Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Announcing.......Thing 5 - Due July 3rd

When Thing 3 was born, I wasn't sure if I could talk my husband into having any more children. Our hands were full with 3! But Thing 3 was such a sweet little baby and easy going that we decided we would try one more time to get a girl.

However, this time we were going to do all those silly wives tales you hear and read about that seem ridiculous; but we thought as long as we were going to try one more time, it wouldn't hurt to try all these things. We read things like change your diet and time to conceive. We knew we were only touching the tip of the ice berg with research on exactly what we would need to do, and we were willing to learn and put in the research time - except Thing 4 wasn't really interested in waiting. I was pregnant before we even had a chance to try.

It was so easy to conceive him I thought for sure this was meant to be and this would be our long awaited daughter. So sure in fact that I decided to have the sex be a surprise. My husband did not want to wait that long to know, he is a super planner, so he found out at the 20 week anatomy scan, and I was in my bliss of being so sure it was a girl. Several times my husband slipped up and revealed to me that I was having a boy, and each time I didn't even come close to catching on. My feelings that he was a girl were so strong they literally blinded me.

Thing 4 was born, and I was shocked. But wait, this was my girl! I immediately wanted to try for another girl. My husband wasn't so enthusiastic. Then the stress of having a tiny newborn baby, and a special needs child hit me full force and I decided I was done having kids. I accepted I would never have a daughter, and that was it. However, God had different plans because every single time I thought this and made up my mind, I got hit with a brick! I was not done having kids, there is one more.

So I explained my very mixed feelings and emotions to my husband, who was just as frazzled and stressed and tired as me. He finally relented to trying one more time, but only if we did a procedure called PGD. Basically it's gender selection. you are only impregnated with the girl embryos. After much praying, and research we felt good about our decision to go this route and started the testing necessary for the procedure.

It is an extremely expensive measure to take, but we felt the investment in our family was well worth the expense. We had all the testing complete and sat down to sign the contract with the financial department. Only then did we find out that we were not guaranteed even a try at a pregnancy. Up to this point we were under the impression our money guaranteed we got at least one try, then if I miscarry, that was where the risk was. We were willing to take that risk. However, we found out that if after going through everything to extract eggs, they don't end up with any viable females to implant, we were out our money. Given the fact that we have 4 boys, we felt the risk of not getting females to implant was pretty high. At that point we walked away.

Again I struggled because I really want to be done with the pregnancy stage, and newborn stage, and even toddler stage. I want to be able to go camping and not worry about what to do with a baby who eats rocks all day. Again that brick just beat me up!

We decided we really do need to have one more. This time, I did all the research on what you can do to sway the gender of the baby. But before we decided to go this route, we both had to decide if we were ok if we ended up with 5 boys. Shortly after saying I was ok with 5 boys, I had a friend ask me to babysit her 4 year old son. He was outside playing with my 4 boys on the swing set and trampoline and all of the boys were laughing, screaming jumping climbing and just being boys. That confirmed to me that I am at peace and will be happy with 5 boys. That was when I truly felt that I wasn't just saying I was ok if this sway attempt got me a boy instead of a girl.

So I did all the research, and there really are some very silly things out there to get a girl. I have no idea why anybody would think that putting a wooden spoon under your pillow would affect what sex is conceived!

But there are some actual studies conducted and proven more scientifically to be girl or boy friendly. These things are still not 100 percent guaranteed, but made enough sense I decided it was worth it to try. It was suggested to track changes to your body from the strategies suggested before attempting to conceive.

So following, that advice I tracked everything for the 3 months. Wouldn't you know, I got pregnant the first real shot. Way to go my dear husband!
So the question: do I now have a basketball team?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Yummy! Steak!

So after my mom informed everybody she would like to do Steak on Father's Day, but didn't know how to cook it, I e-mailed her instructions on how to cook the steak. Then because I misunderstood what time dinner was, my family got there about 1/2 hour early.

