Monday, April 30, 2012


Every now and then they surprise me.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Unexpected treats

A couple of days ago the kids and I stumbled on this little ice cream shop. We had some extra time, and ice cream sounded pretty good, so...

Annie chose Cookies and Cream, Ellie chose Bunny Tracks, and Austin chose a red slushy, but then decided he liked my coffee ice cream better! I was nice, I shared. :)



Friday, April 20, 2012

Austin's Antics and ADHD

Austin. His name evokes images of a wild little boy. Constantly running, climbing, jumping, and throwing things.

For years he's been EXTREMELY active. As one person said, "He's like 3 'all boy' boys wrapped into one!" At 2 1/2 he was diagnosed with some hearing loss from fluid in his ears. He had his first set of tubes put in, and we waited to see if he would catch up on his own with speech.

Not so much.

He started speech therapy a couple of months later, and on his 3rd birthday started ECSE preschool to continue speech and language therapy. Just after he turned 4 he had a second set of tubes put in his ears. The first set didn't last long, and his hearing was suffering again.

Looking back I'm sure a lot of his early behavior was due to his hearing loss. He couldn't talk, so he'd bite people to tell them to get away. He couldn't hear well, so he missed a lot of instruction, plus he had zero impulse control. He also seemed to feed off of others, if his environment was calm, he was calmer, if it was busy (like a playground) he was wild. I disciplined him constantly, and it seemed to work...for about 10 minutes. Then he completely forgot about what had happened. I began to seriously wonder about ADHD when he was around 4. He'd finally stopped biting people, but there was still no impulse control. He had very frequent bathroom accidents even though he was potty trained. He was acting out and struggling more at school. As he turned 5 my worry for him became more urgent, as did his schools' concerns. About the time we were wrapping up Ellie's diagnosis we began the process to figure out what was going on with Austin.

We and the school looked carefully at the possibility of an Autism Spectrum Disorder. With Ellie's history the chances are higher for him to be on the spectrum too, but after extensive testing both with the school and privately we ruled that out as a possibility. Instead, not surprisingly to me, he was diagnosed with ADHD.

At first I was cautious about his diagnosis. I feel like ADHD is overly diagnosed, and I wanted to make sure we weren't just jumping to conclusions. However now that we have 2 separate diagnosis's, one from a medical doctor and one from a neuro-psychologist, that both say the same thing, I feel more confident that this really is a part of him.

The school started daily OT with him to help his sensory seeking behaviors, and we saw great results with that. Then a couple of months ago we started him on an ADHD medicine. The results were immediate. The first day on his full dose he played with Jason, building things with constructs, (sp?) a kind of click together building toy set from Jason's childhood, for...


7 hours. He played happily, calmly, in one room, with only the exception of forced bathroom and lunch breaks, for 7 hours. Crazy!

I worried that the medicine would change him too much, that he wouldn't be himself, but thankfully that hasn't happened. I would describe him as still Austin, just calm Austin. He's still fun loving, active and happy, but he's just so much easier now. He listens to me and follows instructions, he is doing worlds better in school, making friends faster, writing his name, and almost never having potty accidents. The medicine has a few drawbacks, the biggest one for us being the lack of appetite, but overall it's been a miracle. Once it wears off though, he's right back to crazy active town, so after 7 pm we try not to attempt much. :)

We're still figuring a few things out for him. He's behind on his fine motor skills, and may have some visual perception issues. He's still got some appointments coming up for all of that. His ears are still a major issue, well one ear at least. The second tube only stayed in that ear for 5 months, and now he gets frequent infections in it, and his hearing is suffering again, so we're talking about a possible 3rd tube for that ear. Also he has some learning delays, most likely from his early hearing loss. Sigh.

It's been another tough road, but again we've been blessed by our school system. They have been SO helpful, and are planning ahead for next year to set him up for success. LOVE the ladies who care so much about him! They have loved him through the tough times, and helped me keep my sanity through the process.

So there we have it. Our home, with one mom, one dad, one Asperger's daughter, one neuro-typical daughter, and one ADHD son. Oh, and two cats and two dogs.

