Book Review- “The Spark:A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius”

Kristine Barnett wrote this book about her son, Jacob, and it is amazing. I’ve read it three times, and I’m still in love with it. Jacob is incredibly gifted and also has autism.

He was diagnosed at two years old. Kristine and her husband were told that his autism was so severe that he would most likely never talk or even tie his shoes, but he beat the odds due to her dedication. She also ran an in-home daycare while raising him and his two younger brothers.

I identify with Kristine so much throughout the story- she and I both had small strokes at the age of 30, mainly due to extreme amounts of stress.

Mine, of course, was brought on by a migraine, but it came from stress. To this day, I struggle with speech issues (aphasia- look that one up, it’s a lot of fun), short term memory loss and migraines. To find out more about my stroke and its impacts, you can read Invisible Changes

Kristine realizes very early on that Jacob (he is known throughout the book as Jake) is showing signs of something, but isn’t sure what. Her mother is the one that realizes that it may be autism and hands her a list of signs.

Jacob was very fascinated with shadows, barely interacted with others, barely spoke and had other signs. I won’t spoil the story for you, but the shadow fascination leads to bigger things in the story. It’s pretty great. This kid’s very intelligent.

She has him evaluated and is devastated by the results. Her husband is in denial for a while but does come to accept the diagnosis.

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Julian was about four when we started seeing behaviors. I was still quite busy with Lily’s developmental delays and her assorted therapies at that time, so I wasn’t sure what to think. He became more aggressive and less of the affectionate, sweet little boy I knew.

He stopped hugging us. We lost the big kisses he gave us at night. He began throwing what I thought were big tantrums. He would scream and yell at his siblings, and I became very worried. I was heartbroken and worried about what to do, what I wasn’t doing.

We had him evaluated- I was actually relieved to get a diagnosis. It gave me a better idea of how to help him. He was diagnosed with ADHD (severe, combined) and autism in late 2011. That story can be found in Looking At the Bright Side

He still won’t hug us, and I miss that. Julian’s got an adorable smile that everyone loves, and I offer him hugs when he is upset. I know he probably won’t take it, but he knows he can have one whenever he needs it.

Kristine tells the story of her family in a very relatable way. I believe that’s why I like it so much. Even if you don’t have a child or know one with autism, it’s a great book to read. You can tell that she is very dedicated to her family and work. She gives so much hope to the reader in her story, even during the not-so-great parts of their lives.

My favorite quote from the book is “Certainly people with autism are in our world. They’re just not thinking about the things we want them to think about.” This is so true! I’ve worked with a lot of kids with autism, and they think about a lot of things I would never think about.

You would be surprised at the things they are capable of thinking about. They may not be able to verbalize it very well, or even at all, but they can still think of things we may not be aware of.

I also see this with Julian. We can be at dinner and watching the news and he’s thinking about a video he watched last week on YouTube. (I know this because I asked.) He once got an award for “Out of this world thinking” in elementary school. Let these kids, let all kids think and dream. You’d be surprised what they may come up with.

Pic courtesy of Google

Teens and Privacy: Where Do You Draw The Line?

The Challenges of Social Media

Teens are a challenge and a half. I’m just wandering into the pool of those challenges- most of them weren’t even on my radar until recently.

Everyone needs privacy. We need our space from others, physically and emotionally. We need our own space to grow and express thoughts. Teens need this for many reasons, one of the biggest reasons being that they are trying to figure themselves out. Remember how hard that was? Yikes.

Resist the urge to hover- this may lead to your child hiding things from you and/or lying. This can lead to worse things that you anticipated.

What Our Parents Didn’t Worry About

In the age of technology, privacy can get a bit worrisome. Parents have a lot more to worry about now than our parents did. We have to worry about Instagram and other social site pictures being too revealing and suggestive.

We have to worry about our kids being bullied because that ends tragically far too often. We worry about our kids being targeted while they play video games. These are just a few things that our parents never had to think about.

Black and white computer pic

Talking to Your Children

Opening up a conversation about privacy can be a bit awkward. It’s hard to start the conversation without being weird- you may have to look for an opening.

Do you already have an open relationship with your child? If you do, this may be a bit easier. If not, you may have to do a little more work to ease into it.

