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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Mommy's Christmas List

If you are like me, you are so focused on shopping for everyone else for Christmas, you don't have time to think about what you want.  So then, when someone finally says, "What do you want?"  You're like, "Oh.  I don't care.  A spa gift card."  And come Christmas morning, you're thinking, "I should have thought about that answer a littler harder."  So I've brainstormed some awesome mommy gifts for you, so that you will be prepared to answer that question with awesome answers this year!

1.  Alexa - I've said it before, but I'll say it again.  If you don't have an Alexa (also known as the Amazon Echo), get one!  It is my favorite thing in the house (other than my family).  It plays music on command.  It let's me quickly order things from my kitchen or bathroom by just talking to Alexa.  It entertains my kids.  They think Alexa is another member of our family.


2. Stitch Fix subscription - If you haven't heard about or tried Stitch Fix yet, it's a personal styling service that sends you a box of new clothing items to try ever 2 weeks, 1 month or 2 months.  You can choose the items you are interested in, your style, you measurements, and your price range.  Then, a stylist puts together a box of trendy items they think you will love.  I have to admit this is not something I would have initially thought would interest me.  But I was given it for a gift, and now I'm hooked.  I honestly rarely ever shop now.  My stitch fix keeps me fixed, and I always feel like I'm wearing things that are in fashion.  And it's super fun to just get a box of surprises on your doorstep every once in awhile!



3.  Wine of the month - This is the gift that keeps on giving!  I love getting wine in the mail every month.  You just have to make one clarification.  This wine is just for mommy...no sharing.



4.  Kindle Voyage E-Reader - This reader has a built in light with a sensitivity adapter, so it adjusts the lightness of the screen depending on the amount of light in the room.  It has 300 ppi resolution, so it's crystal clear.  Great for people who normally need reading glasses (not there yet...but I'm sure it's coming).  But the thing I love the best is it comes with Free 3G, which means you can connect to the internet and download books anywhere...not just where you have access to a Wi-Fi network.  That's awesome!


5.  A Girls' Weekend - Now I'm not just talking about your husband gives his blessing for you to leave for a weekend.  I'm saying your husband plans the weekend for you and your girlfriends, he pays for it, and then agrees to happily send you on your way without you having to "prep" for leaving.  And he promises the house won't be a disaster when you return.  Wouldn't that be amazing?



6.  Tory Burch watch - I just love this watch!  And a watch is something I am highly unlikely to buy for myself.  It always seems like a huge splurge.  So I love getting something I love but wouldn't buy for myself for a gift.


7.  Fire TV stick with Voice Remote - I actually don't have one of these, but I want one.  No more cable!  Just plug in and start watching.  You can even get live TV, including NBC, NBC, ESPN, CNN, and HGTV.  And it works with your voice!  If it's as good as Alexa, then, the voice capability is impressive.  My kids could probably even change the channel themselves.  And drumroll....this is only $45!!


8.  FujiFilm INSTAX Mini 8 Instant Camera - I don't know about you, but I actually miss the old Polaroid camera sometimes.  I takes tons of photos on my phone that never see the light of day.  It always seems like extra effort to upload them on Shutterfly, select my photos and order them.  And then, I have to wait 10 days to get them.  And I can't tell you how many times my kids have brought home an assignment requiring that they put together a collage of photos and it's due in 2 days.  (Don't teachers know we don't have photos lying around any more?)  An instant camera would help solve that problem!  And last but not least, your kids will think this is the coolest thing.  They've never actually seen a Polaroid camera before.

9.  Anti-aging Skin Care  - Who doesn't want to look younger?  But if we're honest, many of us have a hard time spending a lot of money on our skin, because it seems a bit selfish or too luxurious.  Well, then, that makes it the perfect gift!  You get to enjoy the great skin without the guilt.  I cannot think of a better line of skin care products than Rodan + Fields Redefine regimen.


10. Ralph Lauren bag - So if you are really looking to get a big gift, you might ask for Ralph Lauren's new honey matte alligator tote that goes for a cool $18,500.  But if you are not a celebrity or uber wealthy, you might go for the Ralph Lauren laser cut suede bag.  Very bohemian chic yet classic, too!


11.  It wouldn't be Christmas without a new pair of "I can still be cool and fashionable and sexy" mom boots.  Now my first choice would be these super cool Frye patchwork boots, but their $528 price tag might be cost-prohibitive for some.  So another nice, less expensive, and super comfy option is this pair of Naturalizer Frances boots.




So hopefully, this has helped get your mommy gift ideas going and hopefully, Santa will be good to you this year!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Our Family Is Thankful for Calm

In my last post, I wrote about how amino acid supplements have had a huge impact in our daughter's anxiety and behavior.  We have also seen great results from using supplements with our son who has sensory processing disorder (SPD).  I share this, because for some reason, there seems to be a perception that sensory processing can only be addressed with therapy...even though there has been a tremendous amount of research using supplements in children with autism and ADHD, two conditions that often come with SPD, too.  In fact, ALL kids with autism have SPD.  So it only made sense to me that some of the supplement treatments researched for autism might have a positive impact on kids who have just been diagnosed with SPD.

