Tuesday, June 30, 2015

If I Spent the Same Amount of Time Praying as I Do Facebooking…

What I believe wholeheartedly may not what someone else believes.  That's what makes me unique.  It's what makes someone else unique, too.  Some would say that’s what makes the world go round. 

If you know me, you know that I have strong opinions about parental rights and vaccine choice and that I’m a hardcore Catholic.  The fact that I have strong opinions about these topics and that I am that hardcore Catholic has never stopped me from making friends.  It has not stopped me from having polite conversations with others who may have the opposite opinion either.  People have always been opinionated.  It would be a tad boring if we were all the same.  

FB hasn't been boring the last few days.  With all the hot topics out there on social media the last few days, things have been interesting.  Things have also been unsettling.  I'm all for expressing strong beliefs and opinions and for having lively discussions.  But...

Words have been said.  And not nice ones. 

Conversations have gotten heated.  And some a little out-of-hand.

Friends have dropped lifelong friends from their lists.  Even though each of them held that opposite and very strong belief just the day before.  

Opinions matter.  I thought friends did, too. 

Until things settle down, I’m taking a break from Facebooking.  I’m going to find something else to read, to think about, and to reflect on.  I’ve been spending way too much time on Facebook anyway.  My personal time, my kids’ time, my prayer time—I’ve let Facebook take priority over some of those things.

I wonder, if I spent the same amount of time praying (or reading, or cleaning, or exercising, or playing with the kids) as I do Facebooking, how much more fulfilling my life could be.  I won’t know that until I log out.  

Now’s as good a time as any to do that. 

xo, Cat

Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Break: Flowchart to Fun

The kids have been home for summer break for over a week now.  I am so grateful for alarm-clock free days.  I love sleeping in late and get to now a few times a week.  My kids like the freedom to have fun at home, but they thrive on a schedule.  We’ve had a few lazy days where no set plans have been made.  Those days are fun, and with how busy our lives get during the school year, we need a lazy day every now and then.  But, when we have too much idle time too many days in a row like we’ve had now, things can get a little messy.  

Since messes are no fun to clean up, I decided that it’s time for us to straighten up our act.  We, meaning I, need things to flow smoother around here.  So we, meaning the kids, are going back to a schedule.  Yay!

The kids may not be cheering, but they’ll have plenty of fun sprinkled in their day.  But, first things first.  

The kids do help out around the house, but they tend to do that only when asked.  I’m the one who does the big chores like vacuuming, sweeping, and tidying up.  I don’t mind doing the bulk of the work, but since we’re all living in this house together, everyone should be pitching in more consistently.  In thinking how to get back on track, I did some summer chore brainstorming. 

I could print a daily chore list.

But not every day is the same. 

I could bark orders. 

But that’s no fun. 

I could threaten to take the fun away if the kids don’t help out.

But I don’t follow through on taking toys, computer time, or their lovies away.  And the kids have figured that out.  

I brainstormed a little bit more.  I thought about a chore list and a check list.  Those have lasted a few days when we’ve used them in the past, but I need something else.  So, I thought about what motivates the kids.  I thought about consequences for not following a list and for not following through with directions.  I thought about what happens when things get messy and how we really need some order in the house.    

I need something simple that outlines first this, then that.

I need something that can be tacked to the wall as a quick reference. 

I need something that will work no matter how full or relaxed our day is. 

I need something easily navigable for my youngest child on up to my oldest child.

I know what I need.  I need a flowchart!  

My kids love to play.  But playtime comes after taking care of ourselves.  The longer they’ve gone without their morning routine, the more I’ve had to remind them to eat first, to clean their room, and to be ready for the day on days we have to run out.  They know that once they’re done with the morning routine, they can play.  Then they can play all day.  They’ve been able to do that when we have nothing planned.  They love that.  And I love that they can play all day too.  

That takes care of the morning routine.  Our afternoon routine will see a little bit of formal learning. But not until after lunch.  

