When Did My Baby Get So Grown?

Every day, I take Aileen to school.  Every. Single. Day.

But some days it feels different.

We get in the car.  She buckles herself up and we drive a couple miles down the road to school.

We get in the drop-off line, she unbuckles and waits patiently.  When it’s our turn, a teacher opens the door for her and with an “I love you, have a great day!” she gets out and walks in to the school.

Every once in a while, like today, I watch her walk in to school and have to fight back the tears.  When did my little baby get so big?

We sat tonight discussing her upcoming 8th birthday and picked out a theme and some decorations.  She was so excited.  She made a list of all her favorites as we scanned themes online.  I watched her carefully write each letter and sound out the words.  After she had her list, she went back through and picked the ones she liked the most. Then we looked at what was available decoration wise.  (As much as I’d like to hand-make super cool decorations for the lesser-known themes, I just don’t have the time or energy. Party-in-a-box with a few homemade touches works for us.) I could see how happy she was to have input and make this party her own.  She will have a big part in helping out this year.

Sometimes I take our conversations for granted.  Sometimes I feel bad that I’m not fully awake and she’s excited as can be talking about some great idea she has and I just want a few moments of peace.  I watch my son struggle with communication and not having any words and am reminded that her loquaciousness is a gift.

I make a concerted effort to pay close attention even though it’s 7:00 in the morning and I haven’t had any caffeine.  We play “I spy” on the way to school and on the way home from school.  I am always amazed that she stumps me! She can find the most obscure things that I never would have thought to look around for.

I watch her walk in to school and think, “Wow, where has the time gone? The little girl who used to swing my arm back and forth as we walked in to daycare has gotten so big. She doesn’t need me anymore” :(

Aileen and Mom at her 2nd birthday.

Aileen and Mom at her 2nd birthday.

She has her moments where she wants to be a baby and be held, because she sees brother get that attention.  Sometimes I oblige.  One day she won’t want anything to do with me, so when she comes up to me and says “I haven’t seen you all day! Give me a BIG hug and a kiss!” I do as she asks and hope that it sticks around a while.  She sings “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” all day long complete with sound effects and voice changes.  I watch her dance around and her eyes light up and my heart is full.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do when all this “little girl-ness” finally wears off completely.  Shoot, I don’t know what I’m going to do when her front teeth finally grow back in! That toothless grin is so much a part of her now, I don’t want to see it gone.

But, of course, she can’t be without her front teeth forever.  But, just a little longer, please?

I have fought so hard to teach her what she needs to know.  Helped her strive for independence.  Help her daily to love herself and not think about what others think of her.  Some days she seems so much older than 7.  Some days she seems like 4.  I just want to hang on to her a little while longer.

Parenting can be such a paradox.  We want our to children to grow in to amazing, responsible, independent adults, yet we just want to hold them and shield them from the perils of this world.  I know I can’t hold on to her forever, but I hope she stays little, for at least a little while longer.

I think tomorrow is going to be another one of those days where I stay in the drop-off line just a little bit longer until she is safely in the school, hoping that she turns one last time to wave and blow me a kiss.  Momma loves you, too, sweet girl.

I love this little girl so much!

I love this little girl so much!

 

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Posted in Kids, Life, Uncategorized

Looking Forward to 2014

2013 was an extremely tough parenting year for Aileen and me.  I yelled too much. I lost my temper too quickly. I said no too many times. I got frustrated with her when I was the one at fault.

I wasn’t a bad mom, but I know a better mom is within me.

The one thing I know I did right this year is, I tried my absolute hardest to make it right when I realized what I was doing. There is no such thing as a perfect parent and I have never laid claim to be the perfect parent.

Aileen has been through so much more than the average 7 year old and sometimes, I forget that she is only 7 years old.  At this time last year, I felt like I was at the end of my rope. Aileen was out of control. Actually, my handling her was out of control.  I yelled at her a lot. And I mean ugly yelled.  There was not an ounce of the caring, loving mom I know I am.  Aileen had a really rough school year and I could not get her to behave in school or listen at home.  She was throwing full-blown temper tantrums.  Screaming, crying, kicking, throwing herself on the floor tantrums.  I literally got to the point of having to bear hug her to calm her down and then she would fall asleep.  I finally decided I needed to do something about it.  I chalked it all up to sibling jealousy which was intensified because of Braxton’s special needs.  I knew Aileen felt like the ‘forgotten child’ but I didn’t know how to make it better.

