sharing my life experiences, reflections and insights as a mother, a writer, an Occupational Therapist and and a spiritual being having a human experience

Archive for January, 2011

Reflections on a simple but miraculous evening with my family

I wrote the first draft of this blog, two weeks ago.  I had forgotten about writing this and even the experience we had just two weeks ago.   Life has been so moment to moment for me lately.   I  have had a particularly  challenging week and so my own blog has helped me to gain insight and perspective.  Here is the post:

I had a success moment last night, so I thought I would share it.

Many months ago (I can’t even remember when I did this,might be over a year ago), I sat down with my older two children individually and asked them what their goals were (in words they understood, one is now 13 and the other 8).  and wrote down what they wanted to work on and made a plan as well as looking at the week.
It was the best connection I had with my 8-year-old (or she might have been 7 at the time, to date with our “home/unschool journey”.  She had many ideas and talked about what she wanted to do.  I wrote it down and we even got books on animals at the library like she wanted and started a notebook for her like she asked for.  I think we met again one more time but then life got in the way…
Her issues snowballed into full-blown ocd last spring and my youngest became more active as he got closer to two years….
Then I  hurt my back New Year’s eve and pain sure brings perspective.
I was “out of it” for 2 weeks, at home but taking 600 mg of ibuprofen every day (and I almost never take pain medication) and laying down most of the time because standing and sitting were too painful.  I had a lot of thinking time.    Once I felt better,  I really wanted to sit down with each child and look at our week.  For the past 4 months or so, I’ve been working nearly every weekend, usually Sat and Sun and so when I get home, I am tired and we eat and then its time to start bedtime routine.
So I seized the opportunity before I went back to work and sat down with each child again on a Sunday.  My husband and I talked some first, looking at our calendars, something we used to do often but have not been doing for way too long despite both of us bringing it up saying we wanted to.  And then I went in the basement with my 13-year-old.
He opened up and shared his frustrations.  Something he has not had much of a chance to do but has needed to with  how the past year has been with me watching a toddler and caring for my  8-year-old daughter who has OCD.  And I wrote some of what we talked about as far as a plan of our days and what he wanted to work on.    And after about a half hour, my toddler needed mommy and he came down with us but we were able to continue talking for a bit longer.
And then I had time with my daughter while she played solitaire.  I think she needed that to help her concentrate and keep the OCD thoughts at bay.  And it was good.
Now this is after me bringing up this idea  just before dinner and her getting mad and resisting all my ideas, saying she wanted to play cards.  Despite my efforts to point out how this has been helpful to both her and us in the past, she resisted  and kept interrupting me.  I got mad, but appropriately expressed it!  (big for me) I let her know how I felt and why I was upset and how important I felt this was for all of us.
So after we talked, she was doing the best she has in a while!!!!!!!!
So despite her initial resistance, I needed to stay strong but kind and calm and keep on and in the long run(as in that same day), it helped her!  And i saw it that evening….she was talking on and on as we got ready for bed and playing with her younger brother.   a sure  sign of how well she was doing, with the OCD, she gets stuck and is in this angry, stuck place where she resists getting ready for bed and needs to wash her hands but doesn’t want to, but has too….and on and on and on…
So this was huge, to see her talking and talking like she used to and happy!
And I looked at my husband and despite his desire for quiet time in the evening, I said just enough, to keep him from stopping her from her enthusiasm and loud playfulness.   She also showed  her little brother how to brush his teeth.  Another good sign, because usually she freaks out if he comes in the bathroom with her when she is brushing her teeth.
We now really know, we can not “hush” her when we want quiet, because it can hush her spirit, and that is not good.    As I type this and think about this, it was just last night, it feels like a miracle with all we have been through.  Sure she still can’t sit down and her list of things she can not touch grows and grows, but, she had fun with her brother in the evening and jabbered on in her old self, happy-go-lucky full of imagination, Abby self that we have missed so much over the past year with her tormented soul going through OCD.

I had to share this article: Why African Babies Don’t Cry

I tried to post the link to this article from the website where I read it.