Mom was stressing out because my sister was supposed to bring the spices to put on the meat, and her husband was going to cook it, and they hadn't arrived yet. She asked me to take over seasoning and grilling the steak. So I looked in her cupboard and grabbed random spices for seasoning and grilled it. It tasted really good, and was a hit with my family, so I thought I would share. :)

The steak was thawed and at room temperature, and we poked it with a small knife over and over to tenderize it. You can also use a fork, or a meat mallet and pound it to tenderize. Then I poured a generous amount of Worcestershire sauce over both sides of the steak. Then I sprinkled some sea salt, garlic and cinnamon on each side. I was very generous with the garlic and cinnamon.
With the grill at about 400 degrees I put the steak on for a few minutes, then rotated it about 45 degrees and waited another minute or two. Flip the steak, and repeat the rotation steps. This sears and seals in the flavor. Then turn down the heat and grill on one side for about 7 minutes, and the second side for 5-7 minutes depending on how rare you like your steak.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to Poop Train

I decided that since I get so many questions asking about how to poop train, I would put a post here on the specifics of poop training. Then I can more efficiently answer new questions with the same old answers, lol.

It is completely normal for children who are new to potty training to be a little bit nervous about pooping in the potty. The older the child, the more common this tends to be. Also, poop can take longer because there simply aren't as many opportunities to learn as there are with pee. It seems odd, but kids actually feel that poop is part of their body, and they get scared to have that part just fall out of them. Having it squished against them in their diaper feels secure to them (I know, GROSS!).

So I have several ideas to try for poop training your child, that I am posting here as one collection. Please feel free to adapt these to your child's personality as each child is an individual. But choose only one method and stick with it for at least two weeks before you decide if it works or not.

The first method is a more gradual approach, that parents use when their child is using diapers to poop in, but the potty or toilet for everything else. In this case, the diapers are a security for them and these children are usually older and tell the parents they need to poop, or hide to do their pooping. Tell your child that pooping in the diaper is ok, it is what diapers are for. However, they can only poop in the diaper if they do it in the bathroom. Then they help dump the poop from the diaper to the toilet, and clean themselves up. Once they are comfortable doing this, then tell them that they have to sit on the toilet, while wearing their diaper to poop. Tell them that is where we poop, and they can still wear their diaper, but they need to sit. Once they are comfortable doing this, then tell them that you bought them magic diapers that disappear to show how big they are getting. Cut very small holes in the diaper that gradually get bigger, each step increase happens only when they are comfortable with the last. Eventually the diaper just disappears. This method can take several months to complete because you need to give time with each step of the way for them to be comfortable.

The next method is what I advise for younger children who might be a little uncomfortable, and need some encouragement, but are otherwise fine with pooping. If you know the time of day they poop, do this at that time. If they don't have a set poop schedule, and you have no idea when they might go, do this three times a day, preferably about 30 minutes to an hour after every meal because food is a natural laxative. Sit them on the potty or toilet, then squat down to their level. Then "push" very dramatically and encourage them to imitate you. Praise them when they are grunting and pushing and repeat a few times. Then tell them that you will be right back and to keep doing that for a minute. Then step right outside the door so that they cannot see you, but you can still hear (or even see) them. As long as they are sitting, give them privacy, but if they start to get up, go in and repeat the process "pushing" with them. Repeat until they are not willing to sit and try anymore. Poop takes a little longer to produce and figure out, so I am willing to let my kids sit for up to 30 minutes, if they are content. You may want to consider giving an item that comforts them while sitting, like a lovey.

The final method is used for kids who know what poop is all about, but are reluctant to use the toilet/potty for whatever reason. This method works for any age kid, but a lot of parents think it is harsh. Trust me, it isn't. When you know your child needs to poop, and they are either holding it, or refusing to use the potty and then going in their pants later, take them to the potty/toilet and hold them on kicking and screaming until they go. Try to comfort and encourage them as much as possible while holding them there. Once they go, really praise them and let them know it was exactly what you want and they are so big. This method will get the fastest results in an older child, and poop training will happen in days.