I called around to several different counselors with tears in my eyes and barely able to speak.  I didn’t even know what to ask.  We found a behavior counselor and started seeing her weekly.  Progress was slow, but I did see a difference.  Play therapy helped Aileen work through some of her issues and if nothing else, it was one hour where the focus was all on her and not her brother.

What a girl!

What a girl!

As part of trying to make things right, I learned new ways to get Aileen involved in activities that didn’t include her brother. I tried to spend more one on one time with her, too.  We decided to enroll Aileen in T-ball.  Although the first game was a disaster, she loved to play. She loved the game. She loved the girls she played with.  She loved that all eyes were on her when she had a game. Our family came to the games and cheered her on.  She bonded with Joseph over it as well since he would help teach her to play in our backyard. This is when I saw the most change in Aileen.  She was happier and she was behaving better.  We were getting along MUCH better.

We found other little ways to give her more attention as well and that really made a big difference.  It’s not that we were ignoring her before, but we really made a big deal about the things she was able to do that her brother couldn’t do.  As she realized the advantages of being the older sister, she settled down.

Despite the bouts of sibling jealousy, Aileen really has been a wonderful sister to her little brother.  She is so proud of him and so excited to see the progress he is making.  She is his biggest cheerleader and loves him so much.  I love to watch them together and know their bond is very strong.  We did a lot more this year that we wouldn’t have done last year.  We finally got a break in all the medical stuff going on with brother that we were able to go to movies, go shopping, attend birthday parties, and even go out to eat every now and then.  It’s the closest to ‘normal’ we’ve ever been.  Despite the yelling and frustration, it was still a year full of love and happiness.

Climb and crash!

Climb and crash!

About 4 months ago, I realized that there was something more going on with Aileen than bad behavior.  I learned about Sensory Processing Disorder and recognized that Aileen was definitely having sensory integration issues that needed to be addressed.  All of a sudden, the bad behavior made sense.  It didn’t make it right or excuse it, but I understood.  I learned new ways of discipline, new methods of keeping her occupied and meeting her needs.  We also started Occupational Therapy which made all the difference in the world.  Aileen learned new coping strategies even though she didn’t realize she was learning.  She made some really great progress in therapy, but unfortunately, the clinic has now closed so we are looking for a new one.  I can see a difference in just the one month break in therapy.  Now that the new year is settling in, we will be getting back in to therapy as soon as we can.

Overall, 2013 was a year full of trials and tribulations, situations that taught me more about parenting and listening to my daughter.  As always, she has helped me to become a better mom and despite my shortcomings she will run up to me and hug me and tell me that she loves me.  She will tell people that she has the best mom ever.  She looks at me like I can do anything in the world.  Sometimes, she gets on my last nerve.  Sometimes, I’m the worst mom ever (usually when she doesn’t get her way). And sometimes I’m just some old lady.  A few months ago, she literally asked “Mom, was it black and white when you were born?” WTH?! How old do you think I am!!?! Aileen has the amazing ability to make me laugh all the time.  She is incredibly smart and witty.  I’m proud to be her mom.  I won’t always get it right, but I promise with everything in me, to TRY and to always do my best.

This morning, Aileen randomly said  “Mom, you like how I woke up right when you told me? I woke up the first time because this is the new me. Listening, respecting others always, following the rules, no back talk,and behaving better than the old Aileen.”  How’s that for a New Year’s Resolution? My goal this year is to be more patient, more loving, more present, and more engaging.  I’m nowhere near the perfect mom, but in her eyes I am.  It’s time to live up to it for her.

I love this little girl so much.

I love this little girl so much.

Cheers to 2014! Can’t wait to see what this year holds for us.

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Posted in Kids, Life

There Used To Be a Floor Here

True Story.

