The Day the IPad went on Vacation

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 4.01.47 PMSummer vacation, moving, unpacking, settling in, etc have all added up to me letting Mr Rockstar have WAY too much IPad time in the last month or so.  It is just so tempting to let him have it since nothing calms him down like the IPad and it is about the only time I can leave him alone without having to check in on him every 3-5 minutes.  However, it has officially has spiraled out of control.   Continue reading The Day the IPad went on Vacation

Learning Limitations

We finally sold our house, bought a house, moved everything and have been slowly digging out of the boxes.  In the meantime life goes on.  Today we were supposed to go strawberry picking with a local moms group.  But it rained all day yesterday and it is only 55F today and still quite wet.  Given Mr Rockstar’s tendency to complete meltdowns when he gets unexpectedly wet, strawberry picking on a wet day would be like trying to navigate a mine field.   Continue reading Learning Limitations

Priorities

Priorities

A few weeks ago I was feeling so exhausted and discouraged.  Every day I thought “Today is the day I get all the homeschooling books on my list read and all the homeschool material made and develop my master plan!” but somehow the morning would get away from me with us having done very little school work and with me not having accomplished any of my reading goals.  Then afternoon would hit and I would be so exhausted I felt like I would be sick if I didn’t lie down for 10 minutes to rest.  Next thing I knew the day was over and I felt like a failure.

It finally hit me that I was putting myself at the bottom of my priority list.  I was surviving on Dr Pepper and brownies for energy and staying up late to try and get a little “me” time.  It may seem silly but I realized “how can I take care of these kids if I am not even taking care of myself?”.   Continue reading Priorities

Social Anxiety

It’s official.  I hate moving.  Before having kids moving was hard because I am an introvert.  But now that I have kids moving is 10x as hard.  It is not just my own social anxiety I have to deal with but also my kids.  While I am trying to force myself out of my comfort zone to talk to new people and open up to build relationships, Mr Rockstar is vacillating between Continue reading Social Anxiety

Frugal February: Pantry Inventory

Frugal February: Pantry Inventory

 

8 years ago we started a tradition of Frugal February.  It was before we had any kids and I always was stumped on what to get my husband for his birthday.  Hubby is very frugal and hates to shop.  Also, things like the pantry being full bothered him.  I came up with the idea of gifting him “Frugal February” for his birthday.  A month of trying to live on the minimum of expenses.  He liked it so much we have continued to do it every year since.

Every year our goals are somewhat different.   Continue reading Frugal February: Pantry Inventory

Elimination Diet Day 22: Wheat

What We Ate:

Breakfast:

  • Pumpkin Mini Donuts
  • Egg and Cheddar Quesadilla
  • Raisins

Lunch:

  • Annie’s Mac n Cheese
  • Pears

Snack:

Dinner:

  • Cheese

This morning I made breakfast quesadillas with some tortillas I thought would be great for the “wheat” challenge.  Turns out after I let the kids start eating them I re-read the package and noticed they had corn starch and soy lecithin in then.  Oh well.  It didn’t seem to affect their behavior in any way so I guess it didn’t matter.

I found Annie’s Mac n Cheese only has wheat and milk in to so we could have some for lunch!

Our day went from bad to worse and when dinner came around all the kids wanted was cheese.  Earlier in the week, I had asked my pediatrician if there was a limit to how much cheese they could eat in one sitting and he said as long as it doesn’t cause other issues he didn’t think it was a problem.  So they just ate an 8oz block of cheese for dinner…and maybe some raisins?  I picked up sushi for myself.

Kids:

Mr Rockstar didn’t take a nap yesterday.  We knew as he came off his mediation the nap would disappear.  Finally not only did the nap disappear but we were able to get him to bed by 7:30PM.  I need either the early bedtime or the nap to keep my sanity so when the nap is spotty and the bedtime late I start losing my mind.  Thankfully all the kids slept until 6:20AM with no night time wakings!  Sadly, Mr Rockstar was still in a foul mood this morning even with all the sleep.  I had decided yesterday I needed to reinstitute our reward system.  So today I pulled out Mystery Motivator.

