An Incredible Act of Love

My 34 year old “big” sister Tina has Down Syndrome. At 4 feet 6 inches tall and 80 pounds, the only thing “big” about her is her age, as she is about a year and a half older than me. 

When I was in college, Tina started living with a couple and their two young sons. My parents both worked full time and she needed care and supervision during the day. She very quickly made a special connection with Morgan, the older son. My sister and Morgan have developed a very special relationship over the years. 

In 2009, my sister had to have all but 5 of her teeth removed due to periodontal disease. When she got home from the invasive procedure, Morgan refused to leave her side, worried about her as she recovered. He even begged his parents to stay home so he could take care of her during the school day. 

Morgan is now 18 and he is about to graduate from high school. He recently got a tattoo, but it wasn’t just any tattoo. It was a tribute to my sister who is also his sister. For me, the look on Tina’s face in this picture says it all. In every picture of them together, Tina is smiling. Morgan has a magical way of always getting her to not just smile, but to beam with joy. 

Thank you, Morgan, for the happiness you contribute to Tina’s life. I am eternally grateful for the incredible love you have for her.

Advertisements

Cutting Down on the Chemicals

About a year ago, I made a lot of changes in my life. My diet received a compete makeover nd I quit my stressful job. I made another change that I credit my dad for. 

One day we were talking about all of the chemicals that are in the products we use every day, from shampoo to cleaning sprays. He told me that he started using an all natural deodorant. I’m pretty sure I immediately scoffed at the idea of doing that. Right, Dad?

There was something about this conversation that got the ball rolling, though. Shortly after, I purchased some Tom’s all natural deodorant. From there, I replaced my shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste, moisturizer, and several other household items. 

Here are the types and brands of products I am currently using on a regular basis…

1. Produce wash- Trader Joe’s brand 

2. Cleaning spray- Mrs. Meyer’s, Seventh Generation, Green Works

3. Glass food storage containers (safer than plastic when heated)- Anchor 

4. Body wash- Raw Sugar

5. Shampoo and conditioner- Nature’s Gate 

6. Deodorant- Tom’s

7. Toothpaste- Tom’s (my son, too)

8. Lotion- Everyone Lotion

9. Moisturizer- Burt’s Bees

10. Bug Repellent- Liquid Fence, Repel (my kids, too)

11. Dish soap- Seventh Generation

12. Dishwashing detergent- Seventh Generation 

13. Sunscreen- Babyganics (my kids, too)

I have not completely cut added chemicals out of the household products I use, but I feel that I have gotten a good start. I use a dye and perfume free laundry detergent, as well as a dye and perfume free body wash/shampoo on my children. Even though these products may not be comsidered completely chemical free, I feel good about the lack of unnecessary ingredients. 

My next step is hand soap.

Returning

It’s been over 3 months since my last post, but it seems like it’s been longer. 

A friend of mine, who also blogs, posted for the first time in quite awhile today. Her post reminded me that I need to get back to blogging more regularly. It’s something I really enjoy, but I haven’t been making the time for it. Facebook and podcasts have been black holes for me lately. Oh and the kids being home. These are not excuses- just being honest. Thank you, Meghan, for the reminder. 

I’m hoping to carve out more time for writing. The time is there, I just need to use it. 

On a funny note- I ran out of “normal milk” today, so I was forced to use unsweetened vanilla almond milk in my two year old’s mac n cheese. I really wasn’t sure how it would go over, but it didn’t seem to phase him. For that I was very thankful!

Empowering my Daughter in an Unkind World

Thinking back, the first recollection I have of being ostracized by my peers was when I moved across the country toward the end of fifth grade. I made it nearly 11 years before I felt like a complete outcast. It was definitely not fun to endure, but I am finding out that as a mom, it’s so much harder to witness your own child suffering.

The first incident with my daughter that really bothered me was when she and I were on a class field trip earlier this school year. We were waiting for a show to start at the aquarium and my daughter went over to a friend of hers from another class. I watched the interaction between the two of them. My daughter walked up to her friend and cheerfully greeted her. The girl then stared angrily back at her and swiftly turned away, ignoring her. Within a minute or so, another child came up to the girl and she was received in a much more positive way.

This is the first time I can recall feeling truly sad for my daughter, in a social respect. These types of issues have come up several times since then and each time, my daughter and I have talked about what happened. I have decided that it is my duty to empower her to both be kind to others, as well as how to handle the unkindness of others.

Let me also say this. I know that my daughter has been unkind to others before and I know she will be unkind again. I am well aware that she is not perfect. Just as I give the following advice to help her deal with unkind actions, I also give it to her in hopes that she will not contribute to the problem.

Here is my advice to her…

 

Just walk away- Thanks to my mom, I have learned that the most powerful thing you can do is calmly walk away. If someone wants to get the best of you, they want to get a reaction. If you walk away, they can’t hear, see, or feel your emotions. It gives you the power by taking theirs away. People like that really don’t like this.