True Story.

Ok, seriously, Stay-at-home/work-at-home-mom’s how the heck do you keep an even remotely clean house?!

The kids have been out of school for Winter Break for a week and a half and I’m seriously drowning! I clean and clean and clean, and still, I can’t find my living room floor!!

They still have a week left!!!! 0_0

Take them out of the house? Sure! Sounds great, but with the flu spreading like crazy, I’m likely to end up with two sick kids. Oh, and broke. Not to mention, the mess will still be here when we get home.  Cleaning, taking temperatures, giving medicine, cooling baths, and cleaning bodily fluids just don’t seem worth the risk.  Or maybe they do? Gah! Help!

Tornado Braxton is currently at a Category 2 picking things up as he finds them and throwing them as far as he can and laughing when they hit the ground.  Picking up bins and dumping toys out all over the floor.  Occasionally, a pile of drool follows.  Braxton is 2 with special needs and while he is currently non-verbal, he is certainly loving his new-found mobility and can move from the living room, to the kitchen, to the play room and back to the kitchen in no time.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Aileen is basically a Category 5 at any given time.  Taking things out so we can “work on them together” which actually means, Mom, here’s the directions, can you do this for me?

Next thing I know a pile of stuffed animals is on my living room floor.  What are you doing? — Oh, my babies are sick, I’m taking them to the doctor. — But what about this gazillion piece lego thing you have me building?!?

Doc Aileen

Before long, the babies have been abandoned at the doctor and snack wrappers make a trail to the play room where Aileen has managed to find paint to create her latest masterpiece.  Look, mom, I made this for you! Don’t you love it? — *Gulp* Oh, yea I love it.  The paint on the floor? Not so much.  

Bang! Crash. *Giggle* Bang! Bang! Clank. Clank. *Uncontrollable laughter* — Yup, Tornado Braxton has found his way to the kitchen cabinets and is open and closing them.  Takes out the tupperware containers and drops them on the ground to hear the sound. Moves over to the pots and pans because their sound is better.

That’s only about 30 minutes of every day.

Ok, HOLD IT! I check out all the awesome things I pinned on Pinterest to find something, anything to keep the kids busy and the mess contained.  Nope, too messy. Nope, don’t have all of the stuff for that project.  Aha! That works! Wrangle the kids for an awesome game or fun craft that keeps them content for a glorious 10 minutes and then they slowly go back to their destructive ways.

Back to Pinterest I go. Nope, that is too loud. I need some peace for a minute. Nope, that requires too much supervision.  I mean, really, is there anything they can do on their own?! I just want to take a quick shower. Pee alone for goodness sake! Or maybe cook something NOT in a box! I step away to do any of that and the living room floor has again disappeared.

The TV!?! That glorious invention does not hold Braxton’s attention for anything.  Aileen. Maybe. She will watch for a little bit and then she is “bored” and fidgeting or knocking things over or creating art projects and bam! pile of who knows what all over the place.

cleaning-and-scrubbing-can-wait-till-tomorrowMaybe having a clean house is simply impossible.  I should take pride in having a house that’s lived in instead of house that looks sterile.  Sure, the kids are only little for now, and I should enjoy every minute possible with them.  But, let’s be honest, at some point, someone HAS to do the dishes, vacuum the floor, and pick up all the toys!

I absolutely cherish every moment with the kids and take in all of their cuteness as much as I can. Having a child with special needs really changes your perspective and you learn to be grateful for every little thing.  So, I’m actually thrilled to see Braxton making messes, making noise, moving from place to place, but the aftermath make me a little crazy.

Going through all that we have with Braxton also changes the way I see things with Aileen.  Things really come so easy to her.  She has an incredible artistic talent and I really do love ALL of the drawings/paintings she makes, but do the crayons HAVE to be all over the place!? With the new found sensory issues, I’ve tried to find things that give her the sensory input she is craving, but it’s still not enough.

