Are You a CPA?

Well, I am.  In fact, I founded the group, “Couch Parents Anonymous”.    It’s a branch of the Lazy Parents Network.  There are a group of us who parent quite comfortably from the sofa, settling the bickering and fights with sharp, loud outbursts they never saw coming.  We have the remote handy for turning off the TV when the children fail to comply with our orders.  Best of all, we are always ready for a nap when kids are ultimately run off to their rooms in a huff or are sent to the Time Out corner.

What do we hope to achieve with this complacent approach?  Nothing.  That’s just it.  Parenting is over-rated.  You can’t possibly do everything for your child or make them the person you want them to be.  I was just talking to my hairdresser about how my school-age daughter is an avid reader.  It’s her inherent nature, although we did read to her quite a lot as a toddler.  I commented on how we have to make an effort to remember to read to our son everyday and my hairdresser burst out in laughter.  “First-born!”, she said, between guffaws.  I didn’t know it would be that obvious.

It seems the myth is prevalent everywhere.  First-borns are smothered, coddled, and never ignored!  The kids who follow have to fend for themselves. Why? The parent is tired.  Tired of trying all the tricks in the parenting books, exhausted from the advice from strange women in the elevator of the pediatrician’s office who know exactly how your child is feeling but you don’t, and tired of sitting in Mommy-and-Me classes forcing their child to share their toy with other babies.  And definitely tired of cleaning the home, car and stroller like it’s a full-time job.

Could it be good for the kids if the parents lay off a bit and take care of themselves for a change?  It shouldn’t always be about the kids!  It’s not so self-serving if you think about it another way.  Let the kids figure their way through the day without your interference and watch them flounder, frustrate themselves, and maybe reap a personal victory all their own.  Can you tell I’m fresh off reading Christine Gross-Loh’s “Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us”?  (I only read half due to it being a library book….and after renewing a second month, I lost my momentum.)  I remember playing in the yard, just my brother and I with a few neighborhood friends, exploring the mud, climbing trees, creating new games from junk we found and interacting with just kids, no adults around.

From the moment I left the house, I was on my own, entering not the park playground, but a neighborhood of potential improvised play.  My parents had essential roles – dad worked during the day, mom cooked and cleaned, and both kept check of our homework schedule and made sure we kept up our personal hygiene.  They didn’t accompany us on our afternoon explorations and didn’t constantly search for things to keep us occupied. I laugh as I tell my daughter sometimes how I used stationery (White-Out Thinner, Glue bottles and boxes of staples) as “people” and did endless role play with them on the book shelves.  White-Out was asking Ponal Glue to the dance but the Box of Staples was jealous…

I’m exhausted from the questions I get now, “Mom, what do I do now?”, or “Mom, I’m bored!”, or “Mom, can I get this new game?” or “Mom!!!! This isn’t working!!!!”. To the last one, I have learned to remain silent.  Five seconds later, I hear the less annoying words, “NEVERMIND!!”.

So that is why I don’t try sometimes, and am proud to be a CPA.  Peace of mind.  Time for myself anyway I can get it.  In fact, it’s time for a nap now.

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Knowing is an Option

The Original "Blankie"

The Original “Blankie”

One winter evening, my eyes and fingers were glued to my new smartphone.  I relaxed on the sofa, swiping way, stealing glances at my son.  He was wrapped up in his soft blue “Blankie”, carefully aligning and stacking his beloved cars, trains and trucks at the coffee table.  In a slightly distracted way, I wondered why he didn’t push them around, making vehicle sounds, crashing them together like most toddler boys.  Instead, he tried to pile them higher and higher.  Several times, gravity claimed the top cars and he shrieked loudly, intensely upset.  I was annoyed by the sounds but part of me was also scared.

