What a Week

This past week had to be the most stressful week I’ve experienced in a long time. Nothing extreme happened. There were no disasters or crises. Nobody got hurt. No property got damaged. So why was it so stressful? Avery was at a new camp.

If you have never had a child with a behavioral issue attending a camp where no one knew him, after having been essentially kicked out of two camps previously, consider yourself lucky. The anxiety, the nerve-wracking tension that each phone call brings, the reluctant hopefulness that day brings — it was a rollercoaster of emotions and nerves.

As I mentioned last time, I cut most sugar out of Avery’s diet. No sweet cereals, no sweet snacks, no 100% juice. The first day on the diet was a success. The second day was decent, too. The third day was his first day at the new camp. Trigger the anxiety. I had no idea how he was going to do. When I started his diet some said his behavior could actually get worse, as he body “detoxed” from the sugar. But he seemed to be taking it in stride. Was I lucky? Or was I just on borrowed time? I was a nervous wreck. But the first day at camp seemed to go OK. The man in charge lumped Avery in with the other young campers when he said he had some trouble listening. I breathed a hopeful sigh of relief.

Then Tuesday hit. On top of difficulties at home in the morning, this second day at camp was horrible, reminiscent of the very difficult days Avery had experienced elsewhere. Great. Were we back to square one?

The third day, following the bad behavior on Tuesday, was even more nerve-wracking than the previous two days. Would he get kicked out? Would they make him sit out activities, say he couldn’t come back? But Wednesday was OK. Some trouble not listening, a couple of small issues, nothing major. Small sigh of relief.

Thursday: not good again. But they said he could come back…

Friday morning I broke down. Avery was already acting up at home. What was he going to be like at camp? I was fortunate that they had put up with him already, that they had said he could keep going. But would they live to regret that decision? Would Avery make the last day of camp miserable for everyone? The stress got the better of me, and I broke down and cried.

And, while I had gone into a separate room so he wouldn’t see me, Avery came in and saw me anyway. As difficult as it had been, I think seeing me break down like that affected him more than the yelling and talking and punishments and pleas had. Because after that, he was OK. And his day at camp was OK. Not great, but OK.

I was relieved when camp was over. I was able to breathe a little deeper. I was able to stop worrying every second of the day. Of course I still don’t know what to expect from Avery each day, but I think we’re making some progress. I have definitely seen a difference since taking him off most sugar (and if I hadn’t before, all it took was giving him a cookie dough pop yesterday to quickly show me the difference!). He’s getting used to less-sweet drinks and snacks. And, as he continues to progress, we can move on to more changes, to improve his diet overall and get him to a better place.

While the next couple of weeks will certainly be busy, I’m hopeful they will be a bit more peaceful. We’ll be gearing up for a new school year — and Emily will be starting preschool! There are projects to finish up, places to go, things to do. But it’s all good stuff. And as long as we keep moving in the right direction, I’m going to stay positive. We can do this!

 

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Hoping For a Miracle

Sometimes life gets to the point where you think “everything’s so crazy, why not add one more thing?” That feels like where I am right now. The one thing I’m adding? Changing Avery’s diet.

For those who read my last post, you know that we’ve been struggling with Avery’s behavior this summer. And I had been reading a book to help him with executive function skills. But another option had been suggested, especially since I was having limited success with my efforts thus far: diet.

It’s no secret that Avery’s diet has been far from ideal for a while now. He’s been a “typical kid” with what he likes: what they call a “white diet,” with a few chicken nuggets or a hot dog thrown in for good measure. The white diet consists of starches such as bread, pasta, crackers, etc., milk, and cheese. Sounds like Avery to me! So I already knew he wasn’t getting enough protein, and he wasn’t getting enough nutrients. But, of course, he liked his sweets. He takes after me, and I’m a big fan, too, so that’s no surprise, either. So, with diet being suggested, I decided to check out another book, this time one focusing on diet: Cure Your Child With Food.

I’m not trying to go crazy here. I don’t want to pump my child full of supplements or suddenly say he can’t eat anything he loves. But last night, as I was listening to the book, I heard a story that was all too familiar, about a boy whose behavior sounded a lot like Avery’s: poor impulse control, not listening, hyperactive. He had a diet similar to Avery’s. And what helped him was cutting out added sugar.

