Good Job Taking That Bite!

Good Job Taking That Bite!

I imagine there are two groups of people who use the word “bite” on a regular basis: 1) Vampires. 2) My family. 

We’re not vampires, if you’re wondering. (Or are we?) But bites are as essential to our daily lives as breathing these days. You might remember that Josh recently finished a feeding program at the Marcus Autism Center – the main purpose was to make him fatter, taller, and more inclined to eat food. We learned a ton about Josh and the way he chews, swallows, and smiles after misbehaving during this eight-week program at Marcus. 

But, as the youths say, the party didn’t stop there. After graduating the program, Josh could only continue to succeed and gain weight if we kept up the program at home. I think most people know that we do this. And since sharing is caring, I thought you might be interested to know what exactly that means for our daily lives. If you’re not interested, here’s a picture of a cat with a mustache: 

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Today’s the Day

Today’s the Day

Once upon a time, there was a woman who lived in the merry lands of Georgia. She had a lovely life, with a husband who loved her, and whom she loved, and two children whom she only rarely considered selling on eBay. She spent her days raising these children, and providing mediocre meals for her husband, and writing on a giant whiteboard calendar that she made herself in spite of her inability to craft. And it was a good life.

But the woman wanted to do just one thing more: She wanted to be healthy. Not, like, to run a marathon, because that sounded terrible. More like healthy enough to live a long life and set a good example for her children.

The woman tried lots of different ways to make this work. She took advice from trusted friends, and tried various programs that had been proven to work. And sometimes they did. The woman would always start out strong, and she would slowly become healthier. But life, as it so often does, would get in the way, and the woman would have to miss a weigh-in or stop by a drive-through. When that happened, the woman felt like she had failed. And if she had already failed, what was the point of continuing?

When she failed, the woman was ashamed. She was angry at herself for not working harder to stick to a plan that she had promised to finish. She was sad that she had disappointed herself and others, especially her husband and kids. She was embarrassed that she had let herself become so unhealthy to begin with, regardless of the reasons. She did not want to tell her friends and family that she was trying to be healthier, because she did not want them to watch her struggle and fail.

One day – probably a Tuesday – the woman found herself sitting on her couch at home. She had spent so much time researching the best ways to be healthy, and joined all the right groups on the Facebook, and became a gym member, and yet, she was no healthier than before. She was a few pounds lighter, but she knew she had such a long way to go. And as she sat on her couch, she wondered where it all went wrong. Why wasn’t she motivated to do anything to become and stay healthy?

That was really the heart of her issue: She wasn’t motivated. Because she didn’t believe anything would work. Life, though still a blessing, had beaten down the woman’s spirit over the last few years. She wanted to be strong and joyful, but it was just too hard when something went wrong. She had taken the hopefulness and positivity that was once part of her and slowly put it away. Oh, she could get to it when she wanted to, but she found those instances were fewer and farther between. And the more she put away, the less she wanted to find it again. And so it went.

As the woman sat on her couch, lamenting the woes of her life, she found a picture of herself from long ago. Well, it was really only about six years ago, but the woman was going for a dramatic effect in her story. The picture showed a man and woman on their wedding day. They were, of course, dressed up; he looking so handsome, and she so beautiful. But it wasn’t their clothes or their weight or her makeup or the lighting that made them look this way.

It was their absolute joy.

And as the woman looked at the photo some more, she wondered if, maybe, she could have that joy again. She knew it wouldn’t just come back right away. But if she believed it would return, it would.

That was the key to her struggles the whole time. Every weight-loss program, every announcement of giving up sugar, every promise to make it to the gym four times a week  – she had never believed she could do any of it. And after she tired of going through the motions, she stopped.

So the woman made a decision. She decided to believe that she could become healthier. Not to fit into a certain size or wear a special outfit, but to prove to herself that she could. And to prove to her own daughter that she could. And to finally feel the joy that she had contained for years.

The woman knew that, ultimately, no number on a scale would bring her the joy she sought. She knew that her ultimate identity was found in Jesus, and from there she was so much more than a certain weight or measurement. But she also knew that this was the right step to take, both for herself, and for her children. And she believed she could take it. No special classes or outrageous goals or shame if she stumbled. Just belief that she could take the first step. And then the next. And then the next. And then the rest.

