Tag: helpful hints

Surviving winter break

Surviving winter break

I used to have a very idyllic view of winter break.  That glorious bit of time when the kids are out of school for a week or more, with the days spent sledding and sipping hot cocoa and making snow people and snow angels and having snowball fights. The very idea of ending each day by a cozy fire with the kids all tuckered out brings a smile to my face.

This is about the closest that I ever get to a fireplace.

And frankly, if you’ve met me, you know that my actual idea of winter fun has nothing to do with being outside in the cold.  I’m freezing if the temps dip below 75 degrees.  But here we live, in the frozen Northeast, and it snowed early this year.  And then the thermometer bottomed out, providing us with wind chills that brought frostbite warnings. Guess what?  No sledding.  No angels.  No snow people.  No snowball fights.  And I’m really okay with that.  I’m not sure where I got that “idyllic” view of winter.  It’s not my reality.

When I was young, I could stay out in the snow all day, or so my mother tells me.  I think I’ve blocked out this memory to protect myself.  I hate the cold so very much.

So what do you do when you have two very rambunctious kids in the house for a week?  Let your husband take the week off to be home with them while you go to work.

Okay, I’m kidding.  Sort of.  I did that, but mostly because he had the vacation time to use, and I did not.

The fact is, it can be really challenging to have any kids home for the week and have it be too cold to send them out to play.  The already small apartment starts to feel reeeeeeallly tiny.  Have you ever seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory?  Think shrinking hallway.

Solution: We can’t let them have too much “tech time” as it’s known in our house, or they start to have pretty bad responses to various things (anything from being asked to take a bathroom break to eating lunch).  We tend to restrict tech time anyway, so instead the tactic over Christmas break was to have activities in rotation.  I imagine my husband feeling like the entertainment director on a cruise ship: “Okay, everyone, now it’s time to build a pillow fort!  At two o’clock you’ll be reading in your room, followed by thirty minutes of video game time on the Lido Deck!” This rotation of things to do really helps prevent the boredom from settling in.  Combine this with a lot of sensory activities and opportunities, and I think we all survived it pretty well.

And sure, there was the daily (hourly) argument to break up, and there were good breaks in the middle such as Christmas Eve (lots of baking) and Christmas Day, and spending time together as a family.

Still, I think that after nine days at home with the kids, he was quite ready to return to work yesterday.  CubicleLand must have been a welcome sight.

Each new day is an opportunity

Each new day is an opportunity

I also like to think of each day as an adventure.  I’m a little like Indiana Jones at times, carefully navigating the booby-trapped catacombs of supporting and loving kids with atypical* needs.

*their needs are typical for them, just not typical compared to most of their peers.  I loathe using the word “atypical”, but it’s short and easy to use. 

If you read my post yesterday, as well as some of the other eating-related posts, you have figured out that eating is… not easy in this house.  Everyone has their own issues.  This is mine:

My child’s divided plate.  I want my own divided plates because I cannot STAND to have food touching other food.

So back to the Speedy’s breakfast drama.  Yesterday was the Major Smoothie Catastrophe of 2017.  So this morning, I decided to try a method that Speedy’s one-to-one aide uses at school.  Lunchtime is hard for him, and the cafeteria is too overwhelming, so she takes him to the OT room and gives him headphones and an iPad.  She puts on a series of Laurie Berkner videos from the Lullaby album, and he happily eats his lunch and focuses on the videos.

Could it be that simple?

Well, let me just tell you.

Normally on any given morning, it can take him up to 45 minutes to eat one bagel.  We put cream cheese on half, and butter with cinnamon & sugar on the other half.  And then it takes regular reminders to chew and then swallow the food.  Every day we go through this, and it degrades quickly.

This morning I told him what we’d be doing.  He sat down (with one half of a bagel) and I put on the videos in front of him.
In ten minutes, with zero prompting, he’d eaten his bagel and moved on to a yogurt.

I can’t even begin to express what a relief it was to go through the morning with no fights.

Feeding my kids is killing me slowly

Well that seems a bit harsh, actually.

But really, the struggle is REAL.

In order to maintain Speedy on the medication which does help him focus, we have to hyper-load him with calories and healthy fats.  This is not easy with a child who can’t remember to chew or swallow (or doesn’t want to, I’m not sure) certain foods. I will note here that his doctor is working with us to rule out medical issues.

Luckily, I have a pool of incredibly smarty-smart people at work who I can call upon for ideas. And I’m not just calling that because they read my blog.  They’re really smart.  I highly recommend working closely with behavior specialists.

This morning I tried idea number one: smoothies.  If chewing is an issue that causes daily fights (and OHMYWORD does it ever), then smoothies are an option!  I took the recipe for a peanut butter and banana smoothie (gag) and added the instant breakfast powder along with some almond milk, ice, and yogurt.  Okay, it was nasty.  I added some chocolate syrup in an effort to fix it, and hoped that the “Yay, chocolate shakes for breakfast!” sell would be enough.