Not sure what I did wrong but here is the link:

http://www.incultureparent.com/2010/12/why-african-babies-dont-cry/

New Year’s Reflection: What is most important to me with homeschooling my children?

I have a homeschool website for Charlotte, NC  area homeschoolers. http://charlottehomeschooling.ning.com/

I have been  posting  a Question of the Week to drum up discussion in the Forums.   I recently posted this question.

What is most important to you (or foremost in your mind) with homeschooling your children?

My response:

When I began homeschooling, or decided that was the path I was taking (in 2002 when my oldest was just turning 5), my goals was to continue to foster my son’s love of learning.  I saw how much he enjoyed exploring the world and loved learning new things and I wanted to continue to foster that love of learning.  I recalled my own experience after I graduated college that the last thing I wanted to do was read anything!  It took me some time before I enjoyed reading again.  I wanted him to continue enjoying learning, like all young children do throughout his life.

I also wanted to teach my child how to find information.  In school I hated memorizing.  I felt that if he knew how to find the information he wanted, then he could learn anything.

I took him to the library often and taught him early how to find books in the library, gave him a general understanding of the Dewey Decimal System, and continued reading to him and following his interests.

I also wanted to be with my children.  I returned to work full-time when my oldest was just 3 months old and it was the hardest thing I ever had to do at that point.  My husband was growing his business and my income was our sole income.  As he grew his business, I yearned for the day when I could work less and eventually be home full-time.

I now with three children, age 13, 8 and 2, see how quickly they grow and how short the time is that they are in my care.  I enjoy being with them.  (Sure, I need time to myself and have days where I am ready to send them all off to school if only for a week.)  I enjoy learning and growing along with them.  This is in part why I describe my method of homeschooling as learning through living.

My oldest is 13 now and he still loves learning new things.  He pursues his interests and understand their are other things he needs to learn to help him achieve his goals (he wants to study computer science in college).  He helps me locate nonfiction books in the children’s section for my younger two kids (because he knows how to find some categories of books better than I do).

I too need to stop and remind myself of my intention with homeschooling and even my beliefs about education to refocus myself.  No matter what your education and homeschooling beliefs are, you can lose site of your intentions as you get wrapped up in the homeschooling world and connect with others who have different focus.

For me, I tend to doubt myself when I am around others who approach things different.  I have many homeschool friends who have a variety of different beliefs about homeschooling and education and I am grateful for all of them.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love the variety. Yet, I personally, need to remember to stop, go within, refocus and tune in to my intentions and remember why I began homeschooling in the first place.  I also need to  connect with others of like mind.For me, attending my favorite homeschool conference; getting together with others of similar beliefs, both on line and in person;  and writing and reflecting on my beliefs helps me to stay connected to my true intentions.

Turning Point, a new start for 2011

Quoting David Wilcox from his album Turning Point, from the song Turning Point:

“you can live your life completely

that true path you’re hear to find

Or stay scared, leave your destiny behind

It’s right now, here’s the turning point in time”

 

“just one thing can kill this dream

To compromise your vision”

“we find our truth, or live some lie”

“It rides on this decision”

-David Wilcox, Turning Point

I can recall a number of times in my life that have felt like “turning points”.  As I embark further with my writing journey and putting myself out there with my blog, I feel more deeply this idea of my pivotal point in my life.  I believe it is about stretching out of my comfort zone and each time I do that and in bigger ways or ways more in line with my truth, it is pivotal, transforming.  Sure, it is usually scary as hell as well as exhilarating.  For me, the older I get, the more challenging change feels.

The past year, has been the most challenging in all of my 41 years of life.  My husband had been underemployed for over a year, after selling his business and taking full-time work only to lose it one year later, not laid-off but worse, made a “contractor”, leaving him underemployed and unable to collect unemployment. And I was 3 months pregnant with our third child.  We had waited to have a third child until he had full-time work so I could be home full-time.