Our journey into using supplements started about 8 months ago.  Last March began a very painful period of trying to figure out how to get our son to stay in his bed and go to sleep at night.  It has always taken him a long time to go to sleep, but historically he seemed happy to lay in bed and talk or sing until he eventually went to sleep.  Shortly, after turning 3 that changed.  He was very comfortable getting out of bed.  At worst, it could take 3 hours to get him to go to sleep.  I thought I was going to lose my mind.  So I turned to Google and found that apparently this is a common issue with kids who have autism and SPD.  It's been studied quite a lot in autistic children.  While scientists don't exactly know why autistic kids have trouble sleeping, they know that taking 1 mg of melatonin nightly seems to be very effective.

So we started giving him melatonin and it worked instantly.  He could fall asleep in 5-10 minutes.  That had NEVER happened in his entire life.  Suddenly, he could sleep for 11.5 hours a night, no problem.  Seemed amazing.  That additional sleep also seemed to have an effect on his cognitive abilities, which makes perfect sense.  It actually made me wonder how much of his developmental issues were tied to him just being sleep-deprived.

Now I will say that while melatonin worked fantastically for our son, I have since read more that has led us to make a switch to 5-HTP (tryptophan).  Tryptophan has been studied more widely in kids than melatonin.  Tryptophan helps the body produce serotonin, and serotonin produces melatonin.  Scientists know that children with SPD, ADHD, and autism typically have low serotonin levels.  Therefore, studies have been conducted and proven that these children have broader improvements, including sleep, when taking 50 mg of 5-HTP instead of just melatonin.  We now give our son 50 mg of 5-HTP (mix it up in his milk) at dinner time, and it works great.

The next issue we faced were meltdowns.  Soon after turning 3, he began having more severe tantrums, and they happened everyday.  They routinely lasted 45 minutes.  And he would consistently ask for us to calm him down.  After having endured this with our daughter, I just couldn't face it again with another child, so I began searching for new answers.  I came upon the recommendation of using either magnesium or Omega 3s.  Most children eating western diets can benefit from magnesium and omega fatty acids.  It's critical for brain health and development.  Omega 3s have been proven to improve mental skills and remembering in patients with ADHD as well.  So I decided to give them a shot.  We started with magnesium, but I didn't seen a change.  So I added fish oil.  720 mg of EPA/DHA.  Instantly, the daily tantrums stopped.  Don't get me wrong, he still throws tantrums, but now they typically last 3-5 minutes, not 45 minutes. (BTW, we use Barlean's Omega Swirl Fish Oil.  Our son likes it and thinks it tastes like lemonade.  However, our daughter who is super sensitive to smells can smell the fish oil, so she won't take it.  We use Coromega 3 with our daughter.)

Fast forward about 6 months.  We've made definite progress with therapy, sleep, and nutrition.  But at about 3 years and 9 months, he stopped napping.  He wouldn't go to sleep at school or at home.  Within a week, his behavior had regressed significantly.  It was like it was 6 months ago.  I thought, "Oh no, no, no.  This can't happen.  I have to get him to nap again."  We still happened to have the magnesium oil around, so I pulled it back out.  We started using it twice a day, applying it to his feet.  In 24 hours, he was napping again.  In fact, his naps increased from 1 hour to 1.5-2 hours.  Amazing.  He was back to the good, happy place.

At this point, I thought, it can't get better than this.  Okay, not really, but there wasn't an issue so pressing that it sent me scouring the internet.  However, as I mentioned in my last post, we accidentally stumbled upon the benefit of amino acids (l-theanine) for our daughter's anxiety.  That led me to wonder what impact do amino acids have on SPD?  One of the key issues with SPD kids is they usually have too many glutamates.  Glutamate is the most excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain!  Geez.  That explains so much.  So if you can help the brain balance that neurotransmitter, the child's overexcitabilities and anxieties can be reduced.  L-theanine (Relaxsaurus) can help reduce glutamates.  (Here's a great chart that helps break down brain chemicals and nutritional support.)

It's not like it cured him, but small wins are critical.  For example, I typically have to remind him every time to walk to the left side of car where his car seat is.  Otherwise, he just wanders or goes to the right side of the car.  Since taking this, he walks to the left side every time without being prompted!  Another example  - in the car one day, I said, "On the way home from therapy, remind me we need to stop and get gas."  This was really a test, because I knew he wouldn't remember that.  Usually, what would happen on the ride home is this - I would say, "What were you supposed to remind me?"  He would say, "What?"  I would prompt him again and he would say, "I don't know."  This time I said after we got back in the car after therapy, "Hey, what are you supposed to remind to do?"  He proudly said, "You are supposed to get gas!"  I was stunned.  

I'm very excited to see how this progresses.  But given that Thanksgiving is next week, I say make your kids eat lots of turkey (which has tryptophan in it) and hopefully, you will have a calm, relaxing holiday!

