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Ah, Nature…

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This weekend, we were able to get away with the kids on a short trip. Daddy was working an hour south of our house, so we were going to join him for a couple days.  We started out Friday by driving to that city and finding the beginning of a long trail to hike. The trail started in the woods; went up and down hills, over tree limbs, past a small creek, over bridges, and on and on and on. With one on my back we got started, hiking out on the trail. The kids were in heaven. We found trees cut down by beavers, trees knocked over by rushing water, hickory nuts, canoe trees, butterflies, caterpillars, and every once in awhile, a little post, telling them something about the area. The kids stopped at every single post, reading the information, looking around, taking it all in, and learning without my doing a thing. We hiked out at least a mile, turned around and hiked back about 1/4 to meet Daddy, turned back around and kept going because they had so much to show him, went even further, maybe another 1/2 mile, and were very upset when we told them it was time to turn around. They hiked the whole way back again without complaint. Talked all the way to the hotel about the things they had seen, and were in a great mood.

When we got into the hotel, they went in calmly, sat and watched a show quietly while we got settled, then easily got into swimsuits to go the pool and had plenty of patience as we went. We spent a great couple hours swimming in the pool, went out to dinner, relaxed with a movie and went to sleep (granted, the sleeping arrangements caused an argument, but that was the only fuss all night).

In the morning we had a nice breakfast in the hotel, another couple hours swimming, and then packed it up.  We had a delicious lunch, which we got to eat outdoors; another great idea.  I honestly worried that they would be more hyper and have less sit outside on the patio, but they really did better than usual!  Then it was time to do some more hiking.  Since we were on the other end of the trail we had started the day before, we decided to do some hiking on a different section.  This time, we were in the city, started by walking over a large, concrete pedestrian bridge, down some stairs next to a train station, and hiked a paved path that went next to some ball fields before heading down next to the river.

 

What a difference!  It was still “natural”, but it just wasn’t nature!  And the kids were all over the place.  They went off the path, they dawdled, they whined, they complained, they wanted carried…We only got a little over a mile before turning around to come back.  There were still things to see; evidence of the last flood, a mural under a bridge, different plants we hadn’t seen the day before.  But they just weren’t interested.

I’ve done a lot of reading on the effects of nature on kids, especially kids with ADHD and other similar disorders.  I’ve always known that Squirt, especially, can be calmed down just by driving through nature, much less having a chance to play in the woods.  And I’ve noticed before that green spaces do not equal nature (going across the street to the wooded playground is NOT the same as going to the lakeshore for her!)  But this is the first time I’ve seen such obvious, indisputable, evidence.  Two days, two hikes, two *very* different experiences!

And the effects kept going; we left that hike and stopped at the bathroom, then decided on a little ice cream treat before coming home.  They couldn’t sit still, climbed under the tables, Booga tried to go out the door more than once, and they all had to go to the bathroom.  Again.  Finally left, and stopped for gas.  And had to go to the bathroom.  Again.

So, overall we had a great mini-vacation, and best of all, we learned a big lesson.  It’s time to find all the nearby woods, hikes, state parks, and paths and make good use of them!!

Spring has Sprung

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Well, the new season is upon us, even though it came *really* early this year.  I’ve been trying to avoid it, since I was not at all prepared for spring yet, but apparently it is here to stay.  So let’s talk about the challenges of changing seasons.

 

Challenge Number 1; Changing out the clothing.  This is such a huge issue that we actually try to take several weeks to deal with it.  First we have the never-ending “that’s his shirt, that’s my shirt” problem that comes with having boys that are very close in age…they aren’t really ready to pass those clothes down yet, but it must be done!  But more importantly, we have the sensory problem that comes with going from long-sleeves to short-sleeves, long pants to shorts, and socks and shoes to sandals.  Really, this seems like something easy, but it just isn’t.  When their arms are used to having a texture on them all the time, and now they are bare, their skin crawls.  Same for the legs.  And we JUST got Booga to find socks that he likes, and will keep on, and now we’re telling him to stop wearing socks and wear different shoes.  Different shoes are ALWAYS trouble.  And these shoes have holes in them.  Just thinking about it makes him spin. 🙂

So far, Squirt is doing quite well with the adjustment this year.  Although I’m beginning to think that she enjoys having her skin bared, and the trouble for her will be in the fall this year, layering back on top.  She really doesn’t like layering…

Booga, well, we’ve gotten him in short-sleeves.  Keep in mind that the weather has been warm (70’s to 80’s!!) for about 3 weeks now.  The first week, he still insisted on wearing sweatpants and fleece shirts.  T-shirts were a big adjustment, but I finally unearthed some robot shirts and others that he was excited about.  Of course, now we are going through the phase of wanting to wear the same shirt for 6 days straight, for sleeping and all, and not wanting Mommy to ever have time to wash it, but that’s another problem for another day.  He’s not dying in the heat anymore, I’ll take what I can get.  We’ve also managed to wear sandals, but that might just be because he doesn’t actually leave them on for very long, he mostly goes barefoot, which is his preferred mode anyway.  Shorts, on the other hand, are a fight for another day.  We’ll get there before it hits 90…I hope.

 

Challenge Number 2: Outdoor play, and more importantly, limits.  No, at 4, you cannot go riding your little bike with it’s training wheels around the block by yourself.  No, my dear 9-year-old, you cannot live in the tree, you must come inside and do homework.  The outdoors is one of the most effective therapy tools I have for my children, but they sometimes love it just a little too much.  And forget the rules.  And Booga has a serious lack-of-feeling issue that means I am already pulling splinters out of his little feet because he runs everywhere barefoot and doesn’t feel the thorns.

