First Things First Announcement

I am so proud to announce a new writing series that I have put together for parents of special needs kiddos called "First Things First".

The series is dedicated to reminding parents that they need to take care of themselves. A renewal of our commitment to take the time required to nurture not just our children, but ourselves. We have dedicated all of our energy to making sure our children are taken care of, but now is the time to remember to focus on our own physical, mental and emotional health, our spirituality, as well as our relationships with friends and our spouse. This year, I want to encourage all of you to take care yourself. And I hope each month our guest writer will inspire you to do just that.
On the first of each month, the writing series will feature a different guest blogger/writer/author.

I have lined up some amazing writers and advocates all with kids that have SPD or ASD -- or both.

Marla Roth-Fisch (author of Sensitive Sam), Jennie Linthorst (Poet, and mom to Graham from Autistic Like: Graham's Story), Chynna Laird (author of Not Just Spirited: A Mom's Sensational Journey With SPD), Carrie Fannin (Owner of Sensory Planet), Diane Renna (author of Meghan's World), Gavin Bollard (blogger at, Cat Lichtenbelt (guest author at Five Hens), Amy Sherridan (blogger at, Leslie O'Donnell (writer at and Mia Hysteria (blogger at are all contributing to make this series valuable and meaningful.

Our first post will be Monday February 1st by Marla Roth-Fisch.

Now, have you done anything for *yourself* this weekend?

Photo: The view from the kiddie pool our first night in Mexico. Everyone said it was the most beautiful they'd seen -- even the staff. We played until the sky was black. Then slept.

Why *This* Makes Us Better

I originally posted this back in March of last year. But I have been chatting privately with one mother via email lately, and it reminded me of this post.

With other kids at home, it is often that our "maternal" instinct turns to attempt to protect them from the pain of having a challenging sibling. As special needs parents, we worry about ALL of our kids.

So, I am posting this today for all of you to reflect on why this journey has made us better people, better parents, and better mothers to ALL of our kids.

Here it is:

I say all the time that being a special needs mom makes me a better parent for my other kids. It also makes me a better person. Here is why I think that--no actually, here is why I KNOW that.

I am less judgmental. I used to think I knew it all about parenting—you know—how I “would do it” if it was my kid. How I wouldn’t let my kid ever do that: How in Fred Meyer, I would never let my kid demand candy or how I would NEVER let my kid have a pacifier at age 3 (god forbid older!). Now, when I see parents, doing things that I don’t necessary *understand*, instead of being judgmental, I can realize that maybe, just maybe, those other parents do know what they are doing, and it is me who doesn’t get it. You know, maybe that kid has SPD and without the pacifier to keep himself calm and organized there a giant fit--and the parents haven't gotten a diagnosis yet. Who knows, right?

I am a better problem solver
. It is amazing how after five years of “teaching” problem solving skills, how KEENLY aware I am of how to solve problems. With my other kids, with my friends, with my husband. I am not always great at it—meaning I am still human and can totally miss someone else’s view, but after a few years of Collaborative Problem Solving practice I am for the first time, truly able to understand how it is possible to have a win-win solution. That can do wonders for your marriage, and I am really counting on it being helpful for the teenager years, especially with Nick.

I am a better friend. I have learned the true meaning of listening. After so many years of talking to people who flat out didn’t understand my life (at a time that I really didn't either), I have learned that what I wanted from them was to be heard. I now am able to give that in return. So when I say, “My kid had a meltdown today and thrashed his room, threatened to kill me and then spent fifteen minutes crying so hard he couldn’t breathe” and my friend says, “Oh, my daughter has her first sleep over on Saturday!” I now know that she too wants the same thing as me—just simply to be heard. And I am actually able to do that for her.

I know what the real victories are in life. I think everyone says that you should really focus on the small victories every day. The reality is that is all I get, so that is exactly what I have learned to love. A perfectly written word is enough for real celebration--no joke man--pull out the party hats and bake a cake! A day without threatening any one is a true testament to my son’s ability to stay calm and organized and something that gives me great pride. Reading a book at grade level, having the sun out for us to get some Vitamin D, the fleeting moments where we are all sitting quietly at the table—those are what mean the most to me. I would never have been able to see this had it not been for this journey.

I am able to understand what it means to want your kids to be “happy”. Remember when you wanted your kid to be popular? Or play football? Or be a champion debater? Maybe you dreamed that he would attend your Alma Matter or have a great signing voice? What I know now, is that all I really want is for him to have *a* friend, for him to be able to *play* with other kids, that he be able to *get his point across* in a conversation without frustration. Now I dream that he will go to college—any college. I dream that he will find his *voice* wherever and whatever it may be. I truly know that I just want him to find happiness. True happiness in a place he belongs, with people who love him and a future that is only limited by his imagination.

I have learned not to rush my kids’ development. In retrospect I think it is so funny to know that I really wanted my kids to talk! Now, I just want them to stop. I think though that I do realize that all kids learn the skills they need in their own time. There is no more rushing speaking than there is rushing potty training. I actually *got* that by my third kiddo. I also know that skills have to actually be taught—for most of us—not just those on the spectrum. How many people do you know that inadvertently make social mistakes still as an adult? I think my husband’s most famous is, “Try the salsa Adrienne brought—it tastes better than it looks!” Ouch. We all do have to learn each thing—step by step—mistake by mistake.

