Saturday, May 26, 2012

What Not to Say Regarding Special Needs

I've done one of these about pregnancy, but here I'm gonna do one about special needs kids.  What not to say to them, and what not to say to their parents, and what not to say in general.  It's important.  Read it.

Top 5 What Not to Says Regarding Special Needs

The "R" word.
Don't say it.  You may not find it offensive personally, and you may never think of a special needs person as being "The R word" but other people do.  You will upset people.  You will hurt their feelings, and worse, you will hurt their children's feelings.  Because while you may not think of "the R word" in terms of handicapable children, I assure you that other people do, and a child with a disability has probably heard the word before, in all its ugly and hurtful intentions.  Just... don't.

"Just spank them" or "That kid needs a good throttle" or "Maybe it you tore up his behind he'd behave better."
Spanking doesn't cure autism.  It doesn't help a struggling child communicate or make sense of their surroundings.  It doesn't help them feel comfortable and safe. It doesn't work.

"What's wrong with them?" or "what's wrong with you?" or "are you/is he retarded?"
Whoever thinks this is a good idea to say to anyone, ever is a complete moron.  It's rude, thoughtless, and tactless, and that's barely scratching the surface.  I wish I didn't have to add this to the list, because it really seems like common sense, but apparently it's not, and that gives me little hope for the human race.

"One day they'll never STOP talking, and you'll wish for these days back."
Um, no? The parent in question may, at some point in the future, wish their child would go find something else to do, or maybe wouldn't repeat themselves so much or something, but they will most likely NEVER wish for the days when their child couldn't communicate effectively.  It's not some period of blessed silence where mom can read and think and watch shows in peace without a chattering toddler beside them.  Far from it.

"My husband/brother/uncle/cousin thrice removed didn't *insert missing milestone here* until he was *insert slightly older than normal age here* and he's fine."
I suppose that maybe this is helpful for some parents, but for me.. knowing that your random relative didn't talk until he was 3 or 4 really doesn't help me cope with my child's difficulties.  In fact, it kind of detracts from my struggles AND his/hers, because it translates roughly into "you're making a bigger deal out of this than it needs to be.  Chill out." That's borderline offensive, and overly not helpful. I understand you're trying to be reassuring, but it's really better to just... not be.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Raising a Heidi (Or: Why I'm always so tired)

It's been a while since I posted, but I figured it was time I got down to some business.  If you've ever wondered why I bring Cheetos as snacks because we didn't get groceries, post on Facebook that I'm losing my mind, or sometimes seem to be completely ignoring my screaming child.. maybe this will help.  Or maybe it will make you judge my parenting.  Bring it on.

Thank the heavens above, this kid actually sleeps.  She wakes up at an unknown hour, and plays quietly in her bed for an unknown amount of time.  Eventually she starts to make noises you can hear without pressing your ear to the door, and is removed from bed.  Her diaper is always poopy, but if you take her immediately to the diaper table, she freaks out.  No, she must play for a minute or two first.

Breakfast is hit or miss.  There are only a few foods she will even consider eating, and we often try all of them - and often most of them end up smashed into the tile floor (thank the heavens again that it's not carpet).  The dogs love her.  Regardless of whether or not she chooses to consume food (and she always does it standing up, don't even try to make her sit down to eat), there must always be Mickey Mouse Clubhouse playing.

Eventually she wanders away to find something to destroy.  And destroy she does.  Whether it's a full roll of toilet paper shredded into teeny tiny pieces, a bottle of water dumped onto the floor, or entire drawers unpacked and strewn about the room, SOMETHING will take one for the team.  To try and stop this destruction is to have a multiple hour long melt down.  Mommy cleans up the mess (usually.. mostly.. sometimes I just throw a towel over the puddle of water and promise to pick it up later or sweep the pile of toilet paper into a corner).  Hurricane Heidi proceeds on her path of destruction through the house, hitting each room one by one.  Occasionally she takes a break to catch some snippet of Mickey.

It's now roughly 10:00, and this is when we usually have a playdate or park trip of some sort.  Time to put on clothes!  The diaper change is generally not a big deal, but only certain clothes will do. Nothing elastic anywhere, nothing too tight or too loose.  If we're going to someone's house, I don't even bother with shoes.  But today we're going to the park. *cringe* I still won't bother with shoes until we get there.