So she did.

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40 Thoughts Every Parent Has While Watching The Octonauts

40 Thoughts Every Parent Has While Watching The Octonauts

1. How did all of these animals even get together? Where is a polar bear going to meet a house cat?

2. While we’re on that topic, why is a house cat even one of the Octonauts? Aren’t cats scared of water or something?

3. He has an eyepatch. Naturally.

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4. Wait, the eyepatch doesn’t even cover anything. He just lifted it up and there’s just a regular eye under there. So he just wears it to inhibit his vision?

5. They named the penguin with the Hispanic accent Peso. Tell me that isn’t racist.  Read more

The Day I (Almost) Stole From Target

The Day I (Almost) Stole From Target

Hollaback if you love Target. I know you do. Don’t be ashamed. I love Target so much that my kids ask if we’re going there on a regular basis. Target and “Cheekin Feel A” are our two favorite ways to spend an afternoon in this family. Except for Daniel, who insists on going to work and providing for us. Whatever.

So last week, Jenna and I went on our daily weekly pilgrimage to Target. Since she is a “beeg guhl” now, she will no longer deign to ride inside the cart (You guys know how I feel about the Target carts anyway). Which is mostly…fine. I mean, I used to go through Target without running after a tiny giggling maniac while simultaneously dragging a loaded-down cart behind me, but I didn’t get nearly as many steps in, so it all works out.

My little helper wanted me to put everything in the bottom section of the cart, so she could add it by herself. I didn’t want to be a dream-crusher, so I said she could do that, and when she wasn’t looking, I put the items up in the main cart so I wouldn’t forget any.

If this was a musical, the soundtrack right now would be full of ominous tones.

I had to get an item from just about every section (except for the toy aisles, which I avoided like the flipping plague), and Jenna trotted faithfully behind me, occasionally playing a hilarious game where she hid from me and my heart stopped and then we all laughed and laughed. Finally, we were ready to check out.

I paid for my items, and Jenna asked to get into the cart, so we were all set to go out the door when a customer service person stopped me.

“Are there any other items I can help you purchase today?”

If you have ever worked retail, you know this line. You know it by heart. It’s the line drilled into you as the proper response if you see someone stealing from a store. There are a lot of rules about what you can and can’t say to a terrible merchandise stealer, even though they are a MERCHANDISE STEALER, and that is a standard party line. “Are there any other items I can help you purchase today?” actually means “I know that you know that I know you’re stealing, and you’re a jerk face for doing it, and I hope your stolen items all break.”

So when the customer service rep said this to me, I knew what she really wanted. She wanted me to ‘fess up about my thievery. But I had literally just paid for my items. What could the issue be?

The rep looked down at my cart. Past my bags, past my toddler, and down into – you guessed it – the lower part of the cart. On this section were the following items: Three (3) bottles of craft paint, one (1) pack of stickers, two (2) containers of peach-flavored yogurt, and one (1) boot. Yes, the one boot confused me the most, too.

Apparently I hadn’t been as diligent about watching my little shopper as I thought I had.

“Oh! I’m so sorry. My daughter was putting stuff in the cart and…” I trailed off as I realized I was blaming a two-year-old – who was currently sitting in the cart and therefore could not have possibly been grabbing things from the shelves – for what looked like outright theft.

Slowly, shamefully, I put each stolen item on the customer service shelf. I offered to put them all back, but the rep declined. Can’t say I blame her. Then Jenna waved goodbye to everyone, smiling and blowing kisses, earning more and more sympathy as she was carted away by her criminal mother.

We got into the car. I put her in the seat. “Jenna, we don’t take things from the shelves, okay? Mommy always has to pay for it at the front.”

Jenna smiled. “Okay, Mommy.” And then she laughed. And laughed. And laughed.

It’s now been four days since my last Target run. If you see me there with a fake mustache on, just keep walking. And stop Jenna before she gets to the parking lot.

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The Curious Case of the Invisible Need

The Curious Case of the Invisible Need

“But he doesn’t look special needs!”

“Well, my son does that, too.”

“Everyone has trouble with something, you know?”

Like sands through the hourglass, these are the words of our lives.