I have learned not to compare my life to others. This is a lesson that is hard to learn--and I have to relearn it regularly. Life is strange--you begin by comapring everything you have or do to your peers—from an early age it was who had the best lunchbox, who had the coolest clothes, who had the best hair, who was the most athletic, who had the coolest car, who went to the best college, who got the best job, who made the most money, who had the best house, and so on and so on. The reality is that no matter what I can compare to others in my life—comparing my family, my kids, their accomplishments, my day to day life, my stress level, my ability to do most things—just simply doesn’t compare to the average family. It has been a process to attain this understanding, and I still have moments where I am simply pissed that I can't hop a plane to Italy--but Holland does grow on you. :)

I have learned that I would rather have my problems, than yours. As strange as it is to say, it is totally true. The reality is that no matter how much my problems suck, they are mine, and I do have a much better chance of solving them than I do of solving yours. As my husband says, “The grass is not greener on the other side, it is just a different shade of brown.” So true. That means that no matter how much I am struggling, no matter how hard my decisions are, or my day to day life, I am still happy that I am *me* and have my problems and my kids.

I am more compassionate. I have always been empathetic, and compassionate my whole life, but now, I can truly say I feel others' pain when I see them struggling on this journey. I think because for most people, the problems they solve or the things they overcome are truly "over". For me, those feelings of crisis, both old and new, are right on the surface every day. The feelings of watching your child struggling at school, of failing at friendship, of each little thing never go far away--they are always here. And one comment from a woman new to this journey and I am immediately there again emotionally. I see that as a gift: A way my journey can mean more.

I am able to teach my children empathy. Most people think that empathy is something you have--or don't have--but don't get that it is taught. Parents are often doing that "how would you feel if....?" thing with their kids, but I honestly don't think most of them could tell you why. I am clear on why we teach empthy, how to teach empathy, and because of my special needs kiddo, my other boys are forced to practice empathy daily--more often than they'd like. I think that is a blessing. A true added value to this whole thing--my boys are going to be good people--capable of seeing other's pain and perspective. They too will be better for this journey.

I have deeper connections with people. This is a strange one to explain, but when your children's health is first and foremost on your mind, every day, every hour, and every minute, you end up having to give more of yourself to each interaction because, well, you can't help it. We all start doing the opposite--we are afraid, we get closed off, we feel like no one understands, we become isolated and more. But at some point, you learn that your special needs kiddo is a defining trait of you. And as hard as it is to deal with, that too becomes who you are--a person who wears their heart on their sleeve everyday because to hold it in is just too painful. Then the beauty of all of that emotion comes out--you connect with people on a level that is amazing. Maybe at first, it is just those who also have special needs kiddos, but eventually it is everyone--your "pain" is seen as you being open and honest and people respond to that. They feel like they can immediately trust you with their "pain". And a deeper connection is born as they are able to be open for the first time.

I feel like I could go on and on about how this journey has shaped me for the better. How this journey has changed how I parent my NT (Neruo-Typical) kids and how it has made me a better wife, friend and person--not to mention mother--

I will conclude by asking you to spend this weekend focused on what the "journey" has *given* to you--I think you will be amazed that some of the greatest gifts come from what can seem like the worst situation.

Photo: A look back down the beach at our hotel in Mexico.

Book Winner!

We officially have a winner for Chynna T. Laird's book, "Not Just Spirited: A Mom's Journey With Sensory Processing Disorder....

(hear the drum roll?)

Here is what Chynna wrote:

I LOVED all the comments and it was so, so difficult to choose the best one but I loved the one by "Roosterruler" who talked about SPD from the perspective of a young person living with it. I teared up reading her post because I envisioned Jaimie at the same age. It was beautiful.

So, Roosterruler, you are the winner!

Please email me privately with your mailing address and I will get that to Chynna ASAP.

Thanks to everyone who entered; I hope you will all get the chance to read Chynna's heartwarming story--truly inspirational.

I will post again later this week--but I am busy getting the last tiny details perfect on my book before it heads to the printer this week. I could cry, or laugh, or maybe throw up--it's that exciting!

More later,

Tips For Newly Diagnosed Families With SPD

This is my Checklist for Families Newly Diagnosed with SPD (or still flailing about!). It is the basis of my therapy for Gabriel and what I rely on day to day to live. It makes me feel like I am empowered to manage his Sensory Processing Disorder instead of feeling like I am at its mercy all the time.

1. Find a qualified, trained, experienced Occupational Therapist.

You may think you already have this step down, especially since your child was probably diagnosed by an OT. But, and this is a HUGE but, you truly need to find an Occupational Therapist that has not only been trained in Sensory techniques, but one that is currently treating patients with SPD successfully.

There are many things that OTs continue to learn, and having an OT that is focused on sensory integration is key to your child’s ability to get the most out of OT now and in the future.

Did that scare you? That you might go back to OT? A great OT is there for you and your child as your child grows up (shocking to think your preschooler or Kindergartner will ever “grow up” but as it turns out, they will). You may find you go back to OT for many reasons; maybe you need a little help with something specific—like handwriting or social issues. A great OT that knows your child and family will be priceless for the rest of your child’s SPD journey.

We have been back and forth to the same amazing Occupational Therapist for over 4 years now. She has been my son’s OT, my personal therapist, my son’s social coach, his school advocate and now I consider her a personal friend.

2. Establish a Routine immediately if not sooner.

Routine is going to be your new BFF. I say all the time that routine is my dearest friend and is the one I miss the most when I don’t see her for too long. Making things predictable at home for you and your kid will reduce meltdowns. Plain and simple: Less Meltdowns = More Calm. More Calm = Happier people. That’s the way it works, I don’t make the rules, I just follow them.

Routine means you need do the same thing, every day, at the same time. Don’t freak out. You can do this. It sounds like you are sacrificing a lot, and you are sacrificing the by-the-seat-of-your-pants style of living and parenting you may be used to. But it is time to be more organized – no running to the grocery store after you pick your kiddo up from school. No staying out late at a friend’s house when you KNOW your kid can’t handle it. This is about creating a schedule within the limits of your family. Those limits will get wider as your child gets older, but until then, let’s take your child’s world from being THIS BIG and bring it down to a more manageable this big.

