words. So, is it possible to do both?
YES. It is a combination of art and science, but completely doable. Here is what has worked for us over the past year.
1. Meditation: We are a praying house. But not everyone is. We have found when we start our day with prayer, mediation, and/or work out (I love Yogashred), our moods are elevated, our focus is keener and our bodies are in alignment. The extra benefit is our health is taken care of prior to the health of our company. Companies are only as good as the health of their talent.
2. Start Work Early: My work day starts well before most people are out of bed. This allows me a solid 3 hours to get uninterrupted and focused work completed. The earlier the start the more productive I am.
3. Have a set work time: Set hours of work where the school cannot interfere. This might mean breaking your workday into 2 two-hour segments, or 4 two-hour segments. The trick is to ensure when you focus on work, your attention is on work. When you focus on school, your attention is at school. Closing your “office door” or taping a “Do Not Distrub” sign up can be visuals for your family to stay away while at work.
4. Plan a Routine: We all know routine is healthy for our mentality. That is true for children as well. We give our son a weekly assignment list. This includes all worksheets, lessons, quizzes, tests he will need to complete to stay on track. This allows the kiddo to know what to expect and begin to take some independence and responsibility for their own education.
5. Work First. Play Later: When we present the weekly school task, we operate by a Fun Friday mentality (check out next week’s blog for more details). If all school is completed prior to Friday, you get Friday off. This is also beneficial for parents who work because that means Fridays your attention is not torn between work and school during “school hours.” We operate under no games, screen time, etc. until schoolwork is complete.
6. Turn on music: There is tons of research on how music is both good for the soul and productivity. We use classical music or whale sounds quietly in our home while we work. This is an aural clue work is to be done. We leave the Anamainics and Lego Music for playtime.
Homeschooling is intimidating (we actually debated it for four years prior to taking the leap). Homeschooling while working is even scarier. This week, remember, this doesn’t have to be perfect. And it won’t be perfect. There will be adjustments. There will be times of frustration. There will be times of feeling like a failure.
Find what works for you and go for it. Be encouraged. You are not in this alone.
“Mom, can we go on that roller coaster?” Our five-year-old son asked to ride his first big-boy roller coaster –the Super Duper Looper. Having verified the height requirement (and that it was safe for a five-year-old), we all jumped in line. Never did we think that the very first thing that would happen on this ride was to be flipped entirely upside down! I thought for sure our son would get off the ride and hate it.
I was wrong.
“Let’s do it again!” he screamed excitedly as he exited (to my utter dismay).
But that ride taught me some very valuable lessons.
There are ups and down
When we first found about Autism, we did not know much about it. We are still learning about now. But something I wish we were told at the onset was that life is a roller coaster.
Most people hear that and think of Forrest Gump and his box of chocolates and very rightly say, “Obviously.” But what I am talking about goes further than the what nutty delicacy life dishes out. Life with Autism is taking two steps forward and one step back. It is a constant up and down. It is fast paced and often takes your breath away.
When our kiddo was younger, he could not talk and potty training was difficult to say the least. At four we would spend a week getting him potty trained and then send him to his other parent for the weekend. Every time he came home not potty trained.
Every time we would have him using a word to communicate
(just one word) we would send him back to the other parent and he would come back
mute…well, screaming like a banshee is probably more appropriate.
But he is potty trained and he can carry on lengthy
conversations…as long as they are on a topic he wants to discuss.
But that process of two steps forward and one step back is exhausting. It can be affected by the smallest changes in routine to the largest. Moves between homes. Moves across the country. Different teachers. Different subjects. Developing hormones.
It is really easy to see the negative in life circumstances and feel like you will never reach the goal. Sometimes the low of the rollercoaster is really low. Sometime your stomach lives in your brain. Sometimes it is easy to forget how high you fell from or how far the child has come. It is easy to think your lives are the valleys when in reality there have been many mountains…and very close together.
You will reach your goals. They will. With solid routine, quality time, and people who will fight for them, each child with special needs can and do make and break through their goals.
Expect greatness and you will get it…eventually
I have a neck injury and a weak stomach. Going on a roller coaster I thought was great
for a child of five, I was not anticipating breaking my neck and holding in my
breakfast. I very much disliked that
ride. I thought my son with sensory
issues and an intense sensitivity to loud noises would hate that ride too.
But my son did not.
He absolutely loved it!
I came to learn that the deep pressure provided on a roller coaster is really helpful to kids with neuro-sensitivity. I learned that my son has a Big-Gulp need for motion…I, on the contrary need, a teacup and call it good. I learned that my son has no fear (except one…but I am keeping that to our family for now).
Not only did he love the ride, he wanted more of it. He wanted to do every ride. The bigger and faster the ride the better it was for our son.
By making the one decision to try something new, outside
everyone’s comfort level, against what seemed to be logical given his diagnosis,
we got something magical!
I got to experience his first roller coaster ride with him (which is awesome because every other ride he wants to go with his dad). I got to see my son over come legitimate challenges to sound, delayed gratification waiting in line, dealing with enclosed spaces in the queue and many more. My son taught me in that moment that he can do anything he puts his mind too – no matter the challenges he faces.
This too shall pass
When I was on that ride I just kept counting down the moment until it passed. My stomach was in my head. My neck was definitely in the wrong place. I was strapped so tightly down I could not breathe. I could not wait for that ride to be over.
Sometimes, when dealing with special needs, it is easy to
get stuck in that stomach-flipping moment.
It is easy to think, “We have come so far and he regressed so much” or “Why
are we having the same argument with the school and the district” or “Why can’t
he play like everyone else?” It is easy
to get stuck in the valleys and gorges and canyons.
But I encourage you to look toward the mountains on either
side. The one they just came down (because
that will show you what they are capable of) and the one they are about to
start climbing (because that one will always be better than the last.
There is an end in sight to every dark valley.
For me it helps to remember things they have accomplished. I often remind myself that my son is grade level, even though he misses a ton of school for doctors’ appointments. I remind myself that at five my son was not talking and now I can’t get him to stop. I remind myself that he went from not knowing how to make a friend to having many at his birthday party.
Yes, even these dark gorges will pass. And they will pass sooner than we think. And we will be on to the next big and wonderful
goal and accomplishment next week.
Box of Chocolates
As this year begins, I encourage you to see the mountains
for what they are – accomplishments. Take
the valleys for what they are – lessons to be learned. And move forward with a purpose and vision of
accomplishing more than you ever thought possible. We did.
And I wouldn’t change it for the world.