Friday, February 28, 2014

musical beds

some mornings i find it really, really hard to get out of bed.

especially when i've shared the bed with a five year old boy who tossed and turned and kicked and snored and "mommy, my foot hurts!" and "mommy, i need an ice pack!" and "mommy, wrap it tighter!" and "mommy, i can't sleep!"

when the alarm rang out at 6am the little munchkin jumped out of bed in his typical ready to watch cartoons fashion and i was left with blurry eyes, a sore neck and a very cranky disposition.

which is the rotten-morning trifecta.

there was a time when playing musical beds was our norm. whether due to bad dreams or sickness or reassurance or fear of monsters, one of the boys frequently wanted to sleep in our bed, which kicked one of us to a twin bed in the their room. for a long stretch of time i made a pallet of blankets on our bedroom floor each night before turning out the light, ready to welcome whichever little mister might need it. it was a fabulous solution because the boy's got the comfort of closeness without actually waking us up!

it has been quite some time since we've indulged in musical beds but this week harrison slept with me because "there is a snake under my pillow" and graham slept with me last night because "my foot is sore".

so today i'm pouring myself a third cup of coffee (don't judge, it's necessary) and thanking god for all the times the boys feel comfy and cozy in their own beds...and for the few times i get to be the one to offer them a safe place to rest.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

an appeal

well i've been writing my appeal letter to united healthcare allllllll daaaaaaaay and i'm just plain worded out and riled up.

i'm thinking i need to paste a photo of my cutie patootie harrison into the appeal letter. ya know, so they can see it's not just a random name they are denying services to, it's an actual boy! and a sweet boy at that!

heck, maybe i should publish the whole letter right here on this blog and see if we can't get it shared around the world and to the today show and then, maybejustmaybe united would buck up and change their mind!


okay. gotta get back to it.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

sensory bin - construction theme

i was sorting through my sensory bin stockpile this morning in an effort to set aside and pass on some items my boys have outgrown. harrison was watching cartoons as i was organizing pompoms, easter eggs, plastic hearts and glass beads. i was all set to give away my collection of construction stuff but when harrison came over and began playing i knew i'd better hang onto it a while longer.  

anything that draws my kiddos attention away from the television is worth keeping!

so here's a simple construction themed sensory bin...

get a bin

 fill it with black beans
or you could use sand or rice or pea gravel or actual dirt or whatever strikes your fancy

 add a little bucket full of rocks

 why not add a little bowl of marbles

add a bucket of tongue depressors, another little bowl, two plastic wheelbarrows and some road signs
 i should probably find some type of scooper to throw in here too

 lastly place in a few construction vehicles
these are a mishmash of random trucks we've collected over the years
you could use matchbox cars or anything else from around the house that might fit the theme

now all you have to do is set out the men at work sign and get playing!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

a tale of toothlessness

here's a pic of the mister on sunday afternoon with both his teeth still attached. they were pretty wiggly but not yet ready to come out.

here's a pic of the mister on sunday night after one of his teeth fell out while he was watching tv. the tooth fairy found her way to our condo and left him two dollars.

 here's a pic of the mister on monday afternoon. i started calling him mr. snaggletooth.

i wanted to call him nanny mcphee.

but i was afraid he wouldn't consider that quite as funny as i did.

here's a pic of the mister on monday night after his other tooth fell out. the tooth fairy came to our house in the city and left him another two dollars.

i thought the tooth fairy was generous. harrison wondered why the tooth fairy "always brings money and never leaves me a toy."


and that's the story of how two teeth were lost in two days and the tooth fairy visited two nights in a row and brought two dollars each time.

happy thursday!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

on marriage - a little more free therapy advice

remember the wedding scene in the princess bride when the priest says

mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. 
mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam... 

yeah. sometimes that arrangement doesn't feel so bwessed and dweam-wike, does it?

but, then, sometimes it does!

today in therapy jeremy finally had a breakthrough. it had to do with how he views work - the thoughts he tells himself about work. turns out, even though he's heard me beg him to stop working so much he believes he's not being a good provider unless he's working at a ridiculous level. i want to be careful not to tell his story because only he can do that, but i walked away from our appointment with this understanding: what jeremy and i are individually learning about ourselves is really the same thing. the way we think - our deeply held beliefs - shapes who we are and what we do. even if we are motivated to make changes in our lives, we won't see results until we can address the thoughts we have about our lives. 

powerful stuff. 

regarding jeremy's work, i'll tell you about my struggle. i gravitate toward thinking "he can't get home for dinner so he must not love me" or "he's working so late because he doesn't want to be around me" or "i can't compete with a computer" or "he's never home so i'm just done with him." feeling disconnected, feeling unloved, feeling jealous, feeling resentful...those are the feelings that result from the out of control thoughts in my head.