Not so much.

Admittedly, peanut butter and chocolate was a bad idea.  It’s fantastic if you’re talking peanut butter cups, but not so much if you’re talking drinkable breakfast.

Sooooo….. I kind of have a short fuse with this child of mine.  I can’t say why him versus all the others, or maybe my oldest two would tell you that I had it with them too.

This morning’s Big Smoothie Experiment rapidly degraded into a fight, when I took it way  too personally that he didn’t like it.  What is wrong with me?  All I have to do is try different ingredients!

I’ve long suspected that am the boys’ biggest problem, but I also suspect that many parents feel that way.  How do I teach them to navigate this world which is only beginning to understand them while at the same time teaching them not to act entitled?  How do I teach them ALL THE THINGS OMG?
This is what happens in my brain every. single. day.

Tomorrow we’re going to try something else- Speedy’s older brother had some alternate smoothie recommendations, and thank goodness that his cooler head prevails most mornings.  He gave me the opportunity to take a deep breath and recover.

I feel the need to leave you with at least one nugget of wisdom.  My takeaway from all of this was that it’s really truly NOT personal when your kids don’t like a food.  That tomorrow is a new day, and there are approximately 9,485,220 different foods out there waiting to be tried.  All of the world’s problems will NOT be solved by making sure that your child likes each and every one.

My other takeaway is that I really need to just calm the hell down.  Maybe I’ll switch to decaf….

Sorting out the Noise: Eating

Hi!  I’m starting a new series on Beautiful Noise that I’m calling “Sorting out the Noise”.  I know it may not be particularly newsworthy or noteworthy, but I wanted to start sharing some of the things that have worked for our family.  And there’s the fine print- this is not to say that these will work for your family, but they have worked for us and might be worth a shot for yours!

Today’s subject is eating.  This has been a major topic around our house, for a couple of reasons.  Speedy is having trouble keeping on weight or gaining weight, in large part due to his current medication.  Eating has caused him great anxiety, and this may very well be due to the immense attention we’ve paid to how much and how well he eats.post 4

Wonder Boy is five, and either due to sensory issues or the fact that every five year old on the planet seems to be stuck on chicken nuggets dipped in ranch dressing, his repertoire is rather limited.  Don’t worry, he also eats peanut butter sandwiches and plain pasta.  Super nutritious, right?  1048093_10201834077995915_485740303_o

When the teenagers were this age, I remember their doctors telling me that it’s okay if a child eats chicken nuggets at every dinner for a year straight.  And they might have been right, from a medical standpoint.

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of cooking several different dinners, as is my husband.  Yes, you heard right, he cooks.  In fact he cooks more often than and better than I do.  I’m no dummy, I don’t enjoy cooking as much as he does.  He also bakes killer apple pies.  I married smart.

Back on track, kiddo, back on track.  Eating.  So we spent about an hour yesterday at Speedy’s school, meeting with a dozen of our closest friends (just kidding, they are all his teachers and special education specialists and so forth.  We adore them madly, mostly for dealing with what we cannot for six hours every day). A major discussion was his eating, and we shared with them our strategies and they shared theirs.  I know for a fact that we’re not the only family dealing with this, so it was time to send the love your way.

Speedy’s 1:1 Aide told me that she realized that the cafeteria was too noisy for him to be able to focus on eating, so they began eating in the OT room.  Then she noticed that he was still getting distracted looking around at everything, so she gave him headphones and the iPad, and put on his favorite music.  So far, this has worked. He listens to songs while eating, and is able to filter out visual distractions as well as background noise.

At home, on the days when he’s dragging out the meal and saying he’s getting full, we began to make a game of it.  I told him we were going to assign a name to each bite.  The only rules are that we always start with the letter “A”, and move through the alphabet with each subsequent bite.  A is always for Abernathy, because mommy is tired and needs a break from thinking.  For reasons even I am not aware of, this is apparently a reasonable name to assign to the first letter (the way my brain works).  As we come up with progressively sillier names, the food gets eaten and the “full” is forgotten.

For Wonder Boy, it’s been a matter of trying new things (when I have the energy) followed by a preferred food.  As I wade through my old photos, I found evidence of him eating bananas and carrots in addition to pasta, peanut butter, and chicken nuggets.  Carrots have recently come back into the regular lineup, because he has returned to mouthing non-food items.  Sadly, he has chewed through a great many things which are not meant to be eaten, and so our first line of defense is to meet the sensory need at mealtime.

I suspect that the strictness of diet is probably typical for five year olds.  Remember- I haven’t raised a “typical” five year old in 14 years.  Since I often struggle to remember my own name due to pure exhaustion, you can see how I might be a bit hazy on the details of what typical kids need.  Anyway, we’ll keep trying to introduce foods, but in his heart he will probably always be hooked on carbs.  I can’t say that I blame him.