How To Have a Stress Free IEP (& Low Stress Life!)

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How to have a Stress Free IEP:

Step One: Maintain positive expectations.

Whoa, wait! What if I miss something if my head is in the clouds with positive thinking? There is so much to think about and worry about! If I’m not on top of this, who is going to be? That may work in your world, but not mine!

That would have been my response several years ago. Three kids under three, one with special needs, and I was fueled by stress. Stress was working for me, it kept me up and running, and on top of things. Until one day, I bonked!

I just broke down and cried one day but I didn’t know why. I can do this, I can handle it, so why am I crying? What is wrong with me? I knew all this stress was taking its toll on me mentally and physically, and I knew I needed to make a change, but I didn’t know how. I was scared that if I let go of the stress, I would miss something critical. I needed to stay on top of my son’s needs to give him the best opportunities in life. If I let go of stress, wasn’t that being irresponsible?

One day, while at the library with my kids, I happened upon one of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s books, “The Power of Intention.”  I remembered reading “The Road Less Traveled” way back on my pre kid working days, and really liked the spiritual aspect of it. So, I flipped through this book and found it very easy to read, and very uplifting. I decided to borrow it, and was soon hooked. This book was exactly what I needed, and I went on to read many more of his works.

I learned that I couldn’t wait around for things in my life to change. I had to change my thinking in order to change my environment. Holding on to blame, anger and stress, no matter how justified, was only holding me back from receiving the positive results I desired.

Replacing stress and anger with positive expectations is not easy, but I knew if I continued to hold on to stress, it would continue to decrease my quality of life, and eventually lead to serious consequences with my physical health. So, even though every day it is easy to fall back into old patterns of stress, I know that if I make the effort to change my thoughts to those of positive expectations, the results will always be worth the effort. I have found the best way to maintain a positive mindset is with meditation.

I now meditate for 20 minutes at a time, and it zips by, but it didn’t start that way. I decided to start meditating for 2 minutes at a time, and this is how: Sit upright, close your eyes and take deep breaths. Count your breaths as you inhale slowly, hold your breath for a beat, then count as you slowly exhale. Do this for a few moments until all you think about is your breath. You will have thoughts that enter your mind as you are doing this. When they do, do not give them any emotion, simply observe that they are there, then visualize them floating away on a cloud. It’s important not to give your thoughts any emotion, good, bad or otherwise. Simply watch them float away. (I was always nervous I would fall asleep, so I set an alarm and that allowed me to relax)

When you have successfully reached a point where you are only counting breaths with very few intruding thoughts, bring up a picture in your mind of the IEP (or the situation that you are feeling stressed about). Visualize yourself smiling and satisfied with the results. Don’t worry about the details of how you got there, just imagine all is positive and you are feeling satisfied. Now that you have that mental picture, internalize those feelings of well-being. If that is difficult, remember a time when you felt all was well and going in a positive direction. Let those wonderful emotions flood your body and sit with them until you feel enveloped in them. Now visualize surrounding everyone in the situation with love. Yes, even that person you can’t stand that always seems to be standing in your way and blocking your success! Any anger and blame you hold will be blocking you from the positive results that you desire. Remember, this is for you and your child, not for them, so go ahead and do it! Surround every single person involved with an aura of love. Watch all the stress, anger and blame evaporate as everyone is enveloped in loving feelings of good will.

Slowly open your eyes, but remember that feeling and that picture. What is important now is that you maintain those feelings as you go about your day, no matter what should unfold. If a stressful occurrence happens, simply excuse yourself to go to the restroom, outside, or anywhere you can have a few moments of privacy, close your eyes, and bring back those positive feelings.

I’ve found, whenever I let go of the stress of the details, and hold the feeling of a positive result, the IEP goes amazingly well, and things happen I never would have planned myself to bring about a positive outcome.

This does not mean I sit around with my eyes closed and hope everything works out for the best. Quite the opposite. When I maintain this positive mental image and state of mind, people are more cooperative and more willing to help me, and new opportunities present themselves that I act on.

This has worked so well in having successful IEPs for my son, I’ve extended this way of thinking to all areas of my life. If I find myself angry with someone or filled with stress about something, I close my eyes and surround this person with love, or visualize myself smiling that the situation worked out. I don’t think about the details of how it came about, I simply visualize being satisfied with the end result. Then, I go on with my days, maintaining this positive image. It’s not always easy when there are bumps in the road, and that is why I read a few spiritual passages every day and meditate to keep me on track. I have found this effort of maintaining a positive state is always worth the results.