When we do the formal lessons, where I have the Pick an activity box, I’ll have an Afternoon lessons box printed that we can tape to the chart instead. 
Now, it won’t all be Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, but we will go over a few concepts taught last school year that need to stay fresh in their minds.  I also hope to do some vision therapy homework and some skill building activities that will hit on some OT goals my kids used to have when they were in therapy.  

The kids have already protested that they don’t want to do schoolwork, but some of our afternoons will include Spelling/Writing, Reading, Map Study, and Math Practice.  Since my children all learn differently, I have some ideas of how to review skills that I’d like them to retain.  We’ll use the white board, flash cards, puzzles, salt trays, and all manner of out-of-the-box ideas that I can think of to keep the kids motivated.  

Those flowcharts were designed for the daily schedule.  As far as bigger household chores like cleaning the bathroom, changing linens, and other tasks that need to be done once a week, I'll individualize a flowchart for each of the children.  I'm working on divvying up those tasks today and will have something that we can tack to the wall on Saturday when we turn to together to clean the house.  Just like the daily charts, once the tasks are complete, the kids will have the freedom to choose something that they want to do.  

We have almost two full months left of summer break.  I’m sure it will go by very quickly as most breaks do.  We’ll have loads of fun at the pool and with friends, but we’ll also take time to be more organized.  Being organized is good.  Time will tell if these flowcharts are good, too.  
Hopefully they will be and help the kids learn to go with the flow. 

xo, Cat

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Storm Prep

We've seen a few storms roll through our area recently.  Some of the storms reminded me of a scene in the movie Something Wicked This Way Comes.  I don't remember too much of the plot, but I do remember one scene where the wind whipped.  Then it howled.   Lightning crashed.  And it lit up the sky.   The eerie music that accompanied the changing weather was a sure sign that something bad was about to happen.  

Bad things did happen in the movie.  I don't remember those scenes since I only saw the film once, but I'll never forget the ominous feeling that that storm conjured.  It had me reaching for a blanket.  I'm not a big fan of scary movies.  And I have never been a fan of thunder storms.  Call me a scaredy Cat, but I just don't like them.  

Some of my kids don't like thunder storms either.  As scared as I sometimes am when the big ones come through, I put on a brave face.  My children depend on me to keep them safe at all times.  I can't help them if I'm hiding under a blankie with them.   
A magnet I saw at the store - it's perfect for this scaredy Cat!
After losing power for three days a few years ago due to a storm, I had to buck up.  My husband was out of town at the time, so it was up to me to keep the kids safe, fed, and safely sheltered.  It wasn't easy, but we survived.  After realizing that I was very unprepared to handle a long-term emergency situation, I brainstormed what I could do for the next time we encountered bad weather.  That brainstorming turned into a blog which included the 5Ps.   

Since writing that piece, we've had countless storms.  Snow, rain, thunder, and wind storms.  They've happened.  And I deal with them.  I'm not out there dancing in the rain, wind and snow when they roll through, but with an emergency plan in place, I deal with storms a lot better now.  

We drove through a storm last weekend.  Once we heard the weather alert on the emergency broadcast system, we took precaution and found safe shelter.  Turns out the storm was a tornado.  While it didn't touch down near us, the hail, the updraft, the funnel cloud--that was all there.  We didn't experience the hail nor see the funnel, but we experienced a deluge of rain and dangerous wind while driving home from taking the kids out to dinner.  

We made it home safely but weren't out of the woods as more storms were coming.  Thankfully, with our plan in action, we safely rode out the high winds, dramatic lightning, and endless thunder until the sky cleared without losing electricity or needing to hide in a safe place in the house (or under a blankie).    

You never know when you'll face an emergency.  Be it a weather issue, a medical issue or a personal safety issue, having a plan to handle unexpected and potentially dangerous moments is not a bad idea.  We have a few plans in place (for storms, for medical issues, and in case Ronan wanders) and go over them several times a year.  When we set a plan to action, each of the kids knows to listen for my voice, to follow the directions, and to try always try to stay calm.  As scary as some of our past emergencies have been, I stay as calm as I can as well.  