Now, whatever you choose to do for your base routine each day (you need before school, after school and bedtime routines at a minimum in my experience) support your routine with visuals for your kiddo. This is especially important for young kids that cannot read, but valuable for all kids. Post routine schedules for everyone to see – including your spouse! My hubby wasn’t exactly thrilled with my new routine and schedule based living, but when he realized that I felt calmer (knowing there would be less meltdowns reduces my anxiety) and our kiddos felt calmer, he got aboard the Train. Chugga Chugga Woo Woo!

3. Establish your Sensory Diet immediately if not sooner.

Your Occupational Therapist will be your best resource for this to begin with. He/she knows your child’s sensory needs the best and can give you the right tools to use at the right time (we aren’t talking wrenches here, but info, ideas and activities).

This sounds daunting, I realize that. But, when your routine is in place, you will notice patterns of behavior: Every time my kid comes home from school he is overwhelmed and needs quiet chill out time, so I give him alone play time or TV with a heavy blanket (the proprioception helps my kid from getting *too* low); however, when he was in Kindergarten he came home WIRED and high high high, so we put him in a weighted compression vest for 20 minutes every hour until bed. Did wonders. Each kid is different—but they all have patterns.

Once you identify the patterns (journaling their behavior is an easy way to figure it out), share this with your OT and ask for ways to control your child's "engine". Once you establish the basics, you will be able to mix up what to do with your child and his/her "Sensory Diet" vocabulary will expand. You will also learn to be creative; a true Master of the Sensory Diet.

For ideas on what you can do at home that your kiddo will truly LOVE read this post and for ideas on toys to have at home to aide you in helping your child get some input, check out this one.

4. Eliminate Food Dyes and HFCS.

This is just a fact for most kids I know: Fake dye, High Fructose Corn Syrup and all those chemical additives in food are just plain awful. I limit sugar intake as well, but I would rather see Gabriel eat a dozen homemade cookies then even one Oreo. And don't get me started on the birthday cakes from the grocery store! Who needs a two inch tower of red icing? Gross.

All kidding aside, we really are pumping our kids full of all of these chemicals, and in my opinion, our kids who are already "sensitive" can't handle it. Why stimulate their brain more? Check labels for hidden HFCS. I was shocked to find out that Graham crackers and Yogurt have HFCS. Ridiculous.

Yes, on some level this means I have to be the Food Nazi, but you know what, I am willing to do it. At this point in Gabriel's life, it doesn't surprise him when I walk over to him during a birthday party to scrape the frosting off his piece of cake, or insist that he only have a middle piece with no decoration. That is a treat--store bought cake. Did you know they put HFCS in that stuff?

I really believe that making the effort to eat healthier--more whole foods and lots of protein -- makes a noticable difference in my kid. And, who knows, you might just lose some weight while your at it. : )

5. Find a Support Group.

Finding other parents that get what you are going through is necessary; note I didn’t say “optional” or “a good idea”.

This is crucial to your emotional health as a parent. Being the parent of a special needs child (Yes, SPD counts as “special needs”) means you are going to have a few extra bumps in the road. Establishing a support group early on is essential. And it isn’t just for you to vent, cry or otherwise find emotional support (although you will do those), it is also so that you have resources for tips on everything from school to travel to eating. The members of your group will become your best asset!

Here are some great places to start: – This is an amazing asset for all people, parents and caregivers of sensational children. A true social network of people dedicated to Sensory Processing Disorder. A must for any parent with an SPD kiddo. Don’t forget to make “friends” with the founder Carrie Fannin while you’re there! – They have a great national program of Parent Connection hosts that provide in person support in major cities (and some minor ones too!) all over the US. Nothing beats in person support. Nothing. This is an international group where you will find people from all over the globe. This group, originally based out of the Bay Area in CA, has hundreds of families supporting each other. A great find!

6. Take care of yourself/Find Respite.

This is an over-used cliche: Take time for yourself. One would think that finding respite should be intuitive--right? We all get that we need some time alone, time away and time to be an adult with other adults. But, as the parent of a special needs kid, there seems to be an endless number of things we have to do for someone else, namely our kid(s), and we leave ourselves last.

I encourage you to find friends, neighbors, family or a plain old babysitter (try the special needs section of, we have had luck there) that can watch your kid(s) and let them do it. If you don't have the extra money for a babysitter, ask others for help. If that is hard for you, read this post I wrote on the challenge of asking for help and why we have to anyway!

Having time to recharge is something that many women think is a luxury--not a right. You cannot take care of someone else until you take care of yourself. As I tell my children, this is NOT a point of opinion but rather a point of fact. No need to argue facts, just accept them (they argue anyway).

Once you accept that you do need respite and you deserve respite you are nearly there! To start with, respite can be just allowing yourself a shower, preferably alone, every day. Or maybe it means you spend the extra hour after the kids are asleep doing your nails instead of doing the laundry.

Finding time for yourself really does make you a "whole" person. You deserve that, and so does your sensational kid.

7. Strengthen Your Marriage.

If you would’ve asked me if my marriage was strong four years ago, I would’ve said yes. Why? Because I really thought that since my husband and I both were “aware” of how hard our life was and since I was sure that both of us understood that there was limited time (having three sons in 40 months is no easy task!) that it meant we were OK. Truth was, it didn't.

No matter how much you understand intellectually about the difficulties of raising a special needs kid, you can't rationalize away the problems that come with it emotionally--for both of you.

The rate of divorce for parents with a child with Autism is like 83% and I can't imagine SPD parents are too far behind that stat. Our children need us--and arguably need stable parents more so than the average child.

Take the time for your marriage. This means talk to your husband, go to counseling BEFORE there are major issues, have dates, talk to each other about each other (and not just the kids for pete's sake!) and spend time being a couple.