My life is a circus, but it's certainly never dull!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spring at Razor Ridge, 2012

A few weeks ago we invited some friends for a day of fun at Razor Ridge! We had a fantastic day riding the four-wheelers and playing in the creeks. I love that Annie is getting pretty good at riding the four-wheeler! What a perfect day!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Easter 2012

We had a picture perfect Easter! We spent Sunday morning at church, and the afternoon at Grandma's house, hunting eggs and riding bikes.  Annie and Austin rode without their training wheels for the first time! The weekend before we'd colored our eggs at home with help from Grammie, on another beautiful day. Happy Easter, 2012!

How do you know me?

I am Shelley, wife of 12 years, mom to 3 kids. I am who I am, and for the most part my personality is consistent. I treat people nicely, smile at strangers, pick up after my kids, and overall just try to be a good person. That should be enough, right? Enough for people to generally treat me the same way? And they did, until Ellie turned about 4 1/2, and later when Austin turned 2. Then I began to notice that, depending on which child people connected me to, they treated me differently.

You see, the mom of Ellie must have some parenting issues. Ellie has/had frequent meltdowns in public. Maybe there's something going on at home? I mean, look at the way the poor girl is dressed, she wears the same clothes all the time and her hair looks unkept. Or maybe Ellie's mom is just way too lenient. Ellie's mom needs to take some parenting classes, (as suggested by a school counselor once) and learn to stand up to her strong willed child. You are nice to Ellie's a kind of pitying way. You encourage your kids to be nice to Ellie, but you keep a safe distance and never invite them over for a play date or a birthday party.

The mom of Annie must be a really good mom because Annie is SO well behaved. (at least in public) Annie's mom should be invited to lead something! After all, look how together she is! Annie always looks adorable, so her mom obviously cares a lot about her. She's slim and trim, so I'm sure Annie's mom feeds her a well-balanced, organic diet, and makes sure she gets plenty of exercise. You really like Annie's mom. You encourage your kids to play with Annie, and invite them to everything. Annie's family are the right kind of people.

Then there's the mom of Austin. You're not sure at first what to think of her. Austin is cute, and dressed well, so at first you think she's a pretty ok mom. Then that horrible Austin kid bites your sweet angel child on the playground and there's no longer a question, that mom is NOT doing her job right. You keep a safe distance from her while giving her your best haughty mom look. You look at her with thinly veiled annoyance as she dashes past you in the hall, trying to catch her out-of-control son. You shake your head at her when you see her at Target trying to wrangle her kid into the cart. You gossip with your friends at the pool about how many times the lifeguard had to whistle at that boy. And you make sure sweet little Johnny never gets near that mean Austin. Who knows, maybe that kid has rabies! Austin's mom is a mess.

So who's mom am I to you?

I am one mom. I parent all three of my kids mostly the same way. I have one personality. Although, I will admit that it has been beat down some over the last few years. One can only take so much social humiliation before it takes it's toll. My point though, is that I find it quite interesting how much people think they know me, based on one snippet of my life.

A few weeks ago I stopped by the DMV to renew my license. I took Austin with me, and we were there for 30 minutes or so. He'd taken a toy car in with him, and for 30 minutes he played cutely and quietly with his car, stopping every now and then to smile at me and say, "I love you mommy!". My little charmer. As we were finishing up an older lady stopped me and said..."Is he yours? (gesturing towards Austin) What a WONDERFUL boy! You are doing a GREAT job raising him!" I smiled and thanked her, and had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. She thought I was the perfect mom! Ha! I wondered what she would think if she could see me 3 hours later, when Austin's ADHD medicine had worn off. I'd still be the same mom, but how would she see me when Austin was (literally) bouncing off the walls?

The whole thing makes me want to laugh... and cry. Some people can't shake their view of me based on my children's behavior. If they knew me first as the mom to pre-medicated Austin, they treat me as such, even now that he is much more well behaved (most of the time). If they knew me first as the mom to Ellie, they still look at me with pity.

My life is quite the interesting social experiment. In a way, I am grateful. My own view of people is forever changed. The way I treat them, the way I think of them. Changed.

Something to think about.

One last thing... I have some amazing family and friends, people who have stood by me through it all. Real people. Real amazing, wonderful people who I couldn't imagine living this life without.  You know who you are. Thanks for being you. 


