Category Archives: Proud Mama

Invasion

Editor’s note: 

I wrote this post several months ago, but for some reason or another, I never published it.  October is Sensory Processing Disorder Awareness Month, so I thought this was a good time to finally put it up on the blog.  Even though this “Invasion” happened a while ago, it easily could’ve happened yesterday, and it  most definitely could happen today or tomorrow.

To learn more about sensory processing disorder, visit www.spdfoundation.net. A great book to read on the topic is “Raising A Sensory Smart Child,” and for personal insights from a Sensory Mama (i.e. me), check out my posts tagged with “sensory processing disorder” and “food issues,” including this one.  As always, feel free to ask me any questions. 

I’m not an expert, but I am a Mama.

* * *

“Yesterday was the worst day ever,” said my son when he woke up.  (For the record, he says that a lot. When you’re six years old, the world is concrete.  Up or down.  Black or white.  Good or bad.  Thankfully, he also often says, “This is the best day ever!”)

“Why was yesterday the worst day ever?” I asked.

“Because I cried a lot.”

He sure did.  The evening before, we went to the Food Truck Invasion that visits our neighborhood park every Tuesday.  I was really excited to take him because I looked online and saw that there would be a pasta truck there.  He recently faced his fear of spaghetti and decided he loved it (as he does ziti and elbows…but not penne because penne has ridges and ridges are scary…except for ridges on potato chips, which aren’t scary at all).

Adding spaghetti to his short list of acceptable foods was a mixed bag.  It was another carbohydrate when what he really needed in his diet was protein (and God forbid something green!), but it was new, and every new food he tasted chipped away at the brick wall he’d built up around himself.

My son was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder a few months before his fifth birthday. He spent the next year in intense occupational therapy – swinging, jumping, leaping, stretching, and strengthening – to find comfort in his own skin, overcome his fears and anxieties, lessen his sensitivity to sound and touch, and build confidence.  After treatment, he was, quite simply, a different kid.  My scared, listless, there-but-not-there child shed the skin under which he was trapped to illuminate his true self – a bright, funny, and outgoing boy.

Transformation aside, to say he’s cured would be false.  His progress has been nothing short of amazing, but he’ll always be sensory sensitive, and we work daily to help him overcome the fears and negative behaviors to which he still clings.  The biggest obstacle that remains is food, for which we have three goals: (1) introduce new food, (2) teach coping skills for when faced with unacceptable (to him) food, and (3) generalize (for instance, spaghetti home tastes just like spaghetti at a restaurant).  What we want more than anything is to help him succeed (i.e. eat) in as many environments as possible, including school, camp, birthday parties, friends’ homes, restaurants, and now the food trucks.

In the center of the Food Truck Invasion at the park was a bounce house.  Not surprisingly, we started our culinary adventure there.  After about an hour of bouncing, I said, “Okay, let’s eat.”

“Spaghetti?” he asked.

“Spaghetti,” I confirmed.

There was no prouder Mama at the park than me to be able to finally purchase food – plain spaghetti with Parmesan cheese – for my child, but when we finally sat down at a picnic table and I opened the plastic container that held his dinner, something had happened.  The plain spaghetti with Parmesan cheese morphed into plain spaghetti with melted Parmesan cheese.

He shut down.  He refused to eat a single bite.  Not even one cheese-free strand.  He threw his fork on the ground.  He threatened to run back to the bounce house.  He cried.  He screamed.  He cry-screamed.  He melted like the cheese on his spaghetti.

The end.

Except it wasn’t the end at all.

There was more crying, more screaming, more cry-screaming, a dramatic scene where we abruptly left the park, a long time-out at home, more crying, a silent bath, and a hasty bedtime, but the thing about food and fear and sensory processing disorder and my son is that the moment he lost it at the Food Truck Invasion at the park was as much about me as it was about him.

I was naïve.  I wrongfully built up the night before it even happened.  I researched menus, mapped out the night (bounce house then plain spaghetti with Parmesan cheese then ice cream!), and, as a result, forgot how unpredictable six-year-olds – with or without sensory processing disorder – could be.  I also didn’t account for the fact that Parmesan cheese melted when inside a hot, closed container.

I was angry.  Because I paid $8 for plain spaghetti and Parmesan cheese and he didn’t say thank you.  Because I couldn’t think of anything more delicious than melted Parmesan cheese.  Because he didn’t trust me that it would taste good.  Because he behaved so poorly.

I was confused.  Sensory processing disorder is a tangled web of physical and behavioral problems.  Where did one end and the other begin?  I didn’t want to punish him if his neurological system was out of whack, but I couldn’t tolerate cry-screaming over melted cheese either.