Storms happen.  Accidents happen.  But life happens, too. Do what you can to make the most of life no matter what gets thrown your way.  

xo, Cat

If you've "weathered the storm" and want to share how you prepare your family for emergencies, add a comment below.  Thanks!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Seeing the Able

Ronan has had a roller coaster week.  He was overwhelmed on Monday.  He was full of peace and calm on Tuesday.  He was exhausted on Wednesday.  So far today, he's happy.  I hope he continues the happy because we have a chance to meet up with friends later.  I love meeting up with friends.  The ones we've been hanging out with are so kind and a lot of fun.  Many of their children are also kind and tons of fun, too.  I shared a few thoughts about those kids just a few weeks ago.  

Our friends' children are a lot like my children.  They know that Ronan is different, but they choose to see that he is the same.  In thinking about how these children treat Ronan with the respect that they do, I remembered a post I wrote last year.  The piece was a reflection of a question that one of my college professors asked, "What type of educator will you be, one who is color blind or one who is color conscious?"  As the semester went on, we were to take that question a step further.  We were not being asked if we'd be color blind or color conscious about the color of one's skin but about how we, as future teachers, would react and respond to students with disabilities.  

When asked what sort of educator I envisioned I would be, I said I would be color blind.  I would approach, teach, and advocate for all of my students with kindness and with respect no matter what their abilities or disabilities were.  My children, and many of our friends' children, approach Ronan with that same attitude.  Watching them interact with Ronan gives me a great sense of peace and an immeasurable amount of hope.  

We have a chance to interact with those friends later today.   I'm hoping and praying that Ronan will enjoy the time we'll get to spend with them.  In order to get him ready, I'll make sure to prepare Ronan before we go out and to give him a head's up again before it's time for us to go home.  

Dear Ronan,

We're going out later today.  We're going to someone else's house to play.  Tons of your friends will be there.  They believe in you so much.  It makes me very happy to see that.  I hope it makes you happy, too.  

Love, Mommy

Summer is here.  So are fun meet ups.  I can't wait!  

xo, Cat

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Best Laid Plans

When I tucked Ronan in last night, I remembered something that I'd read years ago:  

A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child.  

That's a pretty powerful thought.  Yesterday, it was a pretty accurate description of the emotions I was feeling.  Ronan had a tough day yesterday.  He refused to get out of the car when we arrived at the library.  Later, he refused to get into the car after we unexpectedly popped in at a friend's house to say hello.  

The first struggle was defused.  We skipped the library.  But the second struggle was much bigger.  And it grew.  Ronan had gotten cozy and didn't want to leave.  And he wanted cake.  But there was no cake. After several attempts to redirect Ronan, his frustration level rose.  So did mine.  

Carrying Ronan to the car, it took a bit longer than usual to get him buckled in.  He was sad and still protesting.  I was sad and now sweating.  Our fun day out was not so much fun anymore.  Once we had gotten back home, the kids settled into their activities.  The girls played hide and seek while Ronan sought solitude to listen to music on his iPad.  I found a quiet room and stewed.  

The rest of the day was uneventful.  The kids got along well.  But I couldn't help but think about how some of the struggles Ronan faces, as well as the ones I've failed to handle well, have a way of bringing me down.  I am not one of those people who must stick to a plan, but I do get disappointed when the best laid plans don't work out.  Since I'm always trying to see the positive and to be the change and to focus on the hope and the happiness, I knew I had to let go of some of the negatives I was holding onto.  
It didn't happen right away, but over the next few hours I was able to see that some of the tough moments from earlier in the day did indeed have some bright points:  

Ronan communicated.  He did not want to go in the library and he shared that thought.  He did that as he signed "no" with a vocalization, "ahh ooh".  That is huge!  We've been practicing pairing signs with sound for a few weeks now.  Even though it isn't a word yet, hello, communication!  I'll take it.