Mystery Motivator

The behavioral counselor we see suggested we try Mystery Motivator 9 months ago. We did it for a few months but then it died over the summer.  Essentially at the end of the day you review their behavior.  If they get 1 or more sad faces then they don’t get a chance for a prize.  If they get no sad faces (only so-so, happy face, and stars) then they can look in a cup and see if they have three matching color m&ms (I will probably switch this to raisins and nuts?!?).  If the m&ms match then they get to have whatever is in the grab bag.  If they don’t match then “Oh pickles! Maybe they will match tomorrow”.  When you first start out the m&m’s always match but you make a big deal about the fact that they might not match, and if they don’t match and teach them an appropriate response such as “Oh pickles.  Maybe they will match tomorrow”.  This way you are setting this system up to wean them off it once you consistently have good days.  You track each day whether they earned mystery motivator or not and when you see a pattern (for instance Fridays are always good) you might have that be a day when the m&m’s don’t match.  Slowly you work it so more and more days have unmatched m&m’s.  In the grab bag we usually have a small piece of candy (I need to think of something else to be a treat?), a small toy, or money.  I figure $1 a day to save my sanity is totally worth it.  As the day progresses you can remind them of the mystery motivator.  You can cue them with “This behavior is so-so.  You need to improve or you might get sad face.” or “That was star work!  Good listening!”  Today it did seem to get Mr Rockstar’s attention.  I decided I could actually mark the chart every couple hours so he could see where he stood for the day so far.  We had one major time-out with some aggression (he tried to pull over a bookshelf full of toys because he was mad) first thing in the morning.  I said he was having sad-face behavior and he needed to adjust his attitude.  He said he didn’t know how so we talked about some things he could do.  He finally decided to pray to ask God to help him control himself and have a better day.

The other incentive system I re-instituted today was “Train time”.  As Mr Rockstar does his school work he gets a train stamp.  Depending on how many stamps he gets that is how much cartoon time he can have for the day.  If he only does some of his work he will end up with 10-20 minutes and he hates only being able to watch half of his cartoon before I turn it off.  I equate each stamp to 10min of iPad time.  Once we are done with the school day  I set the timer for how many minutes he earned and he has learned there is no behavior that will get him more time so he is usually ok when I turn it off.  I try to limit electronic/tv time to only what he earns from doing his school work since this is such a huge “currency” with Mr Rockstar.  The hard thing about this system is of course he gets the most cartoon time on his good days and on his bad days I can’t use cartoons to save my sanity.  The weekends are the only time he gets some unearned iPad time just so we can have a more relaxed weekend.

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Today both incentive systems seemed to help, at least he did his school work with a much better attitude.  Sadly as the day went on he got worse and worse.  At soccer practice he kept leaving his team and wandering off and then laster he was spitting in the other kids faces.  After dinner we reviewed mystery motivator and I told him unfortunately he got a couple sad faces.  He got so mad at this he picked up one of the kitchen chairs and rammed it as hard as he could int one of the newly painted kitchen cabinets before I could stop him.  I picked him up and took him to the laundry room for a time out.  He punched me so I said “So sad you chose door closed” and closed the laundry room door at which point he started to throw anything he could find at the laundry room door.  Sigh.  At this point I lost it.  I am not a screamer.  I raise my voice at the kids maybe twice a year.  Usually Mr Rockstar just laughs when I do anyway so whats the point?  I told him I wasn’t putting up with his crap or abuse any longer I was just going to run away because I was not going to stick around for it.  At which point I went out the front door, had a little pity party, pulled myself back together and came back inside.  Mr Rockstar was a little worried and calmed down some.  Life is just so hard.

Me:

Somedays I just can’t breathe.  The last couple days it has been building up and today my chest was just so tight.   Life just gets so overwhelming it becomes impossible to take a deep breath.  When Mr Rockstar is this crazy I don’t feel comfortable leaving him with anyone but that also means I never get a break.  I always have to be “on” never knowing what crazy thing he will do next.  I’m really hoping we are at a tipping point where things will start getting better even if only for a little while.

Elimination Diet Day 21: Defeated

What We Ate:

Breakfast:

  • Pumpkin mini donuts – made with real eggs instead of flax eggs and honey instead of maple syrup

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Lunch:

  • Egg Salad with homemade mayo
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Raisins
  • Apple Banana bar

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Snack:

  • Raisins
  • Outshine Strawberry Bar – Mr Rockstar stole half of one out of the freezer while I tried to take a nap.

Dinner:

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Some days I just feel like I am failing as a mother.  I read these books about kids like my Mr Rockstar and they say things like “You need to be the break-wall in their life when the hurricane of emotions comes.  The unmovable calm no matter what.”  How can anyone do that when they are getting only 4 hrs of sleep every other night and dealing with what seems like a never ending storm of abuse, aggression and defiance?  The times he needs me most to be calm are the times it is hardest to be.  I guess it is God’s way of motivating me to “Pray without ceasing” because I need his strength every moment of those days.  It has been a hard couple weeks.  I know with the cyclical nature of his mood swings that if we stay the course things should be a whole lot better in a few weeks.  But it is hard to tell if we are making any progress? when I know we have just reached a lull between storms.  Hopefully now that I am collecting data we will see if things are slowly getting better …or worse.

