Arrival Stories

Recently my youngest turned six and I started to remember what we went through when he entered into the world. First let me go back to my oldest.

Mr. E was born 3 days past188778_1004330969071_6066651_nhis due date. Labor came on naturally and we had to time it just right to reach the hospital if we wanted to be there for the birth. Travel to the nearest hospital required a one-hour ferry ride and a good thirty minutes of combined driving. We had a midwife we were working with and as labor progressed we stayed in touch and made our plans. We were all set to take the first ferry in the morning. Knowing I might not eat for a while, my dear sweetie made me a healthy breakfast to keep me going. I managed to keep it down until we were in line waiting to take our ferry. Contractions were less than 5 minutes apart and we still have a good hour before reaching the hospital. Each contraction caused me to heave. The midwife arranged with us to meet on the ferry and do a quick exam in the restroom. Oh so glorious that exam! I still ride on that boat on occasion and every single time I have flashbacks. I waddle into the handicap stall and drop my pants and put one foot up on the toilet while midwife is poking around. Apparently, labor was further along than expected and there was a risk of the birth happening before the ferry would arrive on the other side. Not a desired event, the midwife has me walk off the ferry and wait while she heads into a small shop to find a phone. She starts calling around looking for a pilot willing to fly us over rather than use the ferry. Meanwhile the hubs had to stay with the car and the ferry workers have to pull the boat out and turn it around so he can drive back off and get me to the airport. While I’m standing there waiting for the car my bladder blessed the birth. At first wondered if my water had broken but no, I peed myself. A pilot is found, the car is off the boat and the midwife is getting her car off as well. We drive the 20 minutes to the airport. It’s dark, cold and raining. I almost refused to get into the plane after seeing it. It was older and the access required me climbing up onto the wing and then into the back. I managed to do it. The flight was uneventful and we got the hospital without any issues. I couldn’t stop heaving so I went for the drugs. Labor just about stopped. We finally had him that evening. All healthy and everything went well. All through my pregnancy I felt great. No major issues. No cravings. I kept saying that I had wished I had a story to share but then I thought OK the birth was a story!

Then came time for Mr. C to arrive. His due date was around the holidays so we wanted to be prepared in case we needed a flight off again. Turns out it was almost impossible to find someone willing to fly a laboring woman off around the holidays. Due to this, I was nervous and we decided to induce labor. It was only about three days prior to the estimated due date so it was safe. Again I had a great pregnancy. I had only about two weeks of “morning sickness” which was extreme, but then it was gone. Nothing of note. Healthy pregnancy, health baby on the way.

Induction starts, and labor hit fast. I was already partly dilated so my body was already prepared for the process. I was not prepared for the contractions to be constant. For one to start again as one tapered off. It was intense! After 8 hours start to finish we had another beautiful baby boy in our family. That’s when the “story” started. My husband kept friends and family posted on things and his words are wonderful. The following is the story from his point of view, only edited for privacy issues.

“December 31: Labor and delivery were perfect but, about 10 minutes after he was born, it was noticed that he wasn’t getting pink like he should have been. His lungs were clear and sounding good but his heart was racing at 200 beats/min and his oxygen was around 50% instead of 98% like it should have been.
It was decided to send him via helicopter to [the] Children’s Hospital where specialist could provide better care.
Brianna had to stay in the hospital to recover so, my dad and I drove [and arrived] at 1:00 am. We stayed overnight here in one of the family sleeping rooms.
C arrived around 2:30am and, this morning, the doctors told us that he has a pronounced murmur in his heart but, it’s not due to congenital heart disease or any structural defect as was initially thought. The problem is that one side of his heart is not functioning as it should. They have no ideas yet as to why and I’m not going to speculate. We expect to hear more later today.
Brianna is now on her way here with her sister. She is fine physically, though we’re all a little ragged emotionally.

This evening C is doing much better. The doctors removed his respirator this afternoon, replacing it with an oxygen tube that goes under the nose, and they removed that this evening. So, he’s breathing room air on his own now which is a huge advancement. His vital signs are in the normal range for now and it’s a relief to now hear alarms going off all the time. Many of the monitoring devices were removed this evening too and he’s being given nutrients and vitamins intravenously. We’re very happy about that because, until now, he’s never had any nourishment and he’s been very, very unhappy. Though he’s not allowed to eat anything, he’s quiet and sleeping right now, likely because he’s not so hungry. (He’s
not allowed to nurse because eating and digesting are very energy-intensive and the doctors don’t want any extra load on his heart.)

We’re still waiting for lab results on liver-function and checking for viral infections so, we’ll likely be here through the weekend.

Jan. 2: Today was a pretty good day. C was allowed to nurse today which was a relief to us all. He’s off of his blood pressure meds as well as the nutritional IV – he gets all his food from Mom now. Tomorrow, he may get transferred out of the NICU into the complex care unit. That means that he gets to sleep in a crib and we get to sleep in the room with him. We’re still going to be here through the weekend since several of the tests won’t be ready until Monday. They are also waiting on lab work from the hospital he was born in. He has gained an ounce since he was born with is wonderful. However, he’s starting to look a little jaundiced which is worrisome – they’ll evaluate that later. Also, he still has unequal blood pressure between the upper and lower parts of his body. But his toes and fingers are warmer which is a good sign.