Ronan shared emotion.  That's nothing new for Ronan, but remembering what I saw at our friends house - Ronan was so happy, so comfortable, and feeling so at home - it made me realize why he didn't want to go home just yet.  These friends are helpful, kind, and totally awesome.  Ronan knows that.  No wonder he didn't want to leave that happy place!  Since Ronan does better with a head's up that things are changing, next time I'll remember to give him a few minutes to be ready to say thank you, to say good bye, and to let him know that we will come back another time. 

Ronan adapted.  We were not intending to be out as long as we were.  But things changed.  New plans were made.  Ronan dealt with that as best he could.  The best laid plans.  They don't always work out. But they do teach valuable lessons for next time.  Because there very well could be a next time.  

For next time, when plans change, when things don't go as well as I'd hoped, when things get frustrating for either me or for Ronan, I promise...  

To stop.  

To breathe.  

To slow down.  

To start over.  

To try, try, try again.  

And to remember to find happiness when the situation is over.  

Finding happiness.  It helps.  It always, always helps.

xo, Cat

Saturday, June 20, 2015

When Words Fail

If you know me, you know that I am an 80s girl through and through.  Fisher Price Little People, Super Friends, the Muppets, Rubik's Cube, Garbage Pail Kids, VHS movies, and mixed tapes.  Yep.  I had it all (and still do!).

Speaking of mixed tapes, I love this paper.  It was a liner of the envelope that my birthday card came in.  

And speaking of the card...

Pack rat that I am, I'm sure I have a few of my mixed tapes around here somewhere.  Maybe I'll find them over the next days.  I'm taking the first week of our summer vacation to reorganize my closet, to sort through the kids' closets, and to go through some boxes of "memories" that I haven't been able to part with.  

When I clean, I usually listen to some music.  Until I find my mixed tapes, I'll listen to the Depeche Mode station on Pandora.  The playlist on that station is really good.  It takes me right back to my high school days and to when things were a little bit simpler.  Music brings back good memories and keeps me motivated.  Some of the songs give me a sense of calm, too.  I rely on music (and tons of prayers) to get me through busy days, through tough days, and through those cry-your-eyes-out days.  

I've written about a few songs in the past.  When I need some inspiration, I'll go back and reread those posts and listen to those songs I included.  Here are a few of those posts (click the text) that I sometimes reread with the songs (click the song title) that, depending on the day, could easily be on a continuous loop:  

I feel for you...
Dust in the Wind

I'll surely continue to add songs in my writing as they inspire me.  Music soothes the soul, and like Hans Christian Anderson's quote says, some of the music I listen to speaks to me.  

Image source: Tumblr

On the very difficult days, I find that quote to be very true. And on the good days, well, that's when you'll find this 80s girl dancing in the kitchen.  Here's to more good days and to more dancing in the kitchen.  

xo, Cat

Friday, June 5, 2015

Questions and Doubts

I replied on a friend's thread on Facebook this morning.  

The topic: vaccines.  

My friend and I have similar views on vaccines.  One of her friends is still searching for answers though.  Good!  There's a lot to know about vaccines.  

I encourage people to read as much as they can about them.  I did just that on my friend's FB thread.  As the day went on, other people chimed in on my friend's thread, too.  Many of us have similar views.  The friend's friend who is on the fence questioned us.  Good!  When it comes to vaccines, people should be questioning what they're told.  

I gave my two cents and then a little bit of advice. I know that not everyone holds the same opinion as I do, but I was hoping that sharing my thoughts would make a difference.  

It didn't. 

The friend's friend found the source I shared questionable.  Another mom of a vaccine injured child had offered information as well as data from reputable sources.  

Her input was questioned, too. 

As the thread got longer, and as my replies were not cutting it, I knew I would soon walk away from the conversation.  Before I walked away, I left one more comment:

I understand the need to find cold, hard facts, but it didn't take a research study, a blog, or a stack of statistics to educate me on vaccines.  It took my sons' vaccine injuries to open my eyes and to show me that vaccines come with risks.  Despite what was written about them, vaccines resulted in irreversible damage. We live with the result of that damage today, even 10 years later.  So, do keep reading and asking questions, but don't forget to consider parents' input -- that input may not be part of the CDC's data nor on some science groups' website, but it can be just as valuable.  Hoping you find the answers you are looking for.  