but if i tell myself, "he's really working late tonight, he must be having trouble with a project" or "i know he would rather be home with us, what a bummer for him that he can't be" or "what can i do to help him get through this stressful day" or "let's make the most of the time he is home." feeling sympathetic, feeling supportive, feeling helpful, feeling like a team...these are the feelings that can come if i choose to have a positive outlook toward jeremy's work. 

his job isn't something i should be resentful of, it's a blessing for our family. the amount he works isn't something i need to rile against. rather, i need to be a support for him as grapples with finding work/life balance. 

we all have our things. our issues. our struggles. 

within marriage we can decided how we want to react toward our partner's things. 

will i choose to be a helper or a hurt-er?

i was texting with a friend this morning and passed along this little nugget of information...our therapist was not at all surprised to find jeremy and me in his office when graham (our youngest son) was age four, turning five. nor was he surprised to hear i had felt disconnected in our marriage for years. apparently this is incredible common!!!! according to him, with the birth of each child, the marriage goes through a valley. there might be a few highs and lows while you're in the valley, but you are still in a valley. it's not until about the time the child turns five that the marriage is out of the valley and on firmer ground. sadly, at that point many marriages turn into divorces because the disconnection that occurred in the valley was just too much to bear and the couple can't make their way back together again. 

interesting, isn't it? 

don't you wish someone had told you that before you had kids? like, really told you that. like, sat you down, looked you in the eyes and said, "protect your marriage with everything you've got because you're about to go through turmoil and you absolutely can make it to the other side but you've gotta fight, fight, fight for each other to get there!" 

but no one tells you that. 

thank god for counselors who welcome you to their offices and say, "guess what! you're not alone! lots of other married people feel exactly the same way!"

jeremy and i, though, are living proof that even if you aren't told in advance you can still come out the other side and actually know and love each other more! we started marriage counseling in september, we've been fighting for each other for five months and today he had an awesome breakthrough. it's a good, good feeling. 

it makes me smile almost as much as the wedding scene in the princess bride.


Monday, February 10, 2014

if i were wealthy...

if i had so much money that i didn't have to think about what i spent or how i spent it this is what i would do...

hire a personal chef - wouldn't it be lovely to not have to cook? or fetch snacks for children all day, every day? or meal plan? or grocery shop?

hire a massage therapist - wouldn't it be lovely to have someone at my beck and call who could work out the kinks in my shoulders?

hire a housekeeper - wouldn't it be lovely to never do laundry again? or clean bathrooms?

i would probably also see a psychologist every week (or at least every month) for the rest of my life.

some people might want a chauffeur. not me.
some people might like to hire a personal trainer. not me.
some people might enjoy a personal shopper or social secretary or an accountant. not me.

a chef, a housekeeper and a masseuse would make me a very happy woman.

who would you put on retainer if you were wealthy?

p.s. i would also really, really love to give lots of money away to people and organizations...and buy things for people just because i know they would love them and sponsor children...but that's another post for another time.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

playing RISK - an opportunity to create circles of communication

i'm not sure how it happened that i still don't know how to play the game risk. my dad and my godfather played it nearly every time we got together with them, which was most of those monday holidays - labor day, memorial day, presidents day. we lived closer to my godparents, larry and cindy, than to any of our relatives and we spent a great deal of time with them. they had kids similar ages to my brother and me; three girls - hannah, sarah and leah - so my poor brother was outnumbered four to one but he didn't seem to mind. my parents and the soderbergs were friends long before kids came along and their friendship is still strong today long after the kids have left. they are one of a handful of families who have left a forever imprint on my heart.

i loved spending those holidays with them. whether it was at our house or theirs the visit typically included a big pot of soup on the stove and loads of junk food to be grazed throughout the day, twizzlers and fig newtons are the two i remember the most. us kids would play, the moms would talk and the dads would challenge each other to a long game of risk.

it was always just what the dads did and i never had any interest in learning to play.

the first christmas after jeremy and i were married was an interesting one. when we were dating jeremy was very thoughtful and generous in choosing a gift for me. after we were married, however, he went out to shop on christmas eve and on christmas morning i opened five different packages, all board games. one of them was risk. my sweet husband was attempting thoughtfulness, thinking it would be fun to play games together, but i sightly less than impressed.

monopoly, yes.  
scrabble, okay.  
acquire, never heard of it.
clue, yes.  
risk, you gotta be kidding me.

over the years jeremy and i have played lots of monopoly. we love playing clue with his family (i always get to be miss scarlet and jer's mom is always mrs. white). jer's brother, zach, loves the game acquire - who knew?! but risk has set on the shelf untouched.

until harrison asked to play it.

 here they are "playing" risk at christmas time. yes, they are wearing their ski helmets.

risk is recommended for ages 12+ but one evening jeremy pulled the box off the shelf and "played" with the boys (they made up their own rules) and all three of them had a great time. i still never participated, though, until yesterday. and when i finally did play, do you know what i learned?

playing a higher level game with younger level or inexperienced players is an awesome therapy activity!