Today C got moved out of the NICU into an isolation room. The room is still part of the NICU but it means that they feel he’s doing better. We’re under the supervision of the cardiology department now.
He’s not sick with one of the viruses they suspected would cause heart trouble. But, were in this room because they are still waiting for the rest of the infectious diseases tests to come back. He’s still jaundiced and is just on the edge of needing treatment for that. They will run tests tomorrow to see if he’s improved. We *may* be able to go home tomorrow but it is still uncertain. There are some tests that haven’t come back and may not until after we come home. I just hope that they release us in enough time to catch the last ferry at least. Once nice little perk we have now is that we can sleep in the room with C. We’re happy about that.

Jan 3: Great news. The cardiologist came in this morning and, after listening to C’s heart, told us that he could see no reason why we couldn’t go home today. His jaundice is better and no longer an issue and all the test and exams show that his heart is improving spontaneously – something that they don’t know why. Granted, we have to come back in a month for a follow-up and he need to be monitored by his pediatrician, but for all intents and purposes, he’s healthy enough to go home! This is a long way from the terrifying drive to the hospital while he rode in a helicopter.

Just an update… we’re actually not going to make it home tonight. C’s bilirubin count was 17 and its borderline for a newborn so they want to put in under photo-light treatment to help bring that number down so that his jaundice goes away. Since early this morning we’ve been told that we’ll be able to go home today, even his cardiologist said that he saw no reason to hold us. So, needless to say, we’re very disappointed. He could have gone home today but we’d have to guarantee that he could see his 1503819_10202175960681009_2650196014873508181_npediatrician tomorrow (can’t check on a Sunday) and, if his levels were high, come back here right away. Since we have to deal with ferries, we elected to stay, rather than deal with two extra 4+ hour trips.
We’ll be here one more night and, this time, we’re not going to believe that we’re going home until we start signing papers.

Jan. 4: We get to go home today! The attending cardiologist did a final check and gave us her blessing.
I signed the papers and am about to take bags to the car. Couldn’t be happier.”

I love that the hubs kept everyone in the loop and we had an amazing outpouring of love, support and help. I know many parents have a story. This was ours. Today C is a healthy happy ‘quirky kid’ full of strength and energy. What we went through was rough, and I know of those who have had it worse, but I am grateful each day that he fought through. I love my boys and despite the ‘issues’ we are facing with them; I wouldn’t trade it for anything. These boys are so special!


“Hello. It’s Me”

By now most of us are very familiar with Adele’s huge hit “Hello.” While this song is supposedly about healing old wounds from a bad breakup, I think it’s a fitting song for me, talking to my younger self. If you are not familiar with her song you can listen and watch it on YouTube here. Fair warning, you will get it stuck in your head for a long time. Personally, I love this song, I love her voice, I often blast it at top volume pretending that I can sing just as well.

Just some of her lyrics include:

“They say that time’s supposed to heal ya
But I ain’t done much healing”

“There’s such a difference between us
And a million miles”

“Hello from the other side (other side)
I must’ve called a thousand times (thousand times)
To tell you I’m sorry
For everything that I’ve done
But when I call you never
Seem to be home”

I had planned to write about the trials we go through raising our quirky kids, but an unexpected part of that is the effect on me, the primary caregiver. I know that most people change, often dramatically, once they have children. That’s not news. What surprises me though, and what might be news to some, is how much you change when you have a quirky kid or, in our instance, two.

When we were first married, I was the outgoing, active, young thing that loved adventure and having fun. I hated spending nights in. I preferred going out and “doing” something. My dear husband? The total opposite. He preferred quiet evenings in; fewer people, fewer busy things. We balanced each other out well. Things started to change when we had kids (as it does). We were normal, new parents. We loved our little one but, we were tired (make that exhausted), and over our heads with the “new.” We would jump at a chance to get a break.

Had we been looking, we may have noticed the early signs and symptoms that eventually lead us down the path to E’s ASD diagnosis but, the truth is, we didn’t. With no experience, we figured that we were just parents of a picky, non-sleeper. As he grew, he was just a very bright child. Then we had another kid and he was dramatically different from the first. But we were still tired. We changed again to adapt.

Now E is 8, and C is 6 and I have to take a step back and look at who I have become. I am a mother, wife, and so much more, but one title I didn’t expect to have was caregiver. Once you become the parent of a quirky kid, I, personally, feel like you can call yourself a caregiver. They take so very much extra from you.

In those rare, brief moments of calm and peace, I look at myself and think, “Who are you?” The creative, artistic me is buried deep down inside. I never have time to create like I used to, or the patience to try creating what with the activity and noise that follows my children. I’m tired, worn out, often depressed, and could easily become a hermit just for the peace and quiet that comes with it. A dramatic change from the younger me.

Now I’m in my mid-30s, the primary caregiver to our kids, and a lot is sitting on my shoulders to take care of. I have become the glue that holds our family together. I keep track of the multitude of appointments, likes, dislikes, and skills we are learning in order to cope and help our children. My days are full of stress, and it’s taking its toll.

