Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What is is like to be a Sensory-Challenged Parent?

It's so much easier to talk about the things our children deal with, right?  I can tell you about my kids' sensory areas; I know what restaurants to avoid because they can't handle the loudness or the smells; I know what gets them dis-regulated and I know what kinds of activities they seek out to regulate themselves because I watch them, observe and study them to help them the best I can.

But me?  What about Mom's sensory processing issues?  What gets me dis-regulated?

A few years ago, instead of just making it from one loud play date to the next messy craft time, I decided to take a look at my sensory profile and see what kinds of things I'm sensitive to.  I knew I didn't like certain things, but I didn't exactly know why.  One day, I took a Sensory Profile test at a training I went to, and it was eye opening!

If you were to do a search for "sensory processing 'anything'" you would find thousands of results for sites about children, but few for what adults go through.  Guess what?  We all have sensitivities, a Sensory Profile, so to speak.  We all have a small level to a large problem of some sensory stuff going on with ourselves.

I'm going to share with you some of things about me and my "Sensory Profile" as a parent...know that you are not alone if things bother you, if you can't deal, or if your environment makes you feel a little twitchy sometimes :)

Must Have Quiet...or Quiet-er

How do you handle crowds, loud restaurants, or concerts?  How about if several noises are going off at once- a car alarm, a dog barking, the timer on the oven, several people talking all while the TV is on.  If this sounds like your worst nightmare, then you are like me, a mom who is a bit auditory defensive.
My three children all love to sing.  They are precious when they sing all sorts of made up songs and have that cute falsetto thing that kids do when they are trying to sing pretty.  My heart loves it; however, my poor ears cannot take it.  At all.  My Mia will say to her brother this exact phrase...often, "Bubs, you know that hurts mom's ears and makes her feel crazy!"  That sweet Bubs cannot handle going more than a few minutes without an outburst of sound, singing, or nonsense noises for his own sensory reasons.  Oh my ears, though, when he does that, it feels like 100 needles stabbing me in my eardrum!  My head gets stuffy, my shoulders tense and I just want to escape.

How does this affect my Mom-Behavior?  I want to Shut. It. Down.  I want to do whatever it takes to make the noises stop.  I will try to parent the loudness out of them.  But, of course, that doesn't work...again, their own sensory issues are at play.  Sometimes my head hurts just trying to police all of them trying to talk to me at once.  I know they all need me; I know they all need attention.  But sometimes it feels like juggling too many spike-covered balls at once and I cannot deal.

Instead of trying to get better at the juggling, which I spent many days striving to do, I simply get what I need by stepping away.  I have also been known to plug my own ears with my fingers and steal my kids noise-reducing ear muffs! (It's not always mature, but it gets the job done.  Sometimes gives us all a good laugh!)

Need to Eliminate All The Clutter!

There is a reason that I spend thirty minutes deciding on the right hotel when going on vacation.  I don't do a lot of patterns, too many bright colors, and I cannot relax in a sea of floral prints.  I used to think I was too picky about aesthetics.  Then I realized, when I took the sensory profile, that I scored high for visual plane and vestibular sensitivities.

Now, for me, the whiter, the more peaceful; the simpler the better!  I finally get to live in a home where it's mostly light neutrals, muted accents, and spacious enough that our small amount of stuff makes it seem like clutter cannot happen.  But with three small people, and if I'm being honest, some messy adults :), papers are here, there, and everywhere, pencil shavings, wrappers, clothes in every room!, everyone's stuff all up on our bed, just so many little tiny things all over the place!!  I handle it well until I don't; then I go a bit cray cray.

When the house feels like it's closing in on me and I get overwhelmed by the clutter, it can hurt right behind my eyes and I have to go to a happy place when my kids bring home and unload their back packs full of papers and miscellaneous sticky things.  I don't do heights and I don't do over-loaded visual planes.  My ideal Instagram feed is a bunch of white squares with neutral things on them...sometimes just scrolling through IG gives me that pressure behind my eyes.  I love seeing peoples' stories and lovely pictures, but after a while it's too much visually.  I still use my finger every now and then when I read too.  Yes, I am 33.  These can be signs of a visual sensitivity- not visual impairment, like needing glasses- but a sensitivity with processing what you see.  The vestibular and propreoceptive senses, the ones that senses where you are in space and in motion, play into this as I sometimes feel like my cluttered home is an obstacle course I am bound to fail.. and many times do.

So when there are tiny things everywhere, like crumbs, or small pieces of paper (don't get me started on messy crafts with pipe cleaner bits and paint cups everywhere!), my brain kind of freaks out.  It's the most satisfying thing to vacuum for me.  I do it almost every day.  I may not do laundry but once a month, but I will vacuum!  Clutter for me, isn't just an annoyance, it hurts!  If I absolutely have to get work done I will throw a white blanket over four loads of un-put-away laundry on the couch so it's less visually stimulating!  If there are a lot of kid things in the floor I will shove them all in one pile so it feels like I can move around.  I have found ways to limit how this distracts me.

