Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Making Plans and Making Faces


My eggs protesting pre scramble.
Just about every morning, I have 2-3 eggs scrambled with some sauteed Spinach on top. I drizzle some Chipotle Chalula hot sauce on top and sit down at the table to enjoy my breakfast with a side of whatever fruit we happen to have around the house and a cup of black coffee or tea. 

It's not that I don't like variety. It's just that this particular routine is easy, healthy, and something I look forward to. 

In the past 2 months alone, life has been anything but routine. If I was going to inventory it, the list would look something like:

Out of the last 6 weeks

The Impossible Girl has been sick for 3.5 of them with 2 different respiratory illnesses (not counting the one she got in October).

The house has undergone some serious construction (now completed... mostly)

One of the dogs became severely ill with a rare cancer that progressed quickly. He had to be put down on the same day they were doing construction at the house...

My Sailor left on a hunting trip with his family and shortly after the Impossible Girl became so sick I couldn't get her O2 levels above 90% when she was sleeping AND we couldn't get help from the ER or any physician because they were booked solid and overflowing with kids with the same issue. (Luckily her pediatric nurse is amazing and armed me with as much knowledge as possible as we played 'stay out of the hospital', barely dodging it)

Toss in a major holiday and it's incredible chaos.

And that's just the last 6 weeks... 

Counting down to the upcoming trip has been like port in the storm. 

As much as I LOVE to travel - it's not as simple as 'pack a bag and go' either. I've researched a BUNCH and I think I might be better prepared than last time we took a big trip. I think our tools are solid and at the ready. I think.

If you've followed the blog, you know that during our Spring Break family trip to Disney World, I was once again caught off guard by the levels that life is different for us. Not better or worse - just different. Our unwanted hitchhiker (better known as sensory processing disorder with some anxiety tossed in for spice) made it difficult to even go into buildings. At one point, I over estimated the power of our unwanted friend and it left The Impossible Girl in a panic attack so severe, I had to take her to the Baby Care Center and find a quiet, air conditioned room where she could safely see the hallucinations that were scaring her, and we could ride out the panic attack with her. It took nearly an hour and it was exhausting on all fronts. 

But that doesn't mean we STOP traveling. In fact, I took The Impossible Girl to a hotel in Tacoma for a random overnight on a weekend in November. And it went well. 

Our room had a killer view.

Watching Netflix on a HOTEL TV feels like more fun than at home.
I was hoping to hit up a museum, but we ended up visiting a new-to-us Defy location, grabbing coffee and playing cards with a friend, and ordering some pizza. All of the 'new' is good for the senses, and the little snippets of travel help me understand how to best prepare for the next trip. 

But traveling with Sensory Processing Disorder isn't simple, but it isn't something I hope to curb or even mildly avoid.  Thanks to our professionals - we can travel better. For example, I understand how to offer food in a way that isn't overwhelming - and teaching her own to special order things that she can enjoy helps normalize the whole process. I keep a noise cancelling headphones with us at all times and never once flinch at offering them or treating it as anything less than normal. Some kids tennis shoes. Some kids wear boots. Some kids wear sandals. Some kinds where head phones. 

And, yes, I still pack her carrier along as well. I don't often need it these days. We almost never use it in everyday life (barring her recent illness, when she's too tired to go run an errand with me, etc).  She's getting braver with each trip we take to an unusual place, and that's a feat.

 For The Impossible Girl - and millions like her with Sensory Processing Disorder - anxiety, terror, and high levels of excitment are hard to tell apart. Sometimes background noise and conversations don't instantly prioritize in the brain. 

We've accumulated a lot of tools so far, but this one I felt was worth sharing. KultureCity is working with organizations around the country to educate them on Sensory Processing issues and arm them with goodie bags of tools to make places like sporting events, museums, and zoos more accessible. They arm them with FREE bags they can check out that have fidgets and weighted lap pads and head phones, etc. Throughout the locations they work with, there are signs with the KultureCity logo wearing a pair of headphones. It's a loving, discreet reminder that this location may be loud and donning the headphones could be helpful. Little things like that make traveling so much easier - and I wish it was more wide spread. 