 

Challenge Number 3: BEDTIME!  Always an issue in our house, but when that clock changes and the sun is still up, going to bed is like being tortured.  So, although I promised myself the kids would be getting up on time and riding the bus to school this month, today is the first time in 3 weeks that it has happened.  Because we are all still wandering around the house at 9 (or later) having been put to bed over an hour ago.  The excuses are getting more creative every day, but creativity does not help the sleeping!   So the long bedtime routine must return, but that will have to wait til Daddy gets back, because it’s not something I can handle by myself.

 

So this is what Spring means in my house.  My favorite season; new life, warm weather, new flowers, time to be outdoors…now it just has some new challenges to meet, too.

Sunday Survival

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Sundays…family day, rest day, church, calm, peaceful…yeah, not really.  In our dream world, that’s what Sunday would mean.  A nice morning at church, coming home to a Sunday afternoon nap, watching our favorite sports team with the family.  In reality, Sunday means sensory overload, meltdowns, and the afternoon spent trying to rejuvenate and come down from “spin cycle”.

Our day starts early, as we like to be at the 9:00 church service.  We didn’t used to, until we realized that the kids had no idea how to sit still in their grandparents’ church, and we decided they needed to start learning.  So we’re up and out by 8:30, which is no easy task with everyone getting ready at once and trying to get therapy in so they are ready to go.  Everything goes fine until we hit the front doors; that’s where Booga plants his feet, sticks his fingers in his ears, and starts screaming “I don’t want to sing!”  Ok, the music in our church is a little loud.  Probably a lot loud to him.  And we understand, really we do, but we also know that this is part of his life, and he needs to learn to deal with it, so in we go.  Most of the time, if I can hold him while we’re singing or at least rub his back and cover his ears a little, we get through.  Sometimes, though, one of us has to walk him out until the singing is done.  Squirt does better with this part of church, but even she starts to shut down when the guitars and drums really get going.  She’s just easier to deal with because she just sits down and gets quiet.  Sometimes I have to stop and remember that this is also a warning sign, and if I want her to make it through the service, I need to sit next to her and help her deal now.

After the singing, it gets a little easier, but we still have moments to deal with.  Booga still has very little volume control, as he hears every little thing around him and thinks he has to talk over it all.  Squirt never really learned to whisper well herself, but she tries.  Booga also thinks he has to answer everything that’s going on up front, so if you hear enthusiastic praise for a solo or loud “amens” you know where it’s coming from! 🙂  Also, if the Sunday clothes, socks, or shoes aren’t just right, there will be a lot of wiggling.  Unfortunately, this changes from week to week, so the pretty little white shoes that Squirt loved last week, are pinching her toes this week and she has to take them off.  And put them back on.  And take them off.  And put them back on.  And lose one under the pew.  And go down to find it…

Next comes Sunday School.  We have a love/hate relationship with Sunday School.  Squirt has gotten to the tolerance point, where she will stay there and not melt down, but she won’t participate, and the input is just building up inside her, to all explode when we leave.  Good for Sunday School teachers, not so good for Mom and Dad.  Booga really, really wants to like Sunday School.  After all, it’s better than sitting in church, right?  He gets to run around and play at first, then there’s singing and movement and going to a classroom with all his friends and his very favorite teacher…Unfortunately, it’s a large room, with lots of children, music, noise, input…and his normal reaction is just to leave.  Out the back door, the side door, the sliding divider, whatever.  Teachers are learning to watch for his escape, but with that many children in one room, he still manages to get out at least once a month.  And when all those children start singing; wow the input now.  Noise, crowd, lights, fans, it’s a lot to take in.  And Booga’s next step is to get crazy.  Spin cycle time.  And when he’s in spin cycle, his ears stop working.  Apparently, he does pretty well in his classroom, but that may just be because he loves his teacher 😉

When it’s time to pick the kids up, we have a lot of craziness.  Get through the pick-up line, which is a lot of children in a little space, filtering into a tiny hallway, out towards our coats, where the crowd stops to chat.  Frustrating for us, overwhelming for them.  This is the point where we tend to lose them completely.  They don’t want to wait in line, they don’t want to be in the crowd, they don’t want to put on coats, and they don’t want to slow down.  Even Boyo is beyond walking calmly on the way out of church.  Most weeks we just try to grab them all and run.  Usually we lose at least one of them to the crowd.

The ride home is usually full of loud voices, little sibling fights, and very hyper children.  They’ve been on sensory overload for the past 3 hours.  We’re not going to get them down anytime soon!  By the time we get home, Mom and Dad are stressed out too!  It would be so nice if, at this point, everyone would take a nice, calm, relaxing nap, right?  Uh-huh.  It would be nice.  But it won’t happen.  We usually have to let Squirt have alone time in her room, which she doesn’t really want, but definitely needs.  And we try to find some calming activities for Boyo and Booga, but really they just want to fight and wrestle and get all that energy out!  So it’s a crazy, wild afternoon.

But we are learning, and they are learning, and every week we can get a little closer to understanding how to change our Sundays for the better, and that’s all we can hope for!

Welcome to Living Sensory

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I’ve started this blog to help spread awareness about the thrilling, exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating, life-changing world of raising children with Sensory Processing Disorder.  It’s also a way for me to share the fun of our busy household and be here for parents who are new to this adventure.

Come back soon for more posts on our adventures, what we’ve learned, and what we hope to teach!