Some added notes:

I also give him a probiotic.  I can't say that I have seen a direct difference in his behavior, but from everything I've read, it's highly recommended for SPD and autistic kids.  A substantial amount of the neurotransmitters used by the brain are produced in the gut.  Therefore, if there are imbalances and shortages of neurotransmitters, it could be because there is bacterial imbalance in the gut.  Taking a probiotic help ensures the digestive system is balanced and functioning properly, thus improving brain function.

Also, I found this post to be really helpful and easy to follow if you want more information.
http://brainblogger.com/2015/06/20/the-role-of-serotonin-and-glutamine-in-aggression/








Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I'm Thankful for Dinosaurs

On this day after the election that didn't go as I had hoped and as Thanksgiving is approaching, I reflected a bit on what I have been thankful for this year.  One thing that comes to mind is I am incredibly thankful for dinosaurs.  Dinosaurs?  Yes, I know that sounds weird, but let me explain. 

I've written before that our daughter has generalized anxiety, which has symptoms such as chronic irritability, fatigue, restlessness, anger, and hypervigilance.  And our son has sensory processing disorder, which in our son's case, means the sensory input from the environment and from his body are poorly detected.  Both of these conditions, anxiety and SPD, are neurological.  Their bodies were made this way.  But what does that mean for helping them?

For this post, I'll start with our daughter and anxiety.  When we first started down the path of addressing our daughter's chronic anger, irritability and meltdowns, we pursued traditional psychological therapy.  It was definitely helpful.  We learned how to better parent her, we learned how to establish more boundaries and rewards in our house to help her, and we learned how to give her more coping skills.  She made dramatic improvements forward.  But she still had that edge that made us walk on egg shells.  She still sought attention the moment she felt insecure.  She still craved sugar regularly to cope with stress.  We were managing things, but we always knew we were just 10 seconds away from anxiety-induced chaos.  

Before school started, I decided to add magnesium/zinc to the vitamins she takes each morning (she also takes a multi-vitamin, Juice Plus, omega 3, and a probiotic).  Most kids in western cultures can benefit from magnesium and omega 3 supplementation.  They are critical for brain development and most kids don't get nearly enough in their daily diets, and they are known to have a calming effect.  I wasn't sure I would observe a behavioral change, but I figured in the long term it would be beneficial.  But I also added something I found on Amazon, called Relaxsaurus.  Yep, that's right.  It's a dinosaur vitamin for relaxing.  I thought it couldn't hurt, but to be honest, I didn't research it a great deal.  Nor did I have high hopes for a pill that came in the form of a dinosaur.  But it didn't look like there was anything harmful in it, so I decided to give it a try.

So the new school year kicks off, and low and behold, she appears to be mostly anxiety-free.  No meltdowns.  She spoke pleasantly to her family after school.  She happily went to her after-school activities.  She didn't freak out about grades or tests.  She was sleeping well at night.  She didn't ask me for a treat 10 times a day.  All in all she was doing great.  I thought wow, she just loves the structure of 1st grade and maybe that magnesium is helping some, too.  

Fast forward two months, and we ran out of Relaxsaurus.  I really didn't care.  I didn't think it was doing anything any way.  Boy was I wrong.  Within 48 hours, her sleep deteriorated.  She was angry.  She was very controlling, and she had 3 major meltdowns in one weekend.  I was stunned.  What happened?  Well, it turns out it was that little dinosaur pill I didn't think was doing anything.  So I decided to do some research on it's primary ingredient - L-theanine.  And I bought a whole lot of that little dinosaur pill...pronto.

L-theanine is an amino acid.  Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and muscle tissue. Many physiological processes relating to bodybuilding from energy, recovery, muscle hypertrophy, fat loss, and strength gains are linked to amino acids.  Amino acids are also needed to make neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in the brain that either excite or inhibit neurons. Amino acids can cross the blood-brain barrier to stimulate the synthesis of most neurotransmitters, which affects brain chemistry and impacts mood.   And there are several neurotransmitters gamma-aminobutyric acid, serotonin and norepinephrine that are all thought to be involved in the development of anxiety disorders.  So it makes sense that increasing a key amino acid could help resolve the brain's activity that is causing the anxiety behaviors. And it turns out L-theanine calms neurotransmitters that can cause anxiety.  That's amazing.

Okay, I know that was a lot of science, so I'll wait while you take a moment to digest and maybe have another cup of coffee...

I truly can't believe this has existed all of this time, and we never knew it.  Well, it made me think more about the root causes of her anxiety.  I found this very helpful blog that helps connect symptoms with the biological issue - http://blog.radiantlifecatalog.com/the-unspoken-solution-for-anxiety-individual-amino-acids.  My daughter clearly exhibits the symptoms of low GABA or low serotonin, too.  So I purchased another dinosaur called Focussaurus.  Focussaurus contains L-glutamine and GABA (as well as other vitamins needed to synthesize these amino acids).  L-glutamine (combined with GABA) can actually cross the blood brain barrier and stimulate GABA production.  GABA allows your brain to turn "off."  It allows your brain to not constantly think and become overwhelmed and anxious.

