On Sunday I spent three hours with my daughter helping her overcome fear.  She’s an All-Star cheerleader and, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the sport, it’s nothing like sideline cheer.  It’s extremely competitive and requires a great deal of strength as there’s a lot of tumbling involved.  My daughter’s been doing one of these tumbling moves for several year and then, one day, she couldn’t do it anymore.  It’s not because she injured herself, it’s because she developed a mental block.  Suddenly, she had an all-consuming fear of doing it.  Something that used to come so easy to her was literally impossible for her to do.  Or so she thought.

A mental block isn’t uncommon in the All-Star cheer world.  At some point though, the athlete needs to overcome it. 

Both her coaches and her older sister (who is an also an All-Star cheerleader) worked with her in every way to get her to “just throw it.” Over the past few weeks it’s been building up in her head until now it’s a big thing.  Like a REALLY big thing.  Losing her skills has consumed her (and me) to the point that she’s in tears every day.  If she doesn’t through her tumble pass her coaches will be forced to take her off the team.

So yesterday, in the sweltering heat, I sat there watching her on the trampoline trying to force herself to throw her back handspring.  I encouraged, I threatened, I tried to piss her off – anything to JUST DO IT.

Her sister and I both told her, all the classes in the world won’t help, she simply must decide that her fear of doing it will not overpower her love of cheer.  There was about an hour of her screaming “I’m TRYING” and me screaming back “DON’T TRY JUST DO!” I’m sure my neighbors think I’m a horrible mom.

And then, after three hours, something clicked, and she did it.  And then she did it again.  And again.  She stopped trying and just did it.

That really is what it comes down to with fear isn’t it?  You can’t try you just need to do.  Whether it’s tumbling, leaving an unhappy marriage, quitting a job or anything else that brings fear, at some point you need to realize that “trying” isn’t going to change the situation.  It requires action.  Yes, taking action against fear is hard – it’s like standing at the edge of the diving board and deciding you will take that next step and dive in.

What are you trying to change in your life?  What action do you just need to do?  Share your story and let’s support each other.

We’ve all been in there – you’re on a plane and realize it’s going to be a looonnnnnggg flight because there’s a screaming kid on board.  If you’re a mom you most likely understand how hard it is and have sympathy.  Maybe.  But for those of us who have kids with special needs our child who is “acting up” might not be a toddler – he  might be a 12 year-old or even a 20 year-old.  I’ve been there to a degree.  My son is super anxious about flying and he CAN’T…SIT…STILL.  And he talks to himself – loudly.  And, by the way, he’s 6’4”.  Nope, not easy.

Recently a friend of mine whose daughter has special needs bravely ventured to Disney. All of us prayed that she’d have an enjoyable trip and were so happy when she posted how well the trip was going.

And then she flew home.

The following is her Facebook post that she gave me permission to re-print.  Please read and understand parents try their best…

I have debated whether or not to share this on fb because tbh it’s not that easy too. But after giving it much thought I figured I share so much of the good that it’s only fair to share the less than ideal moments too. I also want to share because I think/need/want people to be aware of this issue.  We have all seen viral you tube videos about it, we have seen situations like this covered in papers like the New York post, we have seen them flood our Facebook newsfeeds…yesterday you could have seen me there. You could have read about how a special needs mom and her daughter caused a raucous on flight #1494. It would have been so easy for someone to video my inability to control my daughters outbursts that went on for the duration of the flight. You easily could have read the litany of comments beneath the post how the mother did nothing to stop it. That she allowed this child to scream, cry, throw things, hit her, and demand food from the flight attendants. Most likely a specialist would chime In somewhere lecturing how parents need to be more prepared for situations like this. They need to come on board with snacks, activities, and social stories. They should prep their special needs child for airplane travel and explain to them the proper behavior for it.  I guess I feel a responsibility to explain the other side. So much of the time the special needs parents side of the story is unheard and misunderstood.

Yesterday’s plane ride was a disaster for numerous reasons but none of those reasons were due to lack of airplane prep, insufficient activities, and inadequate snack selections. Much of the failure of that plane ride had to do with issues that were simply beyond my control…X was exhausted, the flight was delayed, she was extremely anxious, she was overly excited, and she was unable to manage any of it.