I think I was seeing the early signs of a problem but refused to believe my eyes.  I was first concerned about his speech delay and in my research, the possibility of autism popped up.  I scanned the symptoms from time to time but always dismissed them.  The stacking of toys and attachment to objects, with very unusual temper tantrums during play, were indeed on the list.  However, I refused to believe my son could be autistic.  I told myself, he’s much too talented to have a disorder.  Look at how he plays – he’s so good at manipulating toys and objects!  He could sit and play with them for hours, entertaining himself.  He can feed himself; he can push furniture around or climb on things to get what he wants; and he can use a crayon so well (come and check out my walls one day!).

Concerned about his speech delay, I had called Early Intervention.  I watched him go through speech and other light therapy, thinking of how it was helping him tremendously, albeit painstakingly slow.  After six months, I had to qualify his success.  Sure, his vocabulary increased exponentially, but why was it so hard for him to use words functionally?  He learned to be more open and relaxed around us but still refused to look at us.  His fine motor skills were very good but he couldn’t do simple role-play with his toys.  Were we not practicing enough with him at home?  Why was it almost impossible to get him to focus his gorgeous eyes on my face?

When therapy started, I had stopped looking up the autism symptoms.  I thought all he needed was time. Eventually, lessons from the dedicated therapists would be instilled in him.  I couldn’t wait for that day when he would meet all his milestones right on time and he’d finally be “all caught up”.

Nevertheless, when I was given the option to have a psychologist observe him, I knew it was time to face my fears.  I had pushed them to the back of my mind, enjoying the oasis of therapy sessions and a slowly-progressing student.  I was convinced that my fears were just my imagination.  How could I have known that it was instinct instead?

As hard as it is for me to accept the psychologist’s diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, I’m glad I had the confidence to get help.  It comes as a relief to know that there are people who understand his challenges and can help him figure out how to connect with others.

While each case is unique, there’s enough research to give me insight into my son’s life.  So much of what I read can relate to him as he is now.  I Google all my questions/fears/doubts.  Sometimes, there are still questions I am afraid to find the answers to.  Could he be stuck with these challenges for the rest of his life, getting more noticeable as he gets older?  Would he eventually have kids of his own who don’t have these tendencies?   Did I not spend  enough one-on-one time with him when he was a baby?  That knowledge will still be a mystery and I am happy not to know.

When Speech Therapy is Not Enough.

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When my son was 15 months, my pediatrician listened as I expressed my concerns about his language delay and she brought up the name that I had a great reverence for: Early Intervention.  I had friends who had taken advantage of these free, in-home services, and I was always impressed by the importance placed on early therapy.

I decided to wait.

When Lucas was 18 months, I finally made the call to EI.  A few weeks later, two evaluators came in and sat with us for a short while.   Their results came in the form of a meticulous report on Lucas, so clinical that it was humorous to see his everyday actions described so technically. Lucas met some of the criteria to receive services and we were assigned two therapists.  I had expected a Speech Therapist but I was thrown off by assignment of a Special Educator.  Why did he need one?  Wasn’t it only his communication skills that were lacking?

Nevertheless, over the next six months, they both did an amazing job improving Luke’s vocabulary and helping him open up more to us.  Both ladies had a lot of energy and persistence, celebrating Lucas’ accomplishments as much as we did.

Eventually, they noticed that Lucas responded better to therapy when he had bounced/jumped/or engaged in other physical activities first.  Occupational therapy was suggested but he ultimately didn’t qualify since his fine motor skills scored 94 out of 100.

At 25 months, his six-month reports came in. Despite his progress, Lucas was still not able to jump the gap to where he should be at two years.  I was asked if I’d consider a psychologist’s evaluation to rule out autism.

My instincts told me it was the right direction but I never thought I’d have to face this possibility so soon.  Come on – it’s only been six months.  And he’s only two!

The psychologist came today and spent 45 minutes with me.  She sat with my son for another 45 minutes.  Lucas played with the toys she brought and acted like he usually does.  The session was almost done and I looked at my son lovingly, thinking how cute he was.  Then, I heard this trained, licensed and experienced psychologist stating things she was “very concerned” about and I felt the blood draining from my face.  I hadn’t heard right.  No, she was just talking hypothetically.  No, this wasn’t Lucas she meant.  Yes, she made observations but they can’t mean anything…

“I’m diagnosing him as autistic”, she said.