Some kids are just more sensitive to sugar than others. And I figure, even if that’s not the biggest cause of his behavior, what could it hurt? It’s not like sugar is a necessary nutrient. So wish me luck, because we’re starting today with cutting WAY back on sugar.

I’m trying other things, too, like trying new foods and taking a vitamin to fill in some nutritional gaps. And while I’m not exactly expecting a miracle, I’m certainly hoping for one! He starts a new camp on Monday, one he’s been excited about attending: Camp Invention. And I want him to go. I want him to learn and explore and try new things. He wants to go. And it would be good for him. But I have my fears. I worry that he’s going to struggle again, that he’s going to have to leave early again. And I don’t want that. I don’t want to have to worry about my son missing out on things he would otherwise enjoy because he can’t control his behavior.

It won’t be an easy road, but what’s one more thing, right? And if it helps, it will all be worth it.

Amazing Kids Have Problems, Too

Last night, after putting Emily to bed, I spent some time with Avery. This has become our new norm: some one-on-one time before he goes to sleep. Last night, though, was a little different. Before we settled into our usual board games or other activities, we spent some time chatting. And, while we were chatting, I was observing. Unemotionally, non-judgmentally, just observing.

This may seem like a little thing, or a strange thing, or certainly something not worth mentioning. But in some ways it was kind of a breakthrough. You see, we have been having a rough couple of weeks. While we’ve struggled with Avery’s behavior for a while now, on and off, a week or so ago things seemed to be getting worse. Earlier in the summer, he had been behaving at camp, and then his behavior started sliding downhill. When things seemed to be escalating to a point I was uncomfortable with, I decided to be proactive. He said he had been getting bored at camp (and, knowing Avery, when he’s bored, he tends to misbehave, so this seemed like a potential cause of the issue). So, since parts of camp were boring, I decided to look into other camps. He loves science, so I spent hours searching and looking into different science camps. And I found one that had availability last minute, that he could start this week. He was excited; I was excited. It was right up his alley.

His behavior at science camp was worse than it had been at the other camp.

What on earth was going on? I got emotional. I got frustrated. I got disappointed. He enjoyed the activities — at least the ones he was able to participate in without getting kicked out. He said he liked the people — yet he wouldn’t listen to the counselors, and he kept getting in the other kids’ way. He wanted to be there, but he couldn’t behave enough to be able to stay. So, after a day and a half, I pulled him out of camp.

For a while now I’ve known a few things about Avery: he has poor impulse control, he has a different way of looking at things when it comes to his behavior, and he has to constantly be moving (with the exception of a very few activities that hold his attention). We’ve suspected for a while that he may have ADHD. He’s a good kid. He doesn’t want to misbehave. He just can’t help it.

So what’s a mom to do?

I cried. I got depressed. I brainstormed. I held my little boy. I told him that no matter what, I love him. But I wanted to help him. We have to move past this. So, surprise, surprise, I turned to books. We went to the library and took out books geared toward kids that he could read on his own – about feelings, behaving, self control. I started listening to a book that fits Avery perfectly and could help guide me in my endeavor to help him. And last night, encouraged by the book I had been listening to, I observed him.

What did I learn?

Avery is amazing. He is smart, and sensitive, and affectionate. But I already knew that. But watching him without judgement (despite his flopping around, throwing a stuffed animal in the air, and doing other things I would normally criticize), I really saw how, despite his inability to slow down, he picks up everything. He’s still listening when I talk. He’s still processing and thinking and learning. He just can’t calm his body. And he can’t control his reactions to things sometimes. That sensitivity can sometimes make him over-emotional. But during our chat I learned that he’s more than willing to try things to help him. He doesn’t want to misbehave any more than we want him to.

And so, over the next days, weeks, months, it will be one of my biggest goals to help my little boy overcome these concerns. The book I’m listening to describes certain skills as “executive functions,” and some kids just struggle with one or several of them. Not surprisingly, kids with ADHD are often among those kids. And impulse control and emotional processing are just a couple of these skills. The book offers information and guidance on how to deal with deficits in these skills. I’m hoping this book will help me help him.

Avery has so much potential. He is a gifted kid, with a passion for life and learning. And I want him to be the best he can be. Not for my sake or his teachers’ sakes, but for his sake. He deserves it. And I won’t give up until he gets there.

Summer’s Just Begun

Isn’t it funny how sometimes one aspect of your life can just seem to take over for a bit? It seems to happen to me a lot; my regular schedule goes out the window because a pressing deadline or unexpected news pops up. I do the bare minimum with other stuff and devote most of my “free” time to this new activity.

