But we'll get to how that ties into my day in just a second.
If you are anything like me, and I am just assuming you are, or why would you be reading this (right?), the end of the school year comes as a whirlwind of over-stimulation, anxiety and the dreaded (by us) loss of routine.
This morning was pretty typical of our anxiety moving higher.
Gabriel had a field trip today.
And his birthday celebration.
And tomorrow is his birthday.
And Sunday is his party.
Lots to feel anxious over today.
He woke up this morning and joined me in the office. He was whimpering, and was obviously SO SO SO low. Lower than his normal wake up.
"Good Morning. You look pretty low still. Do you need to lay back down?"
"Ahhheeeegggaahhhhhhh," he responded while throwing himself to the floor with his illustrious Hippo blanket quickly being pulled back over his head.
"Wow, you are having a hard time already. Why don't you lie down?"
He immediately threw himself on the floor and covered his head just inches from my husband's gaming computer.
He closed his eyes and laid there.
I quickly stopped what I was doing and ushered him into the other room.
That was met with the ceremonious screaming and stomping, which has truly become a morning ritual here.
"Gabriel, head upstairs, and come down when you are in a better mood, or you are ready for my help," I told him.
And under much protest he went back upstairs.
By the time he got dressed, he was downstairs on jeans and a Tshirt. Mostly OK.
I mentioned the field trip today. What I didn't say was that it was an outside nature hike. And it is 80 here today.
"Gabriel, I see you put on jeans today, but did you see outside that it is really sunny? It is going to be hot out today. I need you to put on shorts."
"NO! I am NOT going back upstairs."
"But you'll need to go get your socks anyway--"
He produces a pair of socks from underneath his butt. Lovely. He literally pulled socks out of his ass to prove me wrong.
"Well good job remembering them." I say, "But we still have to go upstairs to get your medicine."
"I am NOT going to take my medicine!"
"Why don't we do this: You finish up your routine and we can talk about it again when we are upstairs getting your medicine."
He turns and leaves, dirty looks and guttural groans.
We make it to the part where he has had some breakfast, and we've gone through his backpack.
Out of the backpack he pulls a reminder about his field trip.
We begin to pack his lunch, but of course I do not have the directed brown bag for a "sac lunch". I am terrified that my B&W thinker will find this a problem, so I rephrase the letter on the fly while I am reading it to him.
"Please pack a saaaa----bagged lunch to bring with you.....and wear appropriate clothing for the weather.....dress in layers....wear socks and close toed shoes....."
It was important that here hear there were directions on how to dress, and that it isn't just my idea. Easier to make my little rule follower comply.
He pseudo believes me about the clothes and I distract him quickly with some great art on a gallon sized ziploc bag of a rocket ship, stars, a moon and per request, an Alien. I even write the word Alien on his napkin, and he says, "I know this says 'Astro'." Almost.
Regardless, he is happy with the large lunch we packed (PB&J, Banana, Juice Box, Raisins, and Fish Crackers--something for every sense) and quickly shoves it in his pack.
I remind him to take his two packages of organic chocolate creme filled cookies (Ah, like Oreos) without HFCS that his daddy so bailed me out by buying at ten o'clock last night, and he happily adds them to his pack.
Back to the clothing issue.
"I can't change my pants I have my shoes on!!" he blurts at me indignant that I do not see the dilemma.
"Head up, we're getting your medicine."
I follow him up the stairs where he immediately takes a hard left to his room, screaming that he is "not going," "hates field trips", and won't take his medicine.
Another day in my life.
This is where I pause.
I take a moment in the hallway and think to myself, "This is really my life."
And I laugh. Mostly inside, but a little giggle slips out.
I go into his room, to find him undressing, but he is pissed off.
He is crying and yelling and has begun putting on a pair of shorts that I can tell immediately are not his. They are Matthew's.
"Gabe those aren't yours. Stop a second." I try to avoid the inevitable need for him to change his clothes, yet again.
"NO! They were in my drawer!"
"Yes, I know that, but really, Daddy makes that mistake all the time. We still have to check the tag." I respond, thankful that his daddy does the laundry, and even more thankful that I have some one to blame. Much more logical that way.
He reads that it says 4T.
I open his drawer and hand him a pair to wear. He puts them on.
"I am NOT putting my shoes back on."
"Fine, carry them into the bathroom."
He does, and then takes his medicine under verbal protest.
And downstairs we go, still carrying the shoes.