Please don't tell me you don't have time for those things or that you don't need them. Strengthening your marriage is NEVER a bad thing--it isn't like people say "Damn, my marriage so so strong I totally wasted my time and energy working on it!" Am I right or am I right?

When you have those things in place life will seem much easier. Not simple, not spur-of-the-moment-wine-tastings-with-friends-fun, but manageable. : )

If you have anything to add, by all means please post your tips in the comments below.

Enjoy the pic--the sand says "Mazatlan 2010" and the boys are yelling "Mexico!" In retrospect, they probably shouldn't be saying a word that ended in "O".

All In Just One Week

I thought the next post I wrote would be about our amazing trip to Mexico. But sadly, the week since we have been back has been full of much too much chaos to not share.

Let’s see….

We arrived home Wednesday night around 1am from Mexico; exhausted, tan and somewhat exhilarated to be home and see everyone again.

My husband got up three hours later and flew to Texas on business, so the boys and I just hung out at home on Wednesday pretty much doing nothing. It was nice.

Thursday morning we all got back on routine, complete with visual schedules and the preparation of souvenirs for our teachers. Before the boys got on the bus, I reminded Gabriel that I would be picking him up early, around 12:20 for his appointment with Dr. King—the one I’ve waited nearly 4 months for at Children’s Autism Center. And off they went.

Around 10am I was making Matthew his second Peanut Butter sandwich (no crust, cut in quarters) of the day when I heard him fall off the couch. No biggie.

He cried a little bit and I picked him up, hugged him and placed him back on the chaise lounge so I could finish his sandwich.

But he kept on crying. Not a big exaggerated cry like some kids (*cough* Gabriel) but a true sad whimper. I checked his arm again, where he was holding his wrist but didn’t see anything to be sad about. He wouldn’t eat his sandwich and wanted me to just hold him—the entire time holding his arm. That is ODD behavior for him.

I decided to take him to the Walk In Clinic near our house in an effort to avoid the drive to our normal Pediatrician so that I could still make Gabriel’s appointment.

We got in the clinic quickly, and the doctor walked in. Immediately he told me Matthew’s arm was broken. My sweet boy had broken his arm by catching his fall off the couch. Lovely.

Does this mean I am going to miss my appointment with Dr. King? Not sure.

We have to do an X-ray.

To make this post shorter, insert 30 minutes of Matthew screaming and refusing, along with some lovely nurses announcing to me that they “had other patients” and we were excused to the ER of the local hospital for them to attempt it. Probably with sedation or “being held down”.

Before I could leave, the doctor came back and said, “He is 4 years old, there is no need to try and reason with him.” A true GEM of a man.

So I naturally call my husband in Texas and let him know how angry and frustrated I am. Only topped with the fact that he should come home NOW. Turns out they haven’t invented the technology to “beam” anyone anywhere, regardless of what you see on TV. So that doesn’t really help me.

I check Matthew into the ER with my eyes on my watch. It is approximately 11:15 and I have a sinking feeling that I am not going to make it to meet Gabriel’s Psychiatrist. Sucks.

Matt and I watch Dora on a small TV and then have our turn to get an X-ray.

No sedative, and without being held down, Matthew allows one, of a potential three, X-ray to be taken.

Confirms it is broken, doesn't need to be reset, and no surgery. Sigh of relief.

I make the call to Children’s Autism and regrettably cancel my appointment.

Then call Gabe’s school and cancel picking him up.

Bummer all around.

A nice PA wraps Matthew’s arm in a temporary cast (they have to wait for the swelling to go down for the real one) and I say, “What do I do when he takes this off?”

“You don’t take it off.”

“Understood, but he is 4 and sleeps alone.” I say.

“Just wrap it up as fast as you can.” He says with a smirk, as I stick all of his extra supplies in my purse.

I head home with Matthew after stopping for ice cream (hard to eat one handed) and Taco Bell (easy for me to eat with two hands). It is around 2pm.

Matt and I aren’t home but a few minutes when my husband calls to tell me he is taking an early flight home—and will be home by bed time. Thank god, I needed him.

The next phone call I was not so excited about.

By 3pm, I get a call from my son’s school counselor. Normally, I like hearing from her. This time, not good news.

“Gabriel got in a fight on the bus this morning,” she began, “and I am not sure exactly what happened, but apparently another student was calling him names and they exchanged punches.”

Now I’ll give you the actual story without trying to protect the identity of anyone else.

Remember the story I told about My Son’s Angel? The same kid that was teasing her that day, was teasing Gabriel on Thursday.

Unfortunately for all of us, she is a first grade girl.

Yes people, my son got in a fist fight with a girl on the bus. Could the day get any better??

The afternoon culminates with Matt taking off his cast for the first time.

Boys get home, Jeff gets home and I was asleep within minutes of the boys going to bed.

Friday Jeff leaves the house at 4:30am for work.

I spend the day going to Costco, with a child in a cast.

I didn’t have a choice, after being gone in Mexico we really had no food and I wanted to eat!

In Costco Matthew is getting a lot of sympathy. People are really kind to him, offer him extra “tastings” and overall give pitty looks to both of us.

We get to the juice box aisle and Matthew asks to get down. Sure, no problem.

I set him down and he runs. In Costco. Down the aisle, around to the next. With a freakin’ cast on.

I chase him yelling "Get back here! You have a broken arm!" Not the least bit fun.

When I finally catch him, I shove him back in the basket.

We finish quickly and check out.

As I am loading the groceries onto the conveyor belt, trying to act like I am not in a hurry while the cashier does a money count of some sort, I overhear the people at the next check out stand being ridiculously nice to each other:

“Oh, you only have one item, go in front of me.”

“Really? Are you sure?”

“Oh, yes, please go in front.”

