I was talking to a parent recently about how her son “overreacts to everything.” I just laughed.

Yes, I know that our kids overreact—or in some cases underreact (but that usually isn’t a daily annoyance, but definitely a cause for concern)—and that it is sensory, but it sure is enough to drive a person crazy.

I have had many conversations with Gabriel about how if he acts like everything is a SHARK ATTACK I have no way of knowing when it is a splinter versus a broken leg.

The basic problem is that I don't know how to react.

How will I know how to help?
How will I know when we really do need to go to the ER?

We ran into this issue years ago, and although we still do struggle with it, we have come to some conclusion as to how to handle it.

Here is my method which I call the
Shark Attack Method for Overreaction:

1. Define “overreaction” with happy examples;
2. Tell the Boy Who Cried Wolf Story (real or your version);
3. Introduce Scaling (if your kid is older you could use 1-10 but we stick with 1-5 for ease);
4. Decide what the WORST THING EVER would be with your child/family;
5. Practice Scaling everything (all emotions or feelings);
6. Use Scaling during an overreaction;
7. Introduce Blood vs. Pain and
8. Keep practicing!

Curious? GREAT! Now here is how I created the Shark Attack Method for Overreaction:

It all originally started with our psychologist about 5 years ago when we were working on Collaborative Problem Solving.

This is long before we knew about Gabriel’s SPD, or for that matter, long before we knew about ANY issue.

We had not “officially” adopted Gabriel either at this point, and although he had been living with us uninterrupted for over two years at this point, we were still blaming every issue he had on adoption or attachment or something.

So, that brings us to his obsession with food.

Gabriel loved to eat—and he would eat anything.

This is a sign to me now that he needed oral input for self soothing, but I had no idea.

What I did know is that he would eat and eat and eat and often until he threw up from being over full.

That worried me.

He would say “I am hungry” all the time.

Our psychologist introduced the theory of scaling his feelings so that we knew what was going on and whether or not he needed food or something else. What was he feeling?
We introduced the idea of “How hungry are you?” With the scale being from 1 (not hungry) to 5 (Starving).

The scale worked pretty well—but remember he was 3 ½ at this point.

The idea of scaling as a whole has stuck with us.

And even though Gabriel can and will still eat until he throws up, I have gotten pretty good about monitoring and he has learned that as soon as the meal is over, he needs gum. LOL

Now that we knew how to scale, Gabriel was comfortable with it, we had to figure out how to apply it to other parts of his behavior. That brings us to the overreaction application of the scaling.

We have used Scaling regularly for the last couple years to determine how “hurt” he is.

I am sure you can relate, but at our house things can be generally calm and then all of a sudden Gabriel is screaming or maybe I should say WAILING like a ridiculous siren from upstairs.

I don’t even hurry to see what is wrong any more.

Nick could’ve simply *looked* at one of the Lions and Gabriel could potentially react the same way as if someone was tearing him limb from limb.

What about a real injury?

Any injury that produces blood—real or imagined—is cause for a complete loss of mental functioining.

And yes, there is at least once or twice where I thought, “Damn that must have hurt.” But the other 8,594,234 times shouldn't have even registered.

Hence my problem and our need to scale our reactions.

We started by defining the word “overreaction” and talking about “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” story with a modified ending (didn’t need the boy to really be eaten in the end, but perhaps he did have an emergency and the wolf ate the sheep—but not the boy).

We practiced having *positive* overreactions to reinforce the definition:

“Here Nick, I got you this block for your birthday.” I said.

“WOOOOOOO! HOOOOOOOOOOO!” Nick would yell, under direction from me, and then do a huge HAPPY dance.

"Was that an appropriate reaction or was that an overreaction?"

"An overreaction!" They would answer in chorus.

Then we took turns pretending to give eachother ridiculous things until eventually I had to end the exercise at giving each other dog poop. I have boys.

