Mission Statement

We are a people who tell stories in one form or another.
After all isn't blogging just another way to gather around and tell those stories?

Motherhood is Painless is about finding the humor in the every day. In finding the happiness in those stories that we tell. What would happen if we *all* learned to laugh at ourselves? Maybe then the dark corners would recede a bit and we would all rejoice at the love we find there.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Catching Up

Now that the holidays are well and far behind us, I can start to think about other things.

I could tell you so much - but where to begin?

I'm reeling. It's been a long, nutty of a month. Both kids had lice, and I spent days and days, washing things, vacuuming other things and generally being a boss about it. Thanks be to God that we've seen the end of that.

I could tell you about the uptick in Dave's travel schedule. Seriously, I should dedicate some time to that one. He's been home one full week since the holidays. He's never gone the whole five days of a work week.

I'm worried about the long-term toll that having a traveling dad is having on our family. We both hate that he can't be involved as much as he'd like to be. The kids are confused. They become so accustomed to just relying on me, that when he is here, they bypass him for me. It hurts him so much when they walk by him, and head for me. And I hate that I feel like the linchpin holding the family together. I hate that there seem to be an ever evolving set of rules for "Mom's Time and "Mom and Dad time."

I've wanted to talk about it for so long, but when I try, I feel like I'm whining. Give me time to sort it out.

It's Sunday, the kids are playing Minecraft, and I'm taking a moment to stop and breathe.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Back in the swing

Now that we've settled all of that, I needed some space. I needed to get the words I wrote out into the universe.

Ben is still Ben. Some days are great, and some are downright awful. And that will always be there.

Winter has been slow in coming. It's warm and rainy today. A year ago, there was snow, and cold. On the one hand, it doesn't feel like Christmas is a a week away. But, on the other, it's really fantastic to have so many opportunities to play outside.

I wish I had more to say, but I don't. So Happy Holidays everyone.
God bless us every one.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Boy - Part Five, or The End of the Beginning

Thank you all so much for sticking through this. I promise, after today we will be up to date. (In case you're new here: One, Two ThreeFour.)

First Grade. We made it.

When the year started, I wanted things to start off on the right foot with Ben’s new teacher. I wrote a long letter to Mrs. P, and let her know the issues that we were facing with him. I explained about the ADD diagnoses, and that we were trying our best to treat him without medication. I took the time to sit down with her and talk to her. She is amazing. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. She’s made as many accommodations as possible for him in the classroom. She’s gotten a wiggle cushion for him, allows him to use pencils with grippers and fidgets. She’s even set aside space for him to work quietly or stand, if that helps him focus. 

Basically, she gets Ben.

Most days it’s a game - what works for Ben. I mean, let’s face it, there is a huge gray area of what the typical six year-old is going to want to focus on, and what the ADD brain is going to do. Ben lives in that space.

But now it’s November, and time to get serious. We’ve completed the first marking period, and his grades reflect his inability to sit and focus.

So, we have submitted paperwork for his first ever IEP. For those of you who are learning this along with me, an IEP is an Individualized Education Plan, and comes after a range of meetings. We had our final meeting on Friday and we found out what services Ben will be eligible for at school.

Ben will get twice--weekly sessions with the school occupational therapist, to help him address the attention issues and some of the fine-motor challenges. I hope there will be more. He can keep all the accommodations that have been made for him in the classroom. He can have extra time to complete tests if he needs it. They have also requested that a physical therapist evaluate him to see if he needs PT as well.

Lastly, we have a list of things to tackle at home. He has trouble with executive function, and needs to be guided along to learn how to break down tasks and transition from one activity to another.

In all of this I am so grateful for the support that I’ve found. From family offering their love and willingness to learn; to friends sharing their experience; to all of you reading - thank you, from the very bottom of my heart.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Boy - Part Four

Read Part One, Two, Three

So, there we were managing the best we could with the tools we had. A great deal of what we did was based on the fact that boys are still fundamentally different than girls, and that Ben is relatively young. His birthday is in September, which puts him behind the curve when compared to kids that were born in January and the rest of the first half of the year.

As the school year went on, we began to notice a few patterns start to emerge. If it was a week when my husband traveled, we could expect Ben to be much less agreeable than the weeks when the family was together. And the wiggle factor was HUGE. Days where the class had recess or gym, or days when we could get outside and play, were guaranteed to be better.

