Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review & Giveaway: Easy to Love but Hard to Raise

Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? Well, today I’m trying to help you out a little bit with that. I have a book that is perfect to give to your extended family members who maybe need a little insight about special needs. Or, you can keep it as a nice gift for yourself as a reminder that you are not alone.

I was contacted by DRT Press about the new book, Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents; Challenging Kids, True Stories, edited by Kay Marner and Adrienne Ehlert Bashista. They didn’t give me a big, fat check to say nice things about them, but they did send me a shiny, new copy of this book in paperback. I was cool with that because I love books, and may even have a slight problem with them - you should see all the books in my office…
You, my friends, now have a chance to win a copy of Easy to Love but Hard to Raise for your very own! It’s like a little bit of Christmas from me to you (courtesy of DRT Press). J

The editors set the tone for the book when they gave their acknowledgements:
…to all the parents of children who are oh-so-easy to love, but so hard to raise. May you find hope, community and kindred spirits in these pages.

You know you are in for something real when you see a statement like that.
There are stories written by 32 parents that describe situations they’ve had with their children. Between these anecdotes are brief Q & A sections with 25 experts that discuss related issues. This is a unique approach and it provides a nice contrast in content.

Rather than focusing on my favorite moments from the diverse stories shared within its pages, I find myself more drawn to the intent of the book.
I really appreciated the Foreward written by Dr. Edward Hallowell. Here is an excerpt taken from page xi:

Some kids are easy to love. Some kids just sail through childhood getting love wherever and whenever they need it. But then there are the kids who live in alphabet soup. They are not so easy to love. They can be difficult, distant, disobedient, defiant, dangerous, even delusional. They can leave a parent crying herself to sleep every night, they can leave a parent feeling guilty for having negative feelings, they can leave a parent despairing that the child will ever find a way in the world, they can deplete the store of love every parent starts off with.
But they can’t deplete it for long. That’s what’s so amazing about these parents. They keep on going. They never give up. They give their all, and then they find more all to give. They are paragons of the best of the human spirit. And they earn this praise in the hot and dusty arena of the struggle to raise a child who can seem, at times, impossible to raise.    

Yes. He gets it.

With the Introduction from Kay Marner, we realize the true meaning of this book. It is this intent with which I write my blog. These words could have just as easily come from me and they speak the truth of what many of us parents in the trenches seek to do by reaching out to others.
No, I’m not a parenting expert, but I am an expert on my child and the complex and contradictory emotions that come with raising her. In time I’ve learned that there’s value in sharing these emotions. Expert advice is not the only thing struggling parents need. We also need to know we’re not alone; to know that other parents are going through similar experiences, making similar mistakes, and searching for similar answers. We need something experts can’t give us: we need each other.

There’s really nothing more to say, is there?

If you want to learn about how other parents are dealing with ADHD, SPD, OCD, PDD and other diagnoses, than you should definitely take some time to read this book. The parent perspective is a refreshing change from the dry, scientific “experts” that we all read in our spare time between the various daily crises, adventures and attempts to sleep.
One thing is certain, if you hadn’t already figured it out: you are not alone.

Thank you to DRT Press for giving me a chance to read this book, and also for allowing me to give away a copy to my dear readers. To learn more about this book, visit or   
*UPDATE as of 11/30/12 12pm Pacific*
There have been some technical difficulties with the giveaway widget since I posted this 12 hours ago. I started out with Rafflecopter and had a couple of entries, but ultimately I had to trash that one. I have to apologize to those that entered via Rafflecopter - I have no idea who you are...sorry. You will need to re-enter with the new widget. I replaced the old widget with a new one from PunchTab that seems to be doing better, unless you are on Internet Explorer. So far, it does not appear to work in IE at all and will not get past the "loading" screen. You will need to use Chrome or some other browser to enter the giveaway. SORRY for all of the issues this time around.

I’ll announce the winner of the giveaway next week! Good luck, everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The spirit of giving

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The holidays are creeping up so fast this year! Am I the only one that is completely blindsided by Thanksgiving? I feel so unprepared!