Everyone loads into the car.  Heidi is placed into her car seat where she throws a mini tantrum, flinging herself about in a rage.  Mommy buckles up the other two kids, loads the assorted kid paraphernalia into the car, and comes back for Heidi who has usually settled down.  First the right strap (don't do the left strap first unless you want to give up the trip all together), then the left.  Then she must have her stuffed Mickey Mouse.

If we need to get gas on the way to the park, things can get ugly.  The whole "we're going to park the car and not get out" concept is not well-received.  Pull out of the gas station with a screaming child. Whatever.  Now we've arrived at the park, and it's time for the dreaded shoe battle.  I only put them on her to make it look like I care (but I really don't).  First the right shoe (OMG DON'T PUT ON THE LEFT SHOE FIRST) then the left.  Then it's out of the car.  She must be carried to the playground, because to let her walk means she tries to play in traffic (and doesn't listen when you call her name).  While being carried, she doesn't make any attempt to cling, hold on, and support herself.  Just 30 pounds of dead weight.  She also hates being carried, so her dead weight self is flailing about and screaming.

She plays for about three minutes, and then sits down and starts screaming bloody murder, clawing at her feet and ankles.  Mosquitos? Fire ants? Nope.  Shoes.  the shoes must come off, or her skin will.  So now she's barefoot, walking on wood chips.  She sits down and digs her naked (now filthy) feet into the dirt under the wood chips.  Gloriousness.  Giggles.  She flaps her arms excitedly and kicks dirt everywhere.  She's now dirty to the knee.  Eventually she gets up, and demands I push her on the swing until it's time to leave.  She asks for the swing by toddling over to it, making everyone else stop their own swings in panic and horror that they may hit her while I run screaming across the playground for her to stop, watch out, don't move, and whatever else comes to mind.  My other children are upset at having been abandoned for Heidi yet again.  Time to leave the park.  The car seat part above is repeated.  I don't put her shoes on.  She is very dirty.  If I'm feeling energetic, I take a baby wipe to her legs.  She kicks me, and fights me off.  Usually I don't bother.

Grocery shopping on the way home from the park? SURE WHY NOT!  But we can only go to Publix, where they have steering wheels on the carts, and free cookies.  If we arrive at Publix and there are no race car carts, I typically turn around and go home (with the screams and cries of my older children echoing the whole way).  Today there is a green cart - score! We HAVE to get the cookies first.  If we try and go a different direction, hour long melt down ensues.  If we go anywhere besides Publix, anywhere without cookies, where the lines are longer, where the carts are too boring to distract from the fluorescent lights, where the sound of a billion conversations echos off all the walls... it's just not pretty. And sometimes (usually) if we spend too long at Publix, the world explodes.  Older child insists she has to go potty.  Crap for craps.  Heidi is dragged into the public restroom (shoeless, mind you), where she lays on the floor on her back and screams.  I drag her away from the doorway so she doesn't die, and rush my other kid through the potty process.  Sometimes I tell her she doesn't have to wash her hands, because two employees have already come in to make sure I'm not murdering children in there.  When the public restroom happens, the rest of the trip is ugly. Lots of screaming, flailing, and head banging. And always lots of staring and dirty looks.  I am mortified.

Check out and done.  Car seats happen.  We get home, and eat lunch.  Just like breakfast, sometimes it happens and sometimes it ends up smashed into the floor, but there is always Mickey Mouse.  She is put to bed immediately after lunch (why yes, she IS still dirty from the park!). Oh blessed nap time, how I love thee.  Sometimes she sleeps for four hours, sometimes two, and sometimes she drinks her bottle of milk and is immediately ready to torture the family again.  Let's assume she sleeps for three hours, and it's now roughly 4:00.

The next 2.5 hours until dinner are filled with: Mickey Mouse, her bottle, stacking and unstacking, Hurricane Heidi.  Typically there are least two screaming fits about seemingly nothing (for instance she can't put her shoes on herself - why does this upset her, when as soon as I put them on her she immediately starts trying to claw them off again? - or she wants a specific snack and I just can't figure out what it is).

Dad is home at 5:30.  Man, do we love Daddy.  The house is destroyed (remember how breakfast and lunch are smashed into the floor, that towel over the puddle is still there, and the roll of toilet paper has been laid to rest in pieces in the bathroom floor?), and he doesn't even care.  Instead he makes dinner while Mommy takes a break from the screaming.