Ben still had trouble sitting in school - both in terms of sitting still as long as was required of him, and in terms of sitting properly. He has a lot of trouble sitting “criss-cross applesauce” style. So if he has to sit that way, he’s way more likely to fidget.

When the second report card came, and I met with his teacher, we were beginning to realize that Ben had more going on than just immaturity. She recommended that we start the process of getting him evaluated, so that he could start receiving therapy at school. Given my husband’s own history, we agreed. Now we could get some answers.

We made appointments and pulled Ben from school for three days at the end of May. Before that happened, my husband and I sat with the neuropsychologists ourselves, filled out paperwork and answered our own set of questions. Everything dating back to “What was your pregnancy like?” was taken into consideration.

And then Ben’s part. He sat with them for nine hours, broken up over three days. I was astonished at how well he did. Lastly, the therapist came to his class to observe him there.

Then she delivered her report.
Ben has Attention Deficit Disorder, with hyperactivity, or ADHD (depending on who you’re talking to.) He’s also extremely bright, but has a word recall delay (meaning, he has trouble thinking of a word from time to time) AND he has sensory-seeking behaviors.

Nothing surprised me. I’d suspected he had ADD all along, the other parts were interesting. And even better, now that we had names for what was going on in his head, we could start helping him.

By that point, it was summer, and we couldn’t get any help for him at school. So, I found a fantastic OT for him that we saw all summer long. Claudia was sweet, capable and helped him in so many ways. She taught him some coping strategies and gave us some tools to add to his “sensory diet.” We have a yoga ball, and a climbing bar for the apartment. My mother-in-law helped to - showing us some deep tissue massage techniques that calm him when he’s starting to go haywire.

A bit more about that climbing bar. I cannot recommend the Gorilla Gym enough. It is a chin-up bar that braces into a door frame. In addition, it has a swing, trapeze, rope ladder, set of rings and a climbing rope that all attach to it with carabiners.

One of the most effective activities for Ben is swinging. Having that tool in the apartment has been a life saver.

And that was summer.
First grade was on the horizon and things for Ben were going to change. But that, my friends, is a story for another day.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Boy - Part Three

Read Part One Here
Read Part Two Here

I’ve been writing a series of posts about our son, Ben.
In the last year, we’ve been taking steps to get him diagnosed with ADD with hyperactivity, or ADHD, as well as with some sensory issues. I’ve wanted to get this narrative down on paper, for my own memory’s sake, and so that in the future, someone else can see what it takes. I was lucky, I have lots of resources on my side - above and beyond what the typical family might have. My mother-in-law is a trained pediatric occupational therapist, who had her clinical eye on both kids from the beginning. I’ve also been blessed with friends who have kids who have already gone thorugh the testing and evaluation process in our city.

One in particular, E, stands out for basically holding my hand and kicking me in the ass to get this started for Ben. She told me at one point last year “It’s scary now, because you are standing looking at the deep end. But once you jump, there are so many people to help you and catch you when you fall.”

It’s my hope that by writing this all down, I can help some other nervous parent who doesn’t want to “label” their kid with something negative.

Anyhow - back to where we left off.
Ben was slated to start kindergarten in the same, fantastic-if-overcrowded public school that our daughter attends. It is HUGE. 1,500 kids, with five kindergarten classes of 25 kids. And while it appears daunting from the outside, I’ve never once felt overwhelmed by it.

Kindergarted started, and I was thrilled to find out that he was placed in the same classroom that my daughter had been assigned, two years earlier. Mrs. B was a lovely woman, and a great teacher. Claire had thrived there. I hoped that Ben would do the same.

Everything started out fine - he’s an active kid, and I knew that he would have some problems. What I wasn’t anticipating was the trouble he’d have once the novelty wore off. I still remember sitting at his first parent-teacher conference. It was November, and I’d already spoken to the teacher at pickup a few times. “Ben is nothing like Claire,” she said.

Of course not, Claire is pretty neurotypical. She’s a classic type-A kid. She wants to excell at everything she does. She fits seamlessly into the average American test-driven classroom.

