#phelpsface

If you’ve been awake and looked at any form of media over the last few days I’m almost positive you’ve seen #phelpsface. All time gold medal winner, Michael Phelps, had a laser focused death stare for his opponent in the waiting area before their prelim race the other night. Much fun has been had creating memes based off of that single screenshot of Phelps’ face. My favorite (because I have a secret affinity for rap music)?

“When you’re the real Slim Shady and someone else stands up”.

Or how about this one?

“When you’re trying to focus and the guy in front of you thinks he’s a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle”. Hilarious!

This morning, while scrolling through Facebook I came across another one posted by a friend from high school. This friend happens to be a school psychologist in another district in my state.

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At first I chuckled. Maybe it was the early morning hours. Maybe my eyes weren’t clear yet. Or maybe it was that I hadn’t had my normal 2 cups of coffee. But as soon as I “came to”, I started to get angry.

This meme was created by another friend of hers who I’m assuming holds a similar title (I’ll call them decision makers) in a school district. And it was posted to a School Psychologist Facebook Group Page. So, I imagine it’s getting lots of likes and shares and giggles and “no kidding”s! from other SPs.

What makes me angry is that this is yet another moment that shows the disconnect between parents and decision makers. The reality is that when you are a parent, desperate for help for your child, there are SO many hoops to jump through to get them help. You HAVE to ask early, because there is a very generous timeline granted to decision makers to get evaluations done and ultimately implement services if your child is so lucky to be offered them. The debate about whether the child needed help may have started years earlier. Or maybe the previous spring the parents and teacher started to think “something isn’t right” we need to get him evaluated. But you debated because maybe they started a new med and you weren’t sure if that was the cause. Maybe their behavior was off because Dad was traveling more than usual. Maybe Grandma died and the child has no other way of expressing grief. For whatever reason, you were trying to give your child more time. And now, it feels urgent.

Here’s a very basic timeline of how you get official IEP services for your child in the state of Ohio… There are many steps that may happen before this.

Parent/Teacher makes an official request for an evaluation -> School has 30 days to respond to official request -> School has 60 days to complete the evaluation -> The IEP must be written within 30 days of of the Evaluation Report. And only when an IEP is created and signed by all can the services begin.

That’s 4 MONTHS from the time the parent or teacher made the official request to evaluate. So if school started on August 24th and the request came in on August 26th, guess when 4 months would be? Yep, Christmas break. That could be another 2-3 weeks before services start for a child. More than half the school year is gone.

So when a request comes in on the 2nd day of school, consider the fact that that family probably didn’t get a summer break. Special Needs parents don’t get a break. The worry, the research, the planning is CONSTANT. 24/7/365. They are finally at their breaking point where they decide the fight is worth it and they have no other options. It may be the 2nd day back to school for you, but it’s August 26th to them. Then haven’t come back from anything. They’ve been right there for years.

Stay tuned to my next blog post to see how I used my coaching model to stop feeling so angry about this meme!

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Not Just Back to School

woman-1148923_1280We’re two weeks out from the new school year starting. There are lots of changes happening in our household, like my son with Down syndrome starting middle school. And I’m freaking out about it a little, or a lot.

Things on my mind…

Did they hire an aide for him yet?

Who is she/he?

Will they be kind to him?

Will my son respect them?

Is my son’s new teacher ready for him?

Will they realize that the didn’t just refuse to eat, he couldn’t open his lunch box?

Will they realize he needs a straw to get enough to drink?

Will the other kids make fun of him?

Are there teachers that just don’t want a kid “like him” in their class?

Should he be in the resource room?

Should he be in the regular ed room?

Is he safe on the bus?

What will therapy look like this year?

Outdoor Education is happening this year, what does that look like for him?

Will he ever understand physical boundaries? He’s a hugger!

Are they doing to expect too much from him too fast?

How will he respond to a male teacher?

Did we make the right IEP goals?

Will they follow his IEP?

Were the assessments fair and accurate?

My mind could go on for days. It’s completely different than my other two who are going to school too. There’s nothing to think about. There’s no planning. They just move on to the next grade level. Most people don’t realize how much prep work goes into just starting a new school year when you’re a special needs family.