Low and behold.  She got even better.  She willingly picks up her toys now without a threat.  She talks nicely to her brother even when he is not talking nicely to her.  She is able to let little things go even if she perceives they aren't exactly fair.  She says please and thank you without being prompted!  She asks if she can help with things.  It's amazing.  I kind of want to run and shout, "See, I'm not a bad parent.  Her neurotransmitters just needed a little help."

I must say discovering the impact amino acids can have on anxiety has relieved my anxiety, too.  Not because I'm taking them.  But I feel like I can breathe a sigh of relief.  Even though her behavior had been much improved this school year, I thought it was because we were perfectly balancing life for her.  So I feared will she regress if the balance suddenly isn't perfect any more.  Now I know this improvement isn't just about life balance, it's about brain balance.  And I feel like that's something we can control and I don't have to worry if today is the day we fall out of balance again.  That's an amazing feeling.  I feel like I can enjoy her instead of feeling on guard.  And that just makes everyone even more relaxed and happier!

Now, of course, L-theanine and L-glutamine don't fix every brain or every case of anxiety.  As you can see from the product reviews, some people love it and others see no change at all.  I am not an expert on this, and I would advise you discuss this with your doctor or your pediatrician.  But it has really opened a whole new world to me for helping our daughter deal with anxiety without pursuing medications.  If you or a loved one is struggling with chronic irritability, anger, sleeplessness, sugar cravings, etc., investigating amino acids or the lack thereof is definitely something to look into.

I'm including a couple of other sites I found to be helpful as well:

http://www.drdavidgersten.com/AMINO-ACID-Rx.html
http://www.dietcure.com/aminoacids.html

One other caveat.  If you have a child who takes SSRIs, do not give them these supplements.  It could cause them to produce too much serotonin, causing not only behavioral issues but serotonin toxicity which can be very dangerous.



Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Creepiest Things My (and Other Kids) Have Said

I'm sitting in our living room one night after the kids have gone to bed.  It's quiet and I'm finally relaxing and watching TV.  I suddenly feel like someone is behind me.  I turned around to see just the top of my two year old's daughter's head...her eyes starting blankly at me from behind the couch.  No speaking, no acknowledgement, just quiet staring.  Scared the poop out of me.  It was like every creep, scary movie with kids in it that I've ever seen.

Of course, she wasn't trying to be scary.  She was bored and wanted to get out of bed and was smart enough to know if she was quiet, her time out of bed would be prolonged.  And it also inspired this blog post.  I found a thread on Reddit of some of the unintentional, creepy things kids say and do.



1.  I was tucking in my two year old.  He said, "Goodbye, dad."  I said, "No, we say good night."  He said, "I know, but this time it's goodbye."  Had to check on him a few times in the night to make sure he was still there.

2.  My daughter would said Spanish curse words in her sleep in a Tony-from-The-Shining voice when she was 5.  She didn't know how to speak Spanish when she was awake.

3.  I wake up to find my three year old standing by the bed staring at me inches away from my face with a huge grin on his face.  "What are you doing?" I finally say. "Nothing" still grinning.  At this point I realize he's got something behind his back.  "Are you holding something." "No." I look anyway.  He's hiding out largest carving knife behind his back.

4.  My brother grew up being terrified of water, I'm 4 years older than him and during the nightly battle for bathtime when he was about 3 or 4 I asked him why he was so scared of the water.  He looked at me and I remember this word for word, "I was in a big unsinkable ship, we hit the biggest iceberg and then it was a really busy and then I got really cold and wet I went to a warm bright place and waited until my next family came."  My mum heard it all and decided bathtime was over.  Creepy thing is my brother was born April 15th 1992 - the Titanic sunk April 15th 1912.

5.  He was 6 going on 7 and we had this thing where I would hold him down and pretend to eat his face (insert nom nom nom sounds) and he would always respond with "stop it" and laughter.  Well this day everything is going as usual and when I get up he says, "I'll never eat your face, papi.  I'll cut it off and wear it as a mask."

6.  My first son at three years old, as he was falling asleep in the car: "Last time, I died in a fire."  I almost drove off the road.

7.  Our family ran out of gas and decided to stop at the gas station when suddenly my younger sister (3yo) starts talking with someone in the car.. btw she is sitting alone in the last row of the car.. she said the girl's name is Tiffany. She said Tiffany is a nice girl but she doesn't have an arm.  All of us didn't really believe her.  Suddenly she asked her to stop at a river and told us that Tiffany wanted to stop here. She told us that Tiffany thanks us for the trip and she waved goodbye at Tiffany.

8.  I was baby sitting my 4 year old sis and at the time I was 13. So she fell asleep on the couch and just sat next to her and started watching tv. A bit later she woke up and I asked her if she needed anything. She said no, then got up and got some water, then said “Will, why did you have to kill Daddy?”. I asked what she was talking about and she just said “you know, the man in the closet.” So I asked her which closet, she just said “haha, he said no telling.” Then she was about to sit back on the couch but I made her go to her room to sleep. I checked each closet while holding a kitchen knife, just to make sure. But my dad died when I was only 5. She shouldn’t even know about his death.

