Sunday, July 27, 2014

Answer Me This: July 27 (and Shaking Out the Crickets)

I know, I know, my keys have been ridiculously silent most of this month. There has been sooo much going on around our house, and I just haven't taken the time for myself to find quiet(ish) moments in the office for writing. Most of my browing is done on my iPad Mini, but I don't find the touch keyboard, or even my bluetooth keyboard, comfortable enough for my poor hands to do an extensive amount of typing. (More on those hands in another post.)

The biggest changes are that Fidget has finally started both OT and ABA therapy this month! Our OT is through our state's early intervention program, so he is approved for an hour a week in-home at no cost to us. (Thank you, taxpayers!) However, we had a substantial amount of time pass between when he was approved to add OT to his existing services - initially we started with just speech while we were waiting for his diagnosis - so the past two weeks she has come for both our regular weekly session and a make-up session. She had good things to say about some of the things we are already doing for him, and has lots of helpful advice for other things we can implement. She made the comment that he may be the most sensory-seeking child she has ever worked with, which is a bit mind boggling if I imagine how many kids she's likely worked with, but at the same time it's very affirming that my perception of the extremes of his behavior were not inflated...he really is this intense! When we've met new therapists of any discipline, my best way of describing him can be summed up in one word: more. More movement, more light, more sound, more touch, more flavor, more texture, etc. We've always done as much with and for him as we can, but at least I feel understood in being overwhelmed trying to meet his insatiable need for input. 

On the ABA front, his current permanent schedule only has him with 7 hours per week, but they are constantly calling to offer us more hours when they have availability, and we accept those hours as much as possible. A couple weeks ago he had I think 21 hours of ABA; the goal is to work him up to about 35 hours per week. When we reach that full schedule, it will mean therapy twice a day, six days a week! It's overwhelming to think of him working so hard, but I know that all the current research shows that the more intense the therapy at this age, the better the long-term results. And we're already seeing noticeable improvement just over the last four weeks, so it gives me a lot of hope that we're on the right track. And in all of his therapies it is very play based, so to him it's like his therapy team means a constant stream of grown-up friends coming to play just with him! We're having almost all of his sessions in home for now, but hopefully in time we can add more time at the center so that he can get some group therapy as well. It's rather bittersweet to know that his fall he would have been eligible to start at the preschool in our church parish, which Sunshine attended for three years, but I know it's not the right fit for him, and the biggest factor in all of our educational decisions thus far has been what is the best choice for THIS child at THIS time. I can't say what either of them will need in the future, but I am confident that in this moment we are giving them each what they need.

Our adventurer
And speaking of Sunshine, she had her first trip to resident camp this month! It was nice, our camp offers a half week session for the youngest girls, so she and a friend from her Daisy troop went for three days, two nights. Came home missing a few possessions, but nothing that can't be replaced; and she came home with lots of great memories. She's already asking about going for a full week next summer!

More on what we've been up to later; for tonight I will leave you with this week's installment of Answer Me This, sponsored by!


1. What’s your favorite thing on YouTube?
It's sad, of the time I spend on YouTube, very little of it is watching things for myself! That doesn't mean I don't find it beneficial though! Over the years we've been able to pull up favorite shows for the kids during difficult moments. Sunshine and I pray our weekly rosary along with YouTube videos. And lately, she and I have been watching a lot of Rainbow Loom tutorials.

2. Who taught you to drive?
Believe it or not, but Papa Bear mostly did! I took driver's ed in high school, but the instructor I had was rather harsh and actually gave me a lot of anxiety about being behind the wheel. Then I attended college out of state, and had free access to an excellent public transit system, so the whole time I lived in Pittsburgh I never had a license. I finally got my license when I was 23, several months after moving back home. My parents took me out some, but it was mostly Papa Bear who helped me feel comfortable about driving. And lucky me, I need to basically do driver's ed again, to work with a therapist to "officially" learn how to use my hand controls and get my license back. Ya know, in my spare time....

3. What’s your favorite thing to cook?
I'd have to say my mom's recipe for skillet lasagna. It's practically how I won Papa Bear over! Before I got my license, he would pick me up from nursing school once a week, and many weeks he would already have stopped and picked up all of my ingredients on his way to get me. And it makes a large quantity, so it's great for having leftovers. I'll have to revamp it a bit to make it friendly for Fidget's GFCF diet (more on that soon too), but it's def. got a special place in our relationship.

Brown one pound of ground meat of choice with one diced onion and some minced garlic, drain and return to pan. Add two jars spaghetti sauce (any flavor, I find the chunky sauces work nicely) and stir, once it starts bubbling stir in one bag UNCOOKED medium egg noodles. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook approx 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Meanwhile, add parmesan cheese, basil, and oregano to one large container small curd cottage cheese. When noodles are just slightly underdone, stir in half of cheese mixture. Spread remaining cheese mixture over the top, recover and cook approx 5 more minutes or until cheese begins to melt. Serve with garlic bread and salad.

**My apologies that I've made it so many times that I don't know exact measurements or times anymore. I just cook by sight and flavor!

4. Are you a hugger or a non-hugger? Why?
This is the south, I am def. a hugger! In all seriousness though, I think physical touch is so important for our stress and mental health. Magazines may write constant articles on a couple's intimate relations, but I think little things like hugging and holding hands are even more important. And a hug can say so many things to so many different people in our lives: parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends, etc. Great meaning can be conveyed without uttering a single word.

5. Where do you pray best?
The view from my side porch toward the front yard.
Here at home, I like to pray outdoors. We have a small side porch off our master bedroom (emergency egress for me in my chair in case of fire) that is shaded by a tree, and with the house next to us on that side vacant for almost the whole time we've lived here, it is typically very quiet and peaceful. I may have to find a new happy place once they finish renovating it and a new family moves in! And while the opportunity doesn't present itself often, I love to pray in Eucharistic Adoration.