I glance behind me in my line to see there is man buying ONE thing behind me too. I opt not to extend the offer like the other guy did, and instead buy my crap and get out fast.

Bad choice. Karma comes back and kicks me in the ass.

As I am loading onto the conveyor, I reach back and see that Matthew is SPITTING in this man's face. OMG. Seriously.

Apparently the cast got Matt A LOT of sympathy because the man did not slap him. Which shocked me.

I apologized profusely and checked out.

I got outside to find the “drizzle” had turned to torrential downpour and was forced to cover Matt’s cast with a Costco-sized bag of romaine lettuce to get to the car.

Could things be any worse?

We get home, change our clothing, and unload the groceries. Sigh.

Matthew takes his cast off again, I re-cast it.

My hubby comes home fairly late, around 7pm and we have Costco pizza for dinner.

Saturday my husband leaves at 6:30am for school.

My parents come and watch Matt and Gabe while I take Nick to Basketball team photos and practice, which we are late to, but hey, we made it!

By the time my husband makes it home at 5:30pm I am DONE for the day.

At six o’clock the phone rings.

It’s for Gabriel. WOW.

I hear my husband call Gabriel downstairs and tell him that there is a kid named “Matthew” on the phone (note the irony).

Gabriel says he knows this kid from Coaching Club, a group of students that meet every morning for a little extra help and structure to their day. I am optimistic that means a potential friend.

I follow Gabriel, with the phone on his ear, into the living room where this child is talking to him. I am trying to listen to help guide him during this conversation.

Gabe says to me that he doesn’t know what the kid is saying. I tell him to ask him to repeat it.
He does. Twice.

The third time the kid is talking I virtually have my head pressed against Gabe’s face trying to listen. It is a muffled and unintelligible laughing sound with words intermingled. The kid is playing a joke.

And hangs up.

Gabe looks confused. I am feeling pissed.

Gabe walks away and I tell my husband I think it was a prank call.

I call the kid back. No answer.

Then he calls me. Jeff and I both answer.

“Why did you call me back?” he asks with a tone of sarcasm that would have him grounded at my house.

“Because you were talking with my son and I want to know what you said.”

He repeats it, equally muffled and unintelligible.

I ask to talk with his parents.

“Why?” He asks with the genuine surprise of a second grader.

“So I don’t have to call back later to speak with them.”

He puts his dad on the phone, who is not remotely interested in what I am saying and we end our three sentence conversation with him saying he would “have a talk” with his child.

I go upstairs, to the furthest corner of my bathroom and sob.

I pull it together, grab a glass of wine, and announce this is FAMILY FUN night and we are all watching a movie.

Gabe is oblivious. Which is good, yet bad in the sense that it causes problems for him.

When Gabe asked me what this child said I told him it was some kind of joke but it wasn’t funny. Gabe said, “OH, well maybe we can invite him over for a play date.” With a smile.

“I don’t think so, Gabe.” I say with a deep sadness.

I canceled my plans to go out with my girl friend (a big shout out to Judy who volunteered her hubby to help kick the dad’s ass should the need arise--what a true friend--you'll remeber her from the water incident last summer) and stayed home with the family to watch Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs which received the highest of honors: raucous laughter from all.

Matt took his cast off another two times Saturday.

Saturday night I go to bed right after the movie, with the help from the 3 glasses of wine I had, I was asleep in minutes.

Until about 1am when I awoke with the flu. The nasty on-the-toilet version. All night. ALL. NIGHT. And then all day.

That was my Sunday, in a nutshell. I thought it was over around dinner time and had some soup. Big mistake.

And that takes us to today, Monday.

Gabriel went to the Eye Doctor this morning, actually a Vision Therapist, with Jeff since I wasn’t feeling as if being away from my own bathroom for long was a good idea.

We have seen this wonderful Vision Therapist before, but not for almost 3 years.

The Vision Therapist gave us amazing insights about the way Gabriel’s eyes focus. She gave us hope that he can read better with, you guessed it, glasses.

Turns out that although he has 20/20 vision, his eyes focus separately which causes him to not be able to track words left to right on a paper. Ah ha!

I decide that before we go get Matthew’s permanent cast on, which I cannot wait for, we should get Gabe’s glasses ordered. Logically.

We pack up the crew, lucky me my hubby FINALLY is home for a day (who knew he’d have MLK day off?) and comes along.

We pick out some ridiculously adorable black and orange glasses that Gabriel appears to be excited to wear. He only needs them for reading—desk work—not recess or walking around or whatever. Hoping the “geek” factor doesn’t come across too badly for him. Not gonna lie, I am worried.

So we have a snack in the van, pre-packed on my new “no fast food” New Year’s resolution kick, and off we go to Matt’s appointment with the Orthopedic Doctor.

We arrive in style, three boys, my hubby and me.

When we go to see the doctor, they can’t load the FREAKIN’ X-ray into the computer (&*(%$#!@) so Matthew has to have another X-ray.

He immediately starts to freak out.

Jeff takes him away, with a number of large male doctors to get his arm “picture” taken.

Gabe, Nick and I stay behind. Me in panic, with tears flowing down, Gabriel with his arms around me and Nick crying while he recalls in grave detail the last time his dad had to hold him down for a shot. We’re a mess.

Matt comes out, a little pissy, but otherwise unphased.

We select a WATER PROOF cast for the minimal extra fee of $35 (I would've paid hundreds) in a gorgeous Thomas-The-Tank-Engine-Blue and Matthew is ready to head home. Yay!

We pack up and head home to reward him with the much anticipated viewing of the new show “Chuggington” on Disney (mind you we watched it twice this morning) and chocolate chip cookie.

The cookies are eaten, the show is on, and I sit down to write this as my hubby goes upstairs to start his work.