I am not who I once was but, what’s even worse, is remembering that I used to say that I felt good, most of the time. Now, I rarely put myself at the top of the list. This I am learning, is a major no-no. What happens when I get really sick? Things don’t get done. Things get forgotten. Things fall apart. Don’t get me wrong: the hubs is amazing. He does his best and steps up to the plate, but it’s not the same. He knows what I deal with, what I do, but he doesn’t “know.” He is the breadwinner and I am the homemaker/caregiver. It is two very different jobs and, while he can fill in, to me, he doesn’t have the qualifications to keep the job long-term without extensive training. Maybe it sounds mean, but I am the one that has found the doctors, researched the issues, implemented the tactics, and then told him. I could never even fill in for him at his job. At least he can do that for me. He is a hero to me. Picks up the slack when I just can’t do it anymore. He encourages me. He supports me even when I’m not at my best.

Lately, I have not been at my best. I have had years of struggle with health issues of the womanly variety. Usually not something I like to talk about, but it is now very important to me. “After all, if you haven’t go your health, you haven’t got anything!”

The final straw was in this past year, having a never ending “cycle.” Most women have a phase of “PMS” and then the bleeding. Mine cycle never stopped. If I wasn’t bleeding, I was in a never ending loop of PMS symptoms. Think Bruce Banner and the Hulk. “I’m always angry.”

I have had trouble with weight, acne, lots of hair growth (where it shouldn’t be). Think Austin Powers. “She is rather man-ish.”

No, in all seriousness it’s been bad. I sometimes didn’t even recognize or like myself. Finally, I took matters into my own hands and went to the doctor. I mean how can I raise my children to be polite and respectful and find joy in life when I’m always angry and irrational? I was referred to a doctor. He was old school and horrible to me. Told me I was just being emotional and needed birth control. After making me wait over an hour past my appointment time, he gave me maybe 10 minutes and didn’t listen to anything I had to say, any of my concerns. I admit, I was emotional but, there was no excuse for his attitude towards me. I left feeling even worse emotionally and very, very discouraged.

I requested another referral and, what a difference! This doctor listened and seems to care. He ordered blood work and even an ultrasound to make sure he treated me the correct way. Blood work was easily done. The ultrasound, a fun side story.

The word ultrasound, always brings forth images of babies and happy, happy, joy, joy. This was not that. This was a “Do I know you?!” kind of appointment!

I didn’t get the technicians number, but I did take myself out to eat after and made a great date for myself!

All this comes down to the fact that I have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (aka PCOS) It’s not an end of the world kind of thing, but it explains so much of what I’ve been dealing with. It’s fascinating to me that I probably have had it for all of my adult life and, several of my family member may also have this, all undiagnosed. It requires a lifestyle change to the point that I need to become more active and eat better. All very difficult with the kind of family we have. But, if I can lose even 5% of my current weight, I can improve my symptoms. I also have to take medication but, all doable things! Once again I can feel like me. Rejoice!

A month into treatment, I’m still Bruce Banner, but less often. I’m still man-ish but working on it. The past few days have been a roller-coaster of emotions and feelings. My dear, sweet hubby reminded me that it’s my hormones flushing out. Fat stores hormones. As I lose fat, the hormones get flushed out and cause the hulk-like behavior. Thank goodness I have a patient and forgiving husband to stand by me.

Now, I can look forward to saying, “hello,” to my former self, and remember some of the things that I enjoyed, and add them back to the me that I am now. I’m not all that sorry for the changes I’ve gone through. I am a more rounded and balanced person but, I will welcome back some of the personality that got suppressed. I think it will help keep me sane on insane days, and remind me to take good care of myself as I am needed to care for others.

Hello. It’s Me.

Adventures with Chickens Part Deux – Timing

Timing of things is always important: if you don’t time something that you’re baking, it won’t end well; if you have a sassy comeback to a stupid comment, you usually don’t think of it in time; catching your dog in the act of wrongdoing so that you can scold them properly is always difficult. All these things require proper timing.

Something that didn’t occur to me was timing in regards to our chickens and their chicks practicing their flying skills.

Recently, they have decided that their enclosure is just not good enough, and have been “flying the coop,” so to speak. The coop itself is fully enclosed with a door that we prop open during the day so that they can go in and out and have a bit of yard to explore. That yard area, in turn, is fenced off with a short-ish fence (designed and executed by myself), simply to keep the dog from eating their poop (dogs are gross). Now however, they have learned that they can fly over it. Time to raise the height. Of course our timing is off.

The past weekend, our area was hit with major wind storms. Warmer air, little to no rain but wind that makes you feel like you’re trying to stand on a flatbed truck doing figure eights down the freeway! Okay, maybe not, but the weather reports said gusts up to 60 miles per hour but our home is in a valley between two mountains so the wind gets accelerated when it blows so we always get stronger winds.

We are fairly faithful at letting the chickens out every day. It’s good for them and keeps them happy. So last weekend, we did as we always do and let them out and propped the coop door open. Then went about our business. Twilight falls and it’s time to put them away, so that we avoid another run-in with raccoons. My dear, sweet hubby took pity on me and went out in the wind storm to take care of this, only to come back and tell me that two are missing.

What??? I sigh and launch into action. “I’ll go look,” I say figuring he had somehow just missed them. I know better but, somehow, I feel like things always fall on me to find, even if it’s right in front of someone’s face.

So out I go with a flashlight in one hand and mealworms in another. I’ve already sort of trained them to come when I shake the bag of mealworms. It’s their treat of choice. I wander around the entire yard – all 1.5 acres of it; even inspecting the kid’s playset. Nothing. No evidence of an attack. No feathers. Just “poof!” they’re gone.