The last couple of weeks it’s been Usborne Books & More. Not really surprising, but instead of the one deadline (such as a vendor event) that has to be addressed, this time it was a few at once! There was the self-imposed action of creating an inventory sale. But then I was encouraged to be part of a booking challenge (during which we try to schedule as many parties as possible and compete against each other), home office issued a special recruiting offer, I was finishing up tasks related to my book fair, and, of course, I had to deal with the regular flurry of new ideas and tasks that come to mind.

Fortunately most of the UBAM activity should be settling down this week. Then I can get back into a regular routine (if there even is such a thing!). As of now I don’t know of any deadlines I need to worry about until the end of August. That means I have almost two months to tackle my cleaning projects and figure out a regular routine that lets me stay on top of things when school starts. Sounds like enough time, but it won’t be easy. I really only have four full days when Kevin has the kids, plus an hour here and there, to get things done. At night I rarely have the energy to tackle big cleaning projects, and in the early morning I rarely have enough time to really get started. Those are times I reserve for regular tasks and smaller items that come up.

But more important that all the cleaning and organizing tasks in the world is my kids. I feel my attention has been divided a bit, and that being present has been more of a challenge than it should be. So this summer I need to work on that, too. I need to make sure I make time to play and read and do things with them. And I need to work on less pleasant tasks: potty-training Emily and working with Avery on his attitude and behavior. Those are no less important, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the struggles we’re facing in those areas have to do with my constant busy-ness. I need to work on finding balance (surprise, surprise, right?). I know most parents struggle in that area, but I also know that I can improve. It is within my power, and my kids deserve it.

So my goals for the next two months:

  • Finish cleaning projects (living room, basement areas, playroom, and kitchen)
  • Spend time daily playing and doing things with my kids
  • Figure out how I’m paying for grad school
  • Potty train Emily
  • Have fun!
  • Find at least a little time to relax

Easy peasy, right?

Pushing Through the Insanity

Is it just me, or has June been a completely insane month? Between last-minute events and activities for Avery’s school, a book fair I was asked to run at another school, my brother and his family coming to visit from India, making up hours at home for work missed due to all the above stuff…I’m exhausted! But of course that’s not all. There have been challenges to compete in for Usborne Books & More, and a summer sale I’m running for Usborne, as well. I have (unsuccessfully) been trying to keep up with cleaning tasks at home. I’ve had meetings and plans and goals to reach. Oh, and let’s not forget the water pipe that decided to wreak havoc in my house last night (and get water all over both my bathrooms and into the basement).

Sometimes it’s amazing I’m still standing. But I’m doing my best to take it in stride and just keep pushing forward. Needless to say I haven’t accomplished the goals I set for myself earlier this year. I hadn’t expected the end of the school year to be quite so frantic. Silly me! So I guess I’m going to have to do some adjusting.

Amidst all the craziness has been a big dose of mom guilt. I feel like I haven’t been spending much quality time with my kids. There’s been too much yelling and not enough playing. I also need to work with both of them on their attitudes and behavior. With school out for the summer, I’m planning on putting into place new routines to get us back on track. I’m building in time for a little yoga in the morning (to work on mindfulness with the kids and maybe curb some of Avery’s impulses), play time in the morning, too, maybe a walk after dinner. I also need to get them working on their self-sufficiency. Avery in particular has gotten too lazy, expecting me to do everything for him. And he should definitely be able to get his own breakfast, at least!

Of course built into this routine will be time for me to take care of my own tasks. But I need to work on my willpower. I’ve been feeling lazy in the evenings too often and not getting anything done. Instead I’ll stay up way too late, which means I’m not getting anything done in the mornings, either, because I sleep in. I need to reset my system a bit so I can go back to being productive. While a little down time here and there isn’t a bad thing, this cycle hasn’t been good for me.

OK, so new routines. Tonight I will be tweaking the schedule I’ve made. Tomorrow I hope to put it into action. It will take a while to really get into the swing of things, but hopefully by this time next week I’ll start feeling more in control. No more insanity! (At least, no more than I was already used to!) I have a lot to get done this summer before school starts, and I can’t afford to give up now!

Wanting It All

Is it possible to have it all? Well, not “all,” but everything that’s important to you?