I reluctantly agreed to go back to work after my youngest  turned one year after much resisting because I really wanted to be home full-time with him and my older two children.   Something I was not able to do with either of them during their tender early years. I kept thinking my husband would have full-time work or the work he had could turn into full-time work, but it didn’t despite all his job searching and interviews. My one year old was fine with me being gone a few hours a couple of times a week, but my pain went far deeper, 12 years deeper when I had to return to work full-time with my first-born, 3 month old son.

And as I began my journey, working prn outside the home again, my daughter’s quirks and issues at night-time snowballed into full-blown OCD.  Financially challenged, with credit card debt, maxed out home equity loan, homeschooling with three children, 12, 8 and 1, working outside the home and flubbing our way through dealing with our daughter’s OCD.  My husband had found more regular work at the same time my daughter’s issues got worse, working 3 days a week, 20 hours, several counties away with over an hour commute each way.  Good that he had this work, yet it was not quite enough to pay the bills and the travel time added stress to my daughter who is challenged by any kind of change.  Not to mention, the stress on our 11-year-old car with 150,000 miles that needed much work before all those miles were added to it.

Some think two parents working both part-time and sharing child caring is ideal, but it brings its own challenges. It is a balancing act of two different people being in charge as the primary caregiver and having to shift gears frequently between working outside the home mindset and parenting.  My husband and I share similar beliefs and values in regards to parenting and life in general and yet we are two different people.  It took me years to realize, we did not need to parent identically.  Yet, shifting roles as primary caregiver has always been a challenge especially if my husband is working from home and a challenge for our children.  We managed well when we were able to pay the bills but add the stress of insufficient income for a long period of time (despite having savings to use, when you are 41 and 52, you really don’t want to use up all your 401K money) and it magnifies the issue.

Life is a journey.  Parenting is a journey.

I am happy to say I can look back over the past year and see all the challenges and struggles and all the mistakes we made and see that I am coming through it.  It is a process and the challenges are still there.  We have learned, often the hard way with what “not to do” and continue to learn along the way as we find help for our daughter as well as figure out how best to juggle our finances.

The 20 hour regular contract work my husband obtained in March of 2009, ended or slowed down significantly in November of 2009 and so I began working as much as I could outside the home, hoping to continue my writing pursuits with my dream of earning income from my writing (something I am passionate about and can do from home ).  I kept on writing and working and parenting.  And that voice in my head said, “but you can make far more money working as an Occupational Therapist than as a writer and there is lots of work out there as an OT”.

And then, I hurt my back and hip on New Year’s Eve 2010.  I have hurt my back before and have had long-term issues with my hip but I have bounced back quickly with chiropractic and acupuncture intervention, walking and stretching.   This time was the worst and for over a week, I couldn’t  walk without lifting my own leg and taking pain medication,  600 mg of ibuprofen 3 times a day.May not sound like much but I count on one hand the number of times I have taken ibuprofen in the past 10 years.  I have moved to a more natural approach to diet and health and have been the healthiest I have ever been in my life with this approach.  And so to take that much pain medicine and still have severe pain, felt like a huge setback not to mention how it was interfering with being a parent and with living.

With this experience,  I realized, sure, I can more easily make money working as an Occupational Therapist, OT, but if I hurt myself, I can’t work as an OT and yet I can still write.  That silly voice in my head needed that slap in the face.

I made time to write despite my pain.  (I discovered that my lap top makes a great heating pad.)  And I began healing and could walk without severe pain and even was able to go to work with restrictions of no heavy lifting for a few hours.  They needed me to work and so I  made sure the patients I saw were high enough level to not need physical assistance.  I then saw how I need to take it slowly as I was exhausted after working just 3 hours as an OT 2 days in a row.

Here I am just 17 days after the mind numbing pain experience began, out at a coffee-house writing.  I have been reflecting on my life and experiences even more deeply than I have over the past year.  Each time that I am able to get out of the house and have several hours to myself, I am able to dig deeper and as I write, I learn more about myself, my journey and the person that I really strive to be.

I see more clearly the message in David Wilcox’s words, a song I have listened to many times over the years.