We have concluded that they decided to practice flying over the fence to explore the “greener grass on the other side” and got caught in a wind gust. They may have survived and are doing quite well or, they could already have been someone’s meal. We will likely never know.

Now we’re down to three chickens, all because of bad timing.

Bye-Bye Sunlight and Mama Hen.

Mama and Sunlight

It’s Not Autism.

To a parent of a “Quirky Kid,” those words can be a huge relief, knowing that something has been taken out of the equation. A weight has lifted off your shoulders because you know that it’s not this one thing. By contrast, it can bring another type of stress and emotion to the table. It’s great that it’s not this but, it’s something else. Now you have a bunch of referrals to other specialists so that you can narrow down just what you are dealing with. By this point you are emotional. You want to cry because you are happy that it’s not autism or, maybe, you want to cry because, wouldn’t it be easier if it was? At least you’d know the enemy that you’re facing. “Better the enemy you know, than the one you don’t.”

As mentioned before, we have two beautiful, brilliant children. Our oldest son deals with High Functioning Autism (ASD), which unfortunately took until he was six or seven years of age to diagnose. Now at almost nine years-old, we are managing things better than ever before, despite the “downs” that always come with the “ups,” and continue on our educational journey with him.

Our youngest son has been high-maintenance for a while, but not out of the scope of “normal.” We did our research, knew that there was a chance he could be facing similar issues as his brother, and so we wait and watch. We (myself more than the hubby) watch like hawks for signs, symptoms, indications that might mean something. Does he have autism? Should we worry? What struggles is he going to face?

I know every parent spends more than a little time worrying about their children’s health. Maybe it’s before they are born, worrying that they develop properly. Maybe they’ve gotten sick for the first time with something really bad. You worry; it’s in the job description. I tend to be “blessed” with an overabundance of worry. I am a worry-wart. I know better but, there it is. My mother-in-law, many years ago, gave her husband a little cross-stitched plaque that says, “Worry is like a fast getaway on a wooden horse.” I love that. It’s brilliant and simple. Worry gets you nowhere while using up your energy. Still, I tend to worry more than I should. That being said, I think that when a parent’s child has an issue of any sort (ours having ASD for example), that makes you prone to worry about the other children you have.

In our life, E was diagnosed later than most. We have dealt with guilt over not seeing the signs sooner, not getting help sooner, feeling that we did something to cause it… and the list goes on. Now we are facing issues with child #2 and every little detail about their achievements, or lack thereof, is scrutinized. Oh, he knows his alphabet before all the other kids in his preschool class. Should I worry? Look! he’s writing his name but doesn’t want us to know. He hides his intelligence. Is this an indication of a problem? He’s doing advanced math in his head, just like his brother. Should I worry? He’s doing this or that, should I worry? It’s really unfair to both the child and the parents. We are at a disadvantage. We have no knowledge of what having an average child is like so, we have no way to determine if C has issues or not. Everything is filtered through the lens of our experience the needs of our first “quirky” child. However, there are times when the scrutiny pays off. You may catch wind of an issue before it gets out of control.

About a year ago, we decided to see if we should do the ASD assessments to see if C was also affected. At the time, the professionals didn’t feel like he qualified to be assessed but wanted to do a follow-up in a year. Recently, we went in for this follow-up. He, again, didn’t qualify for the autism assessments. However, the doctor did agree that we could use some help in figuring out his “quirks.” She had a “no duh” type comment with considering sensory processing issues and recommended an Occupational Therapy Evaluation. Due to the fact that he almost never answers direct questions, a Speech Therapy Evaluation was recommended. Now we move on to his toe-walking. He has been wearing (or at least he is supposed to be wearing) foot braces at night when he sleeps and a different pair for the daytime. These are supposed to prevent his foot from going up on his toes, and train him to walk flat-footed. He doesn’t wear them often, the nighttime ones make him too hot and the daytime ones prevent him from running, skipping and jumping, which he lives for. He still walks and stands mostly on his toes, so we are referred to a Physical Therapist who will better evaluate if the braces are enough or if we need to try serial castings, or even surgery to help him walk flat and avoid any growth development issues as he gets older. It was also recommended that we see a psychologist to get an official ADHD diagnosis and to learn about the best way to help him cope with that, as well as getting an extensive IQ test done that might help to pull out which processing functions he may be struggling with. There is suspicion that, while he is a very brilliant child, he gets frustrated and confused when trying to voice what he is thinking; which could be why he get frustrated when trying to explain something and gives up, or never wants to answer questions.

It’s almost an overwhelming amount of knowledge to take in. There is a huge ball of emotion that is now in my lap. I’m happy that we don’t have another child having to deal with ASD. Or at least I should be. I almost wish it was ASD. Then we’d have an answer that we know how to provide help for; a step down the right path. Instead, we have more questions, with only one question off the table.

It’s not Autism, but it is something.

Adventures in Chicken Farming


A little over a year ago, I finally convinced my hubby to build me a chicken coop and let me raise chickens. “It’s a great teaching experience for the kids,” “We can have fresh eggs.” Finally, we get the coop made, and our neighbors offer us free chickens out of their abundance. Now, I’m familiar with chickens, I mean, I know what they look like, I know they lay eggs of different colors depending on the breeds and I know how to cook and eat chicken bought from the store. That is essentially the extent of my knowledge. I’m basically taking this on like a crash course; Sink or swim. I’m over the moon.