We finish our routine, and I notice Gabe has put his shoes and his backpack on.
It is about 8:34am. Approximately.
"I am ready to go now." He announces.
"Gabriel, it isn't time to go to school yet. Do you remember when we leave?"
"I am ready to go NOW!"
"Yes, but no one is at school now."
"I am ready to go NOW!"
"OK, but we don't leave until 8:55. You still have 20 minutes."
"I am ready to go NOW!"
"Gotcha. You are ready to go now."
"Yes." He says, relieved that I finally got it.
"Ok, can you find a waiting game while I get your brothers ready?"
"Can I watch a show?"
"Sure, but you might not have time to watch the whole thing."
"Ok." He shrugs like I should know he is the most flexible child in the world and that would be easy for him.
Sure enough, when it is time to go he is packed, ready, and his body is calm and organized. Why? Because he has spent the last 20 minutes watching a show with a stuffed backpack on. For all of you who ask me about how to incorporate a "Sensory Diet" at home, here it is.
The proprioception he got from carrying his backpack with SO MUCH more food in it than normal, gave him the input he needed to raise his body's engine. It is what I consider a passive way of getting exercise.
The moral of this story, "Let them deliver pickles",
Yesterday was a horribly long day. Longer than usual.
Maybe because Jeff was gone, but probably for other reasons too. But we'll get into that.
The entire plan for yesterday was to make it to the SPD Support Group family gathering at a local park--about thirty minutes away, a drive we are comfortable making.
This kind of adventure requires much planning, and not just because it is a weekend and we are off routine.
It requires planning for the meltdown we will have transitioning there, and the meltdown we will have transitioning home--exhausted.
I began by putting laundry in the wash. Getting the right clothes prepared, and making sure there was a change of clothes. I also needed snacks, drinks, straws, gum and anything else I could think of that *might* be needed by Gabriel.
The boys spent the majority of the morning outside playing. The sun was high in the sky, and they were running around having fun.
The problem was that Gabriel was SO INCREDIBLY volatile. I blamed it on the lack of routine, the anxiety of getting ready for an event, his allergies and Jeff being gone.
As the morning ran on, and I packed things, got the ice ready, and all of the other things, Gabriel's behavior was out of control.
He poured nearly a full gallon on milk on the table--and floor--and chair--and it splattered onto the walls and the cabinets. He hit Nick, screamed, yelled, and then spent hours complaining of his itchy eyes.
Yesterday he was particularly worried about his itchy eyes.
He couldn't stop itching them--and they were becoming more and more inflamed.
I gave him things to touch, other choices, washed his eyes out, tried to get him in the shower, washed his hands, and more, but to no avail.
He was miserable. And he was quickly making us miserable.
I had him sit down and make a written plan for the day.
We included the things we had to do (finish baking the banana bread, mom had to shower, we all had to get dressed, pack our things, put up the dogs, and drive to the park). He included check boxes (his idea) for each thing, and I had him use a W or a D to indicate on each step if he was "Waiting" or if he would be "Doing" during that step.
This was a great activity to keep him busy, but he wasn't that thrilled with following it. But Nick was.
Gabe on the other hand couldn't focus. He didn't want to hang from his heavy bar, and he was completely out of sync all morning.
I gave the boys some lunch around 11:30--Nick didn't eat, Matt ate well, and Gabe ate half what he normally does. Strange--but like I said, it was an off day.
By about 12:00 I was done.
I was clear that he wasn't getting better, and I needed to figure out how to get in the shower without all hell breaking loose.
I put Gabe in his room, under his blanket, for a break. What else was there?
I got Lindsey to listen for him and Nick to be in charge of Matt. It works.
I got in the shower, got out at the speed of light, dried, dressed (partially) and went to check the boys.
Gabe was asleep.
OK, I figured, I will wake him when EVERYTHING else is ready to go.
I got the rest of the fam ready, and went to wake him.
He was like a zombie. He was so asleep and so out of it, he couldn't walk, open his eyes or anything.
I drug him downstairs only to realize he was PISSED and awake now--he didn't want to go to the park (???) and wanted to go back to sleep.
I gave up. I sent him back to his bed. Asked Lindsey to be there for him. And kissed him goodbye.
I run downstairs, put all three dogs in the backyard, pack the van, and the kids. But no Gabe. Bummer.
Nick, Matt and I went to the park together. We met my mom there, and had a wonderful afternoon in the sun.