If the visual planes in my life are clear, bright, and un-cluttered, then my Mom-Behavior is great!  But my kids know that there are times when we all have to clean All The Things, and they are sort of used to it now.  We have made it a routine for the last few months to do this on Fridays before we have some sort of Shabbat and celebrate a Day of Rest on Saturday.  They still complain a bit, but they also now know that I'm a more pleasant Mom when it all gets clean and clear!

How about you?  Do you think you might have any sensory issues as a parent?  The Sensory Profile is a Clinical Assessment so there is nothing comparable available online.  However, I suggest reading Carol Kranowitz "The Out of Sync Child" link in my Resource Page under Sensory Ideas.  It has helpful questionnaires used for children, but also you can see for yourself some things you may have done as a child or put the questions into more adult terms. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What is it like to be a parent of children with sensory challenges?

In my brain, I carry around a catalogue of snippets of comments and conversations I've had with teachers, caregivers, relatives, all of whom have wanted the very best for my child, but simply were not aware of sensory issues.  In case you have ever felt alone as a parent of a sensory-challenged child, let me share with you some classic conversation gems.

If you have ever been one of these sweet people that have stopped me or my children, please know that I value you and completely understand where you were coming from!  I, myself, have had these thoughts before at some point about someone else's children, I'm sure.  Parents I gave dirty looks to when I was 17 and saw your child in Target, I'm SO sorry!  This is not about blame, but about shedding some light onto what it's like to be the parent of a child with special needs or sensory issues.

"Oh, ma'am, your children need to stop climbing on that."

This one is usually said in wherever there are lines or places of waiting.  Many kids who struggle to organize their little body's senses will seek out whole-body stimulating or organizing behaviors.  This, in plain English, is really just a lot of wiggling, climbing, constant movement, or perhaps the opposite- avoidant behaviors, screams when touched, won't set foot in a crowded store if you offered all the candy and gum in the world.  Typical stuff ;)
So naturally do my children climb that if you were to try to parent that behavior out of them, it would be just as effective as trying to parent them to not breathe.  It simply wouldn't work.
we used to have a no climbing on furniture rule....

"Can you use your inside voice, dear?"

No, actually Dear cannot use her inside voice, so so sorry.  Auditory processing difficulty can often look like a child who gets incredibly irritable when they are surprised by a noise that you or I wouldn't even think was very loud.  Fire engines and ambulance sirens can be Threat Level Midnight! But it also can look like a child who hears every single little sound- that pen that someone dropped while filling out their check two lanes over, the whir of the florescent lights, the beeps of the cash register, the voices of every single person all coming into their little brain like separate stories being read aloud to them all at once.  So to drown a bit of it out, or to hear her own voice Dear will yell-talk to you until the cows come home.  Taking in ALL that input, and trying to restrain her voice would be like you trying to thread a needle while you are running a crowded marathon!  I have tried enough exasperated times, when we are out and this is happening, to constantly remind her and practice her "inside voice".  Eventually, after the 17th loud public conversation, my face must show how tired I am and I see that creeping expression of shame enter that sweet 7 year old face.  No.  I just can't keep doing it.  I have decided that I'm just going to let her yell-talk.  Sorry world, if you are in a restaurant with us, I invite you to join our conversation as you probably will hear it from any seat in the house ;)!
[no child was exposed to excessive noise for this photo...she was enjoying the acting, although this is pretty spot on ;) ]

"Can't you just listen and behave?"

Ok, I'm guilty of saying this one myself....often.  It's hard for many to understand just how difficult it is for children- children who hear everything or who don't know how to feel their body or who can't stand how intense it feels to get touched- to simply listen to one stimulus.  That is what one voice is in their world- a tiny stimulus amidst 1000s of other things, all going on at once.  When my children don't listen to me 9 times out of 10 it's because they had several other things their brain was telling them to "listen to" at the same time.  My small voice cannot compete with that.

Yes, sometimes my kids are kids.  They are choosing to test limits and are seeing what they can get away with.  Sometimes they don't want to do something so they don't do it.  It's not entirely a sensory game.  But here's the thing- it's just that so, so much of the time they are trying, really, really hard, in their very complicated little world to do what is expected of them, to please us, to do the right thing! 

So if you have heard these things, or comments in a similar vein directed at you or your kiddos, or if you have said them yourself, I'm right there with you friend!

If you see kids like mine out at the store, your neighborhood, or in a classroom near you, know that they are really, really is their mom and dad!

If you think your child may have some difficulty with sensory processing, I would consult with an Occupational Therapist near you.  Many children who are adopted or fostered have experienced many risk factors that have impacted their brains ability to process sensory information: a difficult birth, mom had difficulty during pregnancy, early medial treatment, attachment trauma, abuse, and neglect all lead to some level of sensory difficulties!  Also, I'm continually updating my Resources Page where there is a Sensory Ideas section so check back often! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Banana Ice Cream Pie

From here on out, unless I'm telling you a story, I'm just going to forgo the pre-recipe bloggy bits and give you the goods straight away.  I never, ever read the blog posts with recipes in them (sorry fellow bloggers- I know you worked hard on those words!!)  All my recipes will be gluten free and mostly vegan as well for baked goods so you can count on that too.