So from that moment onward, Mrs. B and I started working on some plans to help Ben adjust to kindergarten life. We got special pencils, and grippers for him to help him write. At home, he could take a short break in between homwork assignments. We set up a chart for good behavior, both at school and at home.

It was a lot to take in - especially since my daughter never needed any of those. And, like with so many other things, it started to get better.

It wasn’t easy every day. In fact, there were more days that were harder than before. Some things worked, and some things didn’t. And some things we kept at, with dogged devotion, until we could find something better.

But we quickly realized that a few factors came in to play like clockwork:
  • Food is HUGE. If we want the best possible behavior from the kids (or me, for that matter) a high-protein, low carb food is of the essence.
  • Lots of high-impact exercise is required. My mother-in-law, the OT, calls this “heavy work.”  Swinging on the swings, climbing anything and everything you can, jumping from a play structure? Bring. It. On. I’m pretty convinced by now that most of the moms at the park must think I am a neglectful mom for letting them climb and jump like crazy monkeys. Trust me, Judgy Mom, this is better than the alternative of having him attempt to jump from the top of the bunk beds later on.
  • Positive responses work a million times better than punishments. Time out only serves to rev up his engines and send him into a tantrum.

Things were falling into place a little at a time, but there was more to come.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Boy - Part Two

Read Part One here

So there we were - Ben was starting school. For a September baby, who wasn’t really even potty trained before he started, he was amazing. For three hours a day, five days a week, he played, did art projects and sang songs. He was charming, smart and capable. We loved his preschool teachers, and he found friends among the kids in his class.

Things were going well.

Around mid-year, we took Ben to an orthopedist, because we had noticed that he was still falling down. A lot. Whenever the kid would run, his knees would go all over the place, and before long he would trip on his own feet and tumble over. “I’M OK!!” was a common refrain. But, according to the doctor, he was a little double jointed, and either he would grow out of it, or he’d be good at gymnastics or track and field in the future.

During all of this, my mother-in-law (a trained pediatric occupational therapist) was taking her own notes and letting us know what was going on. She noticed that he sat with his legs in a “W” rather than the more common “criss-cross applesauce.” But he remained cheerful, happy-go-lucky BenBen and life was good.

Finally, prekindergarten started. He had just turned four, and the school year started well. He had a nice class, was making friends. He started in a half-day program, and did reasonably well. His teachers said that he was bright and friendly, but I noticed little things. By and by, I saw that other kids were starting to write their names, or draw more detailed pictures. Nothing fancy, but I noticed things. Half-way through the year, the school launched a pilot program, and extended the PreK day to five hours.

Slowly things started to change. It was much harder to get Ben to go to school, and several times, the teachers came to me at pickup time, telling me that he hadn’t been paying attention for some part of the lesson. Still, nothing was outside the expectations of what a “normal” kid would be capable of at that age, or if there were problems they could be chalked up to his being relatively young for his class. (In New York City, the age cutoff for school ages is December 31.)

At home, things were changing as well. While Ben would be as well-behaved as any four year-old could manage while out in the world, he was starting to have other problems at home. He had tantrums, throwing himself to the floor and screaming when things did not go his way. He would threaten to hit. Sometimes he *would* hit, in fact. He was getting pickier about food, about clothing, only wanting to eat carbs or wear certain styles of shirt. He once complained to me that the sheets on his bed were “too bright.”

My mother-in-law was helpful, and suggested that we take him to a developmental pediatrician. In retrospect, I should have done it. I wonder now how much would have changed for Ben and how much sooner, if we had taken her advice at face value.

But, at the end of the year, Ben had done well, and was ready for kindergarten.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Boy - Part One

I'm not sure how to write about this yet. Some of it seems so simple, that there are answers to the questions that we've had for a while. But it's my kid, and my heart; and it's not simple. Even when it is.

And by talking about what's going on with my kids, I'm doing only that. Not passing judgement on what you do with your kid, or comparing them to anyone else.

Ben was a sweet baby. He was born smiling, and stayed easy. He took naps! He nursed well, and would take a bottle when he needed to.  He would allow himself to be held, but would play on a blanket.

As a toddler he was so sweet - walking and talking. School started. Ben started to change. Little by little, what had once been easy started getting more difficult. It was only the beginning.