If I could have I would have cancelled my flight and flown when X was in a better frame of mind but air travel is just not set up that way. What I hope/want/need people to understand is that certain aspects of special needs are unpredictable, uncontrollable, and unmanageable. What I wish people understood is that this is a very frightening thing for a caregiver and that it can render them helpless. Yesterday I simply got lucky that the flight staff was understanding and tolerant and that the passengers around me were empathetic. I did the best I could to control an uncontrollable situation and we somehow managed to survive.

While the scars from it will likely take quite sometime to heal, the memories from #Disney2018 will last a lifetime????

 

 

freeturkeyThanksgiving is, without a doubt, my favorite holiday! I absolutely love cooking and enjoy getting the entire family involved. While it’s tons of fun it can also be somewhat hazardous. Here are some tips for making sure the feast is safe as well as delicious!

Use caution when deep frying a turkey — Deep frying turkeys has become extremely popular and for good reason — they’re delicious! But, the process can be extremely dangerous and you need to be sure you’re taking the proper precautions.

  • Always deep fry outside on a level surface away from your house or other building.
  • Never place a deep fryer on a wooden deck, in a garage or under an awning of any sort! It’s difficult to gauge the temperature of the oil and there is the potential that it will combust.
  • When you place the turkey in the fryer, a small amount of oil could spill out an hit the flame causing it to ignite.

Keep a fire extinguisher and first aid kit nearby – Whether you’re using a deep fryer or an oven there is always the chance of a fire, especially when you’re cooking several dishes and there are so many distractions. According to the National Fire Association, cooking mishaps are the number one cause for fires in the home. And, once a fire does start, you have only about two minutes before your kitchen is at risk for flashover, the point at which surrounding surfaces and objects reach their ignition temperature and erupt into flames.

  • Keep pot holders and kitchen towels away from the flame.
  • Turn off burners if you need to walk away from the stove.
  • Check that your fire extinguisher is multi-purpose and can handle combustible material, flammable liquid, and electrical fires.

Unfortunately you can’t practice with a fire extinguisher as you can only use it once so be sure to read the instructions on the side before you actually need it!

Beware of food-borne illness – The turkey is undoubtedly the focal point of the Thanksgiving meal and preparing it can be a bit stressful for some people.

  • Be sure that if you’ve purchased a frozen turkey it’s completely thawed out.
  • Never thaw a turkey on the counter, in a microwave or in water! It should be completely thawed for several days in the refridgerator and be sure that it’s completely thawed before cooking.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before taking the turkey out of the refridgerator and immediately discard all of the wrappings.
  • Wash down all counter surfaces completely once you’ve dressed the turkey and gotten it into the oven and then be sure it’s cooked completely through.

meangirlsWe’re all familiar with “mean girl” bullying – the subtle put-downs, gossiping and condescending glances that are the hallmarks.  Unfortunately I’m not referring to teens, I’m talking about the moms.

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day (let’s call her Ms. C) and she was relating how upset she was over some comments made by another “friend” regarding her tennis ability.  Seems this “friend” felt the need to point out that she was surprised Ms. C wasn’t better at her game given how often she plays.  She then went on to complain to Ms. C that their instructor was adding more players to their group and she was upset that these less-than-stellar players would be playing with them.

Sound like a bunch of high school cheerleaders?  You betcha.  And of course I wouldn’t be surprised if this woman’s daughter was saying the exact same thing about her fellow cheerleaders at school.  The old saying “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to mean-girl bullying.

Whether it’s about a girl’s fashion choices, physical appearance, amount of money or status her family has, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, there’s always something the mean girls can find to attack in not-so-subtle ways.

I’ve learned this first-hand over the past year or so. After a nasty divorce from an emotionally and verbally abusive man who has made it his mission to spread inaccuracies in a seemingly rational manner, I’ve learned that people love juicy gossip and will draw conclusions without questioning facts.  This has led to some women in my very small town to make some pretty nasty comments to my face and behind my back.  My 9 year-old has witnessed this and it upsets her greatly.  Personally, I’ve developed a thick skin (usually) but I worry how the children of these women will treat my daughter now that school has begun.