Mind Management

99 problemsSee that meme I found on Facebook? I saved it because it made me laugh, out loud. I often tell my husband “if you had any idea the amount of info I store in my head…”. I don’t think he gets it. 

That’s what we do as advocate moms right? Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible for us to remember so much and still work, run our family, and find time for ourselves.

Not only do we consume ourselves with what happened, but we’re in triage for the “right now” and we’re worried about tomorrow and 6 months from now and 23 years from now. I need a nap, how about you?

  • Medical Records
  • Dishes
  • Medication Dosages
  • Work Projects
  • Therapy tips and tricks
  • Date Nights
  • The names of 8 people on your school team
  • Doctors and Specialists
  • Play dates
  • Paperwork
  • Educational research

That list just barely scratches the surface. Our brains are amazing things aren’t they? We grow and adapt and are somehow able to handle it all.

But what about when our mind runs wild? Like the meme, sometimes we create problems where there are not any. We worry so much about the what ifs. And the worry shows up in some pretty unhealthy choices.

  • Sleepless nights      Overeating       Overdrinking       Spending too much time online

It’s so important to manage our minds for the sake of ourselves and our families. Our thoughts are the first catalyst that creates whatever results we have in our lives. Not sleeping? It’s because you can’t stop thinking about that sedated medical procedure coming up. Overeating? It’s because you are looking for your “trip to the  Bahamas” break that you so desperately need, but instead you have to settle for the short term release from that cupcake.

It’s easy to see the end game of what’s happening in your mind, but it’s not alway so easy to see how you got there. And that’s ok. I’m here to help you figure that out.

So, I want you to start there. Think about something in your life you wish were different. It may be some of the examples I gave (overweight, drink too much) or it could be something completely different (yell at your kids, don’t have the energy to play with them).

If you’ve got something going on the you wish you could change, email me, I’d love to help you start to discover why it’s happening. And once we do that, you’ll be able to change it and get what you really want. Go head, just email me here and we’ll do a little work for free.

Choosing Thoughts

sweden-1101497_1920You know how there are some memories that are SO engrained in your mind that you can hear the sounds, smell the scents, and feel the breeze or heat in the air?

This week a memory like that was brought back to the front of my mind.

Church Camp

I can still feel the tiny gravel poking me in the bottom of my right foot as I accidentally kicked it into my flip-flop while walking up the short hill to registration carrying me pillow and sleeping back. One of my counselors drank a glass of milk at dinner and then decided she wanted some water so she poured it into the same empty, but not rinsed out glass. I thought it was the grossest thing ever and I still can’t look at a glass of cloudy water. I remember the scent of my bunkmate’s Suave shampoo and conditioner and still to this day roam the aisles of Walmart trying to figure out which one it was.

I had mixed feelings about it back then. I was so scared to go every year. I got homesick well before ever leaving home. My chest would get tight like there was a stack of books sitting on me. Tears would flow as my dad loaded my suitcase in the trunk. And I would sniffle and quietly sob in the back of our Ford Thunderbird the whole way there.

Then, about night 2 or morning 3, something would shift.

I would start to notice I was forming friendships with some of the other girls.

It was kinda fun to be independent. Being in charge of setting the tables in the mess hall.

And the music…to this day have some of my favorite songs on my iphone. Ha! Did cell phones even exist back then?

Inevitably the tables would turn. By the last day of camp my chest was tight again. And I was sniffling and quietly sobbing…on the way home, because I didn’t want to leave.

So, you might be wondering why this was so vivid to me this week?

My daughter went to her first week of church camp. But unlike me, she didn’t have an ounce of trepidation. She packed her purple suitcase days before it was time to go. She barely hugged me when it was time to say goodbye. I don’t think she even turned to look at my while I silently screamed, “I love you, I love you, I’ll miss you”.

I know she’ll have a good time. She will come home a different child. A little more grown up and a lot closer to God.

While my daughter chose exciting and happy thoughts about going to camp, I seemed to have chosen painful and sad thoughts.

Thankfully, I changed my thinking and loved camp. And I’m sure she will love camp too.