My paternal grandparents
6. When is the last time you saw/spoke to your grandparents?
Hmm, let's see.... Unfortunately, I never knew either of my mom's parents; her dad died before I was even expected, and her mom died when I was just a newborn. My Grandpap (Dad's dad) died in March 1992, about a month before I turned 12, so I hadn't seen or spoken to him since the summer before. My Grandma passed when I was 19, on Dec 23, 1999; I had just seen her at Thanksgiving and don't recall if I talked to her in between or not. For many years Papa Bear's maternal grandmother - the only surviving grandparent for either of us - was my surrogate grandma, she loved all of us who married in as if we were her own. She passed in September 2011, while I was pregnant with Fidget.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Joy and Happiness Part 2: Finding good in the bad

Welcome to the second installment in a series of posts about happiness. The first installment can be found here.

This isn't exactly the post I had planned, but the status I posted to my personal Facebook page this evening lead me in this direction. Shortly after dinner, I wrote the following summary of my day:
Lets see: Fidget's puppy lovey is missing in the house, Sunshine accidentally thawed the whole contents of the deep freeze, the kids jointly put a small crack in my iPad screen (which may have voided the warranty), and Papa Bear is on his 3rd job of the day with no clue when he will be home. This is one day I will be happy not to repeat!
I *think* maybe I found a replacement lovey on ebay??
To say it's been a difficult day is an understatement. Fidget's had a number of big meltdowns, Sunshine fussed about needing to do some school work (we still need about 15 more school days before I call the end of our year), and little interruptions kept preventing me from meeting some of my goals for the day. By the time I posted those thoughts, I had fed us all dinner, and was now cooking a roast in the crock pot, browning some ground turkey, and sauteing some crab meat and crawfish tails. Both kids were still bouncing around like it was the middle of the day, and I was aggravated and tired. 

When Papa Bear finally made it home from work, and I began recounting our day, I realized that I had become my own worst enemy. I was allowing all those frustrations to overpower and make me forget all the good things that happened today. So before coming here, I made another FB post:
I hate to go to bed with a negative attitude, so here are some happier thoughts to end my day:- Papa Bear working late means that he has a steady job, and all of the OT he's worked recently has helped pay for a lot of Fidget's treatment expenses without dipping into savings.- The freezer was not very full when it got left open, and I was able to salvage most of the contents. All of the uncooked meat is now either cooked or marinated, so as a bonus I've got a lot of my meals for the next week already done!- Fidget did a great job with his first working ABA session. We identified some problem areas to monitor or add to his behavioral plan, but there were also areas he did better than expected. And he pooped on the potty twice today! In a couple months the ABA team will throw him a "potty party" for intense potty training, for now we're just offering it as he asks. Thankfully, he went down at both nap and bedtime without a meltdown over his missing lovey. He was definitely asking for it, but since he has his bear blanket he was willing to settle for that. - Everyone in my family is going to sleep tonight in a comfortable bed with a full tummy. Regardless of what frustrations I dealt with today, that simple fact alone makes us extremely blessed.
I could have easily gone to bed in a foul mood, and probably woken up the same way in the morning. But by writing that second post, I made myself focus on all the positive parts of the day. Now I can go to bed with happy thoughts, and wake in a good mood ready to celebrate the holiday.

The Pit of Despair
Having battled depression off and on for the last 10-12 years, I know that it's not always easy to find the good in the bad. It is much easier to let ourselves fall into mental despair, and the further into the Pit of Despair we allow ourselves to fall, the harder it is to find our way out. Yet my history of depression has also taught me just how important finding the good is for my well being. Perspective is such a valuable gift, and it is one which we can give ourselves.

Because where does all that pouting get me? Nowhere. I still have all the same challenges as before, but now I've put myself in a bad mood and wasted time and energy that could be put to much better use actually dealing with my obstacles rather than whining about them. Just as I said in the last post that fear is not a good place from which to make choices, neither is frustration or sorrow. It's not easy, but coming to a point of acceptance is crucial in changing our perspective from despair to joy. Our problems aren't going to disappear on their own; we have to accept them for what they are so we can begin the hard, messy work of either solving them or learning how to live with them. In time we discover how to find the happy bits in the midst of all the turmoil; and eventually to push the turmoil into the shadows and realize that we have more than just happy bits - our lives are full of happiness.

I could get angry about the food from the freezer we had to get rid of tonight. But I know it wasn't intentionally left open, and there was a lot of food we were able to save. Also, food in the freezer means we had the money to put it there. And hey, it's even trash night, so I don't have to worry about spoiled food stinking up my trash can for days. Those are all things to be grateful for - with the right perspective.

I could pout that Papa Bear has been working so much, that we haven't had much time for each other lately, and that I'm having to pick up some of his duties around the house. But at least he has a stable job, he is a hardworking man who gets up every day to provide for his family, and the overtime has helped us meet some unanticipated expenses. I've been blessed with such a great husband; he is a tremendous source of strength in the places where I am weak. Part of my job as his wife is to show him how much I appreciate him, so how can I do that if I'm busy complaining? The answer: it can't be done. I have to let go of the frustrations - and change perspective - in order to acknowledge and thank him for his efforts.

In many ways, happiness can be a choice. Everyone has struggles and bad days; there's no way to completely eradicate sadness from our lives, but we can choose how we let it affect us. Negative thought is such a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you're looking for nothing but the bad, then the bad is all you'll find. But fortunately positive thought can work the same way. If you remember that there's good out there somewhere, and make the effort to find it, pretty soon you'll be finding it everywhere.