But managing that - at this age? That's what I'm here for. That's why she has parents. Not to be a crutch, but to help her recognize the feelings and strategize what her next step needs to be. Hopefully next time we make it to Disney World, she'll go inside buildings without a second thought - or maybe she'll have the second thought but work through it with a higher level of confidence.

So this time when we take a trip down to see my family, Disneyland is (shockingly) not on the menu. This time, it's La Brea Tar Pits (a 'must see' of hers for over a year since she saw a family go there on a youtube channel I watched), a different Great Wolf Lodge, a slew of different eateries (which will all have very different flavors than the rash of bland that our corner of the world suffers from), and different people. It'll be an awesome experience and I'm looking forward to seeing how she grows through it. 

Taking trips with kids is hard under normal circumstances. It's basically parenting in the wild - which can get exhausting. 

But the time will pass no matter where you spend it. Make the memories. Make the effort. 

It's always worth it.

Even the expensive Disney World trip that went very little like we expected.  Lessons learned are part of grand adventures. 

Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Tomorrow Envelope

See that squirrel on the tree?

Learning to live around anxiety is similar to learning how to live with that damn squirrel. This little rascal lives in a tree just on the other side of the fence in my yard. He chitters and runs the fence line, downright taunting my life stock guardian dog, exciting the poor old man into a loud false alarm around the neighborhood. 

We've learned a lot about anxiety and continue to come up with some pretty creative solutions. I've adjusted my schedule to help keep more consistency for the Impossible Girl. It's a new challenge to truly feel the weight of being the 'anchor' for the family in a way that is both a place of honor and the challenge of a lifetime. 

Night time seems to be when the worries come out the most. So after a few rough nights of worries magnifying themselves into unsolvable riddles and bad dreams, I took The Impossible Girl out of bed and into the kitchen. It was late, and cluttered, so I grabbed an index card and a black sharpie. We sat down and I asked her what she was worried about. We wrote out each worry on its own index card. Then I needed a place to put them and physically leave them in the kitchen, so I grabbed an old Amazon envelope out of recycling and wrote on it "Tomorrow Envelope". 

We put the cards in there and used a glue stick from her craft station to glue it closed. 

I told her that tomorrow, over breakfast, we'd look at the cards again, and figure out what to do about them. That worked for that night. 

We did look at them in the morning, and it's funny - under the morning light, it's just a chittering squirrel, not worth losing sleep over. 

So far this method has been helpful during a couple of nights when things feel bigger than they are.

I am not willing give the Pandemic credit for any of the challenges of Childhood anxiety - or even credit the pandemic for making it worse. We would have likely faced this foe regardless. Part of it is somewhat typical of many military kids.

 But we're building a better tool box every day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Managing the Magic - WDW Vacation - Our Unwelcomed Hitchhiker

 Like most good Disney Park goers, we woke up early (or tried to) to be at the Animal Kingdom park at Rope Drop. Our DAS (Disability Access Pass) ride reservations weren't until later in the day, but we were hoping that Guest Services could change them for earlier, or we'd be able to do a few things with minimal waits in the morning. 

The DAS (Disability Access Pass) allows us to use the Lightening Lane for a couple of rides. We are the perfect fit for it since that kind of anticipation indoors leads The Impossible Girl to panic and anxiety attacks instead of the usual build of excitement most children experience. It gives us the possibility of doing a few attractions without having to bail out 10 minutes into the line. (Yes, this happens even for things like 'Its a Small World'.)

Now, Animal Kingdom is probably one of my favorite Disney Destinations. It has a rich atmosphere and is usually far less crowded. It has a pace that feels like a refreshing breath of fresh air, but at the same time exhales the anticipation that comes with the prospect of great adventure. Needless to say, I'm a fan and it's always my first go-to upon hitting up Disney World for a vacation.

Knowing the Impossible Girl through our previous Disneyland trip, we figured the slow start that the Animal Kingdom afforded would be perfect. 

Well, our previous early morning arrival took its toll on everyone and our West Coast bodies were never going to be ready for Rope Drop. (That's Disney speak for park opening). We arrived at the Animal Kingdom shortly after the park opening - within the same hour. 