Can you look back on anything now and see where you chose the hard route when it could have been so easy and joy filled? Let me know what that thing is in the comments.

Handling Emotion

girl-147105_1280There are three ways we typically handle our emotions. We can resist them, react to them, or avoid them.

Resisting an emotion is an unproductive, though interesting, way of dealing. Do you hold the door shut on something that you really know you need to deal with? Do these pangs of emotion keep bubbling up to the surface and then you just say “nope, not today, ain’t got time for that”? Some may think that that is feeling our emotions. It feels bad, so we adjust and keep on truckin’. Thinking the whole time that you’ve dealt with it.

Nope, that’s not feeling our emotions. That’s resistance.

Another way we attempt to handle our emotions is by reacting to them. Your kids act up and you yell. Your husband forgets your birthday and you cry and pout. We give a superficial reaction the to emotion flowing through our body.

But you’re not actually feeling the emotion. You’re reacting to it.

And third, we avoid emotions. This is most typically done by numbing ourself. Eating, drinking, smoking, working, exercising, gaming, etc. Some of you may think that some of those things aren’t a big deal. So you go for a run when you’re mad, so what, that’s good for you, right? So you throw yourself into a project at work and ignore what’s happening in your marriage. You’re still being productive right?

Wrong.

Why are we so afraid of handling our emotions in a healthy way? I’ll tell you why. It’s the way our culture has conditioned us to react. Our brain has been taught over and over again that feelings and emotions are painful and we should avoid pain at all cost. Our brains are efficient and protective little things. They want to do their jobs with minimal effort and they want to avoid harm at all cost.

What most people fail to realize, is that an emotion CAN NOT harm you. An emotion is simply a vibration in our body. It’s a slightly off feeling that’s different from your normal status quo. Think about it. Only when you start to think about something negative do you begin to feel prickly? nauseous? hot? sick to your stomach? etc. When they thought enters your brain, your body reacts. But that’s all it does. You aren’t going to die from anger. You aren’t going to die from sadness. Nothing terrible is going to happen to you because you let yourself just FEEL.

But why do we need to sit back and let our emotions be there. What’s the harm in resisting, reacting or avoiding? The reason is because every action we take is based on a feeling we have. And every action we take gets us the results we want, or don’t want.

Here’s an example…

Feeling: Angry

Action: (React) Yell at my kids

Result: I’m mad at myself for yelling and the kids are now scared

If I had sat with that angry feeling and explored why it was happening, I could have acted differently and gotten result that serve me and my children.

Check this one out

Feeling: Angry

Action: Take a deep breath and a minute or 2 to figure out what I’m really mad about

Result: I realized that my anger had nothing to do with my kids. I now know why I was angry, have a plan for dealing with it, and can feel good about myself and my kids still have their happy mommy.

Are you yelling at your kids and you just can’t figure out how you got to that breaking point? Sign up for a FREE mini-session here with me and we’ll figure it out together. These tools work. And they work for anyone and for any problem. You don’t have to be an angry mom. Let me show you how. Free Mini-Session

My Dreams Aren’t Their Dreams

football-161132_1280Sometimes I surprise myself with how worried and upset I get about the future. 

I can spend hours obsessing over my kids milestones.

Does my 5yo know his letter sounds? Oh no, what if he struggles in school. He won’t go to college. He won’t have a good job and be happy. He can’t travel and pursue his dreams and…

What if my daughter doesn’t make the soccer team? She’ll be devastated! She’ll lose all her friends because they’ll be on the team and she won’t. What if she starts to hate sports? I want her to be active and healthy. I’ll lose all my soccer mom friends.

And my oldest son. What if he never learns to read? What if he can’t do basic math or handle money? How will he ever live independently? Or even semi-independently? Will he have friends? Girlfriends? Will he go to prom? Play sports?

But here’s the thing, those are ALL things that I have dreamed for my kids. I get so caught up in what their future holds. But who knows what they will want as they get older? They may not care about travel, soccer, or prom.

I cause myself SO much pain when I think about the what ifs that I have no control over.

Get Comfortable with Uncomfortable

teenager-959125__340I’ve been avoiding an uncomfortable (for me) introduction and a conversation.