We get our three free hens (at least we’re all pretty sure they are hens, but one may be a rooster. Thankfully, they all were hens). It took 9 months for them to mature enough to start laying eggs. Then after about two months and, maybe, 3 dozen eggs, they start turning “broody.” Basically, what that means is that they stop laying more eggs and just sit in the nest all day trying to hatch the eggs they already have. They do this even if we collect the eggs every morning and afternoon.

Doing some research, I found ways to try to “break” them out of this cycle. Nothing seemed to work, or it would work but, a week later, they’d go right back to being broody. Finally, at the end of summer, we adopted a beautiful rooster and allowed him to do his thing, which in turn would allow the hens’ now- fertilized eggs to hatch and, hopefully, stop this behavior of theirs for good, since they’d be raising chicks. Really it was just one hen that kept doing it, but then the other two copied her.

We allowed our hen to sit on a “clutch” or group of 6 eggs. She hatched one and lost interest in the others. This worked out okay, because one of the other girls turned broody. So we moved the remaining 5 eggs under her. One got broken and was disposed of. Over the next week or so, one disappeared into the aether. It just… vanished. No traces were found. I did some reading on what could have happened. Might have been a rat or, mama stepped on it, broke it and ate it. Nice! Down to 3 eggs and one more hatched. The other 2 turned out to be duds. Meanwhile, hen #3 drops dead out of nowhere. Not sure what happened. She was fine and then, a few hours later, dead. Did some more research (I do a lot of internet searching it seems). It might have been a heart attack but, sometimes, they just die. Sad but, moving on because we have two new chicks to care for. Each hen has a baby.

They are adorable. I love babies. Anything baby and I’m a goner. I’m still learning the ropes but I find it so easy to let nature take its course and let the hens do the work of raising the chicks. It’s a funny dynamic because they are so protective of their young, even pecking at their chick if they spend time too close to the other mama.

Now, we live in a mostly rural area, and have some predators to watch for. We had to enclose the coop on all sides, including a roof and making sure animals couldn’t dig down and under as well. For the first few months, I was religious about spending time with my hens, talking to them, getting them to eat out of my hand and of course locking them up at night in the coop.

After getting our dog, Jack, we ended up enclosing a portion of the yard just for the hens. Jack likes to “play” with the hens but is too rough and loves to snack on the droppings (Dogs can be so gross!). So the hens now have a “run” or play-yard to walk about in during the day and, with the rooster, I got a lot lazier about watching them. I even started leaving the coop door open at night because I knew that the rooster would protect them. One or two nights after his arrival he proved just that and dispatched a rat that came in. So, I get caught up in my kids, dog and daily living and become less of a nut over my “girls.”

Then one night a raccoon discovered the open door. Boy did the rooster make a racket. I ran outside, in the dark, in my nightgown and work boots flashlight in hand, hooting and hollering like a mad woman. It must have been quite the sight! The coon ran off and I found Mr. Roo passed out on his back, feet in the air. I thought he was dead! As I get near and crouch down to examine him, he popped up and ran from me. Scared me to death! I must have jumped a foot. I chased him down and looked him over. A scratch here and there, a bite mark on his comb, but mostly fine. I was so happy to have saved him. Lesson learned! I now close the coop up tight as soon as it gets dark.

Then one-day last week, the hubs was home before me and tasked with closing the door. He of course, distracted by managing dinner and the kids, forgot. Sure enough, the coon came back. Hearing the racket, we both ran outside with flashlights to try to save the day. Feathers are everywhere. We found one hen guarding both chicks and one hen guarding the door. One had slight injuries to one leg but she would be fine. Sadly, no rooster! Heartbroken that we lost him, husband feeling heaps of guilt, we go back inside. At least the hens and chicks were safe and, hey! One of the chicks might be a rooster. I bid my roo a sad farewell and head to bed.

The next morning, on cue, as usual, he is out at the edge of the chicken coop crowing his lungs out. I have never jumped out of bed so fast! “No way that’s him. He’s dead. The raccoon dragged him off.” Just thinking about it, I’m still speechless. I have no idea where he was taken or how he got away, how he survived, but that is one amazing rooster! He lost some tail feathers, looked a bit disheveled and wet but no apparent injuries. Needless to say, we are much more aware of the time and to closing of the door when darkness descends.

We are still waiting on the chicks to grow a bit more before we start getting eggs again, and we have no idea what will happen if we end up with another rooster (or two), but we love our little chickens and we are learning that you don’t have to travel to find adventures. Sometimes they are right in your back yard!

Our Rooster Bogart. He’s a  Welsummer / Sussex mix.
Mama and chick. Our hens are both Black Cochins and sometimes hard to tell apart.
Mr. E named this one Moonlight.
Mr. C named this one Sunshine.

Sick Days

Once your kids start going to school, a flurry of illnesses walk in and out of the home regularly. Maybe we should all live in bubbles so no one would bring home anything. Just put on your bubble suit before heading out the door to school or the grocery store. It’s like an extra body jacket. Wear it in public and go thru a decontamination process before removing the bubble suit upon returning home, and no one would get sick any more, right? Well, until that futuristic day arrives, the kids will bring home all kinds of nasties and it will run through each and every being in your home, sometimes twice!

