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Unexpectedly Magical

finding the magic in everyday life

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Special Needs Parenting

Ponderings 

No church for us this morning. Last night the 6 year old managed to sneak the tub of chocolate ice cream down and eat half a quart in one sitting. He also got down the half a candy bar I was saving for a special treat and ate that all gone. I’m still scratching my head over when he found an opportunity to manage all that. 

It was a terrible night for the whole family; the only person who got any sleep was the 2 year old, but even he ran wildly around until midnight (what on earth!?!?). This comes on the heels of almost a month of sleeplessness due to Halloween and then most of us getting colds. Lack of sleep has me frazzled and feeling ill. I’ve never coped well with lack of sleep, but fibromyalgia has made it an even bigger problem. 

What bothers me most is that he chose to sneak and eat not one but two things he knows he shouldn’t. He’s tried to do this with jars of honey and even jelly in the past, but this chocolate stuff puts it to a whole new level. Locking away every sweet thing doesn’t get to the root of the problem… but what is the root? How do I navigate this as a parent? 

Between illness and official Thanksgiving break, my son will have been out of school for 11 days straight. During this time I’ve watched his behavior spiral back into extreme anxiety and aggression – shouting, screaming, scowling, flailing, acting like a control freak… it’s all back. His complete dependence on the rigid structure school provides is obvious – we made the right decision to put him there – but this dependence on structure scares me. Christmas break is going to be a horrible nightmare unless I find a way to plan every second of every day. Summer break is going to be hell. 

This last month has left me questioning my beliefs in so many ways. I’ve lost my belief that people are inherently good. Now I’m pondering something I was sure I’d never consider again – a sin nature. The level of evil, selfishness, and depravity I’ve seen in the world has shocked me to my core; even more shocking is seeing glints of that same depravity mirrored in the eyes of my children. I see it in myself as I struggle to parent gently in the face of sleeplessness, chronic illness, and high needs/special needs demands from my children. 

As this season of Advent begins, I find myself looking for hope and love in new ways. Hopefully we can gather enough sanity around here to light the first candle and share a moment of peace.

Looking for Group aka Building My Village

When I first moved to the Madison area, I didn’t know a soul. I jumped onto Meetup and even Okay Cupid to find friends for my husband and myself; I joined Facebook groups and sent out vibes of community; I had limited results, despite hunting around for about three years. Craigslist actually yielded a friend, but she moved away and we lost touch. In-person community has been hard to come by, although I’ve had better luck this past year. 

Fast forward to today, when I’m hopping back on Meetup because a Red Tent group is forming in Madison (!!!!!!). Glancing at other groups’ (particularly moms’ groups) events reminds me of why my previous attempts fell short: 

1. We have no nearby family and no money for childcare, so unless Hubby can keep the kids I don’t go out by myself.

2. For the reasons I just mentioned, Hubby and I can’t get out without the kids, although his social anxiety and other quirks usually make him uninterested in doing that. Plus he has 5 food allergies/sensitivities.

3. I don’t have a lot in common with the other mom’s in the Meetup groups. They are having their first child in their thirties – I’m 26 and have a 5 year old (by adoptionish) and an almost 2 year old. They have one kid or the siblings are at preschool/school, so they can enjoy special play dates of single-aged children or meet moms for coffee at posh cafes – I homeschool and neither child does the quiet coffee house thing. They usually have money for lunch out and whatnot – I usually don’t, but if I did I’d have a difficult time due to my food allergies and rowdy children.

4. I have health issues that impact my abilities: fibromyalgia, bad back, Ehlers-Danlos Type 3, an allergy to milk, an intolerance of gluten and eggs as well as things like onions, garlic, and cooked tomatoes. 

5. Big Brother is a wild child who cannot sit still or control his volume leaves for the world. He wants to kiss everyone and has no sense of personal space. He experiences ADHD, anxiety, and Sensory Processing Disorder. He’s also gifted and experiences asynchronous development (older brain, younger emotions) and intensity of personality. His temperment and high needs make social events stressful.

6. Little Brother is also a wild child. He’s gifted as well and has a personality as intense as his red hair. He doesn’t let himself be managed and is physically strong enough to use his weight to get what he wants and cunning enough to make things happen. He’s a runner and can unlock most doors. We’ve resorted to using a safety harness whenever we’re out to keep him from dashing into disaster. 

7. We’re a fringey, nerdy, weird family. Hubby is a gamer, I’m a witch, and we homeschool. I cover my head sometimes to help deflect energy (I’m an empath) and often wear maxi skirts and odd clothes. Hubby makes foam weapons. BB knows more about The Legend of Zelda and Pokemon than he does about Spider-Man or other superheroes. LB stills nurses with no end in site. We have a family bedroom…. Etc. We’re quirky! 