And then Gabe comes running in yelling “Emergency! Emergency! Matthew is taking off his cast!”

“What? He can’t take off his cast.” I say.

Turns out he can.

I go to find he has removed the inner lining from the cast, by pulling it out the top which is just above his elbow.

Jeff is on his way home from getting Matthew “recast” up to his arm pit to avoid him pulling out the stuffing.

That child never ceases to amaze me. Really. It would break my heart more if he hadn't been such an chaotic mess since he broke his arm. But, he doesn't complain. Not once. Shocking really.

Trust me, the cast is not slowing him down. Now, it is only 4 weeks until it gets taken off. Think I can make it?

As it stands, I have a 4 year old with a broken arm, an 8 year old boy who got in a fist fight with a first grade girl and now wears glasses, and Nick. Who insisted today that he was sick, but I think it is one of those “what can I think of to get attention” kinds of sicknesses that cured itself with Uno and a new Star Wars book.

I hope you are all having a better week than we are—I will share my Mexico vacation stories soon, or at least I hope to! Until then, if you haven’t already, check out my great conversation with Chynna Laird, author of Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey With Sensory Processing Disorder here and don’t forget to enter to win a copy of the book!


Are there do-overs in real life?

Interview with Chynna Laird and SPD Book Giveaway

I am pleased to be speaking with a wonderful author and fellow SPD mom, Chynna Laird today on HLW3B.

Chynna has been nice enough to share some of her time with us (between writing SPD books and parenting four kiddos!) and also is giving away a FREE book to one lucky reader. And I have to say--this book is a must read for any family parenting a child with Sensory Processing Disorder that has ever felt alone or like no one believed them. So read a little about Chynna, her family, her journey and her new book and then make sure to enter to win your own copy.

Welcome Chynna. I am so happy to have you here on my blog—it has been a long time coming!

Hi Hartley! I’m so excited to be here. You are so right: It has been a long time coming. I can’t wait to get started.

Then let's just jump right in! You have recently released your memoir, Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey with Sensory Processing Disorder, chronicling your drive to help your daughter Jaimie through her diagnosis of SPD (which you buy here). Congratulations! Start by telling me a little bit about yourself and why you felt compelled to share your story?

You know what? It wasn’t something I decided right away. The book basically began as journaling—a way to deal with the emotions I felt about not understanding what was wrong with my baby. I didn’t understand why she reacted to us the ways she did. I didn’t understand why my touch made things worse. I didn’t understand what was wrong with her so I never knew what I needed to do to calm her. She tried telling us—I knew it. But we just couldn’t interpret what she tried telling us. That frustrated and scared me.

Once I got over the highest hump in our journey, I swore that I would do what was in my power to ensure that other parents never had to feel the pain, isolation or confusion I did. I felt compelled to…give back.

My story is only one of many but if it can make other parents going through it feel less alone or feel inspired to plow forward with their own journey, it’s worth it.

There are so many things that I can relate to in your book, your SPD journey and just in your life—but the one thing that I think sticks out the most is your dedication to finding help. Being turned away is all too common for parents with SPD kiddos—what kept you motivated to keep looking?

Jaimie. I knew in my heart that something was wrong…that she needed something. We just needed someone to listen to us and tell us what it was. I watched my little miracle girl slip into her own little world a bit more each day and it killed me.

I have always been a person who, when someone tells me, “No way…you can’t do that…” I work my butt off to prove them wrong. Every time we heard, “She’s ‘just spirited,’” or “Don’t worry about it, Chynna. She’ll grow out of it soon enough.” it sparked inspiration in me to keep going. Of course it hurt when you met up with barriers where people didn’t see what you did or when they didn’t believe you. But the worst part was not having the information to prove them wrong. That’s the main thing, besides Jaimie of course, that kept me moving ahead. I knew if I could figure out what was going on and learned about it, I could make others understand. Information and knowledge is a powerful thing! The more I knew, the more I could make others know and that, I felt, was the best thing I could do for Jaimie.

Like Gabriel in my family, your daughter Jaimie is the oldest—in my life it has been challenging to give everyone the time and attention they need with Gabriel still requiring so much hands on care. You assume that the oldest will be more independent by the time younger siblings come into the picture. For kids like ours, that isn’t the case! How do you balance being there for Jaimie with taking care of your other (DARLING!) three kids?

What an amazing question! Well, as you know, my kids mean more to me than anything. And it can be very difficult giving them all the attention they need/want. at the very moment they need/want it, when one has such high needs. It’s all about balance. It’s knowing what you can handle before spreading yourself too thin (and BELIEVE ME…it took me a long time figuring that out!) What I do is include the other kids in some of Jaimie’s activities.

We have a Sensory Space built in our basement with a climbing wall, tramp, swings and all sorts of other stuff. I usually try working with Jaimie on some of her activities while letting the other kids play around us. She usually has her headphones on but if things are too hectic during her day (which they often are…Jaimie is a Master at holding everything in then explodes later on!), I find other things for the other kids to do then go back and forth.

When Jaimie is at school in the afternoons, I have “Mommy Time” with Jordhan (our 2nd oldest). Xander (our son, “The Boy,” as he calls himself) and Sophie (our youngest) get a lot of automatic Mommy Time because they are both still so young. Xander has A LOT of his own needs (eg: Speech issues, behavioural issues, sensory issues and others we’re still investigating) so, often, I can help him calm down while doing Jaimie’s Sensory Diet routine. He calms almost instantly with swinging or weights and Baby Sophie is willing to sit with me and cuddle.

It’s really hard sometimes but I’ve learned tell myself that my first “job” is my kids—everything else is secondary. Then it’s okay! If my kids aren’t happy or healthy or Jaimie’s totally out of sync, then I can’t do the other things I need to or want to do anyway. If I give them the time they need when they need it—then give myself the time I need too—it all balances out.