My son, the one with Down syndrome, is entering middle in the fall. So, it’s that time in our church for him to transition to middle school activities instead of being with the young kids. This means new leaders, new kids at the activities, and an increased expectation of independence. He’s no longer that cute little boy toddling down the hallway. Wandering away is no longer normal.12 year olds are supposed to do as they’re told, for the most part.

I have to tell these new pastors that he need some supervision. That his hands are weak and he won’t be able to cut food at a picnic. That he makes a lot of noise so prayer time will never be quiet. That large crowds and loud noises bother him so you can probably plan on him NOT going to concerts. .

These butterflies are busy today. And this lump in my throat is extra wide. I can see the fear in their eyes. They’re uncomfortable. I can sense the questions in their minds ‘what’s wrong with him? Why does he do that?”. And then there’s the the stuff they’d never ask out loud “how much work is this going to be for me? Is he going to disrupt every activity we do?”.

And as the tears begin to leave trails down my cheeks and I whisper silently “he just want to laugh, and play, and connect like every other tween”, I see the youth paster walk up to him and introduce himself. I see him give my boy a high five and a handshake and I’m thankful that he was willing to get uncomfortable so he can get comfortable. So grateful for these men stepping out of their comfort zone (and taming their own butterflies) so that they can get to know my boy. I pray that they come to love an accept him as one of God’s children and that they teach his new peers how to get uncomfortable so that eventually everyone is comfortable.

Get Real with Powerful Questions

monkeysCan I be real for a minute?

Sometimes I wonder if I was give the correct family. Or if my kids were given the right mom. My husband the right wife. 

We are SO different. My husband can strike up a conversation with anyone and nothing makes me cringe more. As I write this, he is in Cleveland for the CAVS NBA Championship parade. And I’m here thinking I would rather brush my teeth with acid than do anything like that. He’s outgoing and loves to experience exciting things.

Our kids seem to be turning out just like him. They never turn down a new opportunity. They enjoy crowded events and they aren’t afraid to try new things.

So you may be wondering why this is a problem?

For me, the problem is that I’m uncomfortable with their boldness. I feel my blood pressure rise in the situations that give them much wanted butterflies. When they see an opportunity as something fun, exciting, and maybe a once in a lifetime adventure (I’ll have to tell you about the time my husband woke our 6yo daughter up at 1am and drove several hours to Punxatawney, PA to see the groundhog) I see all the challenges and uncomfortable moments for me. Oh gosh, how can we be so different? Are we living separate lives? Do the kids prefer him over me? What if they get hurt? What if I dampen their spirit?

Here’s what I ask myself when I spiral down this rabbit hole of why we are so different. What is perfect about our family? How are we made for each other?

For one, my husband and I the perfect balance for each other. He encourages me to try new things when I least want to. And I bring him back down to reality when his sights get too high and  too risky. As parents, we’re just the right mix for our kids. Again, he gets them out and does exciting things that they will never forget. He’s building an adventurous spirit in them that I admire and am SO incredibly happy they have. While at the same time, I’m here as a safe and calm place to fall. A place where they can relax and just get comfortable when they need that most.

Start asking yourself these powerful questions like I did “what’s perfect about this situation?” when you feel stuck in a situation and you can’t see your way out of the spiral.

**Want help asking yourself those powerful questions? Click here to schedule a free mini-session.

Have a powerful day –

Kathy

What We Should Have Learned In School

brain-951874_640Most of use spend our entire youth trying to prove ourselves in some form of academic performance. In high school it’s Math, and Language Arts, Chemistry, etc. Then in college it’s Psychology, Marketing, or Journalism. While all of those areas of study are important, especially if you are attempting to enter a certain field of work, they do nothing to teach us about life. We’re left fumbling with how to get through the joys and disappointments of adulthood with grace and growth.

Because of the unmet human need to cope, we walk around blaming everyone and everything around us. “Well, if my wife didn’t nag so much our marriage would be better”, “my son’s teacher is lazy and obviously has other priorities besides her students. If she actually called me back today like she told me she would I wouldn’t be so angry and we could have handled this in a civil manner”, “My boss is such a jerk. He walks around barking orders, but never lifts a finger to pitch in when we’re busy. I just can’t work for him anymore”.