If you have a child with a special need, you probably know those words, too. You probably hear them every time you explain why little Johnny won’t go in the sandbox. Well-meaning friends, family members, even doctors say these words to you, not out of malice, but usually in an attempt to help.

You hear them because your child’s disability is invisible. Maybe not all of it – maybe only sometimes – but it’s there, invisible to the naked eye.

When I tell people my son has special needs, they look surprised. I think they must be looking for a tell-tale sign, though I don’t know what that would be. Maybe if he had tentacles? That would actually be pretty cool. But I digress.

The thing about a disability that isn’t super obvious is that parents often find themselves having to defend the reality of their situation. You don’t want to overstate things and make your situation sound dire, but you also don’t want to pretend the need doesn’t exist. You feel guilty for using phrases like “special needs” or “disability” when your child is thriving and running around at school. You feel guilty for not using those phrases when you see your child struggling and hiding at school. It’s a lot of tricky waters to navigate.

A common response, at least in my circles, is for people to sort of write off the special need. My son has trouble with noises, but “Aren’t all kids sensitive to loud noises?” My son struggles with balance and strength, but then someone reminds me that “no one ever goes to college without learning [insert skill].” My son gets overstimulated quickly and easily, and misbehaves as a result. But “All three-year-olds misbehave – it’s just a phase,” I hear.

The impression I get is that this kind of response comes from one of two places: 1) The person feels the need to reassure me; they want me to know that my kid will be okay and his needs are just as typical as the average child’s. 2) The person feels the need to make it into a competition – a Pain Olympics, if you will, that consists of comparing children to determine who has it worse. (That type of response baffles me more than the first one, but I’ll add it to the list of things I’ll never understand, like calculus and people who exercise first thing in the morning.) The over-arching theme seems to be that Joshua’s special needs are actually manifestations of the needs of every typical child, using the evidence that he looks, speaks, and acts like a typical child.

But I have a secret for you that will blow your mind. Are you ready? Take a swig of your Coke, splash some cold water on your face, and really prepare yourself.

You can have a special need and also have a lot of typical traits.

That’s right. It’s true. Having special needs doesn’t define your entire personality, anymore than being short has defined my personality (but the struggle is real). You can struggle with loud noises and still enjoy a movie. You can despise the feeling of sand on your fingertips and still brave a beach trip. You can throw a tantrum like every other toddler and still need extra help to calm down. Special needs, like all needs, are fluid. They change. You might even say they don’t make sense, because they are unique…special.

A special need is exactly what it sounds like: A unique trait that needs extra care. It might not look the same every day. It might not even be the same every day. It might come in a limp, or a sensory disorder; a feeding tube, or a special vest; a hearing impairment, or a compulsion to count trains. You might recognize it; you might not. That’s what makes it so special.

Please know that I don’t harbor any ill will towards anyone over their response to Josh’s needs. I really do understand that you don’t understand. And I don’t expect you to. I have zero clue on what it’s like to struggle with many issues that others deal with. And I can’t always relate when you tell me what you’re struggling with.

The good news is that you don’t have to relate. You don’t have to get it. You don’t have to experience it. You don’t have to give me advice. You don’t have to compare our children. You just have to trust me.

Trust me when I tell you that my son is not just being a grumpy toddler; that he is actually struggling with sensory overload and needs some time alone before he melts down. Trust me when I tell you that even though he put that bite in his mouth, his eating issues are far from over. Trust me when I tell you that I am exhausted from having to help him with every little thing that is often taken for granted. Trust me when I tell you that my son really does need help with these steps, and no amount of “tough love” will cure his low tone. Trust me when I tell you that while yesterday he was fine, today he cannot stand the slightest touch on his skin. Trust me when I say that I am not trying to compete with you or your child’s needs, or pretend like things are worse than they are. Trust me when I tell you that my son is like your son in so many wonderful ways, and different in so many others. Trust me when I tell you that while I am far from a perfect parent, I know my child and I know his needs. Trust me when I tell you that the skill he just accomplished really is that big of a deal, worthy of cake and ice cream and a thousand parties in celebration. Trust me, and smile at me when I drag my screaming child from the store, and forgive me when I decline playdates because we’re having a bad day, and pray for me when I tell you I need it, and then let it go.

You don’t have to understand. You don’t have to relate. You just have to believe me. That’s how you see an invisible need.