Since I know you just want to know the recipe, I'll just be posting pics and recipe details going you go! <3

Banana Ice Cream Pie

vegan, gluten-free, can be nut free if omit walnuts
Easy Prep and ready to eat within 30 min-1 hour, No Bake


For the Crust:
  • 2 cups gluten free quick oats
  • 1/2 cup dairy free butter (I use Earth Balance)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup walnuts 
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
For the Ice Cream Filling:
  • 1/2 pint (1 cup) vanilla ice cream of choice (I use Luna and Larry's Vanilla Island
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 3 bananas, not over-ripe, one set apart and sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted
  • 1 container of dairy-free cool whip (I use So Delicious Cocowhip)


For the Crust:
  • Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until a dough-like ball forms.
  • Press into a 9" glass pie pan and freeze until ready to fill.
For the Filling:
  • Slice one of the three bananas and toss in some lemon juice.
  • Blend remaining ingredients (minus the coconut oil and the whip topping) together until smooth.
  • Slowly add the melted coconut oil in, while blending on low.
  • Place sliced bananas on the bottom of the frozen pie crust.
  • Pour the filling into the pie crust.
  • Let the filling set for about 30 minutes in Freezer, then spoon the coconut whipped topping onto the pie.
  • Store in the freezer until ready to eat.  It's best when thawed for about 15 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

On Depression and Anxiety

I hadn't thought about delving into my Season of Depression publicly before, but it happens to be National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week.  So why not?

Happy National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week!  An oxymoron if there ever was one ;)

Depression, Anxiety, Recovering from a Trauma, big or small...we all deal with this. In some form or another we all have experienced a time or are currently living through a time when The Fear and The Grief and The Overwhelm seem so so Strong!  For me, when my children first came home, we went from zero to three kids...instantly. 
I felt like I wasn't ever going to come out of the pit of The Overwhelm and Anxiety was my constant companion whispering new fears each day.  My adjustment went from survival to numbness to anxiety and into deep grief, and would cycle through again.  I no longer have the DSM codes memorized, but I'm pretty sure I qualified for a Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode (don't worry psych majors, it was without psychotic features of course ;).

I don't believe that these emotions, or what caused them, or even that time, were a "gift" or a "blessing in disguise".  But I am beginning to believe that the underpinnings of my anxiety have been Fuel and Fire for creative uprisings...the exciting things I have gotten to do, the people I have gotten to meet. And the future things I will get to do that will bring me Joy and Fulfillment. 

We cannot control what happens to us, but we can dive deeper into seeing our True Selves and valuing Who We Are.  I'm also beginning to understand depression is our TRUTH that the world needs to see and acknowledge, validate and help us bear.  For me, I didn't begin to see relief at the end of the tunnel until I excavated and admitted hard truths to Trusted Others in my life.

So often Depression and Anxiety are birthed from a Lack or Denial of Truth:

The true us...Who are we?
The truth of what happened...Have we experienced trauma and no one has heard it fully?  Do we keep pushing it away?
The hard questions we don't want to ask....What if we are lacking?  What if we were responsible?  What does this grief mean about me?
The people we don't know how to reconcile with....What if we had obvious pain, yet others refused to acknowledge our pain, or even acknowledge us!

And yet, so often Depression and Anxiety reveal Truth

Some Hard Truths of My Depression the I have discovered along the way:
I was not a "Good Mom"
I was not a "Good Wife"
I couldn't rescue well and be their Rescue
I couldn't heal them fully and be their Healer
I was not all the things I wanted to be for them and for myself
I didn't really know who I was yet

The Easy Truth of My Depression, however, or what I'm leaning into now, is discovering this:
I am Eryn Jones.  I have a true self that is valuable, in spite of how well I can or don't use my gifts.  I have inherent value as a person.  I'm unique.  
Also, I'm just like you!  I experience shame, grief, loss, anger, sadness, fear, and the whole ray of emotions common to us humans. 

So Dear Friend, if you are in one of these times, have experienced loss, or are living in the middle of An Overwhelm, I want you to know you are not alone What if these things, these things that result from hard times, traumas, and loss, these feelings that feel like they might over-take us, what if they can't be "stronger" than us if we join forces?  What if these feelings, these emotions, happen not in order to, but for the possibility of us to experience more Freedom?  The Freedom that comes when we Overcome and use these emotions to our gain?  The Freedom that comes when we Speak these things to Another and the feelings feel a little... well, less? 

Today, let's live those truths, shall we?  Let's discover and live Who We Are, you and me, separate from all the things we can and cannot do!  Lets acknowledge these hard feelings we have to Someone Safe.   Let's say to a friend who is having a hard time, "Me, too! I know how you feel!"   Let's embrace both our common humanity and our individuality.  We all have a little bit of depression and anxiety in us.   Some of us live with it Full Blown, and others of us live with it in pieces, short moments.
This is my "Me Too" to all of you.  And may you also feel a little lighter today as you share and lean into the pain and the Truth that is Yours and yours alone <3
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