Remember how it took Miss Princess 3 days of crying to finally eat the gluten free chicken nuggets? and when she finally did it was only with maple syrup for dipping?  Well, tonight I reheated the rest of the gluten free chicken nuggets for the kids to eat along with the vegetable tian.  Miss Princess ate a ton with spicy brown mustard (we ran out of regular mustard a couple days ago and I haven’t had a chance to run to the store)!?!  She also tried a bite of mango and said she liked it.  It is hard for me to believe only a month ago she would cry if we went to Wendy’s and got her chicken nuggets instead of McDonalds and she would only eat it with Sweet & Sour Sauce at McDonalds.  She still is very cautious about trying new foods but she is learning it is ok to try something new.

I really enjoyed the vegetable tian.  It had a lot of flavor but was light but still filling and satisfying even without meat.

Kids:

Miss Tomboy woke up at 3 AM and 3:30 AM to use the potty.  Mr Rockstar woke up at 4:00 AM and was up for the day.  At 5:30 AM I finally decided if he was going to be awake and if that meant I had to be awake to we might as well start doing schoolwork.  So at least we had his school work done by the time his sisters woke up.  Mr Rockstar was hyper all morning and was increasingly getting aggressive and defiant.

At 10:00 I took Mr Rockstar to see his occupational therapist.  He has been with this therapist for a year and a half and Hubby and I both really like and respect him.  Last week Mr Rockstar fake punched (a serious punch that stopped just shy of 1″ from the therapists face) the therapist at the end of the session because he was unhappy the therapist was talking to me about Mr Rockstar needing to do chores around the house.  So today the therapist sat me down and talked to me about how our society will tolerate almost anything dished out by special needs kids except aggression.  As soon as aggression is displayed they go in a whole other category.  And he went on about how Mr Rockstar is going to have trouble making friends, get beaten up at the playground, and we need to address it now before it gets out of hand, etc, etc, etc. I wanted to scream, “All I have been doing for the last 18 months is working on the aggression and defiance!!!”.  It just made me feel defeated.  Everything he had suggested we have tried and more.  I know I can’t give up on my little guy but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel like it some days.

Once it was time to start the therapy session, Mr Rockstar decided to try and bolt for the door and had to be physically picked up by the therapist.  This happened last week too (and seems to happen every couple months).  I went out to my car because I have found Mr Rockstar usually settles down better if he doesn’t think I am in the building but I didn’t go anywhere because I had a feeling with the way the day was going Mr Rockstar might not make it through the entire session.  Sure enough half way through the session the therapist came outside with Mr Rockstar.  Mr Rockstar had decided instead of doing his handwriting work he would just cross it all out.  He was saying things like “I don’t have to listen to you.” etc.  We used to have more reward systems in place.  I never was sure how effective they were.  It seemed like on good days they didn’t matter, on bad days they didn’t matter, but on a rare ok day they sometimes kept Mr Rockstar from degrading into a bad day.  All the incentives stopped over the summer.  The reward was always a form of food, iPad time, or toys….none of which are good for him.  I am going to try and restart the incentive program but I’m not sure what incentives to use.  Any suggestions?

Once we were home I made Mr Rockstar finish his writing work he had refused to do for the therapist.  He would write some, then poke holes in the paper, then write some more, then scribble, then write some more and tear a piece off.  Finally when he was down to the last word he tore the entire thing up.  So I drew up the entire handwriting assignment again and said he had to finish it before he could get lunch and we had to leave in 10 min to go to the allergist.  He did it pretty quickly but at the last word he decided to scribble and say he couldn’t do it.  Mr Rockstar is smart and capable , I just wish he would understand that he is just making his life harder with all this defiance.  Sigh.  I told him since he didn’t finish the work he couldn’t have egg salad (which he really wanted).  He then was disrespectful to me at which point I said if he couldn’t be respectful then he could just wait to get his lunch until he had a better attitude.  He started crying.  I said if he would apologize I would give him his lunch (sans egg salad).  It took 3 tries for him to do it without trying to scream at the end, intentionally say something silly or an incorrect word.  He finally did it and got his lunch at which point he seemed to calm down some.