Screaming, I mean dinner, goes as well as breakfast and lunch. There is usually a major melt down immediately after dinner (she's tired, after all).  I start the bath tub, and drag her into the bathroom.  I strip her down and set her in the tub.  She promptly starts wailing, and throws herself against the porcelain before I can catch her slippery, naked, dirty little body.  The thud is disturbing, but she's actually fine.  She repeatedly hits her head against the tub, while I try and cradle her head while quickly sponging off the filth from the park.  Wash her hair? use soap? WTF is wrong with you? The 30 second bath-time pandemonium now over, she's wrapped  in a towel, diapered, and put to bed.  The day is over.

(An alternative to the bath time events in this post are far less seemingly harmful and a lot messier.  She plays in the water, kicking, splashing, dumping it onto the bathroom floor while we secretly try to get soap onto the especially dirty spots and maybe brave a drop of shampoo onto her head. And then she poops in the tub.  It's far less traumatic for all involved, but the cleanup, while worth it, is lengthy.  Either way, bath time pretty much sucks.)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Parenting: A Judgement Free Zone

I've seen and heard a lot of judgement lately, from one parent to another. Not judgement based on a news story about abuse, or as the result of a tragic swimming pool accident that may or may not have been totally preventable, but from a 5 minute, 20 minute, or 1 hour encounter with a perfect stranger.

From one mom to another, I say STOP.
STOP acting like your Facebook friend is the worse mother ever because she feeds her kid processed mac and cheese.
STOP assuming your neighbor is a neglectful mother because her children play outside in the back yard, seemingly unsupervised.
STOP thinking the poor mother of two in the grocery store, that looks like she's about to kill someone, has no patience.
For the love of all the children in the world... just STOP.

Yes, there are bad parents in the world.  There is a sad, depressing number of bad parents in the world.  But most of us are doing what we can to be good parents.  We love our kids, we fulfill their emotional, mental, physical, educational needs to the best of our ability, and they are fed, clothed, sheltered, adored, and treasured.  One chance encounter with you on a bad day does not make us bad parents.  It makes you a judgmental jerk who wants to feel better about herself.

Look BEHIND the scenes, and give parents the benefit of the doubt before your judge their pants off.

What you see: Mom at the mall Play Place has her young infant in a stroller, and the baby is fussing but mom won't pick it up.
What you could think: Babies deserve to be held.  Why have a baby if you don't want to hold it?!
What you don't see: That baby was up all night long and has been up all night long since birth.  Mom holds her baby 20 hours a day.  Her house is a wreck, she's completely exhausted, and she still has to take her toddler to the mall to play and get his energy out.  She loves her baby, she hears him crying, but she's been hearing him cry for months now, and just wants ONE hour where she can watch her toddler play, explore, and learn, without rocking, bouncing, swinging, or shushing a baby that is not content no matter what she does.

What you see: A mom in the grocery store firmly grabs her child's arm as he runs speeding past her.  She closes her eyes and counts to ten, then gives her child a look of death and says through clenched teeth, "if you do not stop this behavior right now, I am going to stop being nice."
What you could think: She has no patience.  He was just playing. He's a kid, with energy.  All kids have energy, and she should have known that before she signed up for it.
What you don't see: This kid has ADHD and rarely sleeps.  He was up at 5am, and his mother's job is to keep him fed and dressed, all while making sure he doesn't kill himself in some totally dangerous activity that most kids his age wouldn't dream of doing.  She's already been chasing him around for 5 hours, on virtually no sleep, and her babysitter (who can't handle the kid she brought with her to the store) just called to tell her that there's been a family emergency and she needs the mom to come home.

What you see and what's really happening are often two different things.  So instead of climbing up on your high horse and preaching how pasta and mysterious cheese powder are the key factor in the obesity epidemic, or that babies deserve to be held as much as they want to be, stop and think, just for a second, about what these other parents may be dealing with behind the scenes, and give them a break.

Parenting is hard, and it's even harder to be good at it ALL the time.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dwayne the Banana Pants!

I don't know an adult who likes these, but I think it's even worse when your kid only knows ONE.  No variety, no downtime from this one horrible joke.  In my case, the only joke my daughter knows is (I believe) from Dora.

Knock knock
Who's there?
Banana Who?
(and this is where I'm expected to say "haha, that's funny!"  Fortunately for me, my children are still young enough that they cannot tell the difference between the first time I say it, glad to be playing with them, and the tenth time I say it, when I'm quietly searching for the roll of duct tape that will silence them.)

I tried to teach my 2 year old a new joke today, one I learned (and over used) as a kid - I'm sure we all did.  It goes like this.

Knock Knock
Who's there?
Dwayne who?
Dwain the bathtub! I'm dwowning!
(I know it's awesome right? It's better than Banana pants over and over okay!)