I was exhausted.  I couldn’t prepare his food perfectly for the rest of his life.  I couldn’t cut the white rind off of every single wedge of orange, toast a waffle just so, and make sure bread was free of crumbs forever.  I couldn’t promise that he’d never be faced with melted Parmesan cheese again.

I was scared.  I love food.  I live for food.  Many of my most cherished memories are connected to food.  If I close my eyes, I can taste the peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches I ate on the beach as a child and the sand that ground between my teeth with each sweet and salty bite.  I can feel the steam rising from my mom’s matzo ball soup.  I can hear the sizzle of my dad’s Sunday morning chocolate chip pancakes on the griddle.  How was he going navigate life without food?

I was guilty.  (Oh so guilty!)  I’m the one person in this world who is supposed to love and accept him unconditionally, but in that moment at the Food Truck Invasion at the park, I wished he were different.

I was negligent.  I convinced myself that his food issues had improved when the dysfunction was simply hiding behind procrastination and avoidance.  The spaghetti breakthrough was a success, but it wasn’t enough.    I stopped pushing him because doing so almost always made me feel naïve, angry, confused, exhausted, scared, guilty, negligent…and sad.  Sad for the unwelcomed, unwanted, and uninvited Invasion in our lives.

I went to sleep sad that night and woke up sad the next morning.  To my son who told me yesterday was the worst day ever because he cried a lot, I replied, “Yesterday was a pretty bad day for me, too.”  Then we got dressed for the day.

The end.

Except it isn’t the end at all.

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Filed under diet, food, food issues, Proud Mama, sensory processing disorder

Mama of the Year

I did something remarkable yesterday afternoon.  I’m talking Mama of the Year worthy.  (One could argue that I should’ve done it a long time ago, but this is neither the time nor the place.  Especially not when I’m in the middle of bragging about it.)

You’re not going to believe what I did.  Seriously.  I can hardly believe it myself.  Ready?  I took the boys to our local public library to get their very own library cards.

Oh yes I did!

My mother, a reference librarian, should be particularly proud. I stress the word “should” since I waited so damn long to do it.  Is there a word to describe the act of feeling simultaneously pleased and disappointed?  In my defense, Dylan chewed books when he was a toddler, so going to the library seemed irresponsible.  Since he’s almost seven now, this is probably a good time to shut up.

Any-who…

I marked the momentous occasion with proof pictures.

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Writing their names on their library cards!

Hang on a minute.  They got library cards and practiced their fine motor skills?  I need to pat myself on the back.  (Again.)

After checking out a few books, having a teachable moment about how we buy at the store and borrow at the library (a foreign concept for my mini shopaholics), and pooping in the library bathroom (we poop everywhere), we set our sights on the playground across the street.  It, too, was an opportunity to flex my Mama muscles.  I don’t mean to brag again, but I pushed the kids on the swings.  Both of them.  (True story.  I swear.)

And I’m not nearly done.  After our jaunt at the park, I had big – huge – dinner plans.  No leftover macaroni & cheese or frozen chicken nuggets nuked in the microwave for my brood.  (Not last night, anyway.)  No, I had my sights set on a Cooking Light recipe for hummus and brown rice fritters.  You heard me right.  Fritters.  Made with hummus and brown rice.  For realz.

The recipe, by the way, required me to dust off the Cuisinart.

cuisinart

No problem.  Not for this Mama of the Year nominee.  It took a few batches to get them perfectly golden, but I did it.

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Almost.

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Ah, just right.  Of course.

Don’t hate me.  No really, don’t.

Dylan tried the fritter* and then immediately gagged in his hands.  Riley liked them until he saw his brother regurgitating, after which he tossed his fritter across the table.  Perhaps I did a little bit too much tooting of my horn, if you know what I mean.  As Dylan often says, no one likes a bragger, which is probably why the evening spiraled into a whining, crying, gagging, fritter hurling, and wine-drinking (me not them) event.

Sigh.

But we did get library cards.

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And even though no one ate a fritter (except me**), no one ate a book either.  I guess we can call it a draw.

*Humor and heaving aside, Dylan took a big bite of a new food without hesitation.  Anyone who’s followed our food journey can understand that this was a big deal and a positive step.  I may not be worthy of accolades (as if), but I’m one Proud Mama.  

**The fritters were delicious.  A yummy, easy to prepare, protein-rich, and kid friendly meal idea.  (For someone else’s kids.)

Submit your Mama of the Year nominations in the comments.