Some days I get TONS of work done; other days my house is a disaster and deadlines are looming my attention is needed elsewhere. But if my kids are happy…and ‘organized’…then everything else works itself out. That’s what I find, anyway. =o)

I was very moved by your husband’s dedication to Jaimie even when she was unable to be physically connected with him—no hugs, no touching and not even allowing him to say “I love you.” It literally brought me to tears, more than once. I think that this process is harder on our husbands then we give them credit for. I think the last article I read said something like the divorce rate is like 83% for couples with special needs kids. How have you and Steve been able to come together and parent Jaimie even without him being able to be as involved as he (and you) would like?

Steve is an amazing man…truly. He’s so strong. It bothered him so much in the earlier years. Today, he jokes about it but I know it still bothers him from time to time. Communication is what keeps us parenting together. Honestly, that’s so important.

We take time every day, even if it’s just five to fifteen minutes, to reconnect with each other. What’s bothering you? How was your day? What are you feeling today? You know, stuff like that. Then we talk about the kids. I have to be the “Front Person” with a lot of things so not only is he rejected by his daughter, he also misses out on all the therapeutic ways to help her! But I find when I keep him “in the loop” about what’s going on with Jaimie, he feels brave enough to try opening the door to her. “Mama told me that you had trouble at recess today, Jaimie. Did you want to tell Daddy about it?” Even if she screams, “NO!” he tried…and she knows that. And that is essential.

Steve does his own things to show Jaimie he understands what’s going on with her and that he wants to help out: He built her a climbing wall in our basement (and that was no simple task!), he built her three different kinds of swings, he rearranged all of our junk so that we could dedicate a specific area to her Sensory Diet…he’s amazing. So all these wonderful things he’s doing show Jaimie that he cares so much about her and her needs and is doing is part to help her. One day she’ll see that.

Your book is going to provide many families with reassurance that they are not alone. I truly feel that is one of the most important things we in the SPD Community can do for one another—spread the word that Sensory Processing Disorder is out there and affecting millions. Do you have more projects on the horizon that you can share with us?

Thanks so much for saying that, Hartley. That means the world to me. That was the entire purpose of the book…to help other parents out there feel less alone. Honestly, I almost didn’t publish it. I was scared to have our “stuff” out there. But I was encouraged to put it out because it would get into the hands that need it the most and that’s phenomenal. You are so right, Hartley: We need to reach out to one another so we can raise awareness about SPD together. Many voices together can make more noise, and make more people pay closer attention, than one on its own (But if you have a really loud voice, you can do A LOT on your own too! LOL!). So keep voicing out, parents. It truly matters!

I do have a couple of other projects I’m working on, thanks for asking! I have a reference book I’m writing focusing entirely on the Sensory Diet. It’s like a parent’s perspective with the expert insight you need. The tentative release date for that book is January 2011 but I’ll keep you posted. I think I might focus on my fiction projects once this latest book is finished. (I have a thriller, a YA novel and another memoir about my mother shelved that I plan to bring out once my plate has emptied a bit!)

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me—and more importantly, THANK YOU for sharing your Sensational Journey with Sensory Processing Disorder! If you would like to learn more about Chynna’s work, both in print and online, I encourage you to check out her website at While you are there, take a minute and sign up to receive her FREE newsletter, it is filled with great information, interviews and even the occasional giveaway. I highly recommended it for anyone parenting a child with Sensory Processing Disorder.

Thank you for having me, Hartley. Keep doing what you’re doing too…you are making such an amazing difference in the SPD Community!

Photo: That is Chynna and her three oldest babies--with little Sophie pictured "in utero". : )

Now for the free part! Chynna is giving away a copy of her heartwarming memoir "Not Just Spirited: A Mom's Sensational Journey with SPD" to one lucky HLW3B reader.

Here is how you can win:

1. You will need to follow this blog (publicly through Google located on the top of the right column) and

2. Post a comment sharing a part of your own journey--with SPD, or ASD, or Adoption or whatever it is that can inspire those around you. As Chynna said, our voices are stronger together.

OK, once you have joined and commented, you are officially entered. The contest will run from Thursday 1/14/10 to Saturday 1/23/10 and will end at 10pm PST.

The winner will be selected by Chynna (based on your amazing comments!) and I will post it no later than Monday 1/25/10.

Good luck to all of you and a big "Thank You" again to Chynna!

We're Back!

I am still up to my neck in dirty clothes, suntan lotion and suitcase unpacking, so I'll make this brief:

Matthew was crazy--got in a ton of trouble (rode the elevator alone, insisted on the bar pool, screamed through security and pressed the emergency button in the elevator 5 times--but not when he traveled alone).

Nicholas--did great! A little bossy at times, but overall a great traveler (thank god for portable TV players with all-you-can-watch Star Wars the Clone Wars episodes).

Gabriel -- well, he had his moments, but overall it was a huge success for him too. :) No major flip outs during customs, which is awesome, and a predictable two meltdowns (minor) a day when he didn't get his way. But hey, we have that at home.

I will be sure to post some stories and photos as the days pass, but right now I am preparing a terrific interview with Chynna Laird, author of the new book Not Just Spirited; a mom's sensational journey with SPD and, you guessed it, GIVEAWAY!

Give me a day or two to wash our clothes (not that we are going to be wearing swim trunks and t-shirts anytime soon here in WA) and we'll be back in the swing of things.

Until then, I have "let down meltdowns" to contend with since all three boys stayed home from school.

Happy to be home--really.

Vacation Rewind

I don't have an extensive amount of time to type, but I thought some of you might like to see the visual schedule I put together for our trip. It is pretty basic, but it will get us there.