“you can live your life completely

that true path you’re hear to find

Or stay scared, leave your destiny behind

It’s right now, here’s the turning point in time”

This time to myself to write is vital to  my being.  It is my therapy for everyday life challenges and essential with the exceptional challenges I have had in my life and  in particular, those with my daughter.  When I return home after being out for the afternoon, I feel excited to see my family and energized to take on  day-to-day moments.  I see things with greater clarity and perspective.  Sometimes, and more often than I like to admit, as I look back, I then have a let down the next day, knowing that my time to myself is “over for the week”.  I get lost in the “daily grit and grind” of life and caring for three children, one very young and energetic and one severely affected by a mental health condition which has impacted our entire family challenging us in more ways than imaginable.

I hear David’s song and I share these lyrics even though they are not sequential, I picked the ones that struck me the most:

“Your compass is within you

You’re holding out for something real

How long the distance

Getting by and getting through

Your heart’s strong insistence, says nothing else will do

But it’s hard to breath inside some cheap disguise”

-David Wilcox, Turning Point

I make no resolutions or promises in this new year to do or refrain from certain things.  Instead, I take the oath to continue on my journey of life and self discovery, aiming to be a better version of the person I strive to be.  I accept my shortcomings and mistakes as part of my journey.  I strive to focus on my strengths and tune into what I do want to see in my life to draw more of the same to my life. I aim to spend more time writing and thus working on myself which is key to helping anyone else in my life.  I must first put on my own oxygen mask before I put on my child’s.

Every moment in my life is a turning point.  I make a decision in every moment, a decision  of who I now choose to be.  My only goal is to be “the grandest version of the greatest vision ever I held about who I am”.*

(*Thank you Neale Donald Walsch, and the Conversations with God books for that phrase and concept.)

Post a week 2011

So I copied the sample from the site, they gave permission to do that.  It was quick and easy.  This has been a goal of mine for some time, to blog weekly.  I love the idea of posting daily.  Yet, I am trying to be somewhat realistic given the other demands in my life.  So going for once a week but who knows maybe it could be more often!

I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog once  a week for all of 2011.

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.

Here’s too more writing in 2011

Gina

Snow meltdown

My children have always loved playing in the snow.  I enjoy it too.  My husband, not so much.  So usually when it snows, I suit up with them and go have fun in the snow.  I have even gone to play in the snow with my 4 year old when I was 8 months pregnant with my second child.  It does not snow often in North Carolina and some winters we have no snow.  I grew up living in Ohio and Pennsylvania with many snow falls and have fond memories of one and two feet of snow.  We get real excited about six inches of snow here in North Carolina.

Unfortunately, I hurt my back New Year’s Eve and it has been slow healing.  Stress number one:  my husband has to go out which he does not like, I have to watch him put the wrong pants on our two year old and insist that he not put the size 12 shoes on his size 6 foot, because it makes it really hard for him to move.  (We put these boots on when it snowed the December 26 but the kids was miserable.  I then realized how big the shoes were, a few sizes too big is one thing, but twice his size!…I told my husband that would be like if he wore size 22 shoes.  He got quiet.)

Stress number two, my oldest child, who is 13 likes to get up, go play in the snow and then come in and do something else with his day.  Most days, he sleeps until 10am or later at times.  But today he woke up at 8:30.  His brain is somehow programmed to get up and do things like it tells him “Its snowing, so we need to go play in the snow now, before it turns to ice (another issue here in NC that I never had as a kid).  And then I will come inside and get warm and can go on the computer.”

So you say, “What is wrong with that?  The kid likes to get to things and get them done and move on to the next thing.  Why is that stressful?”

You have no idea…stress three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine….I can’t count high enough to equate the stress level that my daughter has.  She has OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. If things do not fit the picture in her head, she has a meltdown, often rage, with yelling and violent behavior.  She may be 8 years old and petite but she is strong.  Certain things have to be a certain way and things get contaminated and then she has to perform rituals because of the contamination.  It’s a crazy cycle that has no rhyme nor reason.  It makes no sense and follows no consistent pattern that can be understood logically or by rational minds.

