Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Errands with the kiddos

Even on good days a trip to the grocery store can prove disastrous with kids. When you add in multiples and also special needs, it can be really trying. So trying, in fact, that today I shot out a tweet - almost in fear:

No, not from today, but it is 2 triplets
& they are in a cart.
Don't get so picky about details!
As it turned out, the trip was probably the best we've had in a long time. It was just me with Princess and Angel triplets, and we spent over an hour in the grocery store with absolutely NO meltdowns to speak of, no major challenges at all. The only thing I can identify that may have made it easier was being able to spy one of the big, 3-kid-seat carts in a cart return. Of course I parked the van as close as I could, grabbed it before getting the girls out of the van, and moved them into that directly from the van. That saved us numerous transitions, which I really was worrying about as we were driving into the lot. Beyond that, the free bakery cookies helped, but mostly the girls were just in really great moods. They were pleased to be out of the house and somewhere different and were excited about the sights around them. That doesn't mean the sounds of carts moving around, the electronic alarm going off or the bottle return noise (from 3 aisles away) didn't adversely affect them. We still had fingers in ears & hands over ears even while 3 aisles or more away from the sounds.

They continued the good behavior by playing quietly once we arrived home so I could even unload the groceries in relative peace. Are they getting older? Are they just becoming more used to their surroundings? Maybe, or maybe we were lucky and hit everything right on. In any case, I absolutely know that it could have all gone horribly wrong in 2 minutes or less.

Then an even more surprising thing happened. Meijer replied:

How do you like that? One of my regular grocery stores wants to know how they can help make a sometimes very challenging experience better for my daughters. I'd say that's good customer service! Since it was only a day after a huge firestorm erupted after word got out about a Kalamazoo salon owner berating a customer for not controlling her autistic son as he received a haircut, I'd say Meijer looked pretty family friendly and proactive today. And trust me, I don't always give them credit for those two things.

Anyway, the question, "how can we help you," prompted me to wonder exactly how to answer back. It also made me wonder what other folks like me do with the basic errands of life. You know, people like you. How do you involve your autistic (or special needs) children without feeling too much apprehension? How do you plan for a great time? Or is it simply beyond our ability to control and we just take what we can get, smiling when it's good, crying when it's bad? I asked for feedback on my newly created Facebook page too and am waiting for responses. I'd love to get some feedback that I could actually give to Meijer. How could they make it easier for kids with autism to feel comfortable in the shopping experience? With 1 in 88 kids being diagnosed with autism, it's worth knowing. Besides, I think it's important to reward companies when they start asking the right questions.

So stop by the Facebook page, like it & reply. Or, just comment below. Let's get some answers out there, because somebody wants to help, and I don't know about you, but I don't always feel that kind of love when I'm out with my autistic kiddos.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Healthy meals made simple with Wildtree freezer meals

I've written about the classic question "What's for dinner?" before, and at the Tripped Up Castle the answer always seems to vacillate between two opposites. It means either being really organized and pre-planning menus for weeks and weeks ahead of time or getting super creative with whatever's in the house. 

In my various attempts to make mealtimes easier, especially dinner, I've always been intrigued by the logic of freezer meals. It's like they're a mixture of the two ends of the organization spectrum. I love the relative ease of pulling out a partially prepared, frozen meal out in the morning and having minimal work to do for dinner that night. This suits my hectic lifestyle.

So, when a friend invited me to a Wildtree party event where we'd prepare 10 freezer meals using organic spice and seasoning mixes, I was all about it. In fact, the more I thought about the idea, the more I thought it would suit others, like my blog readers, too. 

What is Wildtree? 

Wildtree is a company that helps you answer these questions: What's for dinner? How can I make it healthy for my family? How can I make it in a short amount of time? How can I plan simple, quick meals and save money? Why and how can healthy food be delicious? It's a food company founded on the premise that food should be all natural, nutritious, delicious, and easy to prepare all at the same time. Wildtree products are made of all natural ingredients and have low or no sodium. They have no MSG, no high fructose corn syrup, and no trans fats. 