I will give each child a printed off (disposable) version, with their name on it, and a marker to help them "check off" each step as we go. They can carry it with them and refer to it at will. I like doing it this way instead of the Velcro laminated version because during a flight/trip it is hard to not lose things--and when you do lose something, there are too many places to look for it. : )
Gabriel can't believe there are 24 steps to get there--me neither. *sigh*

In case you are looking for things to read while I am gone (I don't want you to go through withdrawals!), you can check out the blog series I did on our trip to San Diego last year.

Here it is:

The plane ride to San Diego (starring Matthew out-of-sync, Gabriel impatient, and me NOT killing a flight attendant).

Our zoo goes to the zoo (our group heading to the SD zoo).

Sea World (all of us petting sharks).

A day to take it easy (the San Diego Children's museum and more).

The Beach (the last day at the beach, the trip home, and thoughts on my apt to get Gabe's official "ASD" diagnosis last year).

So, until I am back with more crazy sensory-induced antics to share, keep yourselves warm and I will be drinking a toast to you by 10am Friday!

Adios Amigos,

Vacation Prep (with 3 boys)

I have to get us ready to go to Mexico on Thursday.

You hadn't heard?

Yes, we are taking the ENTIRE clan (and my parents are coming too!) to Mazatlan Mexico for a glorious 5 nights and six days. And I am excited.

But today, I am on day three of my husband in MBA class (all freakin' weekend), and need to pack for all five of us (laundry, digging through summer clothes, more laundry), including organizing Passports, as well as managing to bring two liquid, more than 4oz medicines with me on board. That is not something I can chance being lost in checked luggage.

All of that by myself. Yeah, that isn't exactly new.

I have a lot accomplished, but have yet to put together all of the info for the pet/house sitter, go shopping for the last minute things (like sunscreen for the 80 degree weather), make a visual schedule for the trip (for Matt and Gabe) and a social story about how we should/should not act on the plane and at the resort. Not much, right?

And in the meantime, taking care of the kids, the house and regular schedule.

This afternoon while I was doing homework with Gabriel, he lost his ever-loving mind over being interrupted during counting by Matthew. He can't handle it. And I am taking him on plane--technically 2 different planes with no tolerance for frustration. We have to change planes in LA. Ah, hello waiting in line.

After settling down, Gabe begins a voluntary "how high can I count by 10s" game. He gets to 900ish when he gets interrupted by Nicholas. But he can't handle it.

He goes ballistic. I walk to the kitchen because I need to get the banana bread baked. You may think this has nothing to do with leaving for Mexico, but really, I swear it does. I have to get rid of the food that will go bad while we are gone, and the bananas are already virtually rotten. So I. Must. Make. Banana. Bread.

As Gabe screams, cries, blames me, blames Nick and otherwise flips out because no one can seem to remember what number he is on, Nick steps in.

"I think you were at 900." He says.

"You do?" Gabe asks surprisingly lucid all of a sudden.


"900 and 10, 900 and ... 20, 900 and .... 30 ... " he starts up again.

Nick saved the day.

And Gabe gets to 1000 where and wants to write down his accomplishment.

"How do you write 1000?" he asks.

"1, then zero, then zero, and another zero." Nick says.

"Really? 3 zeros?" Gabe asks.

"Yes, like that." Nick says.

And saves the day again.

The pisser here is that Nick can't do laundry or pack. I mean if he could drive he could at least follow a list (that he actually wrote for me) and get my shopping done. And to think some people don't want their kids to drive....OK, mabye I am in that boat too with Gabe...

And, to make things worse, I am spending my time blogging. LOL I guess I should go get something done.

I did order pizza. I mean, they are going to get fed. That is a bonus, right?

Well my goal is to post again before I leave, but truthfully, who knows.

So for everyone out there, Adios!

Happy & Thankful

Imagine my surprise, when I sat down today to write up the pre-scheduled blog post for today, to find that two of my wonderful blog-friends have given me an award. Yes, an award. Why do you seem so surprised? LOL

(acceptance speech)

I want to thank Dia and Mary (the mom) for giving me this wonderful award...

(where is Kanye when I need some one to save me from having to give an acceptance speech?)

...and to my mother for always being there for me, my manager, my agent, and my husband....

(cue music)

Thank you!

So normally, I am not going to lie, this is one of those things I just don't do. I also don't do chain emails, forwards, or facebook lists. I tried, but honestly, it is just not who I am.

That said, this one seems fairly simple. Write 10 things that make me happy.

I can do that. Here they are in no particular order:

1. My husband

2. My children's happiness

3. Knowing people who "get it"

4. Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi

5. The bottle of DeLille cellar's D2 I got for Christmas from a GREAT friend which is sitting in my wine fridge now

6. New jeans and the fact that I can fit into a smaller size

7. Running at the gym (whodathunkit?)

8. My ruby wedding ring

9. Writing -- especially knowing my book will finally be published!

10. Warm beaches (we leave for Mexico in 6 days!)

Although I am not going to post everything I planned on having here today, I do want to say this:

Last month HLW3B happily received its 100th follower (and now we are at 105!!) and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I started this blog just over a year ago in order to reach families that were parenting a child like mine--dealing with adoption, foster care, Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism/Aspergers/PDD, Bipolar/Mood Disorder, and more--and what I found was an amazing group of people who "get" my life. This grassroots effort to spread awareness for our children is growing every day and I am so grateful to be a part of it. So, to each and everyone of you out there that takes the time to read my blog I want to say a heartfelt THANK YOU.

Additionally, a little bit of news: we have officially moved this blog (don't worry, it requires NOTHING from can still find it on your dashboard if you are following me) to

Yep, I have my own url now. Feel free to visit me there any time. LOL
I wish you all health, happiness, success, understanding, compassion and love in 2010.

I have GREAT things planned for Hartley's Life With 3 Boys this year. Stay tuned!