Our discussions would then move to the fact that, although ANY gift is nice, if it is just a block—not a life sized fire truck of your very own--the "reaction" needs to match.

They got it quickly. But enjoyed the practice anyway. : )

After the word “overreaction” and the idea of how it "doesn't match" what was going on for real, were solidified in their minds, we introduced the “Shark Attack”.

While brainstorming with Gabriel about what thing in the world could possibly be the WORST THING EVER that would require the BIGGEST reaction, we settled on a Shark Attack. By a Great White Shark. Of course. Please note here that we are using something that is NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE for it to actually happen. Using a "smashed finger" or "broken nose" wouldn't be nearly as affective and could be really scary for them (but Mom, I really thought my nose was borken.). A Lion attack, or having a plane crash on you, or having Darth Vadar use the force on you might all be HORRIBLE, and unlikely. That is the key.

Now enter the application of the idea.

(Gabriel screaming)

“Gabriel, are you hurt?”


“What’s wrong?”

“Nick ran into me when we were walking down the hallway and I bumped into the wall!!!”

“Wow, that must have hurt. How much did it hurt? From 1-5 what number was it?”

He always looks a little surprised at this.

“A 5!!”

“Really? I don’t see the shark—but we’d better run just in case.” *grin*

He thinks that is funny, and with my kiddos humor always works.

(more screaming)

“Since there is no shark, what number do you really think it is?”

“A 2 OR a 3.”

“Ok, then you shouldn’t have a 5 reaction--that is an overreaction to a 2 or 3 hurt. I mean, if you are ever really attacked by a shark, how will I know?”

Then we discuss what would be a normal “2” reaction.

“I think a two would be more like, ‘OWW! Man this hurts a lot, I need a hug and a kiss.’ Which is pretty different from your reaction.”

And that understanding is how we work in to his ability to be “self aware” of his reactions and scale them appropriately.

Although this isn’t that common at home, he does do a pretty good job of scaling his emotions in public and more specifically at school.

Which is the first step.

Now, after a few years of doing this, I am known to have him start screaming and just say “This isn’t a shark attack Gabriel, you need to calm down so I know what is going on.”

Not always that simple, but it is a good mental image for him to remember. I mean, really, getting attacked by a shark is a pretty strong image!

The other day he was JUST LOSING HIS MIND after being hit in the mouth by Nick (genuinely on accident).

Really, it was probably a 3, complete with a fat lip, but it was the blood that put him over the edge.

The blood was not pouring out, there really were only maybe 2 drops total, but he was acting like it was gushing with his hands placed over and under his mouth to save the precious blood that he thought was flowing freely from his face.

But with a napkin, I showed him there was no such geyser of blood.

He still didn’t believe me.

So we started looking for the shark.

Nope, no shark. (In case you are wondering, we do not live under water, so we have yet to find one.) : )

As you might imagine, it took a lot to settle him down. But in the end, the missing shark proved to be helpful in explaining to him how his reaction was an OVERreaction.

This brings me to the next thing that we have used to reduce his overreactions:

Blood does not equate to pain.

The MORE blood does not mean the MORE pain.

Here are our examples:

A bloody nose—lots of blood, very little pain. But it can be uncomfortable and taste bad—but those aren’t the same as pain.

A broken leg—lots of pain and NO blood required.

A headache—no blood spilled but could easily be a 4.

We try to give him clear and “visual” examples that really apply to his life so that he can understand, in a more personal way what is really expected of him – and all of us.

We talk about how if we were at Fred Meyer, and a kid bumped into a basket, and it hurt, but was probably a 2, what would we feel like if that person started screaming and yelling like a true shark attack?

The boys are always good at realizing what other people shouldn’t do—but then we talk about the ramifications or consequences of that happening. And boy do we love a good story, especially if it seems a little ridiculous.

In my Fred Meyer example (a store we all frequent) they decided that everyone shopping there would be worried, might go help him, that the checkers would stop helping other people and check on the kid, and that someone would probably call 911 and then the store would be filled with fireman and even an aid car in the parking lot.