 She was feeling a little bit anxious and we wanted to be able to walk quickly, so she hung out in the carrier to start the morning off. The Impossible Girl and I hopped in line for the not-yet-open Kilimanjaro Safari attraction while My Sailor ducked into a nearby store and saved the morning with Starbucks for breakfast. The line moved quickly and was outdoors. The weather was warm but pleasant. We chatted with other Guests around us in line as we made our way to the boarding area. The Impossible Girl opted not to eat yet. When we made it to the boarding area, the line slowed a bit.  That's when The Impossible Girl suddenly didn't want to go on the ride. We kept encouraging her and let her out of the carrier right at boarding. We'd come so far and knew she'd enjoy it, but also didn't want to be those parents forcing their kid into a situation they clearly aren't ready for. After all, it's HER trip too. Luckily, this time our words of reassurance worked. 

 She sat next to My Sailor and hung on until she got her barings and saw the animals. 

I'm so glad we went first thing in the morning, rather than taking our DAS pass up for a 3pm safari. 

It was fantastic. It's definately an early morning attraction. I'd been on it in years past, and this was the most active safari with the most animals I've ever seen. It was beautiful. (I mean, we missed a photo of a giraffe that crossed the path right inches away from our vehicle!)
The Impossible Girl had still opted not to eat much yet, so after we got off the ride, My Sailor stopped and grabbed a snack he knew she'd go for (some sort of chocolate filled pastry, if I recall correctly, and a dole whip to share). She picked it apart and ate the chocolate, but that was okay. She was eating something. It was vacation. Chocolate is as good a breakfast choice as any. 
An African inspired precussion group starting playing near by. I couldn't stay in my seat. My Sailor sat with the kiddo as she ate while I jetted over to the stage to listen, watch, and shimmy along to a song for a couple minutes. He realized that we weren't going to get this oppurtunity again, and I'm so grateful for a partner who gets me. 
 Afterwards, I took her to the restroom and My Sailor checked out a store nearby. When we returned, he wanted to show me something, but she refused to go into the store. It took us about 5-10 minutes to talk her into going into the brightly lit store. Nothing scary was sold there. But it was new, and different. There were lots of people and it was warm. She was probably still hungry and likely tired... Making going into a simple shop a petrifying experience.

 Once inside, we looked around and she fell in love with a baby Simba stuffed toy. We bought her a buddy for the day, she sat down and felt like the world was too loud. Noise cancelling Galaxy headphones to the rescue! Who could blame her? 

After wards, we tried to capitalize on a good experience on the Safari (and having some sugar on board) and go on the Maharaja Jungle Trek to see the tigers (one of The Impossible Girl's favorite animals) up close and personal. 
Though she had a great time on the safari, and we praised her courage, the environment was still new and different and getting more crowded.
We stopped to take a couple of fun photos, and eat a snack we'd brought in (familiar taste of home) before delving into the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

We flew by most of the exhibits and really enjoyed them. It was a little busy but not too crowded. 
When we got to the bat house, it took us about 45 minutes to get her in the door. The bat carvings above the door scared her a lot. 
Dad, once again, came to the rescue, bringing in a Mickey bar onto the trail. We sat down and talked and worked to help her feel safe enough to walk through the exhibit to check out the tigers on the other side. 

As a parent, yes, that meant we were kind of in the way. We tried to sit in the shade but the path didn't offer seating at that point. Under the eyes of other tourist (and a minority confused Cast Member), we sat together. We let her eat while sheilding her from the crowd a bit. 

It sounds like a lot of sugar - I know. But we were on vacation and we knew the effect it can have on anxiety (hello dopamine!). So, yes, we were relying on those dopamine highs to get us through the day post-overnight flight.
We finally made it through the bat exhibit, with her on my back, hiding her face not to look. There was no way around it. It took a lot of doing, but she made it through intact. She didn't like the bat kites hanging from the ceiling either , but we were able to hurry through in a few seconds.
On the other side, we ended up seeing 2 napping tigers in the shade before heading out. We didn't attempt the Aviary. It was indoors, and that, at that moment, felt like too much.  Indoors seemed scary today.