I have never personally used the first method. I am way to impatient for that. The last method I used when I potty trained my two older boys. Thing 1 was almost 3 when I finally held him on the toilet kicking and screaming. He had poop accidents every day for almost 6 months, and I had had enough and nothing else seemed to work. As soon as I got him to poop a few times on the toilet, I introduced the poop chart I will go into details about later in this article. He turns 7 in August and a little while ago I asked him if he remembered any of that. Not only did he have no memory, he was laughing when I described how I held him on the toilet. Trust me, it does not traumatize the child, and Thing 1 has absolutely no issues with using the toilet now.

Thing 2 was just a few months younger than what Thing 1 was when I potty trained him. I used the same method, and he figured out real quick that he could use pooping to delay his bed time. I was fine with that! He went on the toilet and I was grinning because he was doing exactly what I wanted, and he thought he was so sneaky!

Thing 3 was so much younger that I used the second method with him. He has had 2 poop accidents since I potty trained him a year ago!

The poop chart is a chart I created that has 10 squares on each row, and 4 rows on the chart. Every 2-3 squares is a picture of a treat basket. This meant that every time they got a sticker on this square, I made a special trip to the store with just the trainee. I chose the store, but they chose whatever they wanted in that store. It was a trip to the store just for the treat, and just mom and son to get it. (I either waited until Dad was home with the other kids, or asked somebody to watch the other boys while I went to the store). The last square on each row was a picture of an activity for the whole family to do. I did Chuck E Cheese, go cart rides, a train ride, and swimming. Whenever they put a sticker on the chart we counted down how many more stickers they needed until they got the next picture square. It took about one week to complete one row, and at the end of the month when the chart was complete, my boys were trained. I thought I would have to wean them off the chart, but they just continued to use the toilet, and I never had to redo the chart.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Final Diagnosis

The final diagnosis was very similar to the preliminary diagnosis.

She did change her opinion that he was not autistic to he is autistic. She said that there are enough red flags that she was not comfortable taking it off the table. She talked to us about what being ADHD means and what we can do to avoid medication, but what kinds of medications there are if we choose to go that route. She also cautioned us that if we go that route, do it while he is younger and it just becomes routine because when he is older he may fight it with the ever popular, "I don't like how it doesn't allow me to be me." Then she talked to us about a way to get him the ABA therapy for much cheaper.

There is a website called Rethink Autism. It has ABA "lessons" That you do, then test your child on them. Then if they pass, they are tested a second time. If they pass twice, we can move on to the next lesson. She is combining this with ABA therapy by a mom who has been trained, but is not licensed at this time. That mom would work under this doctor's license to provide the therapy at $15.00/hour instead of $50.00-$100.00 per hour. Then with the website and the tracking that way, instead of 20-30 hours per week of time with the ABA therapist, there would only be 5-10 hours. The website costs about $100.00 per month, and the ABA therapist would cost up to $150.00 per month. This is much more affordable than $80-$100k per year!

But then a few weeks later, the doctor called me and told me there is an opportunity where if I am willing to record (via video taping) Thing 2's progress, and be willing for rethink autism to use him in their port folio, I could get the website membership for free. This means that I only have to pay for the ABA therapist at around $150 per month! Yay! we can do that, I think! I'm still trying to get Medicaid to cover it, but that isn't looking like it's going to pan out.

In addition to ABA therapy, she advised that we increase our speech therapy time. She would like us to go twice per week instead of once per week. We are going to do that over the summer when he isn't getting services at school, but then when he starts school again, we will go back to once per week, because the school also does it once per week. She thought that was a great plan. Then we need to take him twice a month to her for counseling so he can deal with his severe anxiety. We are to continue his monthly occupational therapy as well.

Oh and I asked her the difference between a sever expressive/receptive language delay and a communication disorder and she told me that therapy wise, there is no difference. However the communication disorder means there is more going on and that he won't just catch up with therapy. He needs much more frequent and intense therapy.