9.  My daughter saw me getting dry skin off my shoulder after a bad sunburn and asked if she could keep my skin flakes and put them in a jar so when I die she can make a mommy mask and remember me always.

10.  One night I let my then 3 year old sleep with me because my husband was gone. It was dead quiet in the house and she whispers “Ive got ya where I want ya and now I’m gonna eat ya”.

11.  When my daughter was 3 she woke up one morning looking rough. I asked if she slept okay and she said, “No! Popaw Mike kept me up all night pinching my toes!” My dad, her Popaw Mike, passed away 8 years before she was born and that’s how he used to wake my brother and I up when we were little.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

It Finally Happened to Us

It finally happened.  The day I've been dreading since my kids received their first "someone in your child's class has lice" letter when our daughter was in pre-school.  Our daughter had lice.

I knew it was coming.  It's inevitable these days now that they don't send kids home from school if they have lice.  So the kids just pass it back and forth, especially in Texas and the south where lice can live and breed easily.  But still I was somehow hoping we would get lucky.

Well, we didn't get lucky.  In fact we got very unlucky, because by the time we figured it out, my husband and I also had lice.  That's right I had lice for the first time at almost 42 years old and my husband at 43.  Somehow our son managed to pass by unscathed, likely because he has very short hair and he doesn't lie down in our daughter's bed at night and read with her (such a sweet moment led to our epidemic).

For those of you who have already experienced this rite of passage - kudos to you for not losing your cool and recognizing they are after all just little bugs, not the plague.  For those who have yet to have this joyous experience I'll share what I've learned about ridding our house of the lice epidemic.

First and foremost, you should know these things are tiny...very, very tiny.  I mean I knew they were tiny, but I had always heard them described as the size of a sesame seed.  Well, an adult louse is the size of sesame seed.  But it takes quite awhile for the lice to colonize and grow to that size.  So what you are looking for is either tiny white dots (eggs) that are smaller than the size of a pinhead OR a teenie tiny brown thing that looks like a microscopic piece of brown rice.  I mean it's no more than 1 mm long.  And if your kid has brown hair, you'll never see those because they blend in perfectly with their hair.












I tell you this, because my child had been complaining that her head was itching for at least 10 days.  I kept looking and looking and I didn't see anything.  I even thought I was smart, because I knew to look at the base of her neck and behind her ears first.  Still I never saw anything. (Although if you have a boy with short hair, you should look where their hair is longest first.)

I got more suspicious when my head started itching at the base, but after my husband examined me several times, we both concluded we didn't see anything on either head.  I even had the pediatrician look at my daughter's neck, and she said it was just sensitive skin.

So I turned to Google to uncover the source of itching.  Mom after mom said it's lice...you just can't see them.  That night after bath at about 7:00 at night (of course), I combed her hair and I saw a white dot...then another.  Then, I saw something move.  Crap.  My husband told me he didn't see anything, but I knew.  And I knew it was after 7:00 pm and my daughter had to go to school the next day and we were about to embark on quite an effort that evening.

Luckily, I have the best next door neighbor in the world, who has been through this and she had a spare lice removal kit at home which she generously offered to give me.  But this leads me to my next piece of advice - Once your kids start pre-school, purchase a lice kit.  It's going to happen and most likely you will discover it at night.  So be prepared and that will make your first experience far less stressful.

The next thing to consider when the time comes is what your de-lousing method of choice will be.  What are your options you might ask?  Well, you can go the chemical route.  Or you can go the organic, natural route.  Or you can go the professional route.  At one time I thought the pro idea seemed awesome, but keep in mind that they charge around $150/person.  So for our house, that would have been $450 (our daughter, myself, AND my husband).  And they aren't open at 8 pm at night when you really need them.  So that leaves chemical vs. natural.  I would have typically been inclined to go chemical - I mean I want something that's going to kill these buggers.  But it turns out that nothing really kills them.  You are just trying to dissolve the glue they use to attach to the hair, and then pick out the eggs and lice.  So I would lean to the natural side.  I used Nit Free, well, because beggars can't be choosers and that's what my neighbor had.  But it seemed to work well, it's natural, and it comes with a great metal lice comb (very important part of the process).

To condense the next steps and not make this the longest blog in the world, here's the gist of what we did:
1.  Used the kit mousse and comb to carefully comb out as many eggs and lice as possible that night. Comb one tiny section at a time and comb the hair on all four sides.
2.  After finishing the combing, we washed with a lice shampoo to deter lice that might be in the house from jumping back onto the head.
3.  Blow dry our hair!  Holy cow.  I had no idea this was so effective.  But I began thinking about if the heat in the dryer kills these things, won't heat on your head kill them?  Sure enough, the air will dry out the eggs and heat will even kill lice.  In fact, I found data that suggested blow drying was more effective than the combing process.