Sound familiar?

What if I told you that your spouse, child’s teacher, or boss can’t ever do anything to affect how you feel?

Whaaaattt?? Crazy talk right?

Nope, it’s true. Hear me out.

In simplest form, here’s what I know is true. Our thoughts are what make us feel the way we feel. I’m going to show you what I mean. First, we have to establish what is FACT.

Since most of you are here because you have a child with developmental disabilities, let’s take take the school example I gave above. What about that situation is ABSOLUTELY TRUE? What is fact? So factual that it can be proven in a court of law. If this same thing happened to another person across that world, would there be any other way they could look at it? We have to break this down into the simple facts because we have to focus on what we can change about a situation that can’t be changed, are you with me?

Here’s the circumstance above “my son’s teacher is lazy and obviously has other priorities besides her students. If she actually called me back like she told me she would I wouldn’t be so angry and we could have handled this in a civil matter”. If this situation happened to another mother, here are other ways she could have seen it 1. my son’s teacher is busy 2. she cares about him and is trying to gather information before she calls me back 3. she did have to leave early yesterday for her sick child, maybe she was busy take care of her?

So, because the circumstance can be argued in other directions, it is not fact. Let’s pull out the only thing that is absolutely true.

FACT = teacher didn’t call when she said she would (no other way to see it. Can be proven in court via phone records etc.)

So now we have the circumstance that we can not change. But what about that circumstance makes us feel angry?

It’s your THOUGHTS about the fact that didn’t call back when she said she would.

Remember when I gave the examples about how others could see the situation? “she’s gathering more info.” “she has a sick child” etc.

What makes you FEEL angry about this is that you are CHOOSING to think she’s lazy and doesn’t care about your child.

Mind blown yet? Just wait. We’re only getting started.

How Did I Find Life Coaching?

psychology-531071_640Let me tell you a story. Many years ago I was in college working toward my Bachelors degree in business. I can vividly remember sitting in a business class and the professor, a man who had left the corporate world to teach and consult, asked each of us to introduce ourselves and state what we wanted to do with our degree once we graduated. Man, did I start sweating. Not for fear of speaking in front of the class, but because I knew what I was about to say would NOT be what he wanted to hear.

“Hi I’m Kathy, and I want to have babies and stay home with them”. Cue the crickets. Huh? You’re spending all this money and 4 years of your time and energy knowing full well you don’t even want to use your degree? Yep.

I tell you this story as a way to show you that I had always wanted to be a SAHM. I had this vision in my head of playing on the floor and quiet reading time and cleaning and prepping dinner while my babies napped. Fast forward to having my first child and the shock of a diagnosis of Down syndrome. My WORLD changed. I was thrust into something I knew nothing about. Cardiologists, and Endocrinologists and therapists and medications and “Oh man, what does my future hold now.” Was it any wonder I fell into depression? Add baby #2 who was colicky and just very high needs and I felt like I was losing my mind. I would almost panic at the thought of making dinner. I would cry and be angry with my daughter because she was so needy that I never got to play with my son.

I was not the kind of mother I wanted to be.

I couldn’t figure out any way to get through this on my own or with the help of my husband, friends, or family. So off to therapy I went. What I discovered however, was that therapy wasn’t for me. I did not have a history of any of the major problems for which most people sought therapy. I also felt like I had a good understanding of my emotions and maybe why I was having the thoughts I was having (nothing dangerous, don’t worry). There I was sitting on the couch in the therapists office and all she could give me was “oh, yeah, you’re really in tune with your thoughts” or “hmm, yes, that is a good way to look at it. I hadn’t thought of that”. Huh? Who was the therapist here? Another round of failed therapy with a different therapist after my 3rd child left me searching for answers that worked.

I found Life Coaching and it filled that missing piece for me as to why I was feeling out of control and stressed out all the time.

Stay tuned for the specifics of how coaching release the burden of my thoughts and feelings and gave me my power back to be the mom I wanted to be.