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Filed under books, cooking, food issues, Gloating Mama, motherhood, parenting, Proud Mama, public bathrooms, recipe, shopping

The Helpers

During a week like this, when bombs filled with shrapnel explode at the finish line of the iconic Boston Marathon, our federal government fails to represent the people they were elected to serve, an explosion levels a town in Texas, letters laced with ricin are delivered to Senate offices and the White House, and an entire metropolitan area – and our nation – is terrorized, we must, as Mr. Rogers suggests, find the helpers.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.'”  — Fred Rogers

At six and four years old, my kids are still young enough to be shielded from the news (#gratefulmama).  I don’t have to tell them about bad people and scary things that happen in the world, and I don’t have to explain to them how to look for helpers (yet).  But, believe me, I’m still searching for them.  I’m searching for them because I need to see them.

Thankfully, I’ve found a bunch.

Like Team Newtown Strong, a group of parents from Newtown who ran the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon to honor the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook massacre last December.

Like the courageous volunteers, first responders, police, doctors and nurses, and concerned citizens who ran toward the blasts to help victims.

Like the marathon runners who ran straight from the finish line to nearby hospitals to donate blood.

Like the generous Bostonians who gave money, clothing, food, and shelter to cold, hungry, lost, and stranded runners.

Like Newtown father, Mark Barden, who lost his seven-year-old son, Daniel, at Sandy Hook and vowed on the White House lawn to keep fighting for common sense gun control because, in his own words, “we will always be here because we have no other choice.”

Like Gabby Giffords for whom speaking is difficult but made her feelings crystal clear when she wrote in the New York Times, “I’m furious.”

Like the first responders and volunteer fire fighters who raced into the fire in West, Texas.

As a blogger, I spend a lot of time reading other blogs.  I just happened to discover a new one recently called Chasing Rainbows where author Kate Leong writes about her journey to raise her children, including one with special needs.  A week ago, just when I started reading her (beautifully written) blog, her five-year-old with special needs, Gavin, died.  I hadn’t even read enough to know what his disabilities were, but in the end, a series of seizures and cardiac arrest took his young life.

Like Kate Leong who asked her readers to honor her son’s life by doing one simple thing – to help someone in need.

Like little Gavin who in death has already save a life with his kidney donation.

On Friday, I attended the Women’s Fund’s Annual Power of the Purse Luncheon.

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The Women’s Fund is Miami-Dade’s only organization directing all its energy toward creating equal opportunity, access, and influence for women and girls.  Leadership development, reproductive justice, economic security, and freedom from violence are just a few of the issues in which the Women’s Fund invests.  In a place like Miami, where the community is diverse and the socio-economic, ethnic, and gender disparities are enormous, an organization like the Women’s Fund, quite simply, saves lives.

Their luncheon brings together more than a thousand people each year and celebrates an entire community of women and men who make a difference in the lives of women and girls.  While madness unfolded in Boston on Friday, I sat in a ballroom in Miami bursting at the seams with helpers.

And purses (#shopaholicmama).  Oh, the purses!  A silent auction, including to-die-for bags and purses, has become a hallmark of the luncheon.

Salvatore Ferragamo

Salvatore Ferragamo

Prada

Prada

Diane von Furstenberg

Diane von Furstenberg

Lanvin

Lanvin

There were tons of other silent auction items, too, including this one, which had my name all over it!

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Alas, there were no owls to bid on (but I’m not angry or anything).

The Purse is definitely a powerful catalyst for change. For me, though, the real power is the People.

One of the speakers at the luncheon was a teenage girl who beat the odds and broke the cycle of poverty, abuse, and teen pregnancy that swallows girls whole in her neighborhood.  Another was a woman who fought her way back to freedom and economic independence after a sexual assault in the military led her to addiction, crime, and incarceration.

Yeah, as it turns out, finding helpers was easy.

Like the two courageous women at the luncheon who became helpers by merely giving voice to their stories.

Like the hundreds (thousands?) of Bostonians who took to the streets on Friday night to cheer for the police.

Like the stranger at Blue Martini in Fort Lauderdale who bought a round of drinks for everyone at the bar, including perfect strangers, because he wanted to remind people that even in the midst of great suffering, we must remember to experience joy and live life to the fullest.

Like my six-year-old son who gave his ice cream money to a friend at school who forgot to bring his own (#proudmama).

But what about now?  Now that the mayhem is over, the adrenaline has receded, and regular television programming has resumed, will it be as easy to find the helpers?  Will we even be looking?

At Friday night’s press conference after the second Marathon bombing suspect was finally apprehended, I was struck by something said by Col. Timothy Alben of the Massachusetts State Police.  He said, “We’re exhausted.”

Exhausted, indeed.  But let’s keep looking for helpers, okay?  And let’s keep helping.

For Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, Martin Richard, and Sean Collier.  For their families.  For the injured in Boston.  For the victims and their families in Newtown.  For West, Texas.  For Gavin.  For women and girls.  For our kids.  For each other.

Did you look for the helpers this week?

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Filed under death, fear, Grateful Mama, guns, Proud Mama, Shopaholic Mama, Uncategorized