Raising a child with special needs is a very rewarding experience, but it can be filled with a lot of unpredictability which can lead to high stress levels. This is one way I’ve found to be very effective in reducing stress and bringing about positive results, and I share in hopes that you will find it helpful, as well.

All the best,

Christie

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Dog Hair and Spilled Ketchup Between the Seats

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This morning I washed, vacuumed and Windexed my van. It’s an ’05, and has some wear and tear, but at the moment, it’s looking pretty good. I enjoy my car like this, but my kids don’t.

They know it means the dog will have to ride in the very back of the van. At least for a few days. Then, the efforts of removing his dog hair will have faded enough from my memory to give in to their pleas and I’ll allow him to ride on the bench seat with them.

The dog hair doesn’t add itself to the van gradually, it’s an all or nothing deal. Just one short car ride with the kids to school and back, and my car looks like the dog has lived in there all day, every day, for a year.  As if his immense shedding were not enough, his hair also intricately weaves itself into the kids’ clothing.  At school drop-off, while some moms are giving their kids a quick spit wash to rid them of their morning cereal milk mustaches, I’m giving my kids a quick once-over with the lint brush.

When my car is clean, I can almost guarantee no one will see it. However, when it’s at the peak of its dog hair-filled, food-spilled, toy-strewn glory, the cosmos will work its magic to invite people in.

Just last week, I met Juliette, a good friend from high school I hadn’t seen in years, out for dinner. My car happened to be at its peak messy state, and I didn’t have time to clean it before dinner. “It will be fine,” I thought, “I’m meeting her at the restaurant, she will never see my car.”

Sure enough, when Juliette and I left the restaurant it was dark and I happened to have parked in a lot that was closer to the restaurant, so guess who drove whom to their car.

That never would have happened if my car was clean, its like I’m invisible to the pranksters of the cosmos. But if they see a busy, frazzled mom whose kids just spilled their happy meals all over the dog-hair covered floor, its like I’m a bright, red blinking light on the radar.

I have a vague recollection of my van in its pre-dog, pre-fast food days. My twin girls were babies, and I drove out to visit my friend, Micha, who has three kids that are older than the twins (soon she’d add a fourth and I’d add a third to complete our families).

At the end of our visit, Micha walked out to the van with me to help put the twins in their car seats for the ride home. When she looked in the van, she smiled and said, “I see your kids don’t eat in the car yet.”

Over the years, spurts of ketchup that fly out of those little packets have found safe places between the back bench seat and wall of the van just out of reach, tiny bits of goldfish crackers constantly re-materialize, and when one of the kids spilled an entire Sprite as I rounded a sharp corner, my first thought was, “Score! Its clear.”

Fantasies of a clean car still give me a dreamy smile. But those busy nights driving home from the kids’ activities, grabbing a quick dinner, singing to the radio, and the dog hanging out on the back bench seat, all add up to some really good times. I guess that explains why I spend an entire morning cleaning my car, only to welcome back the dog hair and more spilled ketchup between the seats.

Yearly Revolution

Ahhh, I can feel Fall in the air! I love living in the state of Michigan, where we are fortunate enough to experience the change of season…

The delicious, crisp bite of fresh fall air,

Wil

the excitement of a child jumping in the first winter’s snow,

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the whipping the wind and the warming touch of the sun on a bright, spring day,

Sky's the limit! (my son, Wil, age 5)

 

and the easy shade of a willow tree on a lazy, summer afternoon.

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How to have your Mac-n-Cheese and eat it, too!

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Yesterday, as I was making Wil’s lunch, I asked him to wash his hands. He looked at me, and in defiance, yelled, “NO WASH HANDS!”

His beloved Annie’s Mac n Cheese was on the menu, so asking him to leave the room to wash his hands was out of the question.

I calmly replied, “Then no lunch.”

He immediately turned that defiant attitude around, and sweetly said, “Wash my hands” and off he went.

“Thank you, Wil.”

Big smile, “You are welcome, Mommy.”