Go to my Freebie Page and find some helpful tips for talking to your kids. They require careful steps but in the end, everyone will be glad for the talk. The teenage years can get pretty awkward and a bit scary. Kids need to know they can talk to their parents about anything, including things that go on in the electronic world.

What if my child won’t talk or let me see what I ask for?

This is a rough one. Some kids aren’t talkers. I’ve got a couple. I’m not saying just let the quieter kids be- because they still need to know the importance of opening up and respecting this request. Losing their privilege can be a huge incentive to give you the information you want.

Assure your child that they can come to you if they are scared. That may be all they need.

There are some great apps for keeping an eye on what your kids do online- I use Net Nanny and it is super simple. It’s free and sends me a weekly summary of anything blocked or warned due to something the kids shouldn’t have looked up or sites they don’t need to be on. They also know about this and that they will lose all privileges if I get anything from this page.

As of this post, nothing has ever popped up in the whole time I have had this installed. We share a YouTube account and I can see everything they look up on Google. Some parents I know require their kids to charge devices together in one room after a certain time, access to devices (including phones) at any time they request it, or a little bit of both.

As of now, one of my kids has a phone, and it’s highly monitored. The tablets haven’t been much of a challenge so far.

I’m not a fan of breaking and entering into your child’s room. I don’t recommend this at all, except in one condition. That condition is if you are certain your child is in imminent danger and/or there is illegal activity involved. By all means, break down the door and go for it. This also applies for self-harm and other mental health reasons.

I’m hoping that I never have to sneak in my kids’ room and go through their things. I hope we are able to talk through things and come to a solution first.

What are your thoughts?


5 Facts About SVT

Parenting is challenging. Sometimes we are given those challenges out of nowhere. Cameron has been my “easiest” kid so far but yet gave us the biggest scare.

A Bit Of Background

Cameron was diagnosed with SVT in June 2015. This was discussed a bit in The Hardest Parts of Parenting

His diagnosis came after a game of basketball that led to an ER trip and scaring everyone in his elementary school in the process. Heart issues are very common in both Matthew and my families.

Cameron has been back to the hospital a few times since, due to more (smaller) episodes and for a small procedure to stop the episodes in 2017.

Due to some small episodes, he has had to be on a heart monitor for a month twice. I yelled at different customer service people over shipping complications with the stickers both times.

Mama Bear does make appearances from time to time, everyone. I try to be a nice person but when you mess with my son’s health…

Luckily, we live near a hospital that is amazing and Cameron has a cardiologist that spent his many years in school learning how to take care of kid-sized hearts.

The monitor came off both times without any issues being noted. He only goes back if anything comes up and as of yet, nothing. I will karate chop anyone, however, that even thinks of giving him anything caffeinated.

This includes energy drinks- no Monster drinks at this house. He currently takes two medications for migraines. One helps with his heart, so we consider it a two-for-one. The other is just for migraines.

Hospital pic

What IS SVT? Five facts

The last time I talked about this, I either said to Google it (because Google knows all) or I left a link, but this time, I’ll educate.

I decided on this because one of my greatest nightmares with Cameron is him collapsing during a basketball game and dying like I’ve seen numerous times on the news.

Most kids that die in that way during a sports game had a previously undiagnosed heart condition- either Long QT syndrome or sometimes SVT. Please bear with me, everyone, I’m not a cardiologist.

  1. SVT is an abbreviation for supraventricular tachycardia

This means that the electrical system in your heart works incorrectly, which can lead to an irregular heartbeat, chest pain, and in some cases, loss of consciousness. In Cameron’s case, he passed out in his first episode because his blood pressure dropped. His school immediately called me and an ambulance.

I couldn’t make it to the school in time, so the principal rode to the hospital with him, where I met them. In his second and more severe episode, he didn’t pass out, but he couldn’t walk and I had to get a wheelchair because I couldn’t carry his 12-year-old self in. I did make him stay awake in the car. He was in the hospital for four days that time.

The last few episodes weren’t as serious- but still not fun.

2. SVT can happen at any time, but episodes can happen years apart or never again.

I didn’t like hearing this part at all. It scared the hell out of me. I was afraid to let Cameron do anything for a while after his diagnosis because I was scared it might trigger an episode but he’s got to live his life, right?

He went from June 2015 to March 2017 between episodes before his procedure. That’s not bad. He’s had a few small ones since the procedure but nothing that required hospitalization.