And so, her older brother going out in the snow to make a snow man, or a snow caterpillar like he has made, sends her into ballistic fits of rage and panic.  Life wasn’t always this way.  She used to enjoy going in the snow. Sure she might get in an argument with her brother over something in the snow, but nothing out of the ordinary.  We did not have these issues last year in the snow.   Life is different now, and has been since early last spring (2010). (See prior post)

This is our second snow of the season.  I saw this happen December 26 so I thought I could prevent the total meltdown this time.  I talked to my oldest about sleeping in and not rushing to go outside.  He woke up early, but waited until about 10am to begin pressing the issue.  My daughter quickly became stressed this morning even before any talk of going outside.  I think maybe her stress level rises, because she does not like going through these things, she wants to enjoy playing in the snow, but can’t get past the “OCD talk” in her head.  This is pure theory on my part.  The other issue she has and I believe is common to OCD, is that she won’t talk about what she is going through.  She just gets angry and starts demanding things.  On December 26, she was standing outside in about 6 inches of snow, in our large front yard, we have about a half-acre yard plus extra due to large county easement property.  She stood in the yard in all of the snow yelling, “He’s going to use up all the snow!”

You can’t reason with OCD, you can’t try to convince her this is not possible.  It took me a while to figure out that she did not like how the yard looks after you roll a snowball and see the grass.  She could not tell us she did not like that.  Only after I guess at these things and inquire, only then will she say, and not always, that she doesn’t like the snow all messed up.  But she tends to use exaggerated words, like all gone.  And then she demands that he not go outside before her.

So we were talking about going outside at 10 am.  I tried to give her the opportunity to go outside first before her brother.  But she wanted him to not build a snow caterpillar or a snowman or make any large snow balls.  And she was only getting madder about it.  We tried to really listen to what she was not saying and not judge and hear her out.  It’s not easy.  My hip and back pain seems to be exaggerated by stress and the nerve pain increases when I tense up.  Staying calm was not easy this morning.

Somehow, she totally melted down.  Worse than last snow fall.  My oldest, was getting to impatient to go outside and despite first asking him to wait 10 more minutes, I decided to let him go out because who knows how long it will take her to calm down enough to get ready to go out.

We haven’t seen the rage like she went through this morning in a while.  It is not easy to stay calm and patient when your child is ragging.  And managing the dog and the toddler and the persistent 13-year-old who just wants to go play in the snow.

Did I say that it is still snowing and is expected to snow all day?  Somehow we got through it today.  We got through the rage, the yelling, the demanding we stop her brother, her kicking the doors and mumbling about killing us all, and then the crying meltdown and panic attack with fast breathing, and then the calling our “help me” as she proceeded to wash her hands for about 10 minutes and then get clothes on.

They are outside playing now.  I even heard happy noises coming from outside.  I used to like to sit and watch them if I could not join them outside.  Not today, I needed to retreat to my room and write as my form of therapy.  I write because I need to, it is my outlet, and my passion and it is healing.  I also need to retreat to recharge.

Homeschooling my children and being with them 24/7 and I even have worked part-time out of the home, I need to have time away by myself to recharge my batteries, to gain perspective and clear my head.  Writing my blog on my bed, under the covers,  served that purpose today.

Now, my husband and toddler have come back inside and I can enjoy hearing my youngest talk about snow angels.  I feel calmer inside.  My daughter’s OCD issues still make no sense to me and are frustrating.  But I can separate myself enough to know it is her path and my role is to be supportive and loving and seek assistance for her.  I can’t change her, as much as I would like to just “get my daughter back” or go back in time and do things different with the hopes of preventing the full-blown OCD or maybe addressing it sooner.  If only….

Maybe this will be the last snowfall we get this winter.  Most likely, we will have more, and somehow I will find the strength to make the wisest decisions and plan ahead as much as possible and be ok no matter what happens.  It really boils down to that, I have to be ok no matter what happens because I can not control what will happen.  My mantra is:

I can remain calm, no matter what is going on with my children.

I will just keep repeating that today.

I can remain calm, no matter what is going on with my children.