Unfortunately, the conversation with Lauren went like this (red is me, blue is her):

I'm gonna teach you a NEW joke!
You say 'knock knock.'
Knock knock.
I say'Who's there?"
Who's there?
No, *I* say 'who's there?'   Then you say Dwayne.  Can you say Dwayne?
Awesome.  Then I say 'Dwayne who?' and you say 'Dwain the bathtub, I'm dwowning.  Can you say that?
Dwain bathtub, I dwowning.
Perfect! Okay let's try.  You say knock knock!
Knock Knock.
Who's there?
No no.  You say Dwayne.
Oh. Dwayne.
Dwayne who.
You say "dwain the bathtub, I'm dwowning."
Dwain bathtub, I dwown.
I'll take it!  Let's try again. You say knock knock.
Knock knock.
Who's there?!
(to myself: Excellent!) Dwayne who?!
Banana pants!
One more time, from the top! *repeats joke in entirely* Got it?
Got it.
Sweet.  You say knock knock.
Knock knock.
Who's there?
 Is it DWAYNE?
No, I'm Lauren!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Not to Say..

We're all familiar with TLC's What Not to Wear.  If you aren't, you should probably stop associating with me.  Just saying.  TLC has a myriad of good shows, but one is very obviously missing: What Not to SAY.  You'd think it would easy to realize when something is just a bad idea to spout off, but so many people fail anyway that I feel compelled to help them out.  Feel free to print this list onto note cards, so instead of responding to idiots in the supermarket, you can hand them a card and walk away.

What Not to Say to Pregnant People

1) "You don't look pregnant, you just look a little heavier!"  Seriously? I know women sometimes feel like bloated whales when they are pregnant (whether they look totally fabulous or not), but they would MUCH rather look pregnant (and have an excuse for looking what their perceive to be less than stellar) than fat.  Duh.

2) "I knew someone who was ____ weeks along.  Something horrible happened to her baby."  No pregnant woman wants to hear your horror stories.  She's got plenty of them running through her head at any given moment.  She's considered all the dire situations imaginable, plus a few extra.  She's covered.  No need to help out.

3) "Are you sure you should be eating that?" Yeah, she's pretty sure, or she would have put it down.  If it makes her throw up, gain ten pounds, or question the brain development of her unborn, that's her business, not yours.

4) "You know where those come from, right?"  The only proper response to this is something snarky like "no, can you tell me?" or "Yes, and I enjoyed every minute of it!"

5) "Not long now then!" No matter how much longer the mother has, it probably feels like an eternity, and your comment feels patronizing.  That, or she's terrified she won't get everything done in time, and reminding her of that fact would also be bad.

What Not to Say to Mothers

1) "Are you sure you can handle it?" Well, hopefully, because it's gonna happen whether she can handle it or not.  But way to make her doubt herself, kind friend!

2) "You've really got your hands full, huh?!"  Please don't state the obvious.

3) "Isn't it awful how we don't get to keep our bodies after we have babies?"  She knows you just called her fat, even though you tried to conceal it.  You're totally busted.

4) "I enjoyed every minute of being a parent."  You're a big fat liar, Friend!  And you're just making others feel inadequate.

5) "And you want MORE?"  Yeah, she does.  Kids are bad sometimes.  Kids are annoying sometimes.  Kids make you feel like you're going to lose your mind.  I know it's hard to believe that people enjoy the many OTHER moments of being a parent, though.

This one isn't a specific line you might feed someone, but it's a situation you don't want to mess with.  The other day I was standing in the check out line at Walmart.  I had a few items in my cart, as well as two children, and another walking along side.  The smallest child had been screaming since we left the car, but these were items I needed and couldn't wait to procure.  As we got to the check out line, I paused in front of those single serving boxes of goldfish.  Struck with brilliance, I grabbed one and proceeded to try and open it.  Much like those milk cartons in elementary school, it was a tricky container to open.  It took me a few seconds.  During that dew seconds, the previously screaming child started screaming more loudly and trying to slap the goldfish container from my hands.  The slightly older child in the bottom of the cart stood up and starting spamming "gold fish, please. PLEASE.  GOLD FISH! GOLD FISH PLEASE!" And the even bigger child walking beside the cart was saying "Can I have these colored gold fish?"  And from behind me I hear a very annoyed voice saying "are you in line? Hello? Are you in line? Are. you. in line?"