Normally I like to plan out Christmas gifts far in advance and have the majority of my shopping done before the first of November. I begin my bargain shopping at the New Year’s clearance sales. From then on, I get things in drips and drabs whenever I find an awesome deal that I can’t pass up. By spreading my shopping out over the entire year, it helps save a lot of money for our single income family, and it also saves me from the chaos of shopping during the holiday season.
I have only been shopping on Black Friday once in the past 15 (or more) years. As you can imagine, this was before kids! I consider myself a combat shopper, but I don’t know if I am that hard core! Rather than be up for a post-turkey coma shopping all-nighter extravaganza, I prefer to sleep in, fix some leftovers for breakfast, and casually putter around the house in my robe and slippers.  

I mistakenly attempted to make a quick run to Costco yesterday. I figured that since it wasn’t yet the day before Thanksgiving, it would be busy, but not super duper busy. Well, it was cray cray. Totally insane. The parking lot was so full that people were parking across the street into an overflow lot and tons more cars were circling the lot like vultures. I managed to change course and narrowly escape before I got stuck in the Costco parking lot vortex of terror.
Why do we put ourselves through all of the holiday torture twice in the span of a month? Well, there’s the whole spending time with family thing. Obviously...

In our family we don’t often get to be under the same roof with other family members, and since we have to deal with food allergies it’s usually easier for me to make the holiday meal here at my house. Even though it can be a bit stressful, we always have a fun time.  

But, what is it really all about, Charlie Brown?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist...

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Well, beyond the whole Pilgrims and Indians thing for Thanksgiving and the birth of Christ for Christmas, I think it really all boils down to one thing:  giving.
We want to give a good meal and prepare foods that we know others will like. We want to give our time and spend it in a meaningful way with our family. We want to give something personal to others that we hope they will enjoy. We want to give a smile. We want to give our love.

(And, depending on your family dynamic, you may want to also give a few choice words or gestures along the way! I am definitely thankful that we don't have a lot of drama in our family!)
Do you want to know what meaningful gift I was offered recently?

It doesn’t sound overly special, does it? However, I can assure you that the $27 is indeed very special. Let me tell you why.

Last year (if you were reading my blog back then), you may recall me telling you about how I help run a low-cost, sensory-friendly Santa portrait event. It’s such a joy to be a part of! We recently had our first event of 2 scheduled for 2012. We are always excited to see repeats and marvel at how big the kids have gotten since last year.  
One family in particular, a repeat to our event, has a fairly complicated situation. It’s a hodgepodge of diagnosis alphabet soup, including foster children. And, although the kids were on their best behavior, I know that they are very challenging. I think most foster parents would shy away from the tougher cases, but not this family! For all I know, the mom can leap small buildings with a single bound! She has such grace, and her intense focus and determination keep her working toward doing the best she possibly can for each of her children.  

After she arrived to the event with her entourage, she took me aside and quietly said:
“Do you know of any families that would like to attend this event and cannot pay? I want to help with that. This month and we have an extra $27 and I’d like to contribute to those that need it.”

I stood there with a smile on my face, nodding, trying to focus on what she was saying. Wait a minute...did she just say what I think she said? When I realized the depth of her offer, I wanted to burst into tears at her generosity. She was so touched by her experience with our event that she wanted to give that same experience to others…even though she only had $27 extra for the month. The month!
Simply. Incredible.

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It was such a genuine moment of a giving heart in action. She truly embodies the spirit of giving and serves as an example to all of us.

And that is what it’s really all about.
I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving!    

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Parenthood and the cancer diagnosis

Lately, every time I sit down to watch the NBC show, Parenthood, I am in tears by the end of the episode. And, it’s not just a girly hormonal thing.

Generally speaking, I enjoy the show because they incorporate a lot of relevant topics, weaving them throughout their episodes. Things like: adoption, military/PTSD, Asperger Syndrome, and the larger concept of family.

Their recent story line with Kristina getting breast cancer has touched me. Deeply.

As with most people, I have a family connection to cancer. I have seen loved ones pass away from the ravages of this disease, and it isn’t pretty. It’s never pretty.

I have dealt with my own husband getting a cancer diagnosis just before his 30th birthday.

It was the most difficult time of my life. That seems almost dumb to say because I wasn’t the one who had to deal with cancer – surgery, bone marrow biopsy, scans of all kinds, chemotherapy, radiation and more scans.