Everyone has their own thoughts, their own opinions, and the right to believe what they want.  That includes vaccines.  Based on personal experience as well as the information I have and that I keep reading on vaccines, I am firm in my belief.  But some people, like my friend's friend, is not there yet.  

When I encounter people who are eager to learn or who are still on the fence about vaccines, I ask them to keep reading. To keep researching.  To keep asking.  And to keep questioning.  I always ask them to make sure, whatever their decision will be, that they have not one doubt, not one hesitation, and that they will anticipate not one regret in that decision.  

I walked away from vaccines with doubts, with hesitations, and with a good amount of regret.  I pray that other parents will do the research that I didn't so that they will be spared from what I wasn't.

xo, Cat

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

13 + 2

From a post I wrote two years ago:

A Scottish quaich, a wedding gift from our cousins in Scotland.  

I take thee
To have and to hold
From this day forward,
For better,
For worse,
For richer,
For poorer,
In sickness,
Or in health,
To love and to cherish
Till death do us part.
This is my solemn promise to you.

"I made these vows to my husband thirteen years ago this week.  What a joyous occasion that day was!  I was young, doe-eyed and felt on top of the world.  Going into my marriage I had visions of a perfect family, a comfortable existence and very little to worry about.  I was convinced that our future together would be nothing but bliss."  

To read more about that crazy little thing called marriage, follow this link: 13 . 

xo, Cat

Monday, June 1, 2015

Cheer Up, Charlie

Ronan's been on a Willy Wonka kick for a few months now.  He'll watch certain scenes in the movie or listen to a particular lyric of one of the songs over and over again.  Some people would call that sort of behavior a stim; I'm calling it insight.  

I'm calling it insight because last week, after I had a tough day, I heard Ronan play a song on the iPad.  It was a song from the Willy Wonka movie but one that Ronan doesn't listen to very often.  In the past when he's chosen this song, I've noticed he's played it on a day that has seen some sort of struggle - either a physical struggle due to his leg issues, or a struggle that he and I have had due to some unfortunate miscommunication.  

Ronan is non-verbal.  Communication is something we are constantly working on.  We are also constantly praying that communication will improve - not just Ronan's communication skills, but our own as well. 

Ronan wasn't always non-verbal.  His ability to speak slowly disappeared the sicker he got.  Words he'd been able to say were replaced with silence.  Silence was replaced with negative behaviors. But those behaviors were were actually responses, responses of Ronan not being able to talk or to communicate with us.  

I've longed to hear Ronan's husky voice return.  He tries to talk, but most of the verbal attempts he makes come out garbled.  Ronan has eleven functional words now, but 11 words used sporadically do not make for smooth communication.  He has access to a voice output device, but it's still difficult for Ronan to communicate what he wants or needs.  When Ronan is not successful in communicating his message with vocal or verbal cues, the behavior that accompanies those message are clear. 

Like when Ronan didn't want to get in the car one morning.  

Like when getting out of the bathtub turned into an emotional event.     

Like when an afternoon outing left us both in tears.  

Ronan's siblings pray for Ronan to have better communication.  Little Buddy prays that Ronan will understand what we say and be able to join in our conversations.  The Littlest Pickle wants Ronan to have "all kinds of words to say".  They are comforted when they pray.  I am, too.  I pray along side my kids always hopeful that Ronan will one day talk and that he'll be able to contribute silly stories around the table like his brother and sisters do each night during dinner. 

I love it when Ronan has the strength and desire to communicate with us.  I know that Ronan picks up on my emotions.  I'm sure he wasn't listening to Cheer Up, Charlie for his own benefit but for mine.   He used music to send me a message to me last week.  The message I heard was, "Cheer up, Mama.  Tough days are tough.  This I know.  But you can do this.  I know you can."  

You're right, Ronan.  And rest assured I will always do everything I can for you.  

 xo, Cat