Thursday, April 12, 2012

My Beauty

Annie and I got to watch our local high school perform Beauty and the Beast a few weeks ago. They did a wonderful job! After the performance Annie stayed to have her picture taken with the cast. So cute!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012


You are a good mom.

Those words changed my perspective of myself not too long ago.

We were at our local dance studio, and I was helping Annie put on her dance shoes, while checking constantly to make sure Austin wasn't overflowing the water cooler tray behind my back. Ellie was hovering nearby, and as I sent Annie into class, I checked the clock to see how much longer I had to wait before daddy arrived to take Austin home with him. I plopped my frazzled body into a metal folding chair. Ellie buzzed around me, talking incessantly, nervously. I could tell she was wound up, overly stimulated from a long day at school, but I was too tired to think about what that really meant. A little later I suggested she try and put on her dance shoes, as her class would be starting soon. She started fussing, whining, complaining, the shoes didn't feel "right". I tried to calmly help her through, coaxing her gently to just try and push through so she could take her class, but in the blink of an eye she exploded into angry tears, and started screaming at me.

In these moments, rooms evaporate for me. I don't see the people staring at us for a little while, I just see Ellie melting down. My brain goes into crisis control mode as I try to figure out how to navigate this particular meltdown. This day I remember trying to get through to her by talking to her in a low, calm voice. I remember her screaming things at me, calling me names, telling me she hated me and wanted to kill me. I remember reaching out to try and touch her, hoping my touch, maybe a hug, could calm her. She tried to hit me, and then ran from me, in and out of people in the small studio, hurling herself into a bathroom and slamming the door. My breath left my body for a moment as that door slammed so loudly, rattling my brain. Then her screams came, echoing out of the small bathroom, and into the dance studio, making my heart cringe. I stood helplessly by the door, becoming more aware of the room and the other moms who wouldn't look at me. I cajoled Austin into playing a game on my phone, and he happily settled himself into a corner. 10 minutes later Ellie reappeared, completely spent, exhausted from herself. My husband walked in then, and after a quick, whispered explanation of the events, he took Austin and Ellie home, leaving me at the dance studio to wait for Annie.

I remember sitting down again, this time completely aware of what people were thinking. I sat quietly for a minute, fiddling with my phone, pretending to check something, trying to calm my racing thoughts and emotions. Finally I looked up, and as I did, met the eyes of another mom. Directly across from me, she had been there the entire time. She didn't flinch or look away, but instead calmly said those five words...

You are a good mom.

She said it matter-of-factly. Firmly. Without question. As if she'd known me for years, even though I only knew her by face. I managed a smile, thanked her, and excused myself to step outside for a minute, where I burst into tears. It was nicest thing anyone could have done for me, and her kindness overwhelmed me. To this day I'm sure she doesn't know how much her simple words impacted me, but they did. She'd seen the worst, and she was kind. She, the mother of one daughter who I've never heard utter a cross word, was kind.

I know I'm a good mom. I love my children. I care for my children. I provide a nice home, clean clothes, good food. I've sought help for the ones who need it, and been their best advocate. I am proud of their accomplishments, however big or small. However in those horrible moments, when I feel the weight of people's stares, I feel like the worst mom in the world. I feel the pressure of their thoughts, their judgement. Yet, with those five simple words, I was lifted up. Lifted back to the realization that I AM a good mom.

This is hard for me to share. It's like wearing my heart on my sleeve, but I feel moved to do so. In this month of Autism Awareness I feel a responsibility to share a little more of the reality of my life. A thread on facebook brought this incident back to my mind, and this great article prompted me to write my own thoughts. Yes, it's tough. But how can we help people be aware if we don't share?

By sharing we can help others. By sharing we bring people together. By sharing we create awareness, and find solutions. By sharing we make lifelong friends.

By sharing we make a difference.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ellie's Room!

A few months ago I blogged about finally redecorating Ellie's room, and said something about some "after" pictures coming soon.

Obviously soon is a relative term.

We did get her room done, awhile ago actually. I just couldn't muster up the energy to take pictures and blog. Oh the work! :)

Anyway, without further ado, here's the finished product:

The bed:

Above the bed:

Beside the bed: (no I didn't make this, but yes it is super cool!)