I guess it’s obvious I feel a strong sense of otherness; not in a “me versus them” kind of way, but a “there’s them and there’s me and we are in different worlds” kind of way. Joining a local homeschool group has helped me connect with people who I have things in common with – yay! I’ve met families with special needs children, families who have similar values, and families who also want to find a group where they fit in. Hopefully the Red Tent will expand my village and perhaps turn up a fellow witch or two.

Anyone else find themselves in a similar place? 

Artwork from Mama Panya’s Pancakes, a lovely story about community. 

The Tenth Day

Ten days ago we began our first official season of homeschooling. I say official because we’ve been learning together all along – children are always learning – but with Big Brother’s sixth birthday approaching, our learning together has become more focused. We’ve been using EarthSchooling’s kindergarten curriculum to guide our schooling days. In addition I’ve been using Yoga Pretzel’s, a child-friendly deck of yoga cards, to start our circle time. I’ve been using these cards (off and on) for over a year and greatly enjoy how easy they make it for me to both expand my knowledge of yoga and share it with my kids. Eventually I want to learn more about eurythmy, the Waldorf equivalent of yoga, but for now I’m using what I have and am familiar with. I’m also incorporating the concept of a morning basket into our circle time. When I’ve read about homeschoolers using the morning basket, it has usually been in conjuction with a Charlotte Mason approach. The basic concept seems to be this: fill a large basket with the materials you wish to share with your family during your morning time together and place it in the area where you gather (so you don’t have to run about the house hunting it down , thereby losing those precious moments of focused attention). Simple but brilliant, right? I have yet to get a basket, but having all my materials figured out ahead of time and together where I’ll need them is just what we need. Big Brother, who has ADHD and sensory processing disorder, will be off on another planet very quickly if I have to break the circle to hunt for something.

Here are some images from our morning circle time:

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BB needed to wear lipstick before we began. I foresee a possible future in the arts for him. 

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A basic shot of our circle time space.
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A printed copy of August’s curriculum and the Yoga Pretzels deck. The cards are in groups by category (standing, twists, breathing, guided meditions, forward bends etc.), so I usually pick one category for us to do each morning plus one breathing or guided meditation card.
 

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This morning’s time included acting out a fairy tale with our peg people as well as looking at the Barefoot Book of Wonderful Words. BB particularly enjoyed the page where different story characters are illstrated. He was able to identify the griffin without any help 😀 
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Let It Rise

Making pizza from scratch has always been one of those things I oooed and awed over – crafty, gourmet people did it; home baked bread (not pan bread, but the REAL stuff) and from-scratch pie crusts are in that category too. I’ve tried making these from-scratch goodies before, but found I wasn’t naturally good at it (unlike my husband!) and am downright impatient. 😁 

About a year ago I was looking at various educational methods and found myself enchanted by the Waldorf model. Fairies and gnomes dance about while angelic children make watercolor paintings, knit, and play with their all-wood toys. Okay, so I realize it isn’t all as picture-perfect as that. It sounded like heaven and still kind of does, but my family as a whole definitely didn’t mesh with it. I’ve learned (and am still learning) a lot from the Waldorf ideology, though. One thing that stuck out was the practice of regularly having children make bread – the yeasty, amazing kind that has to be kneaded by hand. Can anyone say sensory play? Also, hurray for valuable life skills and children being involved in making their food!

In the present, I’m trying to include my boys in the food-making process. We don’t have a garden this year, so we aren’t involved in the growing, but we do talk about farms and farmers and how our food comes to us. I’m teaching them (and myself) how to respect what we’ve been blessed with by using it in a nourishing way with as little waste as possible. They help me grocery shop and we talk about what we’ll make with the food, and sometimes they help make it. 

Today we all made pizzas! There were blood, sweat, and tears involved, but the kids loved it and the end results were delicious. Big Brother, who has sensory processing disorder, particularly enjoyed kneading his dough. I foresee much more of this sort of baking in our future. 😊 Our pizza crust recipe came from The Vegan Family Cookbook.


As an aside: I am intolerant of gluten but the rest of the family are not. They used regular wheat flour for their pizzas, so I taped down some wax paper to form a safe surface for me to knead my dough on. Some people are more sensitive than me and require a 100% gluten-free household. Thankfully my body’s sensitivity is not as serious as that! Since the rest of my family eats dairy and I can’t (casein allergy), I’ve realized I need two cheese graters to prevent cross-contamination risks. 

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