We headed over to a Guest Services tent to reshuffle some of the DAS reservations we had for rides. The Cast Members were wonderfully helpful, going above and beyond to ensure we had a good visit. Next on the DAS list was the Navi River Journey attraction, which was all the way across the park. The Friends of Flight bird show was starting soon, and that was on The Impossible Girl's MUST DO list, so we popped in to do that. 

Dad helped quell the anxiety that was sneaking up while we waited by engaging in fatherly funny face photos. My Sailor has always been very connected whenever he can. 

By this point, we were starting to realize just how different this trip would be different. Not just because we had The Impossible Girl along to share the experience, but we also had a hichhiker. Anxiety was along for the ride this trip.  She was experiencing Disney through the lens of Sensory Processing disorder, so everything was louder and bigger than it was for us. A thousand times more. 

After the bird show (which was a huge hit, and I highly recommend making time for it), we headed across the park to Pandora, passing by Dinoland USA. The Impossible Girl was begging to return to the hotel, but after seeing the Triceratops Spin and the Dinosaur themed playground, she couldn't wait to play for a bit. 

The pace was slow and relaxed. We still had our DAS pass for the Navi River Journey, and I'd heard great things about the Santuli cafe for lunch. After some time in Dinoland, we headed into outter space - er... Pandora.

Pandora was astounding, but it was hot and decidely different. Lunch at the Santuli Cafe did not disappoint. It was great that it was simple counter service. We did a mobile order and hung out in an air conditioned shop while we were waiting for our order. We were getting better at understanding and better at communicating through The Impossible Girl's challenges, so we could do some time inside, browsing and getting out of the sun.  We thought food might help our hitchhiker quiet down so we could enjoy the peaceful boat ride that is the Navi River Journey. 

Well, anxiety had different plans. Dining inside the large cafeteria was fun, but ended up feeding the hitchhiker, rather than starving it. Soon, The Impossible Girl was feeling fearful. She'd barely eaten most of the day (Mickey Bar aside).

 The hitchhiker was in the way.

While we hoped we'd be better at reigning it in, the usual coping mechanisms weren't working quite as well as they had in the past. The world was louder, bigger, hotter, and more crowded. 

That's when I realized that I had a choice. 

 A choice that could make or break the rest of this trip for me.

I could adjust my expectations, or I could keep pushing to do things our hitchhiker clearly was making next to impossible. 

I chose to accept that this trip was different. That it wouldn't be anything like what I'd prepared for. And I chose to have fun with my family, and course correct my own expectations. 

We talked her through her fear so we could finish our food and then headed back to the hotel, canceling our DAS appointments on the way out. 

We made it through 3 attractions - the Safari, the bird show, and the tiger trail.

And for today - that was enough.

We stopped for a quick photo in front of the Tree of Life -
and napped in the carrier on the way back to the bus stop.
Once at the hotel, we recovered from a long day, ate dinner, and spend some quality time in the pool, hoping with a little extra rest behind us - tomorrow's Hollywood Studios day would be maybe a little more magical.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Managing the Magic - An Educational Vacation to Disney World - Arrival Day

Just before the start of Spring Break, my family took off for a long awaited Disney World vacation. We hopped on a red eye non-stop flight to Florida from chilly Washington State to see some incredible attractions, get some much needed sunshine, and make some memories as a family. Knowing that things like Disneyland can seem big and overwhelming to the Impossible Girl, we prepared for the trip by watching youtube videos and vlogs of attractions. We made lists of must do attractions. My Sailor and I got up at 4am and stayed on hold for over 5 hours to get her a couple advance choice Lightening Lane passes for her DAS (Disability Access Pass).  We had 2 sets of noise canceling headphones packed, glowing goodies to make dark spaces brighter and less intimidating, hats, sun screen, sun glasses, carriers and Magic Bands. We were ready to go! 
  Or were we? 
Being a Disney fan pretty much my entire life, this isn't The Impossible Girl's first foray into the Theme Park World.
Seeing the Castle
Her first trip to Disneyland occured in May of 2017. It went off without a hitch, going on as many attractions as a kid of her size could muster. At about two and a half years old, she soaked everything in with a sense of wonder and surprise one would expect from kids and, well, Disney.