3. There are some known triggers, but then it can also happen while you’re doing nothing or can wake you up from sleep.

Cameron has had smaller episodes during migraines, which is why he is now on medication for both.

He is also not allowed to drink caffeine except for small amounts if he needs it during a migraine, and he stays well hydrated during the summer. That seemed to trigger both episodes. The last episode was triggered by Ultimate Frisbee in gym class and I think he may have been overheated.

4. SVT can stop on its own sometimes requires action to slow the heart rate.

During one of Cameron’s episodes, his heart rate was well over 200 and I was petrified. I had to stand in the hallway, peeking through the curtain as the nurses and doctors worked on him.

There are small maneuvers that you can do on your own, like blowing through a straw or blowing on your thumb, but sometimes those aren’t effective. In the ER, most patients are given medications through IV.

Cameron had to be given medication three times before being transferred to a downtown hospital, where he was in the ICU for three days before spending a fourth in a regular room.

5. There is a procedure that can stop SVT.

Cameron was eligible for an ablation. His two episodes were severe enough that his cardiologist suggested it as soon as he went into the ICU. Cameron was awake but sedated, and his cardiologist went into his heart, found the tissue that was causing the bad heartbeat and burnt it.

Cameron stayed overnight and was home the next day. He missed a couple of weeks of gym class, but I don’t think he minded that very much. It has a high success rate, but Matthew and I were both very scared something would go bad.

I mean, it is small heart surgery. It went well, and Cameron is an active kid. He can play all the basketball he wants.

SVT can be a scary condition. I still worry when Cameron is outside playing with his friends or at school- his school is well informed. He knows what to do if his chest starts hurting and so does everyone that he spends time with. If you want more information on this condition please go here.

Survival of the Fittest: Parenting Through Puberty

I live in the middle of smelly socks, messy rooms, and so much pettiness that I’m contemplating creating a YouTube channel for the shenanigans that go on at my house daily. There are Gatorade bottles all over my boys’ room and Lily’s room still looks like an episode of “Hoarders”. It most likely will until she moves out, but I haven’t quite accepted this yet.

Teens on waterslide

The Yucky List

This is one of many things Matthew and I did not think out when we had kids- we seem to be getting through this unscathed, for the most part. There have been a few rough moments with Cameron, the most easy-going of the three. He gets mad, yells, might even cry a bit, but then he’s done and that’s it. He will be 14 in a few weeks- I’m still stuck on him turning 4.

The other two? Julian and Lily both have issues with emotional regulation thanks to their diagnoses (Lily’s is still unknown, we are waiting for results as this is being written) so that plus puberty, in which hormones are everywhere, this can get messy.

All three kids, however, eat everything we bring into the house and right now, the boys have some form of man colds and think they are dying so, yes, I’d say puberty is kicking right in. If you read my other post To Puberty and Beyond you may be able to get a sense of how things have progressed. (Spoiler: Cameron still takes naps.)

Upset teens

The Middle School Battlefield

Middle school can be rough. I’ve been lucky in this area, the boys haven’t had many issues, but Lily will be there next year and I worry my luck may run out. Girls can be cruel- picking on other girls about their weight, looks, interests, issues with boys, and so on.

Sometimes things are great with your daughter and her friends then POOF! She’s entirely left out of the group- no more sleepovers, hangouts, everything is gone. This can happen to boys, but it’s more common with girls because they tend to form closer relationships.

How can you help your child?

  • Validate their feelings. They need to know that what they feel is real, that you understand, and that it’s okay to be upset about what’s going on.
  • Listen. It may be hard to not instantly fix the problem for your child, but it may be better to let them talk, cry, or both.
  • Empower your child. Give him/her ideas on how to deal with the situation, like staying away from the person/people who is/are bothering them, eliminating them on social media, staying calm, ignoring, etc.
  • Look for signs of worsening issues. Kids can cover things up well and when depression, anxiety and other emotional issues are hidden, it can lead to more serious things, like substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicide. This has become a major issue in our country.

Speaking Of Hormones…

It’s a well-known fact that girls go through a lot during these years, hormonally, but what about boys? I think they might get ignored a bit. I don’t have brothers, so I didn’t get a day-to-day look at how boys operated when I was younger. I’ve got two older sisters. They have hormonal things going on, too. It just shows a bit differently.