Little charmer, that one 🙂

Since Wil’s vocabulary has increased, and he is realizing the power of it, these types of conversations are more frequent. He will get angry if things aren’t going his way, but can just as easily make a change in attitude if he can see the outcome will not be in his favor.

Somewhere along the way, this quick change in attitude kids are able to make becomes very difficult for us adults. We easily stay stuck on who is right or wrong, and are really good at holding grudges. We lose focus on finding solutions to the problem that brought us the anger in the first place.

Its much easier to get angry and stay angry, even though looking for alternatives to achieve our desired outcome will benefit us in the long run.

Sure, the triggers to our anger surround much bigger issues than getting our Mac n Cheese for lunch, but the base concept is still the same. If things aren’t going in our favor, the immediate reaction is typically anger.

How many times have you gotten angry and it changed things for the better? Probably not many.

Anger is a natural emotion, and it spurs us to action. But, once we feel the burn of anger, as difficult as it is when we are fuming with it, it greatly benefits us to take a moment to step back from the situation and see what it is we are really wanting.

We need to remember, no matter how wronged we may have been, we do not have the ability to change others. What we do have, is the ability to change and refocus our attitudes.

There are typically many solutions to a problem. Anger keeps our focus on what we aren’t getting, rather than using our creative ability to see alternative options.

Wil could have gotten stuck on who was right or wrong. He could argue that he’d be eating with a spoon, not with his hands. Besides, a few germs will help build his immunity. Geez, mom, lighten up!

He could have angrily stomped off to wash his hands, and then not enjoyed his lunch as he fumed in anger over the unfairness of it all. He could have submissively gone off to wash his hands, feeling controlled and defeated. He could have planted himself on the floor and sat unmoving in anger not eating his lunch to get back at me.

Rather, he stepped out of his anger and thought about what he really wanted, made a complete change in attitude, and received what he wanted with positive results.

Even though this is an oversimplified example of larger issues we adults face, the basic premise is still the same.

Staying in anger, and focusing on who is right or wrong, rarely ends receiving our desired outcome.  A change in attitude gives us the ability to focus on what we really want, and remain open to finding alternative ways to achieve our goals with positive results.

High-five? Heck no, not when you can high-ten! Go all in or go home

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The hilarity of the nostril

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Yesterday, my daughter, Katherine, who is 8, asked how many days until school starts again.

She and her twin sister, Elizabeth, will be in 3rd grade, and we started talking about what 3rd grade is like.

It’s really cool to have a conversation with my kids about a year I remember well(and also kind of sad. How did those chubby, little babies grow up so fast?!).

Third grade was a good year for me. I was in the same class as my best friend, Kelly, and we had a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Plautz.

Mrs. Plautz had the class write a few short stories that year. One story I wrote received her praise and attention. She found it very humorous, and because I adored Mrs. Plautz, I’ve always remembered it.

In the story, there was a king who enjoyed his spaghetti so much, he thought everyone should eat spaghetti. Having the power to do so, he ordered the entire kingdom eat only spaghetti.

At dinnertime one night, with everyone out and about, eating their required spaghetti, a hungry robin flew overhead and couldn’t believe his good fortune. This robin swooped down and perched right on the edge of the king’s plate and began eating his noodles.

The robin thought they were worms.

Such innocent humor!

When does that disappear?

That is one thing that I love so much about being around my kids. I’m always moving around at high-speed, and they have the ability to slow me down and point out something I see everyday, and find humor in it.

The other night, when I was putting my son, Wil, to bed, we went through our typical routine. He names a part of my face, then gives it a little kiss (yes, it’s as adorable as it sounds).

This particular night, he discovered a new part of the face…nostrils.

He pointed at my nostrils, and asked, “What’s that?”

I told him and, continuing with our ritual, he said, “Kiss your nostrils?”

I immediately broke out laughing, so then he started laughing. Now, every night, my nostrils have become a big joke. He’ll ask to kiss them and then immediately break down into a huge belly laugh.  Pure joy, I tell you, over nostrils.

I could list a thousand and one more examples my kids come up with. It’s a daily thing, and I hope it continues for years to come, but I know, over time, it will slowly slip away.

But right here, right now, I’m going to laugh my head off over nostrils or whatever else is the silly subject of the moment.

All the best,

Christie

Nothing like a little mac n cheese to get a big smile out of this kiddo!

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