4.  Washed all of our bedding.  Anything that couldn't be washed that had touched heads (like stuffed animals), we put in the dryer on high for an hour.  If you have items (like plastic hats) that can't be put in the washer or dryer, just put them in the garage for 48 hours.  Lice die if they don't have human blood for 48 hours.
5.  Vacuumed the carpets and rugs especially where the kids play.  Lucky for us our cleaning ladies had been at the house that day and done that already.
6.  Put hats, combs, brushes, backpacks, bathrobes, anything that has touched the lice-filled hair in the washing machine or dishwasher.  I even put couch cushions in the dryer just for good measure.  But you should know that lice don't jump.  They don't want to be off a human head, so you do not have to go wash everything in your house when this happens.
7.  Then, I continued to wash pillow cases, hair brushes, and anything that had direct contact with our heads everyday until the 3rd day.  I also made sure we used the lice shampoo and blew dry everyone's hair each day.
8.  On the third day, we did another comb through for everyone.  I was clean.  My husband was clean.  But my daughter still had 10-15 bugs.  So we continued the process for her until the 6th day.  That day, we did another comb through and she was clean.

Whew - we survived the epidemic.  So I'm determined to do a better job of prevention from now on.  I'm now using lice shampoo and conditioner on both of my kids.  It won't kill lice.  It just makes their hair smell like rosemary, which apparently lice don't like.  I would love for my daughter to wear her hair in a pony tail everyday, which would help.  But she refuses, because she says ponytails hurt.  (I guess I could master the french braid).  I bought tea tree shampoo and conditioner for myself from Trader Joe's.  Apparently, lice don't like tea tree either.  (BTW it's only $3.99 a bottle at Trader Joe's, not the outrageous price on Amazon.)  I also will no longer use my comb or brush on my daughter's hair when I'm feeling too lazy to go get her brush.  And I vow to blow dry my hair at least every other day and my daughter's hair at least once a week.

My last piece of advice, if your kid says his/her head is itching for more than 2 days, just do a treatment.  If you don't comb anything out, great.  But I now know you won't be able to see these things until you have a serious infestation on your hands.  So don't be like me, just do some combing with a nit comb as soon as someone says, "Mom, my head itches" and you will conquer this lice epidemic!







Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Boy in Constant Motion

When our son was born, he was so calm.  He was adaptable and flexible.  We could take him to restaurants and he just sat there and looked at everyone.  We could keep him out an hour past nap time, and he didn't start crying.  He was what everyone calls an "easy" baby.

Fast forward to 6 months old when he started eating solid food.  Things began to change.  Feeding him was terribly time-consuming.  I would fix him food, put him in the high chair, and he would eat for 2 minutes.  Then, he would scream and scream until I took him out of the high chair.  Of course he wasn't full, so 45 minutes-1 hour later, he would scream and scream until I made him more food and we would do it over again.  He just could not stand to be trapped in the high chair.

By 8 months, he started crawling.  Unlike our daughter, who did minimal crawling, he clearly recognized his new found freedom and he went from calm and content to the mad explorer.  It escalated even further once he could walk...and climb.  I had to clear every surface of decorative items and breakables.  We had to lock every cabinet and drawer.  You couldn't leave a cup, glass, food, etc. lying around.  The cat food and water had to be hidden.  And he was definitely never unsupervised even for a minute.  I basically just tried to ensure he didn't kill himself.  I couldn't even go into the kitchen and leave him in the living room without me.  It seemed intense, but I thought this a phase and in a few months this will pass.

Well, it didn't.  The eating situation didn't get better either.  I resorted to feeding him every time we were in the car, because he was trapped in the car seat and usually seemed to accept eating then.  It wasn't ideal, but it kept him full and more or less happy.

In fact, overall he seemed very happy.  He required a great deal of attention to protect his safety, but he didn't fuss or throw a lot of tantrums.  But as the months went by and eventually the years, it seemed incredible to me that his need to touch things, move around, and explore didn't subside at all.  I probably said, "Don't touch" or "Don't grab" 100+ times a day.

And meal times were nothing short of awful.  He hated having to sit still, he didn't want to eat the food, and when we made him eat, he would shove lots of food in his mouth and gag on it.  So most of the food ended up back on his plate rather than his stomach.  And of course 30 minutes after meal time, he would cry from hunger.

And there were other things.  From the time he could crawl, he began having a hard time falling asleep.  This didn't alarm me.  After all, sleep patterns and hours of sleep varies from child to child. He was perfectly content to sit in his crib for 45 minutes or an hour, talking to himself, singing, etc. until he fell asleep.  And once he was asleep, he slept hard until morning.

He also seemed to have an extreme fear of loud noises that he couldn't control.  If it was his toy that made the noise, that was fine.  But if he heard a motorcycle or a lawn mower, he panicked.  But again, don't most kids hate loud noises?  Our daughter certainly did.

And we also noticed that he didn't seem to be learning tasks that required motor planning.  Everyday, I had to tell him each step for putting his clothes on.  Every night, I had to explain we had to dry him off before putting his PJs on.  And questions I knew he knew the answer to still seemed to solicit "Why" from him everyday.  He probably said "Why" 50+ times a day.