Boys get upset, just like girls do. They cry. They yell, and might even slam a door. I’m not sure how my kids’ bedroom doors are still on their hinges. They get a bit spacey.

Me: “Cameron, restart the towels in the dryer, please and thanks.”

*fifteen minutes later, after he has made a sandwich and is sitting at the table*

Me: “Dude. The towels.”

Cameron: “Oh, crap. Sorry, Mom.” *runs to the basement*

This leads me to:

  • Make requests clear. If you need a teen to do something, you might want to revert back a few years and be clear in your directions. Remember when your kid was seven and still needed reminders on what they needed to do to clean their room? That. That’s what they need. Slightly exhausting, but otherwise those towels aren’t getting done.
  • Laugh. This should be a tip from day one until your kid moves out, but it’s definitely needed at this point in parenting. Your kid will do a lot of funny things- most of it on purpose. My house is full of laughs. There’s a lot of fart jokes, a few prank calls from their grandmother’s cell phones, and other weird things.
  • Encourage them. These are some hard years. School is long and sometimes “boring”, you’re trying to figure out who you are, make friends and just want to fit in. Plus your parents still want to know everything about your life? Ew. Your face and body are changing- maybe not in ways you like. YUCK to all of this. The best thing we can do is encourage our kids. Let them know things do get better. They do get easier, those pimples go away, they will get taller. Help them find something they enjoy. This can boost their self-esteem a bit.
  • Be straight-forward. Thanks to my battles with drinking, this has been an important theme with my kids. There are some details they really don’t need to know, but I’m fairly certain they understand the perils of drinking and using other substances. Matthew and I are straight-forward about most other topics because there really isn’t a point in sugar-coating things for the kids at their ages.

Elephant fight

Caution: Bad Attitudes Ahead

Lily is the Queen of Eyerolls at ten years old. She still has about two months before her 11th birthday. She rolls her eyes at almost anything she doesn’t like- food, being told no, having to clean her room, leaving her cousin Cheyenne’s house (they have been besties since birth)- the list goes on for a while.

Sometimes Matthew and I are the best people on the planet, sometimes we are just..ugh.

It’s hard to not take this personally, and I have to remind myself that Lily doesn’t really hate us. Julian really doesn’t want to live with either of his grandmothers (preferably Matthew’s mom because she has better WiFi and she lets them do basically whatever they want) and Cameron really isn’t going to stay in bed forever because he’s mad.

What do you do when your kid throws attitude at you?

  • Think of how you are reacting to the situation. Check your feelings- are you frustrated, angry or even super tired? These can affect how you deal with the situation. Take a break if you need to and come back to the discussion later.
  • Are you part of the problem or the solution? Are you helping your child through the issue or are you making it worse?
  • Is there a deeper issue that I am not seeing? When a teen is upset about something, it can come out in many ways. We may not be able to see the deeper issue unless we poke around a little but it is well worth the work. He or she might be showing one emotion but holding in an entirely different one.
  • Remind them of what behavior is and isn’t acceptable. Your child may need a reminder of this depending on their behavior and/or language towards you. It is acceptable to be angry, upset, etc, but not acceptable to be flat out disrespectful.

I hope I can get through these years and not need to eat humongous amounts of cheese cubes. Do you have tips to share for raising teens? I would love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments, social media or email (use my contact form).

Pictures courtesy of Unsplash

Information courtesy of Inspiring Life Dreams

Phase 2 Parenting

Thriving on Ordinary

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Small Steps to Self-Sufficiency

At the Top of My List

On the list of things to do as a parent is to teach your child to take care of themselves. I am a fan of this on many levels- I don’t want my kids to go to college or move out barely able to take care of themselves.

Matthew didn’t do his own laundry until then, and I was like, “Wait, what?” I had been doing my own laundry since I was about 12 or 13. I’m not a great cook, as we all know, but my mom attempted many times throughout my childhood. For the record, my mom is an amazing cook.

Tired mom

I also realize that I won’t be around forever- this became super real to me after my stroke in 2013. Yikes. Since that stroke, I have struggled with migraines and now rheumatoid arthritis. The migraines have gotten better in the last few months, but they are a permanent risk. I will be on medications (pretty much) forever to prevent them.