So in summary his final diagnosis are: PDD-NOS (autism), ADHD, SPD, Communication disorder, expressive/receptive language disorder (she is keeping this as a standing dx), hypotonia, Dyspraxia and Apraxia.
I'm so glad to finally have answers and to be able to move forward with treatment. Right now I feel really good about our plans for treatment and I am hopeful that we can treat without medications. However, if medications are what he needs, I will give them to him. The alternative is not worth it.

My Son Acted His Age...

Last week was Thing 2's last day of school for both his preschools. Me living one day at a time right now, and not being able to get on top of it all, realized the morning I dropped him off to preschool that I still hadn't gotten his teachers and therapists thank you favors. So right after I dropped him off, I headed to Wal Mart with Thing 3 and Thing 4.

It isn't often that I'm able to go to the store with only two Things, and when I do, I like to give Thing 3 an opportunity to learn to stay by mommy. So I allow him to walk by the cart instead of ride in the cart. Usually he does well with this. But not on this day!

After I found something for the teachers and therapists, I decided to head over to the cleaning isle and look for a dish washing aid to keep hard water spots from forming on my plastic dishes. It's like Jet Dry, but formulated for plastic instead of glass. I was intently studying the shelf looking for this product because I don't know the name of it. When I realized that Thing 3 was gone. I hate that feeling!

I walked up and down all the surrounding isles trying to think of what would have caught his attention. I walked across the main isle in the store to the baby toys, but no luck there. I walked over to the pop isle, and again no luck there. I even went a looked in a spot where there was a little alcove created in the toilet paper by a missing pallet, but again no luck. Of course being a mom, I start to imagine the worst and wonder who took my child and how I was going to begin to get him back. I was on the verge of tears.

Luckily, a few minutes later I hear the announcement, "We have a lost mommy in the store. Could you please come up to customer service? Again, we have a lost mommy." Oh the relief! Then the embarrassment! But I go up to find Thing 3 happily chatting with the store manager. Not even phased or insecure in the least that he was not with me. I guess I have created such a secure environment, he has no fear. I worry about that! So in the cart he goes while we check out and leave for home.

When we got home, I had him start his Stick Job. He chose to vacuum the hard wood floors downstairs. I didn't have time to help him pick up because I was in such a rush to write the Thank you notes and get the gifts ready. So I just handed him the vacuum hose and told him to not vacuum toys. A few minutes into it, I hear the vacuum caught on something and I look up and tell Thing 3 to stop. He shifted the vacuum when he looked up at me and I heard whatever it is suck and "thunk" into my wall. The downside to central vacuum is you have to worry about the pipe in the walls getting clogged. So I decided to go check the canister out in the garage to see if it made it out or not. I have no idea what I would do if it didn't make it, lol.

However, when I got home from the shopping trip, my hands were beyond full trying to balance my grocery bags and Thing 4, so I didn't hang up my keys when I walked in. Then my flighty mind couldn't tell me where I set them down at. So I had opened the garage door, but couldn't get to the canister because my van was in the way. So while I was hunting for the keys, Thing 3 ran out front to play. Unbeknownst to me, he still had the popsicle stick in his hand from his stick job. I finally found the keys and went out to back the van out to find Thing 3 at my tail light complaining. I asked what he was doing, and he showed me that he put the popsicle stick between the tail light and body of my van and pushed it all the way in, so there wasn't anything I could grip to pull it back out.

Ok, this isn't a big deal. I can work a wrench. So I grabbed my husband's took kit and loosened the bolts holding the tail light on. I heard the popsicle stick fall down. I tried to pull the taillight off so that I can pull it out, but I can't get it off. I checked that all bolts are removed, and I still can't get it off. So I consult the manual to the van. Turns out that my van has LED lights in the tail lights and under the instruction for how to change it, it says that I have to take it to the dealer. GREAT! So the popsicle stick is still there!

Well while I was tightening the bolts back into place, Thing 3 came up and knocked the tool kit into the back of the van scattering everything! Ugh. I hurriedly threw everything back in not even checking if I'm putting things in the right slot because it was time to get Thing 2 from school, and I was now late.