I glanced behind me to make sure the guy wasn't holding some CPR paddles or an epi pen, and then continued to ignore him (for the record, he had a six pack of beer).  "GOLD FISH!"  "Are you in line?"  When he started to push past me, right as I was distributing the gold fish to the three children, I stepped in his way and said "Yes, I *am* in line, and I am also busy.  BACK OFF."  He backed off, and I finished my distribution and then checked out efficiently and walked away.

Moral of the story: When the person in front of you in line delays your beer purchase to quiet a screaming child or two, suck it up.  Otherwise, you know you're gonna go home and complain about the screaming kids of the world on your Facebook page.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Terrible Twos

I understand now why they call it the Terrible Twos.  I used to think it was because children of this age are frustrated with their lack of communication skills.  They want to do everything themselves, and are only capable of doing half what they want.  Tantrums ensue.  This makes sense to me, except this starts around 18 months, and ends about 2.5.  Hardly "terrible twos."  Then I thought "well, terrible 1.5-2.5s" doesn't have the same ring to it, so whoever coined the phrase just rounded. But recently, the REAL reason it's called "The Terrible Twos" has dawned on me.

A 2-year-old NEVER SHUTS UP.  My daughter and I have conversations like this:

Lauren: Mom, you're watching Mickey Mouse. Mickey Mouse, Mom. Mom, Mickey Mouse.  Mom, you're watching Mickey Mouse.  Mom watching Mickey Mouse? Look mom, Mickey Mouse.  Mom, you're watching Mickey Mouse.  Mom? Mom, mom. mom. mom. Mom? 
Lauren: "You're watching Mickey Mouse, look."
And don't think I ignored her for five minutes or anything, because she managed to get out that whole Wall of Text in about 7 seconds.

My 4-year-old has some developmental delays going on, and he's on roughly the same verbal level at my 2-year-old.  His conversations go like this:
"Yes, Luke?" 
"I need.... uh.... um... mom?" 
*waits for him to continue* 
"Mom? mom. mom. mom. MOM.  Hello! Mom?" 
"Yes, Luke?" 
"I want... um... a sippy."
I feel like he has a touch of OCD in that little brain of his, since he cannot start in the middle on a conversation, or even the middle of a line in a conversation. And not only MUST he start over, but I must verbally acknowledge his Moming before he will continue with the line of speech.  And worse yet, Lauren has picked up on this little quirk, and she will not continue speaking until she is verbally acknowledged as well.

Aside from the fact that she never stops talking, she's gone from independent to clingy practically overnight.  My child who used to play by herself willingly now wants me to interact with her every waking second of the day (and as you may have read in the co-sleeping post yesterday, every NOT waking moment as well).  Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with my children.  I'm not usually wishing to lock them in a vault and ignore them (maybe at 3am when she's suction cupped to my side), but if I have to read Cat in the Hat one more time, I might have a stroke.

No, the Terrible Twos have NOTHING to do with tantrums.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


I am all about parents making conscious and informed decisions in all things parenting.  There are some things that are always black and white, and some things that are typically black and white but have exceptions.  I am an advocate for parents researching and coming to an informed decision.  If they know what they are talking about, I will usually support their decisions, regardless of how much I agree with it.  That brings me to co-sleeping.

I don't find it ridiculously unsafe, but I don't think it's right for every family either.  I don't judge parents who choose to sleep with their infants, or ones that choose to keep a crib in the same room, or a separate room - it doesn't matter to me.  My first two kids blissfully slept in the own room, and my youngest was in our bed for what seemed like 37 years.

You know how you used to think you were really fat, and now that you've had what feels like a dozen children, you look back at those pictures and think "wow, I wasn't fat at all!"  I used to gripe and complain about sharing a bed with a 15 pound infant (and she was 15 pounds for a really long time).  But now I look back at that time of my life and think "amazing."  Because this is how I sleep now.

Because my family is awake at this time (that's a whole nother blog post), I had to use blankets to denote bodies.
The Toy Story blanket on the right - that's where my 4-year-old sleeps.  He's huge for 4, weighing in at 65 pounds and wearing size 7 pants.
The blue and red blanket in the middle - that's where my husband lays.  He often lays on his side in order to take up less space.
The pink blanket all the way on the left - that's where the almost-3-year-old sleeps.
And that spot of sheet between the husband and the 2-year-old - that's where I'm supposed to sleep.  That would work if I was 12 perhaps, but I am old, and large in stature (isn't that a nice way to put it?).

Co-sleeping.  Not a fan at this juncture.