This year, our youngest, C, started kindergarten and I honestly felt like we had this whole sick thing under control. After all, our little C had spent time in preschool bringing colds home and our Mr. E had already done his time in public school. We should be mostly immune to all the crud that that living petri dish called “school” stirs up. We were so wrong.

Yesterday our Mr. C returned to school after a two-week bout of walking pneumonia which lead to severe asthma, at a time when the first real cold temperatures of the season showed up and everyone turned to wood stoves for heat. A perfect storm. So basically he’s been sick for a while. The walking pneumonia was a result of a cold he had two weeks before that never quite cleared up. The cold from his cousin, who spent one unplanned day at our house while sick (ah, the joys of being the at-home mom in the family!) The poor girl had just got over pneumonia too! So she spent one day at the house, and despite my best efforts, C came down with the cold. Probably exposed from the same location: The School. (Cue ominous music.)

A week into his cold, Dad starts feeling a bit sick too but, of course, we adults just take medicines and keep going. Especially those who have jobs to go to. Dad gets by, not really coming down with anything. Phew! Then E starts feeling sick. Has one morning of nausea and a low fever. He’s down for the count. C keeps coughing and coughing. We head to the doctor and each of these poor boys have a different crud making them feel sick. One, the glorious walking pneumonia and the other, a nasty stomach bug that’s also floating around town. Nurse Mom to the rescue!

I normally love taking care of people, but these kids tried each and every last nerve and bit of patience I have! They can’t go to school— they are too sick; but they refused to rest! Little C is hopping and jumping and playing and talking his heart out only to crash in the evening with spasms of coughing. I seriously considered Duct Tape for keeping him quiet and down! E is a bit better but that’s just his nature. He prefers to lay around doing nothing anyway so, keeping him down just required a bit of extra TV and tablet time.

Next in line is the dog. He vomits and needs to be let out more than normal. He hardly eats for a few days and is lethargic. (Just like a real kid!) So he receives extra attention and care.

By the end of the week, I’m feeling exhausted and run down. Guess who’s next in line? ME. I come down with the “low-grade fever” and exhaustion. I seriously couldn’t get myself to do anything. I’m just dragging, but moms don’t get sick days! We’re the grease that keep the family running smooth. So I push thru for a day or two and then my hubby is home for a few days in a row due to the holiday. He spoiled me. He actually gave me “Sick Days!” It was amazing. He cooked, cleaned and cared for the kids so that I could lounge around in my comfy clothes in bed and read or rest any way I wanted. It was amazing. Granted, kids don’t get it that a parent is sick. They still barge in, asking millions of questions or wanting to be with you. So even on a “sick” day, you still end up being busy.

So, I start feeling more rested— not better mind you, but rested. Then Dad has to head back to work. By the time the day ends, he’s come down with the slight fever and malaise. It’s not enough to keep you down, but enough to make you feel off and you just know you’re sick. So it goes. The crud has run its course through our house. Mom and Dad are still getting thru the day, but just barely, and the kids are back to their normal full-on selves.

Mr. C is back to the petri dish of a school. I added up the days that he’s missed, and he’s been absent about 15 days of school so far this year due to being sick. It’s a good thing he’s a smart kid so that I don’t worry about him falling behind.

I am seriously considering how to bring about those futuristic bubble suits to avoid any other illnesses in our house.

What do we do now?

IMG_1607One of the things that has really been difficult in our house is having the older child have a myriad of special needs. I mean, I know it would be hard either way. What I’m referring to is doing all the work and research about all the issues E has (refer to my first post for a list), learning all the symptoms, all the ins and outs, then adding a second child to raise on top of that.

You start seeing signs and symptoms in all the second child’s actions. Are they in need of help too? Do they have special needs? My child hangs on me every waking moment, is that a symptom? Every decision you make is second-guessed. Every action the child takes is second-guessed. Is that a sign or did they just pick that up from watching big brother do it? It’s near impossible to tell and they sure as heck aren’t going to tell you.

From the beginning, E was different. He never slept, he was extremely fussy, he achieved milestones early, but not so early as to raise a flag. Then he was reading at age 3. From then on, my mother’s intuition would nag me. It’s like, I was proud of him, yet, when other people talked about how wonderful what E did was, or dad talked about how he read at an early age too, I felt like it just wasn’t the same thing. Still, I accepted that I had a smart son and maintained the status quo. He went to preschool, made friends in class and seemed to do just fine. Sure he had regular meltdowns at home or he could do math in his head. So what if he preferred school workbooks to toys from an early age. He was smart and just loved to learn. No biggie. “But, but…” my mind kept saying; and I kept ignoring it. I’m a worrier by nature. I over react. That’s all. He’s just super smart. Maybe he’ll go on to do great things with is life.

Kindergarten starts. Academically, he is the top student in his class but, the teacher isn’t happy with how he interacts with his peers. He always plays alone at recess. I’m thinking, “So what? Dad says he was the same way. He was a loner and didn’t really care about having tons of friends. He turned out fine.” Still… Conference after conference and it’s a problem. Finally, the school psychologist analyzes him. Our GP refers us to a specialist. He gets the ADHD diagnosis. And the downward spiral begins, so to speak.