I was diagnosed with RA last year, but I’m not sure how long I had symptoms. I’m not the best at tracking these things, plus I’ve been on medications in the past that cause joint pain, fatigue, and a few other issues. (Thanks, Depakote.)

I’ve written about having RA in RA and Me Unlike my grandfather and many others, I have been lucky enough to get a diagnosis early so that my joints have a chance at not getting entirely destroyed. My grandfather died in 2016 at 83, and his hands were a major problem. He couldn’t write for years before he died because his fingers were curled up due to severe joint malformations.

These medical issues are less than fun and some days, it’s a struggle to get out of bed, much less wash clothes, cook and other things. Kids are pretty demanding. My post Chronic Conditions and Mommimg discusses this in more detail. I didn’t like the idea at first, but I’ve had to ask my kids to help out a lot more. Both boys can do laundry, cook (somewhat), wash dishes, and other things. Lily has been a bit more of a challenge, which leads me to the next topic.

Dishes pic

Kids Need a Bit of Encouragement

Some kids don’t need a lot of words- just tell them what to do and let them be. Lily is not one of these kids. She gets overwhelmed very easily and we have to break chores down for her- I have to make a list of what to clean up in her room. It takes less than five minutes to do and even though she moves at a snail’s pace, her room does get cleaned.

I stopped cleaning it months ago. It’s time-consuming, she’s old enough to do it on her own and honestly, I have other things to do with my day. Every kid is different and that needs to be taken into consideration.

Playing alone with legos

Tips for encouraging your child to do more on their own:

  • Take a couple of steps backward. Sometimes we tend to stand right in our kids’ way when they are trying to do something on their own. Let them try the task, resist the urge to correct or change what your child has done and praise their work. They need to hear that you think they did great, even if there were a couple of hiccups. Perfection is less important than you think it may be.
  • Break down the task. I do this often for Julian and Lily. They have different needs and this is a way to make things a lot easier. There are fewer tears on their end and less frustration on mine. Don’t hesitate to walk them through the task if needed and then back away, slowly letting them gain a skill.
  • Time limits can help build confidence. Get your child started on a task, then let them work on it for a certain amount of time on their own.
  • Give them a clue, not the whole answer. This can be very helpful with homework. A small clue towards the answer may be all they need to get the answer on their own. If they can’t find something, give them a hint on where it might be or the next step in a process.
  • Make a list of things that your child can do for themselves. You and/or your child may not realize what they can do. A list may allow your child to say what he/she feels they can do on their own and what they still need assistance with.

What About the “I Can’t Do It” Kid?

Some kids have anxiety about getting chores or other tasks done because they are afraid they can’t do it right, which they don’t want to show to anyone, sometimes leading to defiant/avoidant behaviors.

The main focus on fixing this issue is to find out what is making your child so anxious- are they worried they will take too long, they don’t know how to complete the task, it’s too overwhelming, etc. There are invisible factors but yet they can be a large roadblock.

  • Try talking to your child. He or she may open up about their worries and you may be able to find a solution. If they don’t, try small questions at first. This may help.
  • Offer to help get the task (ex. cleaning bedroom) started. A small nudge may help a lot, especially at the beginning of trying something alone. A kid’s room can be a big space to clean if they’re scared they can’t do it alone.
  • Remind them that perfection is not the goal. I used to be a perfectionist, but I just don’t see it as a thing anymore. (My former therapist helped a lot with this idea.) They don’t need to make their bed perfectly the first, tenth or even fiftieth time they make it. Learning a new life skill and the effort is a lot more important. For example, Cameron put three laundry pods into one of his first unsupervised loads of laundry. He thought I would be mad, but I told him that his and Julian’s clothes would be super clean and smell wonderful.
  • Remind them that everyone makes mistakes and they are still growing. Kids tend to forget that they are still growing and that they will mess up. It’s okay.
  • Encourage them to take a break if things get too frustrating. This can be useful for almost anything, but kids need to know this is an option. This might be a relief.

Relax pic

Think of helping your child become more self- sufficient as beneficial for everyone: you, the parent, get a few extra minutes in your day and your kids learn a lesson. It’s a plus for the family.

Do you have tips to add? Do you have a kid who refuses to do anything for themselves? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment or find me on social media.

Information courtesy of: Developing Minds

Today’s Parent

Parenting

Pictures courtesy of: Unsplash

 

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