Her next trip to Disneyland was a year later. In May of 2018, I shed a tear when the Impossible Girl, who wasn't trusting of others, approached Elsa and hugged her, unbidden, for about ninty seconds (and God bless that Elsa for not letting go until she did and not showing a bit of impatience). She grew so much during that trip as a human and it was amazing. 

Okay, I will call a spade a spade. A family vacation is really parenting on the road. It tests your parenting strategies, skills, and patience. Can you keep a kid occupied and safe under new and different cicumstances? Can you handle behavoir issues you may not see at home? Do you have any idea of who to call if a medical emergency occured (they are, afterall, called 'accidents' for a reason)? Can you share a hotel room and single bathroom with a 6 year old for over a week? What eating habits will you indulge in? Will you enforce veggies before sweets or will 10am ice cream be a thing? And in the wake of Covid, will you wear masks? Eat outdoors only? There are a LOT of extra decisions made that can make vacationing with a family less care-free than a typical, adults only trip.

2019 Trip to Disneyland

But I have been and will always be a fan of "Take the damn trip." Even trips to theme parks allows kids to interact with (and see parents/role models interact with) the world around them in a completely different way than they do at home. The sights and sounds and tastes are stimulating and, especially at big tourist destinations, you'll come across people who don't look like or sound like you. You come across foods you may have never tried or heard of. And, if you know me or you've been following me, you know I believe travel broadens our world view no matter what age we do it in. So, no matter what I say from here on out - Take the Damn Trip. 

So, with that out of the way, let me say I'm incredibly grateful that we had the chance to take this trip together. After pandemic life since 2020 (which, for our family, included about 17 months of submarine deployment life), we are glad everyone is healthy and the world feels safe enough to move about a bit. But, as you may be able to guess from this excessive preamble, this visit to the World's most Magical place, didn't go as any of us expected. 

Our first day, we landed at about 6am. We found our transportation to the resort thanks to the generousity of a rental car shuttle driver, who took pity on us and drove us to the Sunshine Flyer terminal on the other side of the airport. There had been a mix or reports about this new company but generally treated us well. The Impossible Girl was excited to board our bus train to the resort. She slept better than the adults did on the flight, and she loves airports, flying, and traveling. She wheeled her own suit case and carried her own back pack through the airport. She sipped at an early morning hot chocolate from a Starbucks stand while we parents caffinated for the day before pick up. On the way to the resort, we watched old 1920's cartoons and learned some train trivia from the video provided. We had the entire bus to ourselves. Not a bad way to start the magic (despite being exhausted from the flight).

We spent most of the day exploring the resort - Port Orleans Riverside. It lived up to it's peaceful reputation. The only down sides were the rooms were loud (we heard our neighbors every morning and I'm sure they heard us). The Princess theme Royal Room was just what the doctor ordered to add a little extra magic to our stay.

Now, here is where I'm going to start something. Every day I write about, I'm going to include the accomodations we found profoundly helpful and NECESSARY for enjoying our vacation. Honestly, I debated even writing about the challenges right now. This story isn't just 'J's Journey' now. This story belongs to my husband and my daughter as well. But as a mother in this situation, it feels very lonely and isolating to be managing this - especially when it peaks at Disney World of all places. So I've decided to write this in case there is some other parent out there who is feeling like they are the only person in the world managing this. I know I can't be alone - and if you are one of those parents reading this - know that you are not alone. You, special reader, are not the first, nor the last. Here's what helped us. Maybe it will help you too.

TODAY'S ACCOMODATIONS NEEDED: Headphones and carrier. 
LOCATIONS VISITED: Port Orleans Riverside, Disney Springs, T- Rex Cafe, Morimoto Asia

View from our hotel room

The Arcade was a big hit and a great way to pass some time.

The Resort offers a Water Taxi to Disney Springs, the main shopping area.