According to the Wildtree website: "Most of us do not cook from scratch anymore and let's face it - we are a sauce from a jar, soup from a can, chicken shaking generation. Packaged foods do make our life easier, but they are also expensive, loaded with fats, salts, and preservatives, and just not as tasty as homemade. Why not rediscover cooking & healthy eating the Wildtree way?"

The products range from taco seasoning packets to grape seed oil for cooking. You'll find spice rubs and blends that work together to make it easy to make any meal. At the upcoming party, I expect to taste some delicious food and learn new ways to make mealtimes easier in my house, like the "bag/freeze/marinate" method of one pot meals.

Can Wildtree help you?

If you live in West Michigan, or are going to be in the area on June 26, 2013, why not plan to join me, my friend, and others at a Wildtree party? We'll have a great time getting 10 freezer meals together and walk away with enough product to do another set of 10 meals on our own. (Not including the meat & vegetables that you bring with you to the event). In order to be part of the event, please visit my friend's website, click on email me, then tell her you want to be part of the June 26 Freezer Meal Event. It costs $75 for the product and you need to have that in place by June 12 to be included in the event.

I promise to attend the Wildtree Freezer Meal party and let you know what I think. I'll taste test the food there and then family test it later. You'll see at least one or two reviews of meals on the blog and of course I promise to tell the absolute truth - it either works for us or it doesn't. It still seems to be processed food, however, it seems like it's healthier processed food. So, you get the ease, convenience, and lower costs without the guilt of feeding your family unhealthy and artificial food. This could be good for the Tripped Up Castle - stay tuned.

*Disclosure: This post is partially sponsored by Jenna Michalsky as I will receive a discount on the Wildtree product required to attend the freezer meal party. Additional discounts will apply if readers of my blog also attend the party.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Time for Tears

Today many in the autism and special needs community are honoring the memory of Mikaela Lynch
by publishing supportive blog posts for her family. Mikaela wandered from her home on May 12, Mother's Day, and her body was found on May 15 near a creek where she drowned. Mikaela had autism and the family, like many others in the autism community, struggled with autism elopement and various sensory concerns with their daughter.

My heart goes out to the Lynch family. I have two daughters with autism and I understand the constant fear of "what if they wander?" I understand the constant struggle to keep clothing on children who struggle to feel okay in their own skin, let alone skin that's covered with clothing. The Lynch family had Mikaela to love for nine short years, it was too short and they are grieving a horrible loss that no parent ever wants to face. Unfortunately, they've also had to face a lack of understanding from the media from day one in this horrible chain of events.

I am reminded constantly today of a song that I love, by Charlie Peacock - Now is the Time for Tears.

Now is the time for tears
Don't speak
Save your words
There's nothing you could say
To take this pain away
Don't try so hard
You can just simply be
Cry with me don't try to fix me friend
That's how you'll comfort me

Heavenly Father cover this child with mercy
You are my helper through this time of trial and pain
Silence the lips of the people with all of the answers
Gently show them now is the time
Now is the time
Now is the time for tears

I don't know the Lynch family. I don't know their religious beliefs or even if they have any. I do know that the last 8 days have been the worst days in their lives and the media hasn't helped. Today, I cry with them. Today, I support them in their love for their daughter and in this debilitating blow that is their worst nightmare come to life. I do think they'd appreciate the comfort of simple tears, simple support, simple hugs, simple love - and I hope they receive that all today and for many, many days to come.

I've also learned of two other children with autism who wandered from safety this week and were found later dead. Autism elopement is a real issue and as a parent of autistic children, I'm astounded by how little we talk about this issue in the community, in the press, even in the therapy office. I think I've been hoping my two little girls will simply "grow out of " their desire to wander, but I'm beginning to understand this type of constant vigilance may simply be my life.