That worried the boys.

What a huge problem all over a kid who was upset about the cart bumping him.

Then we talk about what would happen if he had an appropriate reaction—like a two reaction:

His mom would help him, and maybe he could ride in the cart and get something to make him feel better—like a cookie or a matchbox car.


They seemed to see that there was a HUGE different in how we react, especially in public, and what kind of consequenes both good and bad come from it.

These techniques have been hugely helpful at our house for both Nick and Gabe.

And it sure beats saying “Suck it up” all the time. Which incidentally, I still catch myself doing. Ugh.

RECAP of the Shark Attack Method for Overreaction:

1. Define “overreaction” with happy examples;
2. Tell the Boy Who Cried Wolf Story (real or your version);
3. Introduce Scaling (if your kid is older you could use 1-10 but we stick with 1-5 for ease);
4. Decide what the WORST THING EVER would be for your child/family;
5. Practice Scaling everything (all emotions or feelings);
6. Use Scaling during an overreaction;
7. Introduce Blood vs Pain and
8. Keep practicing!

I hope some of you out there are able to use these ideas with your own kids. As always, this has worked with mine, but doesn't mean it will work with yours. But, I know you are all very creative (as is thrust upon us special needs moms) so feel free to adapt these ideas for your own family.

Hope your weekend is Shark-Free,

You Don't Need No Diapers

Potty Training.

That word strikes fear in the hearts of moms everywhere especially at the end of summer when we are attempting to get our kid into preschool (our LAST kid into preschool and we really really really need the respite time of all kids in school, you know?).

No matter your kid, or his/her age, the concept of making them go pee somewhere they really don’t want to go is just insane.

Even worse, there is an unwritten rule somewhere in mommy-dom that makes you think by your child’s 3rd birthday the diapers should be replaced with cute little underpants colorfully printed with famous cartoon characters.

If your son isn’t sporting Blues Clues underpants by 3, you are pretty much a Potty Training Failure.

I was.

All three times.

Gabriel really wasn’t the worst at potty training. And although I learned after he was potty trained about SPD and how truly amazing it was that he was potty trained, including dry through the night as well as the ever-important-status-symbol of cartoon underwear by 3 ½, I was exhausted because it took me 18 months for that to happen.

Yes, mommy potty training nightmare.

I had a two things working against me:

New Baby

The double whammy of potty training.

Gabriel was totally on track to be potty trained by 2 ½. Crazy as it may seem, I was buying into all of those moms out there (*cough* girl moms) who have panty-clad two year olds on the potty.

But this was my first child. And you know that with your first child you have read all of the books (no doubt based in Italian) and you totally know what you are doing.

So Gabriel was doing great.

Enter Nick.

Baby Nicholas was a shock to Gabriel’s system.

Gabriel indicated this on the day Nicholas was born by throwing up all over the delivery room.

Thankfully we were at a hospital and apparently if you throw up on the triage nurse you get priority care. We quickly found out he had an ear infection, probably the 10th of the year, for which he was quickly medicated. But I am pretty sure the throwing up at Nick’s mere presence was an omen.

When we brought the darling and terribly huge baby home, Gabriel didn’t direct his frustration (or confusion as the case may be) towards Nick, but towards the toilet.

We had a perfectly crafted control battle brewing.

And for the first time in my life, I think I lost in the Control Arena. A monumental moment in history for sure—I was, up until then, the Control Queen.

But that small child changed that…or modified it….a little. Really.

Whenever I put Nick on my breast to nurse (which I did every 30 minutes for 45 minutes plus a bottle for three months!!) Gabriel would walk up to the couch where I was sitting and squat down and pop his underpants.


Finally, I let him do it, and then had him clean it up (technically, help me, but it was his responsibility).

He hated that, but apparently hated me nursing Nicholas worse, so we did this little dance for months before I put him back into pull ups feeling like a complete Potty Training Loser.