We promised the Dino-Loving Impossible Girl that our lunch would be at the T-Rex Cafe, so we went off to Disney Springs to make good on our promise.
Checking out the cool sculptures in front of the Lego Store.

The dino roars are a little loud, and the place is a little dark, but she enjoyed it! 

Enjoying an adult libation. Yeah vacation!

Cashing in on some Build A Bear Bucks from Christmas, she built a Triceratops friend! She proudly asked for what she wanted inside of it as well (which is a big deal!).

Welcome to the family, Rainbow Heart Triceratops!
Our room was ready after lunch, so we went back for some R&R. We changed into more Florida Friendly clothing (ie shorts) and returned to Disney Springs to explore some more and have an amazing dinner at Morimoto Asia.
 The food was amazing. We had a Chef's Choice Nigiri Sushi platter but by now, The Impossible Girl was exhausted and hot, so we got to break in the new carrier! 
Running late to our reservation - this makes it quicker!

The Girl Grabbed the Camera and Took our photo on the Water Taxi back to the Hotel

The water taxi is so soothing. It was a tiring day for all, but we enjoyed getting back to the hotel and getting into those comfy sheets for bed time - Ready for our first park day, Animal Kingdom! 
  As exciting as it sounds - that was also the day we realized just how crippling anxiety can be.  Even when you're 6.5 and you've been excited and prepped about this trip for months...
  If you're wondering if someone without a visible challenge should qualify for DAS, follow our adventures, and decide for yourself. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Today, I saved My Daughter's Life

 Tonight, I was tucking in the Impossible Girl. As usual, I gave her a kiss goodnight and left her with positive words. Something along the usual (yet heart felt) parental lines of, "I love you. You're an amazing daughter just the way you are." She surprised me tonight but saying, "Thank you for all you do for me, Mom." 

This morning, we were playing board games together at the coffee table and sharing probably the best citrus fruit on the planet - a sumo tangerine. Maybe it was the Hungry Hungry Hippos we were playing. Maybe it was just the fiberous fruit, but she stopped playing after taking a bite and started hopping up and down adamently. I looked across the table, thinking she was being goofy, but she wasn't giggling or making any sound. At all. She started trying to hit her back and I realized what was going on. She was choking and couldn't remove the obstruction herself. 

I didn't bother with finger sweeps. I tried a couple firm hits on the back, but that was useless. So I shifted into the Himlich as she started to crumple in my arms. On the first thrust - nothing. I called out her name as I felt her crumble towards the floor again, but on the second thrust the bundle of orange fibers dislodged and she coughed. I dropped to the floor catching her on my lap. 

The offending blockage was on the floor - a ball of orange fibers about the size of the tip of my pinkie. Just big enough to get lodged in a breathing tube... It wasn't even a seed.

She was breathing though. Terrified. Crying a little. But breathing. 

I breathed a sigh of relief and hugged her, validating us both in the moment. "That was scary, huh?" She nodded, not ready to find or test her voice so soon after the offending orange momentarily silenced it.

 "Yeah, it was. I was scared too. You did the right thing. Thanks for showing me you needed help."

 I held her for a while, helping both of us calm down a bit. 

She hasn't turned blue since her infancy. The first time, we were trying to get her into her car seat after a hike. She was under a year and fighting the car seat, crying and crying. Most babies scream and cry so hard they aren't making sounds, then they gasp and take a deep breath to continue their intense protest. Not my kid. She never took that recovery breath. She just suddenly stopped crying, turned blue and purple, and went completely limp and incoherent. Passed out entirely.

 It was only about 10 seconds, but it was absolutely terrifying. When we called our doctors and discussed it, we learned about Cyanotic Breath Holding Spells. 

The cure? Try to avoid triggers (like, ya know, car seats apparently in our lives... she hated being strapped down to ANYTHING other than a carrier snugged to a human.) and know CPR in case she doesn't come around within 10-15 seconds. 

That's it. So from that moment, our lives probably became different from 'most parents'. Or from what I envision 'most parents' experience. Every kid/family is different with their own unique challenges, of course. From talking to my mom friends, we are definately, well, unicorns. Or Narwhals... or Elves... or whatever.