The allergist was great.  I am so glad I found a recommendation from a friend.  I was sure the doctor was going to think I was crazy bringing in my 6 year old for testing with such mild traditional allergy symptoms.  Mr Rockstar has a small but pretty constant runny nose and gets a rash on his hands and feet in the spring…but that is about it.  However, since I have horrible allergies and Hubby has some as well, the allergist said there is a 90% chance Mr Rockstar will develop allergies to something in his life.  Also, the doctor pointed out as an adult we might be able to express certain discomforts and be able to track it to an allergy but as a child it is probably is just driving him crazy, causing poor sleep, and behavioral issues but he can’t verbalize what is bothering him.  He thought allergy testing was worth a try.  He said if the allergy is severe people can usually figure it out on their own.  It is only with mild food allergies that you really need to do an allergy test.  As I was talking to him I realized Mr Rockstar started with eczema on his hands about a week ago….right when I reintroduced milk?!? so maybe there is some connection.  We are going to allergy test him starting in 2 weeks.  It will take three visits to do an extensive breathing test, 60 foods, and environmental allergy testing.  I don’t think it will be a silver bullet but at least we will have checked the “allergy testing” box off our list of possibilities.  I would guess Mr Rockstar has a few environmental seasonal allergies and maybe if we know those and treat we will see some small improvement with sleep and behavior.  Once we have all the data from the allergy testing we might try elimination diet round 2 especially if we find that we failed to exclude some problem food.

Me:

I learned a glass of wine before bed is awful for my heartburn.  After a couple weeks off almost all caffeine, soda, and alcohol my heartburn at night has been so much better.  Also, my geographic tongue and eczema is still better even after adding back milk and eggs.  I am waiting to see if I have a big reaction to gluten or yeast.  Whenever I read about yeast it sounds like ALL of my problems (allergies, asthma, heartburn, white patches on tongue, etc)…but I love bread so I have never been willing to try giving it up.  I guess I have survived 3 weeks with no yeast so it can be done?

In the past when I would get little sleep at night followed by a rough day I would eat a box of cookies or a tray of brownies or something else high sugar for energy to survive the day plus a couple cups of coffee.  The good news is with the diet none of those things were on hand today.  The bad news is on the diet none of those things were on hand!?!  I guess I need to learn other ways to relax and cope with exhaustion and stress than sweets and a glass of wine.  Maybe I should start listening to Mr Rockstar’s Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) on loop on those days LOL.

Elimination Diet Day 17: Purge

What We Ate:

Breakfast:

Morning Snack:

  • Celery with sunbutter

Lunch:

  • Simply Balanced Oven Roasted Turkey Breast Deli Meat
  • Pears
  • Monterey Jack Cheese
  • rice cakes

Snack:

  • Rice cake with honey

Dinner:

Spaghetti Bolognese

Dessert:

Good cheese is heavenly.  Today we had fresh pears, turkey and cheese for lunch at the park.  The only thing that would have made it better would have been a nice rustic loaf of bread.  Maybe next week?  Tomorrow Mr Rockstar has his next soccer game so I decided to mix up some cookies after dinner as energy bites for the game.

Today I just decided I had had it with artificial preservatives, corn syrup, artificial flavor, etc.  I went on a major purge.  I threw away the KETCHUP!  Something just came over me.  I also threw away the powdered parmesan cheese that lasts forever in the fridge.  Even though we haven’t seen a huge improvement in behavior with the kids on the diet we have seen many other benefits.  Reading all the labels and eating only foods cooked from scratch for the last 2.5 weeks, I have just become disgusted with all the things that are added to our food for no good reason.  I will pay an extra couple bucks to have real parmesan or turkey meat that only has turkey in it.  My kids have all decided they love mustard.  What do we really need ketchup for anyway?!?

Now that we have milk back I was able to start a fresh batch of yogurt!  I learned this summer how easy it is to make yogurt and it has become an obsession.  I can’t wait for it to be done tomorrow morning!

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Kids:

We finally had a GOOD day!  Being the super nerd that I am I started recording behavioral issues along with sleep, medication, mood, weather, etc on my phone using the Autism Pro app.  However our last day or two have been that is how I feel we were doing as a whole.  Even if we had a bad month, if we had a good couple days before seeing the doctor I would just say we were doing fine.  Also, it is hard to determine if changes to routine, medication, diet, etc are effective without good data!  So enter the data…now every time Mr Rockstar is aggressive I hit a button on my phone, or anytime he screams, or whines.  Tonight I stayed up late making some charts in preparation to see Mr Rockstar’s doctor tomorrow.  Today was a good day but you can see we have had a bunch of rough days in the last few weeks.  I am hoping his doctor has some good suggestions because I am so drained after a day or two of poor behavior or sleep by Mr Rockstar.

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