I’m pretty much all out of ideas here.  My house is a mess. I have to do work while the kids are home, but as long as the house is being destroyed with every phone call or e-mail sent, it’s just not happening.  I spend the first 2 hours of every day cleaning up the mess from the day before and within 20 minutes the floor is lost again. Cleaning throughout the day, reminding Aileen to put things away before she pulls out something new, cooking, cleaning my own mess, and trying to find new ways to entertain them, by the end of the day I’m just exhausted.  By the time I get the kids bathed and in bed, the last thing I want to do is clean! I just want to sit on the couch in the dark and take in the silence.  Next thing I know, I’m passed out in the middle of all the mess and vow to clean it in the morning.  Then the cycle begins again. :(

Stay-at-home/work-at-home moms, teach me your ways!!

Working from home is new to me and has been great! Working from home while the kids are out of school has been like shell-shock! How in the world do these two little people have so much energy! And how are they so destructive!? And how do I get my house back!?

I’ve enjoyed this blogging break, but you guessed it – the living room floor is lost again.  Hopefully, I can manage to stand up without stepping on a dreaded lego landmine.

 

good-moms

 

 

Hmm…if that’s true, then you should just hand over that “mom of the year” trophy, because seriously, my house is in shambles, and the kids could not be happier.

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Posted in Humor, Kids, Life

Thankful for Veterans

I always worry about Aileen not paying attention in school, but then she surprises me and shows me that she knows exactly what’s going on.  She often comes home and will do extra work that goes along with a lesson they are learning in school just for fun.  This past week they have been discussing Veterans Day and what it means to all of us.  I will always have a deep love for the military and all the men and women who serve our country.  I have tried to teach that to my children as well, but this is the first sign of Aileen actually “getting it.”

Yesterday, Aileen wrote a few notes and drew a few pictures expressing her thanks to Veterans.  It is incredibly adorable and heartwarming to see her appreciation.  Here is a video of her reading her notes:

And here they are:

1st the acrostic poem. (She did all of this without me knowing so I didn’t have a chance to correct the spelling beforehand.)

Veterans AcrosticV – Very Nice

E – Encouraged to fight

T – Taught how to fight

R – Respectful

E – Encourage to have more wars

N – Navy protects the seas

S – Soldiers protect and serve

Here is the first note she wrote:

Thanks to Veterans

Veterans are nice. Veterans can fight.  Veterans have army. Veterans have Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Soldiers.

The bottom says it’s by Aileen

The 2nd note:

Note to Veterans

I am thankful for Veterans because you help the USA.  You important people to the USA.  You have an army to protect us because that is how you protect us!

And here are the two pictures she drew.  A soldier and the flag.

Happy Veterans Day to all the men and women past, present, and future who serve our country.

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Posted in Aileen-isms, Kids, Life

Aileen’s First Concert!

Yesterday, Aileen got the biggest surprise ever! My sisters and I decided to surprise her with tickets to see Selena Gomez in concert! It was so hard to keep the secret, but it was worth it.  Here is her reaction:

PRICELESS!

She even made a sign!

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She had a blast! We all did.  Selena Gomez really puts on a great show.

I loved all the positive messages she gave throughout the concert as well.  She is a talented artist who truly understands what it means to be a positive role model.  She told all the girls at the concert numerous times about the importance of being yourself and not letting what other people say about you define you.  She also talked about dreaming big dreams and not letting anything keep you from going after them.  She showed these kids what hard work can accomplish.  And most importantly, she showed them what it means to be confident in your own skin no matter what people say.  She was able to be sexy without being trashy.  She’s truly a class act.  As a parent, Selena Gomez definitely gets my stamp of approval. ;)

Here are some videos of Aileen singing her little heart out!

“Who Says” This is Aileen’s FAVORITE song!

“Love You Like a Love Song”

“Come and Get It”

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Posted in Kids, Life

A Hodgepodge Update

Oy vey, I did not mean to abandon you! We have managed to stay VERY busy with school, little brother’s therapies, me getting a new job, and even doing lots of fun stuff.  Here is an update about everything that has been happening in the past month or so.