 We were out of cell phone range the first time it happened (though only about 20 minutes from town, and there were houses near by). So 911 was not an option.

It taught me that we don't go out of cell phone range without a plan to get emergency help right away. When we travel, I usually have an idea where the nearest help is and how to get it/get to it.

She recovered from the spells, but it was absolutely terrifying when they happened.

So glad we're beyond those years.

  Once she was calm and I was calm, we talked about other (more globally recognized) ways to show you're choking. We practiced the hands to the throat. And I said, "What if you're at a table and you're doing that, and you are choking and can't get any air out, but no one notices? What can you do?" She shrugged and we brain stormed. "Well, it's really important so..." I slammed the flat of my hand over and over on the coffee table. She startled for a moment, and then giggled. "It's loud, right? Could you ignore that?" She shook her head no. We tried it a few times and then stayed there until she was ready to move on with the day. She decided she was done with the poor Hippos, and we shifted gears into something else. 

She spent the rest of the day literally glued to me. We played video games together, watched a movie, ran an errand, did art, did hair and nails (spa day at home style). 

Moments like these remind me that I'm incredibly grateful I was raised by 2 nurses (my mom and my grandmother were both nurses, and my grandmother lived with us from when I turned 5) where conversations like first aid, injury treatment and prevention, and choking came up regularly at the dinner table. And I'm grateful for the first aid and CPR training I've had over the years for various positions. And this is where the ask comes in - PLEASE if you are a parent, loved one, or a care taker of young kids, take the time to learn CPR and other child first aid and emergency response. ARM YOURSELF WITH THE TOOLS TO SAVE YOUR KIDS!Be sure those that watch your kids are armed with the tools to save their lives. Because kids are kids. Accidents happen. And who knew oranges were dangerous?

So The Impossible Girl and I had a laid back mom-and-daughter day, where I didn't accomplish a damn thing on my To-Do list while My Sailor went off to the big city to spend some time with his family.

 Sometimes, plans go awry. 

Sometimes the detours leads to where we're supposed to be - not where we planned to be. And that's okay.

"I've got you. You're okay. We got this. Good job." 

Monday, February 28, 2022

Tonight, I Apologized to My 6 Year Old

Tonight, I apologized to my 6 year old. 

I mean, it's not the first time I've done it. We live in a house where people make mistakes and The Impossible Girl is getting first hand modeling of how we handle and resolve mistakes and conflict. So kids, obviously, get a front row seat to what's going on. 

She's heard me apologize to her before. She's apologized to me before. And this time, it bought me pretty low. 

I've grown into a pretty confident parent of the 4-6+ set (so far). I always had a feeling I'd do better with older kids, rather than babies, and that intuition seems to hold true. Or perhaps it's bias confirmation... but either way - it's true. 

For the past week, when she got in the car after school, The Impossible girl told me 2 boys at school chased her at recess. I thought it was like a game of tag that had become a regular thing. She'd mentioned the boys before and being friends with them, so I'd ask her, "What would they do if they caught you?" She said they never did. She was always too fast. In passing, she said she didn't like being chased, and then the conversation shifted to something else. I'd encourage her to tell the boys she didn't like it and go play something else, but that was where the topic usually ended.

Yup. I missed it. 

I was hearing the words, but I wasn't really listening - 

The fact that it came up nearly single every day... 

The fact that she dropped so quickly and suddenly wouldn't want to talk about it.  

I missed it.

Today, I got an email from the school that one of The Impossible Girl's friends was upset and reported to her parents that being chased was making my daughter sad and she didn't like it. 

Basically, I missed that she'd found herself the target of bullying - again. 

I was bullied from about 1st grade through about 8th grade. It made my small private Christian school years absolute hell. While the values instilled in me kept me out of trouble, the only thing that kept me from suicide was knowing it would make my parents sad. Yeah - it was that bad. And here we are, in just about 1st grade, and she's been the target of 4 different bullies in about 2 school years. (2019, 2022 - we're not counting Covid years) This time, I'm grateful for a world and a school that is looking out for these kids and is willing to empower the victims of bullying, while pushing to end the behaviors. 