We start figuring things out as more and more issues start manifesting. The guilt sets in for me. “I knew something wasn’t right. Why didn’t I push harder earlier? I could have helped him sooner.” I’m sure every parent goes through some sort of self-blame game. The thing is, we didn’t know. But, now we do and we are helping.

So now we move to our younger son, C. He has always seemed “average.” He played normal with toys, made friends, was very active and so on. He then goes to preschool and does great. He makes friends and get along with everyone fine. So what if he knew his alphabet before the other kids. So what if he could count so much higher than most kids his age. He’s smart too. He learned a lot from his older brother. Right?

Towards the end of his preschool experience, he starts having meltdowns at drop off. He doesn’t want to go. It’s a battle, but we get thru it and he graduates to Kindergarten. The public school does a screening process for new kids coming in. C tests out great but, he has a few “red flags” that they will watch. I don’t even know what those things are, but they didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. We take him to the autism clinic that his brother got his diagnosis from, to be assessed for any issues. Again, he tests out fine with a few ‘red flags’ but he’s too social for them to officially test him. “He’s fine.”

Now he’s in kindergarten and it’s happening again. He often complains about not feeling well. He doesn’t like how long the day of school lasts. He’s exhausted at the end of the day. We are having meltdowns all the time over the smallest things. He has started asking for tags to be cut out of more and more of his clothes or, he refuses to wear certain things because of how they feel. He is more vocal about what foods he is willing to try and gags at the smell of some (SPD flags!). He is in constant motion. He is never, ever still! He “forgets” what he did in a day at school. He struggles pushing through something he finds hard, preferring the tossing-it-aside-and-crying-about-it method (ADHD flags!). He uses his “outside” voice all the time. He knows how to read, do basic addition/subtraction and even some multiplication, but he doesn’t want us to know that he knows how to do these things.

There is no longer a psychologist at the school. The teacher thinks he’s just an emotionally sensitive kid who may need a bit more time to develop in some areas but, academically he’s fine. So, do we push and fight to “pin a diagnosis” on him? Or do we let things ride a while longer and see how he does? What if he really does have special needs and we don’t help him right away? What if, what if what if…?

What do we do now?


As I sit here today, the sky is grey and the wind could only be described as “blustery.” The changing weather is one of the reasons that I love this time of year. My thoughts turn to baking and reading books by a fire, wishing for snow and comfort foods. Today’s comfort food of choice is a grilled cheese sandwich with homemade tomato soup. It’s funny that I like this combo. Not so much the sandwich part because, really, cheese anything is my best friend, but the soup. As far back as I can remember, I have hated tomatoes: I pick them out of sandwiches, off salads or really anywhere that they can be found. The one thing that I have always liked was ketchup. Ketchup on fries, on hamburgers, hot dogs, and yes, even mac ‘n’ cheese (my husband shudders at the thought). Tomato soup however, was not one that I was fond of growing up. Maybe my tastes have matured… nope, I still pick tomatoes off everything when I can.

Food seems to be the constant bane of our existence as parents it seems. I always thought that I was a picky eater but, somehow, my parents always got me to eat a well-balanced meal, and I grew up healthy. Now as a parent, however, I realize that I was actually not the picky eater that I thought I was. No, that prize goes to my kiddos.

There are very few things I would call staples in my kids’ diets. Usually they involve cheese or hotdogs. I try not to worry. I know that they will get what they need as long as I keep trying but, I do worry. One loves most fruit; the other can’t stand the sight of it. One kid gags at the smell of peanut butter; the other at the smell of cold cereal in milk. One will only eat eggs boiled, while the other insists on scrambled. When you live in a small space, these seemingly unimportant issues become a huge ordeal at times.

A while back we took E to see a nutritionist. I really felt like he wasn’t getting what he needed to maintain good health. His growth was slow and he seemed so skinny. Maybe an overreaction on my part but, when a child has sensory issues and other special needs, diet is huge. We tried gluten-free, sugar-free, vitamins and supplements. Nothing seemed to make a difference in his behavior and growth so, off to see a nutritionist to make sure we’ve done everything we can!

She was a very nice woman and took my concerns seriously so, first impressions were good. Then she gave us her suggestion. Her advice was to stop worrying. It was my job as a parent to provide healthy options at every meal and that was it. It was my child’s job to decide what he was going to eat. We also were to stop requiring the kids to eat their dinner if they wanted dessert (apparently this can lead to food issues when they are older like being overweight because of improper feelings towards food). Instead, we were to offer dessert with dinner. It’s no longer a reward, just another food option. That sounds simple in concept and, to an extent, I understand her reasoning: we need to teach proper relationships with food for our kids for life long health and so on.

Okay so, great! I have a plan. Wait! How is this going to assure me that our child has a well-balanced diet? Who cares! It’s not my job! It’s E’s job now. Of course every 7-year-old knows how to pick a well-balanced meal out of his options, right? After all, if I do my job, he should do his. What about his 4-year-old brother? Surely, he’s got enough life skills to eat right, provided he has all the options in front of him, right? That’s the plan, according to the nutritionist. I may have to guide them and ask them to be sure to pick one of each provided food. That should be easy enough.

Take away from the visit: Take all the pressure off food, provide healthy options, along with a dessert option and sit back and watch them succeed. Palm-to-forehead moment. Why didn’t I think of that?