By age 3, I was definitely wondering if there was a developmental issue.  On one hand, his vocabulary and speaking ability was fantastic. He used words like "intimidating" and "pleasant" and "gravity" in regular sentences.  His pediatrician said he looked great and was developing normally. But on the other hand, it could take up to 3 hours to get him to go to sleep at night.  And then 5 hours later, he would be up again.  He threw 45 minute tantrums everyday over minor frustrations.  He was still gagging on food and resisting sitting still for more than 30 seconds.  He couldn't come close to remembering the steps for getting dressed in the morning.  He insisted on having someone hold his hand to go down stairs every single time.  He still grabbed and touched everything even when he had been told 100 times it would hurt him.  He couldn't come close to throwing a ball.  And he regularly ran into walls, fell, and just in general seemed completely unaware of where his body was in the space around him.  But I kept thinking, he's just 3 three.  I'm exhausted and that's probably why I'm looking for something here.  At 3 years and 3 months, I hit my breaking point.  In one week, he ran straight into a concrete wall at school and cut his eye and cheek.  Two days later, the babysitter called while we were out because he had run head first into the bathtub and had a giant knot on his forehead (that lasted for 6 weeks).  Three days later, if I had not been sitting next to him while we were outside, he would have slammed the back of his head into our limestone retaining wall. I just couldn't take it.  I could not watch him constantly to ensure he didn't injure himself.  I had to find out if there was something else we could do.

So I took him to an occupational therapist for an evaluation.  And to my relief the therapist diagnosed him with an under-developed vestibular system and sensory seeking sensory processing issues.  She recommended therapy once a week for at least a year.  Woohoo!   It turned out there was an explanation for these behaviors and there were things we could do to help him.

So what is the vestibular system you might ask? The vestibular sensory system provides the leading contribution to the sense of balance and spatial orientation for the purpose of contribution to the sense of balance and spatial orientation for the purpose of coordinating movement with balance.  It's a combination of the inner ear organs and the cerebellum working together to tell your body how to be stable and move within space.  It's the root of all fine and gross motor skill development.  Without the vestibular system, gross motor and fine motor skills don't continue to develop normally either.

What is sensory seeking?  What is sensory processing?  Well, in short, his brain isn't very efficient at processing certain sensations.  And his body is telling him to keep seeking more and more stimulation to get enough data to help his brain develop properly.  It explains his constant movement and need to touch and need to ask why.

So would it develop on his own?  Perhaps.  But in the meantime, he would run into walls, gag on food, struggle to hold a crayon, struggle to throw a ball, struggle to keep up with his playmates on the playground.  Even at three it was becoming obvious that he was aware that he couldn't do the same things his classmates could and he was selecting activities he knew he could do.  This was causing him to not engage with his peers and consequently, his social skills with his peers were delayed as well.  So I wasn't willing to wait and see.

In the past six months with therapy and changes in our household, our son and life has improved significantly.  The therapist recommended dressing him in compression clothing (like Under Armor).  This made a huge difference immediately.  His teachers at school called his new shirts "miracle shirts."  When he's wearing the compression shirts, he feels safe and is much more capable of sitting still and listening.  He can focus on the teacher's instruction.  (We even took him to 2 movies this summer, which I never thought would happen.)  We put a compression sheet on his bed and began giving him 1/2 a children's melatonin every night, and suddenly he could go to sleep easily and stay asleep!  Not only could he sleep, he was sleeping longer at night and at nap time than he had ever slept in his life.  I started wondering how much of his developmental issues had been caused just from lack of sleep.  He started taking Omega 3 fish oil everyday and his long tantrums went away immediately.  We put a stool under his feet at the dinner table, so he didn't feel like he was falling out of his chair and low and behold he can actually stay in his chair for a meal now.  Too bad I didn't understand that one a few years ago.  We're still working on the gagging thing, but it has improved.  He uses a tool called a Z-Vibe that vibrates inside his mouth to wake up the feelings in his mouth so that he can tell when he has too much food in his mouth.  With the help of therapy, he can hold a crayon and color an entire picture now.  He doesn't run into walls and fall nearly as often as he used to.  I can leave him unsupervised now while I do something in another room.  He doesn't cry when we take him to school.  In fact, he is eager to do "challenging" work at school now instead of just cleaning the tables and the floors (which was his preference before).  He can dress himself without instruction from me, and he even gets the clothes on correctly most of the time.  He walks downstairs without someone holding his hand.  He tells me he's smart now.  He is much more engaged with his peers and confident with adults.  When we play sports in the backyard as a family, he plays too instead just pushing his lawnmower.  He's just a different kid.

We still have at least 6 more months of therapy and more work to do at home, but I feel so much more confident that he will be capable of keeping up with his peers in school physically and academically.  Intelligence wasn't his issue, but his lack of motor skills was sending him down a path at age 3 of feeling like he wasn't as capable as other kids. It might have also given teachers the impression that he was a behavior problem and therefore, not as intelligent as other kids.  Or that he had ADHD, because he was hyperactive.  It was definitely putting him on the path to thinking he was a problem, that he wasn't as capable, and that he should isolate instead of participate.