When we got home, Gabe had only been awake a short time.
He looked better. Like his eyes weren't that bad.
I had trouble-shot finding his missing Rx (long story) and was ready to take care of his eyes.
But, again, he was fine.
Like some how he had slept off the craziness of the morning--that his eyes were better, and he was functioning fine.
That brings me to the puzzle.
I am looking around the back steps, I see there is dog puke all over. White and foamy, and downright disgusting.
I notice they apparently ripped up the trash too. I walk out, grab an empty container of canned frosting.
I go up to Lindsey and ask her if the dogs were sick. She replies by letting me know that Dakota had been throwing up, and we deduce that she got the container of frosting--and that was the foamy white dog puke all over. Lovely.
I go down to begin cleaning up the mess in the backyard.
I am picking up paper, old hair/dirt from the vacuum, Q-tips, ripped up art projects....and then it dawns on me: no food in this trash.
So, now, I am confused--how did the container of frosting get out there?
I go to the pantry, and check for all 3 of the jars I bought last Wednesday, in anticipation of Gabe's birthday, I wanted to be prepared for impromptu cupcake making.
But there are only 2 jars.
I double check--but still 2 jars of frosting.
Now I understand. Some one took the jar of frosting out of the house, and ate it then left it out back, where Dakota found it. This is my guess.
I call out the boys, Gabe first, then Nick, who both give me the "I know it wasn't me."
That is because I asked the wrong question. You see, when they are in trouble, they both become experts at semantics.
I asked, "Who took the frosting outside" when the question should've been "Who ate the frosting outside." See the difference?
Still no one claims it.
So, I finish cleaning the trash, and head inside to wait for Jeff to log on to Messenger from Korea.
As I am chatting with him, Nick comes in.
I casually look at him and say, "So, did you eat it with a spoon behind the tree by the hot tub?"
"Yeah, two spoons; it was Gabriel's idea. I just had a little, but he ate it all. Then he let Dakota lick out the rest." Nick replies. Grinning ear to ear since he knows he is busted.
"How much did Gabriel eat?"
"Almost the whole thing!" He exclaims.
The thing is, Nick and Matt aren't the kind of kid that gorges themselves on junk--they will eat some--then try to hide the rest for later. Gabriel will eat everything he can get his hands on, and then probably throw up.
I finish chatting with Jeff, and then go to confront Gabriel.
I assure him, from the beginning, that I know what happened, and this is his only chance to tell the truth, or there will be consequences for lying.
He comes clean with the same thing that Nick said--with Nick standing next to him correcting each piece that may come out a little inaccurate. Nick will throw anyone under the bus--himself included--but he wants to make sure everything is accounted for accurately.
Here is how it apparently went down:
Matt took the frosting outside to the playground and left it there.
Gabe finds it and assumes it is a gift from the gods.
Nick finds out Gabe has it, and now Gabe has to share.
Gabe is behind the tree next to the hot tub.
Nick is sent in the house to get the spoons.
Nick takes two bites, and Gabe eats the rest.
In an effort to cover their tracks, Dakota is recruited to clean out all remaining evidence.
*DING DING DING*
Now I know why Gabriel's behavior was so erratic--he had filled himself with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and had a reaction. Not shocking. It actually confirms my theory that he doesn't handle the HFCS well. I, of course, had never given him *that* much before, but as far as a litmus test goes, I am now convinced more than ever.
Then, of course, the crash from all of that sugar wearing off. Ugh.
I tried to explain it to Gabriel, you know, how his actions made him act and feel horrible--and that he missed having a great time at the park all because of some frosting! But, that level of cause and effect thinking is just lost on him at this point. His brain is just not wired that way.
At least I know what happened. At least there is an explanation for the erratic behavior and the crazy eye rubbing.
Not sure how to stop it in the future, but hey, baby steps, right?
Enjoy your day--and stay out of the frosting!
I swear that routine for us is like air. Like water. Like shelter.
Only more important.
If we do not follow a routine, and I mean FOLLOW the routine faithfully, all hell breaks loose.
Although, just as innate as the routine, is the desire to buck the routine--to fly by the seat of your pants.
How many of us really are that spontaneous? Anyone?
Aside from using it as a line in a singles ad, you know, "I want to meet someone that loves spontaneous romantic exotic beach vacations," does anyone actually participate in such a thing?
I don't. And never have.