Gabriel always had the pee thing down, and we were constantly talking about “listening to your body” but in retrospect god only knows what his body was saying because I am pretty sure the message “I have to poop” was being ignored.

Although I have to say that pooping on command is a talent that few poses.

By the time Gabriel was 3 ½ and had been in preschool with peers that used the toilet, we were able to transition from pooping in underpants to pooping in the more traditional (and a lot less messy) toilet.

Then it was Nick’s turn to use the toilet.

Since Gabriel was *almost* potty trained by 2 ½ and I desperately wanted Nick in preschool so he could talk nonstop to someone else part of the day, I convinced myself to enroll Nick for the Fall *before* he turned 3.

Again, some of those damn panty-clad girls peeing in the toilet at 2 made me think that somehow the Y chromosome wasn’t strong enough to keep me from having two kids (with an infant at home) from going to preschool.


I bought the damn little toilet, and guess what?

Nick’s butt was too big.


He couldn’t get his penis and his butt over the whole at the same time.

Which ruled out the “Little Potty” pretty quickly.

Nick used it as a step stool to play in the sink. Which Gabriel thought was cool, so he happily used it to stand on as well. And you know what? Matt seemed to think it was a great stool too. Too bad it was a $25 stool instead of the IKEA $2 ones. But hey, they did get a lot of use out of that potty-turned-stool. *sigh*

Nick wanted nothing to do with the toilet.

He wanted even less to do with me telling him what to do, or god forbid trying to *teach* him something. From day one, Nick has known everything and trying to prove otherwise has been futile.

That September deadline for school came and went with the blink of an eye and Nicholas was no closer to potty training than he was to being drafted by the Chiefs.

One week, almost to the day, before his 3rd birthday he arrived in my room on a Saturday morning—naked—carrying a wet diaper from the night before.

“Here Mom. I don’t need diapers anymore. I can use the toilet whenever I want.” He announced as if stating the obvious for Jeff and I.

OK Nick.

And he did.

He had one accident, since he insisted on going “commando”, that day in the kitchen.

“My belly hurts.” He said.

“You probably have to poop, honey, go sit on the toilet.” I responded to my not-quite-three-year-old-know-it-all.

“No. It isn’t a poop.” He insisted with assurance.

“I think it might be.” I gently push.

Poop starts coming out the bottom of his pajama pants and landing in chunks on the ground.

“OH! You were right. It is a poop!” He exclaimed with new found enthusiasm.

You think I remember that because it was a potty training story, right?


I remember that because it was the first time he told me I was right. *sigh*

But that was it for Nick and potty training. He stayed clean and dry, through the day, and through the night—even after getting the flu the week after his birthday and having diarrhea—it all made it to the toilet. What a proud moment. The total was two little control freaks (just like their mother). : )

And now it is Matthew’s turn.

I tried to sign Matthew up for preschool last year before he was 3, but this time I had learned to ignore the *cough* girl mommies who had two year olds that used the toilet and focus on what Matthew actually was interested in and capable of.

He could use Jeff’s framing hammer to pound large nails into an apple without help.
He could unscrew bolts from walls without a wrench.
He could name all of his letters, shapes, and colors, plus some in Spanish.
He knew all of the Thomas characters by name, color and number.


He had zero interest, or maybe I should say negative interest, in the toilet.

Flash forward to age 3 ½.

Now all I can think is, “Damn Matt, your brothers were both potty trained by this age and to top it off, I’ve paid the deposit for preschool this year because you are almost 4!”

So I bought a chart.

He loved the magnets, but they didn’t help with the toilet.

We put cheerios in the toilet, because Matt is WAY tall enough to stand and pee, but he was upset. Which I should’ve seen coming because the one time we did that for Nick he cried that Daddy peed on his food. Priorities.

With September right around the corner, and me desperate to get Matt in school part time, because Nick will be in Kindergarten, FINALLY, this year, and I could technically get about 4 hours a week to myself, I began the potty conversation.