I do NOT want a repeat of my formative years. 

I want different for her. Doesn't every generation want the next to be better? 

She already deals with military kid truama. That's more than enough.

I find myself incredibly grateful for that little girl reporting, and for the parents for talking to the school about it. 'See something, say something' protected my daughter. 

Because it takes a village to protect our kids.

And because I missed it.

And I would have kept on missing it until probably tomorrow. 

Today, I got an email about the situation, what the school is doing to handle it and keep my daughter safe, and some steps they are taking to shift the bullying situation in classes. I am all for it, and asked if there is anything I can do on my side to further instill confidence in her. (My guess, if there is a 'reason' she attracts this it's probably because of her anxiety. Kids seem to sense it and pick on easy targets. So, while I'm not victim blaming here. Kids are strange creatures sometimes.)

I probably wouldn't have missed it tomorrow though. 

After I got the email, I asked her about it, and it turns out another boy had joined the chase, and the other two told them to punch her if this boy managed to catch her. 

Tomorrow, the three of them may have succeeded. 

THEN I would have known. 

But in hind sight, it shouldn't have taken me so long to raise an eyebrow.

May The Impossible Girl always have good friends looking out for her when I can't. 

This weekend, she started her adventure in horseback riding - just one of the steps where we see her confidence shine. One the back of a horse, her positive self talk and courage out weighs her anxiety. Hopefully that will continue to carry over into every day life.   

But today - I apologized for not really hearing what she was trying to tell me. For not listening to what she was telling me. For minimizing her fear of what would happen if she got caught.... And I encouraged her, if I ever do that again, to THROW A FIT so I HAVE to pay attention. Because her feelings, her fears, her anxiety IS VALID. 

As parents, it's easy to write off kids experiences and feelings as 'kid stuff' but I've found that, when kids share their feelings (at least when mine does) it's because they are looking for us to take action or guide them through to an action they can take. 

While she's learning to fight her anxiety, wrestle through her speech challenges, communicate as clearnly as stuttering allows, and deal with emotions of missing one parent deeply, she doesn't need bullies toughen her up. Life does a good enough job of that on it's own.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

A Symbol of Acheivement


This week I did a thing. 

A simple thing.
An unremarkable thing to many.
A thing that isn't a big deal to most. 

I read a book.
I read this book in fact. 
I started this book in December of 2021. 
It was a gift from a Jólabókaflóðið, an Icelandic tradition a friend of mine included me in. 
I once left it on the bathroom floor after a bath and the dogs ended up getting bored enough to play with it before I remember to pick it up. 
That's why it looks like that.
But regardless, I didn't replace it.
All the pages were surprisingly intact. 

It took me over a year. 
It's not a difficult book to read. In fact, the language is easy to fly through. The characters are familiar and compelling, and the plot is well paced to hold my interest. 
So why did it take me a year to finish it?

Because that's the amount of free time I've had to read it. 
In fact, I didn't even have the free time to read it.
 I made an appointment with myself to make a habit out of reading it every day. 
Even if it was just 2 minutes. 
Even if it was just 1 page or paragraph.

Two days ago, I finished the first recreational book I've read in about 7 years. 

Possibly longer. 

It's not that I don't like to read. 
I actually enjoy it. I love learning from a good writer and creating new fictional characters in my mind. An adept storyteller is priceless.

But it's one example of how challenging it is to make time for my growth when I'm surrounded by the intense needs of others. 
As a military wife and a mother, I often misplace my first responsiblity is to my own wellbeing. The intense vaccum of Need that flutters around me constantly often leaves me feeling too 
drained to persue anything that doesn't result in keeping the family afloat (emotionally, financially, etc).  
My Sailor has known me for about 20 years at this point of my life. 
He used to say, "The only thing I'd change about you is I wish you weren't so hard on yourself." 
I have no doubt that he'd add to the list, "and you weren't such a responsibility hoarder."

So this tattered, chewed up, completed book is a big accomplishment for me. 
It's a tangible reminder that taking time out for me, for fun, for growth - even if it's just a few minutes a day - can add up to big things.