Back home, I tell my hubby the plan and we immediately apply it. For a week straight we offer a wide variety of healthy options. You don’t like lettuce? Here are spinach or bell peppers instead. You only like this or that so, here it is, with different options for the others in the family. Oh! and let’s put dessert on the table too.

Do you even need to ask what happened? For a week straight the children gorged themselves on dessert only. Why would any child choose carrots with ranch dip when they can have cookies instead? Meal times became dreaded because we wanted them to eat a little of everything but they wouldn’t. I was exhausted from making so many meal “options.” So much food was wasted at each meal. We’d help them dish it up, prepare it to their precise instructions and, after they started with dessert, they were “suddenly” full. We had a week of middle-of-the-night hunger pangs, begging for a snack or chocolate milk, at the very least. It was a disaster. Maybe we should have given it more time. Maybe it would have worked. Maybe it just didn’t fit our family’s needs. All I know for sure is that we did not stick with it. We still offer several options of what goes on a plate at dinner but, there are nights that I don’t feel like fighting and make a go-to meal like quesadillas instead.

Growing up, I had two options: eat what was provided or go hungry. Why didn’t that work for my kids?

We (the parents) have stories from growing up of being forced to eat something we couldn’t stand. We grew up eating the things our parents liked and have had to expand our food universe as adults. My husband and I try very hard to not let our food likes and dislikes influence the boys’ likes and dislikes.

So we have held true to one rule in our house when it comes to food: you need to try one normal-size bite (not just a lick or sniff) of a food you think you don’t like (and swallow it) about once a year. Our taste preferences change all the time so, if you didn’t like something last time you tried it and it was a long time ago, you may like it now. We practice this in front of our kids and try to get them to do it too. This has helped in the merry-go-round of what to cook for dinner in our house. We try to pick things the kids will like, but as picky as they are, inevitably they won’t. Fine, I won’t force it down your throat, but you must take one bite before you tell me you don’t like it.

Amazingly enough, this practice has been more successful than any other ideas we have tried in opening up our kids to healthy options. E realized he loves spinach and red bell peppers. Both boys discovered that ground turkey meat isn’t the disgusting thing they thought it was, and have even asked for it with rice for dinner.

So I sit here, with a happy belly, and tell you don’t worry. Kids will be kids. They will be picky, but they will eat and, as they grow, their choices will too. Every day there is a little progress.

The begining

I’ve racked my brain over and over about how to start off this first post. As a perfectionist at heart, I wanted dazzle, fireworks, jaw-dropping amazement. In short, I wanted perfection. Then it dawned on me, I use the word “I” too much.

Yes, this blog is about me, but it is also about my family and our journey as we navigate between the desires of being an “average/normal” family, and the reality we are actually living. Our oldest son (E) has Autism along with several other conditions that go hand-in-hand with it: Hyperlexia, Twice Exceptional (2E), Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This grab bag of issues gives us good days and bad days. It’s hard on our whole family, but we try to remember that this brilliant boy also knows that he is different and cannot control some of these issues (as hard as he tries). He’s mostly home-schooled with a splash of activities at the public school.

Our younger son (C) is another child with “issues.” We are currently starting the process of figuring out what he deals with but, we feel fairly confident that he also deals with ADHD, sensory processing issues and possibly ODD.

I am hoping that writing about our ins and outs, our discoveries and our disasters, will offer a form of catharsis for me, as the primary caregiver, but also offer insights, ideas and support to others who are dealing with much of the same issues.

The start of this blog coincides with the start of a new regime of sorts in our house, as instructed by our son’s doctor. We are trying positive reinforcements and immediate rewards for good behavior, rather than always scolding and leaving E always in trouble. We are using less talking and more action. The doctor tells us that we will have to deal with it getting worse before it gets better.

Case in point: last night E was ramping up around bedtime, as usual. When instructed to start his bedtime routine, he refused. This is the norm, and we are hoping to make it easier with a new reward system suggested by E’s doctor.

How it works is this: if he completes his routine he can earn 2 points, if he does it right away or without being asked. If we have to remind him another time to do it, he only gets one point. Any reminders after that, he gets no more points. With this system he has multiple chances throughout the day to earn points. The points add up and can be traded in for rewards such as extra video game time or an extra story chapter to be read at bedtime.

Not surprising, he fought us at every step. He earned no points. This made him angry and his ODD kicked in. He started ranting and screaming that he hates me, wishing that he had a new mother. He started throwing small blocks at me. This is what happens when he is no longer in control.

As instructed by our doctor, I calmly informed him we could talk about it when he calms down and that I was going to shut the door until that time. This made things worse. He craves the audience of his tantrum. For a few moments we fought over the door being open or closed. Round and round it went. Finally I was able to keep the door shut. He starts crying. My heart rips open. He is still ranting, but he’s also crying. He’s angry and upset and he can’t even express why. I hate seeing him like this. He is such a sweet and loving boy most of the day, but these outbursts are almost daily. How do you not hurt when you hear them express hate for you? Even when you know they don’t really mean it, how do you not feel it? Well I felt it, tears came and ran down my face. E storms out of his room to rant in my face and sees me like this: sad and almost broken. He deflates. He goes back to room sobbing that he upset me, apologizing all over himself.

Dad is now done getting C to bed and steps in. He reads to E, puts him to bed and peace descends on house for a time. Time that is precious and rare. Sad and exhausted, I head to bed. Lights out, and hoping sleep comes.

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