Avoid groups of three like the plague- when I was in seventh grade, I made friends with two other girls. Groups of three are truly a disaster waiting to happen. Someone always gets left out, no matter what. Also, if one of them is talking to you about the other girl, you can be sure the two of them are talking about you.

Always respect yourself first- Right now, my daughter is dealing with a “toxic friend” at school. This friend plays with my daughter’s emotions and I have seen it first hand. I have strongly encouraged her to cut ties with this girl (in a decent way, of course). A friend should have a positive impact on your life- not a negative one. This is coming from a person who served as a doormat for selfish and manipulative people for far too long.

Don’t change yourself for a friend- If a friendship is meant to be, you should be able to be yourself. I have made maybe 10 friends over the course of my life around whom I feel I can be 100% me. You know it’s the real deal when you don’t have to pretend. I want my daughter to realize this sooner than I did, as it took me nearly 30 years.

Realize that you are not the problem- After a recent issue my daughter encountered, she told me she’s always the nice one so she’s always the one who gets left out. I had to explain to her that she gets left out because she takes the high road. It is really hard for her to understand now, but I also explained to her how kindness will win in the end. She will see it some day.

 

These are not things I said to my daughter only one time. I have said them several times already and we will continuously revisit them because I know that we will need to. I want to give her the tools she needs in order to combat unkindness. It’s been around since the beginning of time and it isn’t going away any time soon.

While my heart breaks for her every time she deals with unkind people, I also remind myself that it is a part of life. An unfortunate one, but one nonetheless. I need to always keep in mind that I am “preparing her for the road- not preparing the road for her”.

 

 

I Finally Get it

I’m almost 33 years old and I’m just now really understanding what my mom has always told me. I have heard what she said, but I guess I wasn’t listening very well. I finally get it, especially now that I have two children of my own.

You’re not that important- I have always been so focused on what others think of me. My mom always told me not to be so concerned about others’ perceptions of me. She constantly reminded me that they really weren’t nearly as focused on my insecurities as I was. It’s freeing to finally focus on myself instead of others.

The power of ignoring- Whenever a friend of mine was treating me badly, my mom always strongly encouraged me to ignore their behavior. She always told me that “ignoring is very powerful”. I always wanted to retaliate instead. As I have gone through life, I have realized that ignoring truly is the most effective option.

Be nice to yourself- I have been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I would talk with my mom about my anxieties and stresses quite a bit. Many times, I would find a note in my bathroom that said “be nice to Diana”. This continued into adulthood, as I have still needed it.

Always remember what you have- My mom has been through quite a bit in her life. I think that as a result of this, she has a very good sense of gratitude for what she has. I tend to sweat the small stuff more than I should at times. She reminds me that I have so much to be grateful for in my life. I would definitely agree.

Your best is good enough- As you have probably gathered, I am a very conscientious person. Many times, overly so. I can remember being very concerned about getting good grades. All of the pressure came from within. My mom always told me to just do my best and she would be proud of me. I know she meant it to, as she has always supported me in everything I have done.

My hope is that my children eventually appreciate my advice as much as I have learned to appreciate my  mom’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Don’t Miss About Teaching

I recently left a 10 year career as an elementary school teacher. There were a few major reasons why I made this decision. At the time, I knew doing something different was going to make me a lot happier. I had no idea what I was missing out on for so many years. 

1. Sunday afternoons and evenings aren’t a total nightmare anymore. It’s a given that Sunday nights are pretty busy with getting ready for the coming week. When I was teaching though, I absolutely dreaded Sunday afternoon and evenings. Sitting down to write lesson plans and get everything ready for school, on top of getting my kids ready, was a huge stressor. I had trouble even enjoying Sunday mornings, as I anticipated the hours of preparation I would be doing later in the day and into the evening. 

2. My alarm no longer goes off at 5 a.m. Some people are early risers. I am not and I never have been. With two kids who like to sleep until 7:00 (or later), I appreciate not having to get myself or them up nearly as early as we used to. I think I have become a little spoiled. 

3. I have more than 10 minutes to ingest my food. People think teachers are kidding when they say they inhale their food at lunch time. I would literally have 10 minutes (on a good day) to scarf down my food. After dropping off my students at the cafeteria and heating up my food, I would be lucky to have that much time before I had to rush out to pick up my students from the cafeteria. No wonder I was on heavy duty acid reflux medicine for 9 years!

4. I can go to the bathroom whenever I want to. The “jokes” you hear about teachers never getting to use the bathroom are actually truth. When I was teaching, going to the bathroom when I needed to was a luxury. If I needed to go, I had to have another body in the room to keep an eye on the kids or I had to wait until the kids were at lunch or related arts. I’m amazed I didn’t completely kill my bladder. 

5. I don’t have to write sub. plans when I miss a day of work. Teaching is one of the few jobs in which it is easier to just go in to work than stay home. I can’t tell you how many times I was up at 5 a.m. writing sub. plans because I just found out I wouldn’t be at work that day. Whether I was sick or one of my kids was, it was miserable sitting in front if the computer trying to get plans together for the day. There were definitely times when I felt pretty shitty and I would have rather gone into work than type up plans for the day. 