I also learned that there are tools out there that may help parents like the Lynches and like myself with this important safety issue. If you worry about your special needs child wandering then you may want to sign up for a Big Red Safety Box to help you.  If you don't have a child with special needs, but would like to help others who struggle with the wandering or running issues, you can help by making a donation to the Big Red Safety Box grant program. Today is the day for our communities to come together and support families who struggle with these kinds of safety issues every single day.

No one should ever have to endure the type of Mother's Day the Lynches did this year. Mikaela Lynch was loved, of that I am sure. Mikaela Lynch's death was a tragedy, and I weep for her family. Now is indeed the time for tears.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy Dream and Wave Bye-Bye

As I walked out the door of Sunshine and Princess triplets' bedroom, Sunshine did her typical closing of the day statements.

Sunshine: "Good night, Mommy"
Me: "Good night"
Sunshine: "Happy Dream"
Me: "Happy Dream"

Sunshine repeats these closing statements again and again as you walk out the door, all the way until the door clicks shut for the night. We think it's partially because she has to have the last word in everything. It's a ritual she began a few months ago. And, every night I still hold my breath, waiting and hoping.

Princess triplet on her first day of school 2012-13
You see, once, out of the blue, as I was saying good night and only expecting a response back from Sunshine triplet, I heard a second "Happy Dream" from Princess triplet's bed. My mostly non-verbal child was wishing me a happy night just like her sister. Of course, I rushed back into the room, kissed Princess all over again and insisted that she too have a happy dream of her own.

It seems a small event, and yet, to any mother of a child with speech or milestone delays, a moment like that makes your throat catch and brings tears to your eyes. It's not just the moment in itself, it's the uncertainty of whether the moment will repeat itself at all or with any regularity. It's a moment you simply may not get again. It's a moment to treasure.

Angel triplet loves riding the bus but hates photo shoots
Every school day I stand by the bus as Princess and Angel triplets get buckled into their seats. I wait and I wave, every single day. When Grandma is there she watches me and says something like, "Do they see you?" or "I don't think they care about waving today" and I never answer those statements. I wave goodbye every day until the bus turns left and they can't see me waving.

Triplets wear "I'm the Litttle Sister" shirts to school.
Have my two autistic daughters ever waved goodbye back? No, not yet, but I still keep waving, because I'm mom and that's what moms do. They wave bye-bye to kids who stare back, sometimes without seeming recognition. Because one day, they will wave back, one day, bye-bye will be part of their social world. Or, because one day there will be another moment, like when Angel triplet looked directly into my eyes with recognition and pushed her tiny hand against the bus window as I waved. She kept her hand on the window until the bus turned left and I couldn't see her anymore. So, yes, I wave. I wave every day.

Today's post is my Mother's Day gift to all mothers of children with milestone delays or delayed development. We strive every day to teach our children, to presume competence, to hold our expectations high enough, to embrace our child's differences and yet carefully recognize the fact that it could take up to 2000 repetitions for our child with special needs to learn something that a typical child will likely learn by 200 repetitions. We balance expectations every day - not too low, not too high and realize that in addition to being mom, we get to play therapist to our very special children. Sometimes there are those days when we'd give almost anything to just be a parent, a simple, run-of-the-mill parent with "typical" expectations. The one whose kid says "You're not my best friend anymore, Mommy" on the day right before Mother's Day - the typical kid stuff - the stuff that makes you smile. Then without warning, we get a moment. A "Happy Dream" moment, a "Wave Bye-Bye" moment and all of a sudden nothing else matters but that moment. That moment when you absolutely, positively know how lucky you are to have this special child who shows you what LIFE and LOVE and JOY really are, because before that moment you know for sure you've only seen a shadow of those things.
Lotte - still too cool for school :-)

Happy Mother's Day to my fellow "special needs" Mamas. I hope you have a moment tomorrow with your very special child, but even if you don't, think back to a recent one and look forward to the one you will have in the future. You are LOVED and there's no doubt in my mind that God made you and your child especially just for each other - no other mother would do, no other child would do. You are perfectly suited for each other and tomorrow, please breathe that knowledge in all day long.

Happy Mother's Day All!