How can we expect teenage girls to have tolerance for people’s differences when their parents, for whatever reason, are the role models for this behavior?  Whether it’s out of envy, boredom, jealousy, bigotry or just plain stupidity, these girls are learning that the best way to make themselves feel better is to diminish everyone around them.

So how do we teach our girls to stand-up against this behavior?  Once again, I guess the answer starts at home.  We need to choose to eliminate “toxic” people from our circle of friends.  If someone isn’t going to support us and make us feel good about ourselves then they have no purpose in our lives.  If we hear gossip from a friend, we need to question the motive and understand that we never know the entire story (what goes on behind closed doors and all that.)  And, when someone is being insulted or put down, it’s our job to question the “mean-girl”and not be a silent witness.

If mean-girl behavior can be learned so can strength of character.

teen-facebook

Social networking sites are rapidly changing, and it seems as though teens are the first to start the new trends.  A few years ago, Facebook took over MySpace, which not only attracted teens, but adults as well.  However by now, Facebook is quickly fading, as 94% of American teens are using their Facebook accounts less and are using it more carefully according to a recent study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. This study highlights that teens are sharing more information about themselves on social networks than ever before especially with the new sites that are popular today.  Microblogs such as Tumblr, Pheed and Twitter are becoming increasingly popular among teens.  Tumblr and Pheed allows teens to express themselves by shaping their own blog website while also following other users of interest.  Twitter has also made a remarkable presence among social networks where the site saw a doubling of teen users last year.  Twitter attracts users who enjoy reporting timely updates and viewing updates of others (it is similar to reading constant status updates from Facebook).  Users have the option of following celebrities, professional athletes, political figures and other media outlets on Twitter to receive reliable updates.  Image sharing is also becoming increasingly popular among teens.  One noteworthy application is Instagram, which is mobile application, where users can add funky filters to photos and share them among friends.  If you are notorious for showing people what you ate for lunch one day, then Instagram is the application for you!  Snapchat is the up-and-coming fad where teens send pictures to others that self-destruct after being viewed for a couple of seconds.  This application has appealed to many teens, as 150 million snaps are sent per day!  As with any other website or application, it is important to remember that “deleting” anything posted digitally may not erase it for good.

Although social media websites and applications may generate a hobby and allow for constant communication and creativity, many people are realizing that there are precautions to be taken.  Microsoft released a list of 11 tips for social network safety that outlines how to be protected on social networks.  As social networks become an integral part of our lives, younger generations are becoming interested in it as well.  Many kids use forms of social networks targeted to children such as Webkinz or Club Penquin (Neopets used to be a popular website as well).  However, more and more kids are finding their way onto more sophisticated social websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube where they are chatting with other users, playing games and posting and browsing photos and videos.  Regardless of their activity, kids should understand that social networks could be viewed by anyone on the Internet.  Unfortunately, kids on social networks are vulnerable and can be exposed to scams, cyber bullying, and Internet predators.  To avoid dangers on the Internet, communication is key.  Communication with your child about their experiences and expectations on social networks can help alleviate any nerves and avoid any dangers on the Internet.  Limiting personal information on social networks is also suggested, as that has become an easy way to track other users.  It is also a good idea to become educated about the social networks that your child is involved in and to create a set of house Internet rules in order to control your child’s activity on the Web.

gumbyLast year I wrote a blog about trying to keep all the plates spinning on the sticks at once, like circus performers do.  This morning I have a different metaphor – I feel like Gumby and various people and situations are pulling at each limb, stretching them farther and farther out.

I understand that I need to focus on saving one limb at a time, but the question is which one?  While I was given a final diagnosis of Intellectual Disability for Spencer, I still feel something else is going on.  I’ve explained to numerous doctors/therapists/psychiatrists about the pervasive self-talk.  And I mean constant. I’m assured this is just the typical imaginary world of a much younger child.  I have my doubts.  It consumes Spencer and he remains hyperactive.  He admits he can’t sit still.