over the past year or so as we've been figuring out this thing called sensory processing disorder and how it affects our son and our family, if i had to pinpoint the ultimate lesson i learned from occupational therapists for connecting with kids - ANY kids, but certainly kids on the spectrum - it is this:

find out what they are interested in
whatever it is, do it with them
expand on it

harrison wanted to play risk with me last night.

i could have said "that game is too old for you" or "let's play a different game," but what i said instead was, "sure i'll play with you but i've never played before so you're going to have to show me how."

that was all it took - me, sitting on the floor with harrison, setting up the game he wanted to play and being (sometimes just acting) very uninformed about what to do.

i think it's safe to say i've never had more circles of communication with harrison than i did last night.

he loves teaching others. he loves being in control of a situation. he loves talking about facts, giving information, sharing concrete details.

i took those things i know about his personality and exploited the game of risk to get as much communication and interaction with him as i could. first i just played dumb and asked lots of questions. "wait a second, i don't get it, what am i supposed to do again?!" then i expand it to more open-ended questions, "i wonder what would happen if crossed this border?" then i expanded it to add emotion, "ah! no! i'm scared! don't shoot my men!" then i expanded it to role-playing and acting out what my little soldiers were doing, "you can't hide from me! i'll ride my horse across this desert to find you if i have to! but, oh, i'm so tired and i need some food and water..."

silly? yes, it feels so silly pretending to be an exhausted, parched infantry man.

but rewarding? yup. every time harrison responded to my questions, every time he looked me in the eyes, every time he laughed because i was acting so silly, every time he pretended to shoot his cannon and kill my troops, every bit of it was hugely, satisfyingly rewarding!

last night was a great reminder that my job isn't always to be the leader, the teacher, the one in charge. sometimes, most times, the best connection occurs when i follow my boys' lead and let them teach me a thing or two.

my dad is coming for a visit next weekend to spend president's day with us. i suppose we'll have to pull risk back off the shelf and let harrison teach him a new way - the best way! - to "play." making a big pot of soup and buying some junk food feels like a good idea too. :-)

Friday, February 7, 2014

a bit of free therapy advice for you

our psychologist said something to jeremy and me yesterday which i found so powerful:

an expectation 
is an offense 
waiting to happen

it doesn't matter what type of relationship, whether it's with my spouse, my children, my friends, my co-workers, my parents, my in-laws...

if i have unrealistic, unreasonable, or most often in my case unSPOKEN expectations...

i am setting everyone up for failure. 

in order to have fruitful relationships i must measure my own expectations. what are my children actually capable of in this situation? have i voiced my expectation to my husband? am i being realistic about so-and-so or such-and-such? 

avoiding the sometimes difficult work of asking tough questions (of myself), altering my expectations, letting go of unreasonable hopes and explaining my thoughts breeds frustration, impatience, anger and resentment.

this places the people i love in an impossible position, where they will never be able to meet my standards.

and i set myself up to be offended and disappointed.

conversely, if i can take a few moments to figure out if my expectations are realistic, reasonable and then explain my expectations (and discuss them, being open to adjusting them) i will put my loved ones in a position to succeed!

and i set myself up to encourage and support and praise...which creates an environment (a relationship) full of peace and joy and love.

expectations can be a very good thing.

but out of control expectations will bring disconnect every single time.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

a few things that just might warm your heart on this freezing cold morning

because it's thursday and because it's cold and because i'm cranky (being cold is making me really, really cranky) and because i need a laugh and because i thought you might need a little chuckle too...

here a few things this little mister has said or done recently that have made me smile...

graham on christmas morning, sporting his new swim goggles and aiming his new marshmallow shooter at me.

1) the other day i woke graham up from a nap. he yawned and stretched and looked up at me with dreamy eyes. i said "hi sweet boy. i love you. do you want to come downstairs and snuggle with me?" and he responded not with a declaration of his unending love for me but by saying "can i have some doritos?"

i love you. can i have some doritos. same thing.

2) two days ago after school harrison was acting quite grumpy (maybe the cold was making him cranky too?). he stomped up the stairs to his bedroom and played up there alone for a while. graham and i were playing a rousing game of candyland in the living room. i loudly said "i wonder what harrison is doing?" in an attempt to get harrison to respond and reconnect with us, to which graham said "oh he's just upstairs snouting." 

snouting. pouting. same thing.

graham occupying himself at the furniture store while i was selecting a couch for the condo. 

3) yesterday while he was trying unsuccessfully to make a pillow fort (the pillows kept falling over) he came over to me and asked, "mommy, can you help me get switcherated?"

switcherated. situated. same thing.

graham occupying himself while waiting for his turn to be fitted for new skis and boots.

last but not least...

4) the other day graham went potty and came out of the bathroom without washing his hands. i told him "go wash your hands with soap and water." graham sighed, turned around, walked back to the bathroom, closed and locked the door and then i heard "shhhhhhhhhhh. glug glug glug. shhhhhhhhh. gurgle gurgle."

soap and water. making soap and water NOISES with your mouth. same thing.

happy thursday, friends!