But it always seems to be one sided.

I used statements like, “We are going to sit on the potty.”

To which I got statements like, “NO.”

I figured when our family left (we have company from CA until 8/10) I would start the dedicated potty training system—yet to be determined—and get this child to pee on the potty. By god we don’t have much time before September.

Then he did it all on his own.

It was about ten days ago, and we had just pulled the boys out of the bath when I was attempting to put a pull up on Matthew.

“No! I don’t want a training pants.” Matthew says.

“OK,” I say confused, “Then what do you want?”


I looked at Jeff across the room and mouthed, “Go put the plastic cover on his bed fast!” and said to Matthew as calmly as possible, “OK.”

We put him in underpants.

He slept through the night.

And all morning.

And I was terrified that he has peed the bed and was sleeping in it.

But he woke up clean and dry.

No problems.

And he has every night since then.

What kid potty trains by being clean and dry at *night* first? That-a-boy!

We have had a few accidents, but he rides in the car, clean and dry, and goes to the playground, clean and dry (besides the one jungle pee we were forced to do…but that is another story).

Last night, we are all down stairs chatting it up with a friend when I realize Matt has disappeared. The other kids are still in the hot tub laughing and splashing.

“Matthew?” I yell up the stairs.

“Yes Mom.” He replies.

He is upstairs playing, I assume, because he loves to go to his room and read for long periods of time alone. He is JUST like my husband.

Then I see him come down stairs, butt naked.

He looks as proud as can be and says, “I pooped and peed in the toilet upstairs,”


He received applause from all of the adults.

Pooping was kind of an issue for us. He had never made it completely on the toilet—usually a little in his pants and then Jeff and I would scoop him up and put him on the toilet.

But he did it.

He felt it coming and put himself on the toilet pooped and peed.

Ok, he didn’t wipe or flush, but that is kind of bonus at this stage. *grin*

I am so very proud to say that Matthew is officially potty trained.

And I am so incredibly excited to say ALL THREE BOYS ARE GOING TO SCHOOL!

What does all of this mean?

I think it just means what we have already known—each kid is different, whether they have SPD or an ASD or are “neurotypical”. Every kid is going to potty train at their own speed and on their own terms.

Now if you have one of those darling panty-clad 18 month old girls that has taught herself to use the toilet, life might be just that much easier for you. Us boy-moms have a slightly different path.

In my experience, potty training isn’t all rewards and stickers –there is no chart in the world that can make them go faster or earlier. Wait—maybe the Dreaded Wheel of Consequences would be a good one to try. ; )

You don't need no diapers, you can use the potty!

Our First GIVEAWAY!!

I have noticed that all over the web it seems that bloggers give things away.

And no I don't just mean their advice. Although mine does seem particularly valuable. ; )

I mean real stuff. Cool stuff. FREE stuff. It has me feeling totally left out, so...

That said I am pleased to announce my very first official giveaway!

I am giving away a Time Tracker in honor of school, (and homework), being just right around the corner

*best announcer voice*

Tell us Bob, What does the Time Tracker do?

Well, for those of us with visual kiddos who don't have a strong grasp of telling time but sure do want to know what is going on every second of every day, it fills the need.

Here is what the website says,

It's never been easier to keep kids on track! Lighted sections of this unique electronic timer alert kids to time remaining. Program green, yellow and red sections and 6 sound effects easily to indicate that time is running out. Features 180° viewing, large, easy-to-read LCD display; volume control and pause feature.
What a great way to teach your child to stay on task! And did you noitce it is mutlisensory? Love it!

I don't know about you, but for us, we are obsessed with setting the timer. Honestly, as Gabriel gets older, he does understand time (a little better this summer I think), but the visual reminders and supports in our home are invaluable.

The big question, HOW DO I WIN IT?

1.) Sign up to follow my blog. You can choose Facebook (Networked Blogs) or Blogger (Google account) and then send me an email to let me know you did. Obviously if you are already a follower all you have to do is the second step.