I find myself struggling lately (well, for a while now, but more so lately) with wanting too much. And I go back and forth with being convinced I can manage it all if I schedule my time properly and being convinced that something is going to slip — and being afraid that that something will be my kids.

The problem is that everything I’m trying to fit in is important to me. My kids, of course. My future aspirations with grad school and beyond. My Usborne Books & More business and building relationships with schools and libraries. My involvement with Avery’s school and the local library. My websites. The only things that I want to cut out are the things that I can’t: working my regular job, and household chores and responsibilities.

Sometimes I wish I had only one or two things I was passionate about, that my life had had a clear path and the winding path I discussed last week was a little shorter. Then perhaps I would be established in some of these areas already and adding more wouldn’t be a problem. But everything I just mentioned, everything that I want to fit in, is coming together at the same time. And trying to fit it all in is proving to be a difficult puzzle. Are there too many pieces? Or will it just take persistence to get it all to fit?

I have a little bit of time to figure things out — mainly, this summer. Involvement with Avery’s school will mostly be put on hold during the summer. Grad school doesn’t start until the fall. That means I have just under three months to determine what has to give or discover a way to make the pieces fit.

My first step is to determine if there’s a way to build my Usborne Books & More business. If I can bring in more income with that, then perhaps I can find a way to at least cut back at my job. I also, as previously discussed, will continue to work on my big cleaning projects so my house is in better shape.

Next comes laying the groundwork for the rest – building a foundation so as much as possible runs smoothly with minimal input from me. I’m talking about getting my websites settled and establishing a regular routine that allows for brief updates. I’m also talking about establishing a routine (not just a schedule, but getting myself into a real routine) of light household maintenance so projects don’t build up. And helping create courses of action for the school PTO and Friends of the Library so I can be involved without it seeming like an urgent, huge endeavor every time.

And, most importantly, I need to get as much of this out of my head as possible, so it doesn’t invade the time I have with my kids. Too often I find myself distracted when I should be engaging my kids. I’m too preoccupied with other tasks to be fully present. I need to “set it and forget it” so I can focus on these other tasks at times when the kids are not around and really enjoy the time I have with my kids.

I have a lot on my plate. That’s nothing new! But it’s time to determine what’s getting eaten and what’s getting dumped.

 

A Winding Path

It’s no secret that I believe everything happens for a reason. I’ve said it often enough! But sometimes it’s interesting to take a moment to look back and see what brought you to where you are, especially when you’re feeling frustrated or bemoaning the fact that it’s taken so long to get there!

The other day it occurred to me that as much as I wish I had reached my current point sooner, every experience I’ve had thus far has played a role in getting me here. I’m thinking specifically of my career, as this has long been an area in which I’ve struggled. Not knowing where I would end up, what I wanted to do long-term, caused many a moment of stress. Yet, looking back, I can see how every career idea I’ve had has led me to where I’ve finally ended up.

Let’s evaluate, shall we?

My first career aspiration, back in high school, was to be a teacher. Then I changed to social work, wanting to help impoverished areas. Then it was media: journalism and television. And throughout there has been an overabundance of retail experience. Of course we cannot forget the writing: the books and the websites. Now, the ultimate goal is to become a librarian, working with children.

Can you see how it has all come together?

Working with children, wanting to inspire and motivate them to read, is the teacher in me. I hope to help lower-income children, in particular, as they often lack the exposure to reading materials — there’s the social worker. Libraries today are carriers of information, entertainment, and technology — here comes the media. And working with people — helping them, guiding them, solving problems — well, that’s the retail aspect. Writing is simply a show of my love of the written word, and what better way to express this love than in a career that leaves me surrounded by books?

While I would love to have come to this conclusion earlier, I must admit that my experiences have provided just that: experience. They have shaped and molded me into the person I am today. And when I go to find my ideal job, each one will boost my resume, pushing me toward the position I’m meant to have. Everything happened for a reason.

The same can be said about other areas of my life, as well. I wouldn’t have my beautiful children if I hadn’t gotten married. I wouldn’t live where I live, making a difference in my community — a community I feel attached and committed to, where I feel I can thrive and help others. Every person I’ve met has affected my actions, my path. Every decision I’ve made has led me to where I am. And, while it hasn’t been easy, I’m happy with where I am. And I know I’m where I’m meant to be.

I still have a long way to go, but I know now that I’m finally heading in the right direction. The pieces are starting to fit together in a way that makes me feel complete.

How are your pieces coming together?