I share our story because it might sound familiar to you and help your family or someone you know.  But I also share it for this reason.  Despite how exhausting our son's sensory-seeking behavior has been, I feel fortunate that he is sensory-seeking.  Because he was so exhausting, it pushed me to seek help.  Some kids with these very same issues are under-stimulated, and rather than appearing hyper and in constant motion, they appear quiet, shy, and uncoordinated.  They may have crawled and walked late.  Parents and teachers think they are just shy...that they weren't blessed with athletic ability.  But no, the child just feels like they can't keep up with their peers and rather than try and fail, they just don't participate.  They don't want to play sports.  They might not even want to play on the playground.  And they generally have a look of muscle weakness and poor coordination.  That's not normal.  And even if the child develops physically later on, the damage to their self-esteem is already done.

As a side note, sensory processing disorder is broad and includes a lot of different issues.  The diagnosis is also a bit controversial.  Not all doctors agree on the root causes and issues.  There is definitely overlap in the diagnosis of SPD and autism and SPD and ADHD.  It's possible to have just SPD, too.  But from my perspective, the behaviors are there either way.  And it there is something you can do to improve the behaviors, that should be the parent's focus.

Here are some resources I have found helpful on the subject:

https://www.spdstar.org/
http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-processing-disorder-checklist.html
https://www.sensorysmarts.com/signs_of_spd.html
http://childmind.org/article/sensory-processing-issues-explained/
https://funandfunction.com
https://www.amazon.com/Out-Sync-Child-Carol-Kranowitz-ebook/dp/B00261OOVM

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Big Breath...It's Almost Time to Go Back to School

I know lots of moms celebrate the day their kids go back to school.  But I have to be honest, I don't.  Now that's not because I love and adore every moment I spend with them and I'm a super fabulous mom.  That's because my kids go to fun camps all summer - they are happy, I am happy, and life is less stressful.  But going back to school means getting up early, stressful mornings, hectic schedules, and the holidays are coming.  I almost break into a sweat thinking about it.  And I for the record, have historically loved fall!  I love that it's gets cool outside.  I love the holidays.  I love birthdays (every significant date in our family occurs in fall and early winter).  I love football season.  But with kids, all of these exciting things come with mom-to-do lists.  Ughhh.

So I had to assess my anxiety and figure out how to conquer back-to-school without panic attacks.  If you too are panicked about sending the kids back-to-school, here are my tips to fall into school and fall with ease and maybe even excitement!

1.  Shop for everything online!  School supplies, backpacks, lunch boxes, and clothes can all be purchased in a matter of minutes online.  Just spend an hour during your favorite guilty pleasure TV show shopping and you have all of that taken care of.  Even if your kids are old enough to pick out their own clothes, they can still pick out what they want online and then you edit and order their shopping cart.

2.  Get kids signed up for fall activities now.  Some kids know what they love and stick to it every year, so this is easy.  But my kids are young and still trying out new things, so this can be a little stressful.  There's research, signing up, figuring out the schedule, buying the gear, etc.  So get it done now and then that's one less thing to worry about when the school year gets hectic.

3.  Make a list of your typical Fall to-dos and just add them to your calendar now.  Then you know you have set aside time for your to-dos and you don't have to keep these to-dos stored in your head.  To get you started, here was my list of fall to-dos:

  • Order Halloween costumes
  • Plan Halloween and Christmas outings
  • Buy tickets for holiday events
  • Finish photo albums/gifts for Christmas presents
  • Make and order Christmas card
  • Book birthday party locations
  • Order birthday party invites
  • Buy birthday present for day
  • Buy anniversary gift for my husband
  • Buy birthday gifts for son
  • Order Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner (thank you Whole Foods)
  • Update holiday pictures at Piece of Cake Parties
  • Christmas shopping
4.  If you have spare time now, start doing your fall to-do list now before life gets hectic!  For example, I make photo albums of our kids art work and lives each year to give for holiday gifts.  They are definitely a labor of love.  I love having them, but they are time-consuming.  So getting those done this summer, is a big stress relief for fall.

5.  Put all of the back-to-school events on your calendar now, so you aren't caught off guard.  You know the year always starts out with a bang - Meet the Teacher night, Curriculum night, Back to School bashes, etc.  And if you are lucky like us, you get to do all of these at multiple schools.

6.  Start sending the kids to bed early now.  Let's face it, you could use the extra time at night to take care of your to-dos.  And if the kids get used to going to bed earlier and waking up earlier now, the first week of school will be a little less painful.

7.  If you have kids with anxiety, start talking to them about what to expect in the new school year.  My daughter will be going into first grade, which she's excited about.  But first grade will come with homework and real school work.  So I can help her be less stressed, less emotional, and less anxious by talking about how first grade will be different now.  That will make the whole family happier in September!

Hopefully, this list helps you and makes you fall into fall with excitement!