2.) Leave a comment on any of my posts. Yes, any of them, but please remember to write your name clearly in the comment so I know who to contact!

You have until Monday August 17th at 7am PST to join and write your comment. There is a maximum of one entry per person and it is open to everyone 18 and older who reads this blog.

I will have my darling boys choose a winner by RANDOM drawing. I will post the winner on my blog on Monday August 17th at which time if you are the winner, you should email me your contact info so I can ship you the awesome prize. : )





See how great that works for counting down?

Spicy Ground Beef and Rice (GFCF)

I have been crazy busy with searching for good family friendly (and easy) meals for me to make that are GFCF to replace my old standbys--like pasta and hamburgers.

After a lot of failed attempts, I found one that everyone liked. Everyone being, me, my hubby, my 16 year old sister AND most importantly, Gabriel.

Not bad for a good cross section of people.

Here is the recipe which is modified from one I found when I was searching (recipezaar.com) and was not originally intended to be GFCF. But I always love a good challenge. :)

Now, here is the disclaimer: I am not a GFCF expert, and there could very well be traces of Gluten in any of the items I am using, so please use your common sense and read the labels of everything before you use it. We are not Nazi Gluten Free at my house, we are a little more laid back (ie, didn't buy gluten free soaps, or shampoos, and am not a maniac about any ingredient that may have minor traces of gluten). Please do not substitute my judgement for your own as every kid is different.

Now back to the show.

Here it the recipe with my alterations:


· Extra Virgin Olive Oil to coat pan
· 1 pound ground beef
· 1 medium onion, finely chopped
· 1 clove garlic, finely minced
· 1 can Rotell w/liquid (could substitute canned tomatoes w/liquid)
· 1 1/2 cups water
· 1/2 cup ketchup
· 3/4 cup long grain rice, uncooked
· 1 teaspoon chili powder or more to taste
· 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
· 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
· dash black pepper
· shredded Mexican blend cheese, for garnish, (omit for casein free, but Jeff and I liked it)

These ingredients are all things I have on hand. If you do not have them on hand, omit or substitute at will. If Rotell is too spicy for you even using the mild, use canned tomatoes and some sauteed green peppers. Or you can make this even spicier by using hot sauce of your choice instead of Worcestershire sauce as that makes it slightly tangy.

Easy prep instructions:

Coat the pan in EVOO (love you Rachel Ray!), and then brown the ground beef. Add the onion and garlic (and green peppers if you are choosing that route) and saute for about 2-3 minutes or until the onions are clear.

Add the Rotell, water, ketchup, rice, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper, stir and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce to a medium/low simmer and cover for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender and ready to eat.

Once it is finished it will be casserole style (kind of looks like slop when you serve it, but it's tasty slop). We added cheese at the table for those of us that can eat cheese and some crushed chips (tortilla or Frito's) on top for garnish.

Other alterations would be to add a can of rinsed black beans with the tomatoes, rice and spices. That is a great way to add some more fiber and protein to your diet. You could also use the black beans in place of the ground beef if you are vegetarian or just don't have beef on hand.

I also love the idea of serving it with corn tortillas as a sort of rice and beans taco. Or, if you have GFCF enchilada sauce (haven't checked to see if the kind I buy is Gluten free or not...) you could wrap them up and bake them enchilada style.

You can serve this with a side of vegetables, an easy salad or just a little sweet fresh corn (a fave at our house). All yummy ideas!

Our family also talked about putting the crushed chips and cheese on it (you can use soy cheese) and baking it before serving --as more of a hot dish casserole. If you do this, it will require less cooking time on the stove so that the rice doesn't turn to mush in the oven.

There are many ways I can think of altering this dish, and that is why I like it so much!

I hope someone out there gets the chance to make this easy easy meal. If you do, let me know what you think and I will publish your review.

Happy GFCF Cooking,