Picture day at school :)

Picture day at school :)

First off, is school.  School has actually been going pretty well for Aileen.  Her teacher sent home a note to meet with me about a month in to school.  I was terrified! I thought for sure she was going to give me a really bad update and tell me that my kid was just too hard to handle.  We talked about how school has been with Aileen over the past couple years and all of the other circumstances that come in to play.  Her teacher was so understanding and the whole conversation was very refreshing.  She explained to me some behaviors she was noticing and asked for my input on how to help make Aileen’s school year more successful.  I explained my recent concerns about Sensory Processing Disorder and some of the behaviors I have learned that go with that.  She talked about Aileen fidgeting in class and sometimes distracting herself and others.  We have extra chewy tubes that I let Aileen use at home and to my surprise she was able to calm down and focus on her homework.  I sent it to school with her and her teacher said her focus was amazing when she had the chewy tube.  She was so willing to work with Aileen and really take in to account the therapy evaluation without making me go through all the red tape and rules for special education and accommodation.  I have a VERY good feeling about this year.  Her teacher is really wonderful!

Climb and crash!

Climb and crash!

That leads me to therapy.  We finally set up the Occupational Therapy evaluation for Sensory Processing Disorder.  For the evaluation, there were several questionnaires I had to answer that gave the therapist an idea of where Aileen is socially and her skills at home.  The therapist tested her with some different standardized tests which tested her physical strength and different fine motor skills.  The therapist found that Aileen’s core strength is EXTREMELY LOW which affects fine motor skills like grasping, writing, and even how she sits.  Where most kids can handle sitting “criss-cross applesauce” and be attentive in class, Aileen’s core strength makes that particular position difficult and she prefers to sit in a “w-position” on her knees with her legs out on either side.  This is something I was able to share with Aileen’s teacher that she was more than willing to accommodate.  She was able to use this as a choice which gives Aileen some independence but still gets her to do what she is supposed to do…sit attentively in class.  We have had 2 actual therapy sessions since the evaluation and Aileen has done really well.  She is working on skills in an obstacle course fashion.  This also helps because Aileen has problems following multiple directions.  For example, if I tell Aileen “Ok you need to get dressed, brush your teeth, and put on your shoes” she forgets everything after the first step.  Doing an obstacle course in therapy, she has to learn to listen and follow multiple steps.  Many of the activities are focused on building up her core strength which in turns helps her with the skills she is lacking.  She also has many opportunities to focus on how her body is feeling and decide what her body needs.  They allow her to climb rope ladders and then “crash” into a landing pad which gives her sensory input that she craves.  There are also many different swings that give her the vestibular input she is always seeking as well.  It’s still a little early, but I think it is going well and Aileen is actually enjoying it.  I’m hoping to see some of those skills transfer over to home and school over time.

And finally, some fun stuff! Aileen got 2 invites to birthday parties this month and had a blast! It was so nice to be able to take her to play with friends and really enjoy her free time.  Since she has been doing really well in school, I’ve been making every effort to reward her as much as possible.  We’ve been to sensory friendly showings of “Planes” and “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2″ at our local AMC movie theater.  The sensory friendly showings are really great for her little brother since he cannot handle loud noises very well.  The lights are up and the volume isn’t very loud which is perfect for anyone with little children or of course children with special needs.  She had a book fair at school and I was able to take her and spend time there just her and I during the family literacy night and she really enjoyed the mommy/daughter time.  We even finally got around to decorating for Halloween!  Overall, it’s been a really great couple of months and I am excited to finally be getting therapy and seeing improvement in Aileen’s behavior and success in school.

Posted in Kids, Life

A Journal Just For Mommy and Me

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Most of the time, when I browse around on Pinterest, I see things and think “aww that’s neat, let’s try that!” Then it goes in to the abyss of pins never to be found again, let alone tried. Every once in a while though, I do actually attempt something and it comes out halfway decent! Here’s a couple success stories:

"Thanks for helping me grow!"

“Thanks for helping me grow!”

In Kindergarten, I found this cute idea on Pinterest for a teacher gift. It was a small pail of “flowers” with a simple saying on the side; “thanks for helping me grow.” The flowers were pens wrapped in green felt with flowers hot glued on top. The pail has a styrofoam block that the pens stick in to and then some small marbles to look like dirt. It was quick and easy and her teacher loved it! Aileen had fun helping me with it as well. She got to pick out all of the supplies.