So we were walking to pick up Thing 2 and I told my sister (who had called me in the midst of all the crazy) that Thing 3 was acting his age. Thing 3 said, "No, I'm (insert his name here)." I laughed and told him that yes he was who he was, and that he was two years old and he was acting it. I said, "This doesn't make me happy because it creates a lot more work for me." He smiled and said, "mmm hmmm."

So there you have it - the fun times of raising a two year old boy!

By the way - it was a sandwich baggie he vacuumed up, and it did make it to the canister, whew!

Chores - how do you implement them?

I thought I would share my routine for chores with my very small children.

I grew up with a chore chart that rotated what job we had each day. At the end of a two week period, we got to go do something fun, like the zoo.

I tried doing something similar with my kids, but there were two problems. First, I wasn't very consistent in bringing their attention to the chart to see what they were supposed to do for the day. Second, two weeks was too long for a very young child to be rewarded.

Last spring as I was wondering what I was going to do with all 4 kids home all day, all summer long, I got to talking to my sister about it. Neither one of us were looking forward to school being out, both of us feel the exact opposite this year, lol. Then she and her daughter talked about a system where her daughter did her chores, then got paid a dollar at the end of the week. My sister shared this conversation with me, and I took it a step further. I got out my box of craft jumbo popsicle sticks and wrote a job on each stick. All of the jobs were things my kids were capable of doing, and things I could easily show the younger ones how to do. They were simple one task jobs so the kids didn't feel overwhelmed with doing them. So instead of clean the bathroom, I have one for clean the toilet. Clean the sink, clean the floor, etc. I then wrote a number next to each job which told each kid how many pokerchips they would get paid for doing their job. I put the "stick jobs" in a mason jar and told my kids when the jar was emptied we would take a break for one day from chores and have a mini party at home. Things that need to happen more often, like clean a toilet, I have more sticks in there that say that so they come up more frequently.

This spring, I am looking forward to having my children home all day because I already have our daily schedule in mind, and I have already implemented it on the days there is no school. We get up and get dressed, do medicine (for my asthmatic children) brush teeth, then come downstairs and eat breakfast. As soon as breakfast is over, each boy has to choose two stick jobs to complete. As soon as the stick jobs are done, we have a 20 minute story time. As soon as that is complete, we do therapy time. This rotates between tactile therapy (basically playing in playdough, moon dough, clay, shaving cream, fake snow, etc.), fine motor therapy (practicing writing with a correct pencil grip) proprioceptive therapy (playing the burrito game, rolling on the exercise ball, etc). By the time we are done with therapy, we eat lunch. Then it is nap time/quiet time where the baby goes down for a nap, and the three older boys sit and watch a movie. When that time is over, we then go outside for more therapy time. This therapy is jumping on the trampoline, swinging on the swing set, sliding down the slide, playing in the kiddie pool, etc. (At his age, therapy is basically pointed play. All the boys love to participate). Then we come in and eat dinner. After dinner is a calm wind down time where we either take a bath or read stories. Then it's off to the bed time routine.

The stick jobs are something that since the kids physically pick out their job, they look forward to doing it, and they remind me. So it works better for me and my children than what a chart does.

Poker Chips - used for more than just playing Poker!

Poker chips are what we use as "money" for the kids. I stole the idea to use poker chips from my sister in law - although I'm not sure if she knows it. It was many years ago, and I was watching her kids before I had kids of my own. She told me if her kids were acting up, I could take away a poker chip, or I could give poker chips for behavior I liked from them. Beyond that, I don't know what she used the poker chips for.

But I was talking with my husband and debating on how to teach  our kids not only the value of money, but the responsibility of taking care of their own money. I also wanted to teach them about paying for things they needed and wanted and how to balance it all - without credit.