6. I actually have energy left at the end of the day. Let’s be realistic- it isn’t a ton, but it certainly is more than I would have after spending a day with 20 Kindergarteners. I actually feel like I have patience for my biological children. Amazing!

7. I don’t miss the insane behavior leading up to school breaks. Being only 5 days away from Christmas, I am reminded of my days of keeping a classroom full of excited 5 and 6 year olds in line until Christmas break. Every year, I repeated to myself in my head “why are we still here?”, especially since Christmas break for most schools in Maryland  doesn’t start until December 23rd! By the time break started, I was so worn out from trying to survive the chaos.

8. My immune system finally seems to exist. Since I left teaching in June, I have been sick 1 time. I consider that a huge victory, since I’m sure I would have been sick at least 3 times at this point, had I still been a teacher. I guess I should knock on some wood now!

9. The endless piles of paper work no longer plague me. To me, the ridiculous amount of paper work was truly one of the most frustrating aspects about teaching. It started in August and piled up until June. I am a very organized person, but I could never come up with a good system for school papers. There were just too many and they were constantly coming at me. At the end of a school year, maybe 4 years ago, I discovered a pile of papers that was literally 3 feet tall. Months before, I put it away so it would be out of sight. Obviously there wasn’t anything pressing, since I hadn’t looked in the pile in months. When I found the pile as I was preparing for Summer break, I conveniently dumped it in the recycling bin. I am so glad to have the relentless paper work battle behind me.

10. The weight on my shoulders is much more pleasant to bear. I literally feel like a weight has been lifted. I knew I was stressed, overworked, and frustrated, but until I left, I don’t think I realized the true extent of it. I honestly don’t know how I did it all- lesson plans, behavior management, academic support plans, never ending meetings, and the list goes on. I am still super busy, but it is a different kind of busy. My days are spent doing things I am really enjoying. An added bonus has been feeling more confident in myself than I have in my 32 years on this earth. That alone is worth the change I made. 

Car Seats- They Seem so Simple, but it’s Easy to Make Mistakes

Until recently, I considered myself a car seat expert. The other day I posted this picture of my 18 month old on Facebook and one of the responses I received caught me by surprise.  

My husband’s cousin’s wife (got that?) very nicely pointed out a significant issue with my son’s car seat. I had no idea about this safety issue.

I replied to her message and thanked her for her observation. We then got into a long discussion about car seat safety and how there are so many things to be cognizant of.  

See if you can figure out the mistake I was making. Note- my son is rear facing. 

1. The shoulder straps should have very little slack. You shouldn’t be able to slide anything more than your hand under the straps. If you can, they are too loose. The straps are doing their job if the child is unable to lean forward in the seat. In a crash or a very sudden stop, you will be thankful. 

2. The chest clip should be at arm pit level. Many people make the mistake of sliding this clip down too low. It’s called a “chest clip” for a reason. If it’s going to work, it needs to be correctly placed. A child could suffer severe organ damage if the clip is placed incorrectly. 

3. Shoulder strap placement depends on how the child is facing. If the child is rear facing, the straps should start from below the shoulders. Once the child is forward facing, the straps should start from above the shoulders, like in the picture at the very beginning of this post.  

4. Car seats do expire. It seems like common sense, but it’s something that can be overlooked. Like anything else, car seats aren’t meant to last forever. If you have to replace one that has expired, at least you will have the comfort that you invested in your child’s safety and it should last awhile. 

5. The LATCH system is the safest way to anchor a car seat. When referring to car seats, LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. These are metal hooks that are built into the back seats of the car (they are buried a bit). The car seat is hooked onto them. Once a child in a booster, the seat belt is what secures the seat.

6. Children should remain rear facing until at least age 2. I kept my daughter rear facing until she was 3. I intend to do the same with my son. Being rear facing greatly reduces injuries to the internal organs and spine. Some parents are concerned when their child’s legs are so long that they have to sit cross legged. Kids are flexible and they will adjust. A broken leg is better than a spinal cord injury. 

7. Car seats don’t need accessories. I was guilty of decorating my daughter’s infant carrier with dangly jingle toys when she was really little. I have since learned that a boring car seat is a safe car seat. Don’t add any toys, strap covers, etc. It can be tempting, but fight the urge. 

8. Make sure your child is in the appropriate seat. From infant carrier to 5 point harness to booster seat, there is a progression of car seats that children will ride in as they grow. Car seats are far from one size fits all. Make sure your child’s height and weight meet the requirements for the seat you are going to use. There is a reason for the type of seat that is recommended for your child’s size. 

9. Keep heavy coats off. Cold weather will be here before we know it. Take off your child’s heavy coat before buckling him or her into the car seat. If the child is wearing a thick coat, the straps can’t get as tight as they need to be to offer the best protection. Bring a blanket to put over your child in the car during the Winter.  

10. Be weary of buying used car seats. There are car seat brands that are reasonably priced. My favorite so far has been Evenflo. I caution people about buying previously owned car seats. The biggest concern I have is that they could have been in a crash. After a crash, car seats should be replaced because they could be damaged.