What does that mean, anyway?

I spent the rest of the long day consulting with friends and family.  Being autistic gave him Early Intervention ABA therapy, up to 10 sessions per week, each session being 90 minutes each.  She’s wrong – he’s not autistic and THERE IS NO WAY HE’S DOING THIS THERAPY, I resolve at 6 pm.

By 8:30 pm, I had gotten up the nerve to call the coordinator and ask for a second opinion from another psychologist.  I kept telling her my fears but she explained them away in  straightforward, practical and non-intimidating way.  He has not progressed significantly in the past six months and the lack of eye contact/language delays/rote play are still there strongly. If he doesn’t get the autism diagnosis, he would lose out on a lot of useful therapy which would benefit him later.  As she said, it could only help him.  She said he would be a much different child after a few months of sessions.  I want to believe this.  She also said we could scale back the number of sessions to five per week.  I felt immediately better about that.

Let’s see how it goes, I found myself saying.  It seemed I was actually accepting it.

We’ll see.

Aromatherapy for Busy Bloggers!

I ordered a handsoap, “Winter Cranberry”, from Bath and Body Works online during their semi-annual, post-Christmas sale. I also used a 20% coupon from B&BW’s – they’re so free and easy and with their coupons!

I cannot stop sniffing my hands! This fragrance throws me off at times when I’m busy typing at the computer and brush the hair from my face – Whoa! That smells good!!! Or when I pick up baby and hug him and I’m thinking, “Why does he smell like perfume?!” It’s my handsoap lingering on my skin! It smells like flower candy. Not sure what that is but it’s a happy scent.

It is a perfect winter fragrance, when you’re locked up in the house – hope they bring it back for the holidays this year!

I’ll say it: I Despise Grocery Coupons!

A year ago, I excitedly embarked on the amazing adventures of being a stay-at-home mom. I had it all planned out – I used to be an accountant so I started organizing my new life very quickly.

The first thing I did was establish a coupon book, filing the coupons in 12 pockets by the months they expired. If January was coming around, I would scan my coupons expiring then and make use of them fast. I also tried to match these with the Waldbaums or King Kullen sales circulars to maximize my savings. There are websites that do this for you but I couldn’t find any that had my grocery stores.

Where would I get the coupons? I subscribed to the Sunday papers, I would collect from family and if I had the patience, I would check online as well.

I lived in denial for the first eight months, convinced that it was working well. I loved the moment when you hand in your coupons at checkout and watch the grand total slim down considerably. I could feel the stares and almost imagine the thoughts of the waiting customers behind me – wow, she is a smart shopper!

I paid $1.25 per week for my Sunday papers with all the coupons. Thus, I aimed to have savings of over this amount each week to make this plan work. Also, I had to learn how to lose my brand loyalty and try whichever brand I had the coupon for.

Well, this all sounds smart.

Until I started dreading Sunday mornings and going through all the coupons. Some sites advise not to cut the coupons until you’re actually ready to use them. I couldn’t stand to have stacks of coupon books to go through each time I planned my grocery list so I did sit there and cut them. I cut all the ones I thought I would use and I filed them in my pretty coupon pockets. After a while, I saw the coupons piling up in the pockets and I wondered why they weren’t being used. What’s the point of filing them away only to throw them out when they expire? I don’t like cutting that much!

My dread turned to disgust and loathing near the end of the year. The problems were:

1. I hated going through the process of cutting coupons and not using them.

2. I am loyal to certain products because of their nutritional content – I’m not going to buy Pop Tarts for my child no matter how big the coupon is. Quite a lot of the coupons I saw were for products I wouldn’t normally use.

3. I found that forcing myself to use the coupons out brought a lot of unnecessary and miscellaneous products into my home, either to perish in the fridge or pantry or be forgotten about in secondary storage (basement etc).

4. The other drawback to point 3 above is that you end up spending MORE money! I found myself buying stuff I didn’t need simply because I had a coupon. What the heck is the rationale behind saving $4 at check-out when I spent $11 on items I don’t NEED?