I mean, the most spontaneous things I do are either without the kids, or out of necessity.
Yes, a spontaneous (meaning not planned) trip to the grocery store, or the gas station, or even the pharmacy are all possibilities. And they all throw off the routine equally.
But I am not really spontaneous.
I am a planner.
And I am betting dollars to doughnuts you are too.
Because we have to be. Because the routine gives our kiddos comfort, security, stability, predictability; all things that they need to have manufactured by us in order to help process their world.
In turn, the routine then gives to us exactly what it gives to our kids.
So why are we all so resistant to being on a strict routine? It can be suffocating at first. Like being in jail or the military or some other god awful place where our freedoms have been taken.
Trust me, I still have those "hate living in Holland" moments, and often they revolve around our strictly followed routine.
Nice afternoon drive home from my mom's house about 30 minutes south of us. It is creeping towards bedtime routine time, 7pm, but the sun is out and it is warm--a rarity in this part of the country.
What do I want to do? Simply take the boys to ice cream. Just because. Just because it would be a nice "family" thing to do. Because I assume people in Italy do. Because I hear that Italy is full of spontaneity.
Yet, I can't.
If I take them to ice cream the whole evening is shot. Meltdowns, fits, crying, yelling, destroying, and then in turn it makes me and Jeff feel that out of sync too.
So it is a no. No to the ice cream in the evenings. Which is disappointing for sure: That was something my dad took me to do all the time; a tradition of sorts for me growing up. Knowing that I will not pass that to my kids in the same way is a bummer. But not the end of the world.
The neighbor kids ridding their bikes at 7pm on a sunny Saturday evening. Laughing and playing while Gabe sleeps and Nick and Matt peer out the window.
Breaks my heart.
But, like I said, the routine is PARAMOUNT.
Now that we have ruled out spontaneity in my life, and know how much I long for it some days, let's talk about what it has given me. Because my dear friend Routine has given me far more than she has taken.
Routine has given me the opportunity to enjoy things with my family that I would never have before.
It has given me family dinners, with everyone at the table, sitting or standing as they please. The opportunity to have our High Low time (highs and lows of the day shared by each). This time has built a foundation for our family far better than an evening of ice cream ever could. It has made us closer, and more in tune with each other's lives.
It has given me bath time with no fits, it has made book reading enjoyable, and has offered me the peace of putting all of my kids to bed at the same time.
It has walked me through the transition to school, the basic routines of getting ready. It has taught me how to instill the need for organization, offer basic executive functioning skills and a sense of accomplishment in my kids. All of them.
Routine has allowed me to stabilize my kids--and stable kids make for a stable home. No matter who told you the opposite, with our SPD kiddos (and more!) we find stability in their stability.
It has given me the gift of family vacation, by allowing the boys to be "on routine" away from our home. On vacations, as we stick (more loosely) to the routine, it gives them physical comfort outside of their house while opening up a world of possibilities to their mind.
It has allowed me to hire a babysitter, and know that she will not struggle with the boys' temper tantrums or have issues with bed time.
Why? Because the boys are left to "in charge" to teach the babysitter the routine. They love it.
Routine has given me peace. It has given my whole family peace.
A solace of sorts in an otherwise chaotic place. A familiar shoulder to lean on when things are out of whack.
Seeing routine as your friend, and NOT your enemy is hard for most families when this all begins.
It was hard for me.
But it developed naturally over time.
When I taught preschool, over a decade ago, routine was a natural part of the day. I used to say to my husband about parenting our future kids, "If you don't have a rule, you can't have an exception."
I had no idea how true that would be for our family.
My kids are able to value an exception to every rule.
If we have a dessert after dinner, that is a TRUE exception.
If we go to the park after school, that is a TRUE exception.
If we stay up late and watch a movie, that is a TRUE exception.
This formula has allowed us to plan our exceptions, yes, and that is anti-spontaneity, for sure.
But, I get the "spontaneity" that I want (which really, is flexibility, because let's be honest, none of us are going on a romantic spur of the moment trip to Europe), within the boundaries that my kids can handle.
I get less fits.
I get less tantrums.I get easier transitions
I get less stress.
More time to be happy.
Routine is my friend. And I would like to introduce her to you--I hope you two will become life long friends like we have. And if you have a problem with her, feel free to let me know, and I can help you two mediate. Because this is an unconditional love that you will foster, even with its ups and downs, like me, you are meant to be her BFF.