My husband expanded using poker chips as a reward/punishment. He suggested we use them as currency. Our kids would earn them, then if they want a treat, toy, clothes, anything above their basic needs (which we will always provide) they pay poker chips for these things. Each color poker chips has an exchange rate into real money, so they can use them at stores as well and learn about paying their tithing.

White is $.10, blue is the same as 5 white ones, or $.50 and red is the same at 10 white ones, or $1.00. They earn their poker chips by completing their chores because in our opinion that is like having a job. How else are they to earn it. I also use them as rewards for behaving in school and completing assignments.

Then I have candy in the pantry (or our "store") that is labeled with a number on the container. That number represents how many poker chips that item costs. Then if there is a time when I don't want them eating candy, like before breakfast, lunch and dinner and bedtime, I tell them the store is closed. They then learn about store operating hours that way as well.

When Thing 1 started kindergarten, we had been using this system for about 6 months. He already had a concept of the value of money and the first week of school there was a field trip where they went to the dollar store and were given one dollar. They could choose whatever they wanted to buy. Then when they got back to the classroom they showed what they purchased and explained why they purchased it. My son's teacher told me later that he started out at the candy rack. He selected a treat and had her check it for his allergens, and even though it was safe, he put it back and decided to get a toy. His reason he gave back at the classroom was because the toy lasts much longer than candy.

He even earned the money to buy his first bike without training wheels, and he is so proud of that bike! It has taught him the difference between wants and needs and I don't deal with whining kids in the store because they want this or that. They know it's a want and not a need, therefore they have to pay for it.

Thing 2 and Thing 3 know that poker chips buy their candy at home, and that the candy costs different amounts of poker chips, but they don't realize it can exchange into real money yet. Although Thing 2 is starting to figure that out. The other day he combined his piggy bank of change with his poker chips and today he was attempting to count all his money. He starts kindergarten this fall, so I think he is right on track with that.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with another mom who has a daughter who is starting 2nd grade this fall and has absolutely no concept of money, nor how to count it. I told her my system for teaching my kids about money, and she liked it. It was then that I realized that some kids are never really taught, and that our idea worked very well.

Then a week after that, Thing 1 was in the money section of math at school. One night as he was doing his homework, he was thinking out loud. I was in the other room giggling with pride because I heard him convert the money into poker chips, then back into money before he wrote down his answer, lol!

Poker chips are just the start of a much bigger picture. Right now, at my kids' age candy is the biggest want, and sometimes a toy. They know they have to pay for these things. I don't tell them they can't spend their money on things because it is a waste of money, I let them waste their money. Thing 1 wanted tattoos and the package cost 3 dollars. Both my mom and my sister were shocked that I "allowed" him to spend his money on those tattoos. They felt it was a huge waste of money. I told them it was his money to waste. He then learned it was a waste of money. His school does not allow them to be worn at school, so he could put them on on the weekend only. Then we had to scrub them off on Sunday night, he hated this. Guess what? He never bought tattoos again! I would much rather him learn this lesson now while the price tag is small, than later when the price tag is much larger.

Also, as he gets older and the price tag gets larger, my hope is that he will have learned the lessons before and not get into debt trying to get something he doesn't have money for. He already has had a little lesson in this. He was very disrespectful to me and lost his privilege to swim lessons. He also had to pay me back for those lessons. Every day when he wanted to play, or buy candy the answer was no because he still owed me money and he doesn't get to do or buy what he wants when he is in debt. I explained to him that we would love to take him to Disneyland or other vacation places way more than what we do, but we have to pay for our house and van first.

We plan to at the age of 8, set our kids up with a checking account and show them how to manage their money online. This is a skill that is necessary and extremely important to have by the time they are adults. Again, I would much rather them make mistakes with a checking account while the price tag is small, rather than when it is big. If they wipe their account out with one check right now, the most it will be is maybe $50.00, but if they do it as an adult it could be their entire paycheck of thousands!
Our goal with our children is to raise them in such a way that they can be independent and successful in this world. We want them to be self sufficient and that can't happen without mistakes and being able to learn from those mistakes.