The bookshelves:

The bins on the bookshelves:

The window:

The organized closet!

Ta da!!!

Ellie loves it, I love it. I love the calming oceany colors. I love the tween vibe that's cool but not too grown up. I love that Ellie loves it, and even that Ellie's cat Rainbow loves it!

And although I didn't make the super cool lamp, I did make the curtains and the matching pinboard arrangement. Just wanted to get a little credit.

I am very happy with how it turned out, and maybe a little anal about keeping it pretty. I may or may not organize the shelves once a week and get rid of all of Ellie's I mean..organize her many treasures. :-)


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ellie's signs of Autism

First let me say that the saying..."If you've met one person with Autism, you've met ONE person with Autism." so true. There are shared traits and symptoms, but it is a spectrum disorder. In other words, there's a large range of what Autism looks like. If you are concerned about a child, or even just curious, I encourage you to visit this site and take the quiz:

To give you an idea, Ellie scored 46, with a score over 34 being "Likely Autism".

I'm listing some of the things about Ellie that were/are signs of her Autism. Some were "quirks", some were more serious. Looking back the one thing I'd do differently is listen to my first instinct to seek outside help. It came after talking to a friend over a year before I finally made the call. Calling a counselor is NOT a sign of weakness, in fact I think it takes strength to seek help. A quick Google search of "Autism Therapists" in your area should turn up some leads of who to call. Even a good family counselor can help by giving you some leads. The first person we saw was a family counselor, who within 5 minutes knew we were dealing with sensory problems and possibly more. The one we currently see suspected within one session that Ellie had Asperger's. These people know what to look for, they are experts, most parents are not.

Ellie's signs/symptoms:

-Funny crawl as a baby.

-Didn't cross her midline. Now this one was tricky, I thought she did, even Parents as Teachers didn't catch it. However, when she was evaluated by an OT, someone trained to watch more carefully, we found out she wasn't. She had adapted her body to look like she was. She would turn so she never actually crossed her body's midline. She would twist her paper so she wouldn't cross the midline while she was writing.

-Clumsy, uncoordinated. Ellie hated stairs, and would often bump into things.

-Removes herself from social situations. When other children come over to play she enjoys them being around, but will remove herself from them quickly and go do something by herself.

-Avoids loud noises, covers her ears. Ellie hates music shows and school assemblies.

-Odd aversions to clothing and textures (sensory issues) starting as a toddler (age 2 1/2) Beyond the typical "I don't like socks" She couldn't tolerate underwear, socks, anything fitted, tags, or having her hair brushed.

-Lots of social problems with other children starting very young, age 1 1/2. Even with age she didn't improve much. She didn't play well with others. She overreacted to situations. She spent a lot of time in time outs at home, preschool, kindergarten, yet that didn't change her behavior. Something I think is key here: Children inherently want to please their parents. And they want to be happy. Yes they will challenge us, but they want to make us happy. If their behavior doesn't change with discipline, or if they seem unable to change their behavior even when they really want to, those are warning signs. I remember just being flabbergasted when Ellie was 3 and she wouldn't wear socks on a cold day to preschool. I thought she was just being extremely stubborn. She was supposed to be going on an outdoor field trip, one that she'd been looking forward to for awhile. I told her she couldn't go if she didn't wear socks, and she sobbed and sobbed but couldn't bear to put socks on. I didn't let her go, and family and friends praised my strength in "standing my ground", but now I realize she wasn't being stubborn at all. She was in agony. That same scene has played out many times since then. Even when she wants to be good, or go somewhere fun, she just can't comply for some reason.

-Meltdowns over chairs being too close to tables at home and restaurants.

-Comments from teachers like - "I've never had a child like her."

-Extreme interest in one or two subjects. For Ellie it's animals, especially cats.

-Extremely detailed. Has a memory of steel. Notices things no one else does.

-Monopolizes the conversation. Doesn't allow the normal give and take of a conversation, doesn't notice if the other person is bored or annoyed.

-No imaginary play. Really no actual "play". Ellie collects things like dolls, but doesn't play with them like Annie does. She dresses them in "season appropriate outfits", and lines them up on her shelves. She never liked dress-up or pretend play.