This morning I woke up  and focused on trying to center myself for a productive Monday.  Unfortunately the school day craziness started – trying to get the kids out of bed, the forgotten note that was sent home in the backpack that needs to be addressed, packing lunches, snacks and emptying the dishwasher.  And then I noticed that Spencer was unusually hyperactive and engaged in self-talk.  As I followed him to his room to be sure he was getting everything done I heard him say to himself, “I feel like I’m going insane.”  Clearly, this is not something a mom can walk away from and it broke my heart – how do you start off a Monday morning when your baby clearly is hurting in some way?  And how do I also spend time with my daughter as she’s trying to get off to school?

So everything stops.  And I hug Spencer with all my might.  And I tell him I love him and that he’s not insane and that I will always be there to help him.  Because right now that’s all the matters.  A missed school bus, a forgotten lunch or wearing the same clothes from yesterday really is no big deal.  No one’s going to remember them.

This morning, that’s the limb I save.   The rest will just have to hang on until tomorrow.

Bloomberg Trying to Restrict Baby Formula in NYC Hospitals

The movement towards restricted formula use in 27 New York hospitals has women across the nation angered. It seems that this is almost an insensitive infringement onto the rights women have to feed their newborns formula.

This initiative will keep formula locked up in storage at hospitals in order to better monitor its use and discontinue free infant formula being distributed at the time of discharge, disallow the display of formula promotional materials in hospitals, and ensure the greater implementation of regulations forbidding the use of formula on infants unless medically required.

While breast feeding babies is undoubtedly the healthiest choice, and should always be urged as the first choice, the fact of the matter is that sometimes it just is not physically possible to nurse.

In speaking with other moms and their experiences nursing, it is apparent that many people do, in fact, suffer from desperately yearning to nurse their babies but simply not being able to.

“I knew it was ‘best’ to breast feed so the guilt I felt when I gave up at two weeks was awful,” said one mom about her painful experience – where her nursing attempts were hours long because her son could not latch on. Come to find out, her pediatrician ended up recommending formula because of allergic reactions her baby was having to her breast milk.

Another mom reported the intense pressure she felt in the hospital to breast feed her twin boys upon their birth. “They had the nerve to tell me I was ruining my boys’ lives,” she says of the nurses, sharing that she had a high fever and infection following delivery.

Clearly, in situations like these when mothers have been educated on the benefits of breast feeding and actively attempt to nurse their babies only for it to prove impossible, the criticism from nurses and hospital workers does nothing but catalyze stress and guilt in these new moms.

With that said, what are your thoughts on NYC’s “Latch on NYC” initiative? What have your experiences been with breast feeding, and furthermore, how would you feel if the hospital you birthed your child in had these same rules?

For more information on Dr. Neely’s eye kits, please visit http://www.aapos.org/news/show/97 by clicking on the image.

A recent statistic stating that 23million children have eye problems – a staggering number – has spiked my interest in eye care and vision screening for kids.

Especially since 95% of eye problems can be corrected and treated if detected early, it is vital to understand the value of having your children’s sight checked regularly.

Daniel E. Neely, MD, who treats children in his pediatric ophthalmology clinic for a wide range of vision problems, has recently developed a screening kit for the American Academy of Ophthalmology Leadership Development Program. There are technically two kits, one that is just the basics and one containing the basics plus some supplemental tools. Both kits have been designed to allow  school nurses or primary care physicians to perform a quick yet accurate pediatric vision screenings. Both kits come with instructions on use as well as CDs with information of vision screenings.

“It’s important to identify eye disorders in children at an early age to avoid lifelong visual impairment,” Dr. Neely said. “Vision screening for children is a low-cost, efficient way to identify children who could be at risk for developing serious visualimpairments.”

Finally, Dr. Neely has made the reasons that screenings are important clear:

  • Vision problems are frequently not noticeable to parents.
  • Many children cannot report a vision problem unless it is sudden, as they are unaware that something is wrong.
  • Pain is often not a side effect of vision problems.
  • Undiagnosed or untreated vision problems can result in vision loss.
  • Early treatment gives children the best opportunity for good eyesight as an adult.

For more information on vision screenings for children as well as Dr. Neely’s kits, please visit the AAPOS website.