I finally cancelled my Sunday paper subscription and blessed relief followed! I got tired of checking online for coupons – the products I adored and bought regularly were seldom discounted.

Now when I see a stack of coupons my husband brings home, I snarl and grab them in disgust. I do scan them but as usual, don’t see anything I’d use and smugly toss them in paper recyling.

To save money now, I keep a price list and gave up on Waldbaums and King Kullen – so overpriced! I now shop at Cross Island Fruits (they have an abundance of fresh produce, meat and fish at reasonable prices) and Trader Joe’s.

I buy only what I need and manage my inventory wisely – no more wasted, spoiled foods in the fridge or pantry.

Starring the Gigantic Jug of Cheese Puffs

Oh Gigantic Jug of Cheese Puffs, wherefore hast thou gone?

This is the cutest picture because of the photographer: my 4-year old daughter.

She was allowed to run free with my camera around the house and the pictures are all telling. This is my favorite because the cheese puffs disappeared shortly after.

She is my first and only child and I often forget how differently children see life. Once, I was looking at and laughing hysterically at the photos on her kiddie camera (a water-proof, drop-proof, hefty and lo-rez contraption). I was able to make out a series of photos she took of the sidewalk and I could see the cars parked on the side. It was then that I realised how low to the ground her vision is and that her photos were more of the sidewalk and the tires of the cars than people.

That’s why I let her snap pictures around my house and the results are amazing and adorable, if you take the time to study them.

This particular one above is dull because she hasn’t learned to keep her finger off the flash. The reason it’s funny to me is I hate cheese puffs. I was guilted into buying them for her on a past shopping trip because I never buy her junk food in such large quantities and for once, I wanted to break free of this compulsion to always deprive her.

She ate the cheese puffs a few times but eventually stopped asking for them. After she took these pictures but before I got to check them out, I moved the half-jar of cheese puffs near the back door to be tossed out. She noticed and asked “Mom, what are the cheese puffs doing at the back door?”

“Um…..well….they’re just….um….” What could I say?

I put them back on the counter.

A few days later, I finally dumped them out. And she did not notice.

Then, I finally sat down to check her photos and saw her beloved gigantic jug of cheese puffs staring back at me…….

What the overstuffed napkin holder says about you!

Whoa! Is that really necessary?

Are you the one in your relationship or marriage who would be bothered by this sight above?

If you don’t know what I’m talking about or what’s wrong with this picture, you are probably one of the calmer folks in this life. You don’t waste time getting things perfect or just right. You probably accomplish a lot each day but don’t make a big deal out of it and just keep on going.

Myself, I’m the opposite. When I was done chastising my husband for this overabundance, I had to grab every single one of those napkins above the regimented height allowance (above the metal frame) and store away until actually needed. Why my husband had to stack it up 3 x the usual height is why he is my perfect complement.

When we were young adults and played The Sims computer game, he would have his Sim people watching TV all day. I, on the other hand, would be forcing them to read a book, make a speech in the mirror, work out on fitness equipment, anything that would improve their jobs so they could earn more money and I could then buy cool furniture for their house. My Sim people were miserable and his were gloriously happy.

He’s my perfect complement because while I’m busy planning to get one task done just right, he’s already done 5 or 6 things and is sitting on the couch. He sees where there is a need and he meets it quickly and then moves on. I ignore needs and see where there is a want and sit at the computer all day figuring out how to get it accomplished smoothly.

So the day we run out of napkins on the table, I’m busy on the couch looking through cookbooks for the most amazing butter cookie recipe to make. My husband quickly fixes the problem to his standards and goes back to his Sunday football games.

I look up from my recipe rampage and am stunned by the shabbiness of his work. I take a picture to be used later but laugh at the ridiculousness of it.

I laugh because I know that even though I will adjust the napkins to my acceptable level, if we waited for me to notice the problem, we’d be wiping our hands on our jeans for a while. But we’d have some awesome cookies!!!!