 

 

 

 

Last year, her teacher Christmas present was also from Pinterest and a Crayon Initiallittle more challenging. I loved the idea of making the teacher’s initial out of crayons in a shadow box. Looked easy enough, and it was, but it was just more time consuming. I did all of the cutting and gluing the crayons to a piece of cardstock. Aileen got to decorate around it with stickers and spell out her teacher’s name. Again, it was fun and nice to add to the “Pins I’ve actually tried” board so to speak.

More recently, I saw a pin for a “Mommy and Me” Journal. Before I started giving Sensory Processing Disorder serious thought, I had still been looking for ways to make Aileen feel special and give her my attention in a way that Braxton did not take it. This was perfect. The idea is very simple and definitely very special for mothers and daughters. The journal is a simple notebook where a mom and daughter can write notes to one another. I write her a note and leave it on her bed so she can read it in the morning. When she comes home from school, she writes me a note and leaves it on my bed. I took this as an opportunity to really talk about feelings and being able to talk to me about anything and everything. I wrote out a few prompts she could use if she got stuck and so she could see the spelling. She instead decided to answer them all at once for her first letter to me:

She didn't quite get it first...or did she? <3

She didn’t quite get it first…or did she? <3

“Today I…. went to the flea market [she had been with her dad over the weekend]

You made me happy when….when you give me hugs

You made me angry when.… [she scratched this one out :) ]

I was sad when….I left

I like when…you loved me

I don’t like when…you give me nasty food

My favorite part of today was… to see you

This weekend I…”

We have been doing this for a couple weeks now and she really enjoys it. She likes to write me letters and draw pictures and she enjoys that I write her back. I love the open communication it has started, and the added bonus that we get to work on handwriting. Her writing is not the best, and probably not where it should be for 2nd grade, but we will keep working on her fine motor skills and get it up to par. Practice makes perfect, right?

Last weekend, she was being somewhat difficult, or maybe I was just too frustrated and not thinking clearly. This was waiting for me:

Sad note :(

Sad note :(

“You are being mean to me today.” With a picture of a sad, broken, heart.

Did I know I was being hard on her? Well, I was trying to clean up and she didn’t want to help, and I probably yelled at her a lot more than I should have.

Did I realize the effect I was having on her? Eh, maybe, but not so much.

She definitely internalized my “getting on to her” and trying to get her to help clean or behave. It really made me double think my tone and how I was going about things that day. I wrote her a note back apologizing for yelling at her and explained that sometimes when she doesn’t listen to me and I have to ask her to do something more than once that I get upset, but that I would try harder not to yell at her if she also promised to try harder to listen. I made an extra effort to do something really fun that evening, and all was well again.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the notes she writes. Some are funny, some are pointing out my being ‘mean’ because I want her to follow the rules, but most of them are like this:

Dear Mom, I love you so so so so so much. I can barely tell you how much I love you.

Dear Mom, I love you so so so so so much. I can barely tell you how much I love you.

No matter how hard our days are, I love this kid so much. She is quite the handful, but she can be so incredibly sweet as well. As a parent, it really means a lot to hear your kids tell you how much they love you or how great they think you are. It’s also nice to have this in writing so I can keep it for the crazy teen years!

Another Pinterest success! And you don’t have to be one of those Sally Homemaker moms to do it!

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Posted in Kids, Life

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My Little Brother
My Little Brother

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About Mom
Vanessa Garcia

Vanessa Garcia

It's not the destination, but the JOURNEY that matters.

A Mommy blogging all about life with a child with special needs and his awesome big sister. Everything I know about parenting I've learned from my kids. Sharing our story with the world to bring awareness and hopefully help someone, somewhere understand they aren't alone on this journey. I'm also a freelance graphic designer looking to expand my portfolio, so if you need assistance with a project, I'd be happy to help!

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© Vanessa Garcia and According to Aileen, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.
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