-Very practical. Reads only non-fiction books like informational books about animals. I read lots of fictional books to her, but as she grew older and made her own choices, she only chose non-fiction.

-Described by us and others as a "little adult". Relates better to adults or those much younger than herself, than she does with peers.

-Seems to need to control everything. This was one reason why people (including us at times) thought she was just very strong willed.

-Doesn't handle change well. Does much better on a schedule. New places, especially loud/busy places, often sent her into a meltdown.

-Lots of meltdowns. Not just at home, in fact more often in public places. When I think of all the places we dragged her, changes of schedule we threw at her, sensory overloading environments we put her in...mercy. Of course she was always screaming. She isn't wired to handle any of it.

Ok, so that's some of it. :) As I look back on this cumulative list I think, How could I have not seen it sooner? But I remember that I didn't look at it all together like I do now. And even if I had, I wouldn't have known what I was looking at. All I saw then was a very difficult, very troubled child. This is why we need awareness.

Please don't hesitate to share this, or ask me any questions you might have. I am by far not an expert, but I am happy to help anyone in any way I can. :-)


Monday, April 2, 2012


Today is Autism Awareness day, and April is Autism Awareness month. Never in the past did I pay that much I do.

Here are my questions: What does "Awareness" mean? What needs to be worked on? What can we be aware of?

First, I think we need to be more vigilant at catching the signs of Autism. Ellie had so many signs, and yet it took until almost age 10 to get her diagnosed. She is very high functioning, and her diagnosis of Asperger's isn't as easy to see as someone with a lower functioning level of Autism, but still the signs were there. We did Parents as Teachers, MOPS, Preschool, we charted her milestones and mentioned her "quirks" to our doctor...but not one person caught it. We heard: She's a "difficult" child. We should take parenting classes. We should spank her, or be more firm. We shouldn't "put up" with these meltdowns, she must be doing that because she thinks she'll get what she wants. On and on, year after year.

We struggled through kindergarten and first grade, then had her OT evaluation done privately to get her first diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder. I filled out forms then, that asked about her social skills, but even I didn't realize I was answering the questions wrong. "Does your child make friends?" I answered yes, but now realize she really didn't. She had friends, friends that were my friends' kids that had grown up around her, but she didn't make friends. I was uneducated in Autism, and no one took the time to help me. We struggled through second and third grade, but it wasn't until fourth that the incredible social differences between Ellie and her peers was seen. And seen it was... Meltdown after meltdown prompted the school to begin testing her for Autism. I had begun my research about a year before that, spurred on by the show Parenting, and it's shocking resemblance to our lives. After months of testing and waiting, we finally got our answers just before Ellie turned 10.

"If only", those words pop in my head often... If only someone would have been knowledgeable about Autism that spent time with her, a teacher, a counselor, a doctor...maybe we could have shaved a couple of years off that wait. A couple years less of heartache and rejection, a couple years less of self-esteem crushing comments from family and so-called friends. That needs to change. I think anyone in the medical, teaching, or childhood program fields should be thoroughly educated in the signs of Autism.

Also I think we need to educate the world on Autism, and to be aware of how they act towards us and our children. Life with an autistic child is HARD. As Ellie's mom I spend countless hours and dollars on therapy sessions for her. I know often what she can and can't handle, mostly from trial and error. I have had nasty looks and mean comments thrown at me from total strangers. I have dragged her kicking and screaming from restaurants, pools, stores, theme parks, church, playdates and parks. I have learned the hard way how to read her signs of "I'm done." I will never forget hearing her screams echo out of restrooms in public places like Disney World or the local zoo. It's been a heart wrenching journey, fraught with critical naysayers along the way. With some awareness I think some of that would end. When people are aware they tend to be more understanding.

Awareness for us has brought relief. Relief in the forms of answers, therapies, school interventions, and new friends. Life seems like it's slowly getting a little easier, a little less exhausting. We can see tangible results of the efforts of so many people coming together to help Ellie. And for that I am so, so thankful.

So here's to Awareness. May it spread like wildfire bringing wisdom, patience, and grace with it. Things we could all use a little more of.