I cannot even imagine what Titan must have gone through in those moments by himself.

That’s what I was thinking of as I watched the last scene of the “Together” episode of Parenthood, when Adam was sitting with Kristina in the infusion room, holding her hand while her first round of chemotherapy was administered.

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I did not get the opportunity to be there with my husband as he went through the process, and it hurts me to this day. It was just not possible.

I wasn’t there when he got a terrible chemical burn when the chemo blew through his vein and destroyed the tissue inside his hand – which still bothers him to this day. I wasn’t there when they began diluting the chemo because of how much it burned going in, which took 2-3 times longer to administer. I wasn’t there when he felt immediately nauseous whenever he pulled into the parking lot of the hospital. I wasn’t there when he almost walked away from his last round of chemo because they couldn’t find a vein and he had to spend hours at 2 different hospitals just trying to get the IV set. I wasn’t there when he got the tattoos on his chest to calibrate the radiation machine. I wasn’t there because I couldn’t be.    

We didn’t have much help during that time. It was pretty much us against the world. I had to take care of my non-stop toddler and screaming baby during Titan’s treatment. It didn’t help that the kids and I were chronically sick the entire time he received chemo. We had one cold after another after another. Titan had to wear a surgical mask whenever he entered our house. For months. Even if I had been able to secure a babysitter to watch the boys while I went with Titan to the hospital, I couldn’t be there because I was a germy threat to each person that had a compromised immune system.

Titan after a round of chemotherapy - December 2005
It felt terrible knowing that I was stuck at home and my husband had to go through treatment completely alone. As his wife, it cut me to the core. And there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

At the time, Monkey was in the thick of the terrible two’s, which we later found out was autism. Prince Charming was only a few months old, and he didn’t sleep, had terrible reflux despite breastfeeding, and he cried all the time. Of course, now we know he had undiagnosed food allergies and autism.

Every single day was intensely challenging, and if I managed to get a couple of hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, I counted myself lucky. Dealing with Titan’s cancer in the middle of all of that was just one more layer of chaos to a life that already felt completely out of control.

I was trying to figure out how to parent my children, who both seemed like unsolvable puzzles. I was trying to care for my husband who still had to work and support us, and couldn’t really help me with the kids or the house. All I could do was educate myself about cancer and treatments. I felt that if I couldn’t be there in person to show my support and sit with him for the hours he had to be there, I could show support from home by learning as much as possible to help him.

During the course of my husband’s diagnosis, surgery and treatment, we made a conscious decision to not focus on being scared or sad, but to maintain a positive and proactive approach. We did not grieve the diagnosis or dwell on anything that could go wrong. We both knew that Titan had to stick around and that there were no other options, so we agreed on maintaining that attitude and asked God to help make our faith a reality.

When we sat in the room with the doctor and went over the results that showed the presence of cancer, we accepted the diagnosis with a smile and not tears. Our response was unsettling to the doctor, who scolded us for not taking things seriously.

It was then that I became educated.   

Up to that point, I was staunchly mainstream with all of my ideas about medicine, food, and doctors. Everything I thought I knew was challenged. And, that is when it all changed for me.  

I learned the difference between vegetarian, vegan and raw. I learned what a naturopath does. I learned that there are stores dedicated only to supplements, vitamins and nutrition. I learned about acid-alkaline balance. I learned that charities like the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen are not all they’re cracked up to be. I learned that there is a difference between juice you buy at the grocery store and juice you make at home with a fancy machine.

I learned so many things!

I tried to use this knowledge for my husband’s benefit as he dealt with cancer. He lost 30 pounds, he lowered his cholesterol significantly without prescription medication, and he didn’t lose his hair as they promised us he would (although it did thin a bit). The doctors were extremely worried about his weight loss, and we were able to convince them that it was actually a sign of his good health because of the changes we had made to his diet and nutrition. We were trying to support his body so that he could better deal with the toxic effects of the chemotherapy.

It has been 7 years since he received his diagnosis.   

One thing is for sure: everything we learned about cancer has helped us with autism. Everything.

For that, I am thankful for the experience, despite how difficult it was. My eyes may not have been as open had my husband not had cancer. I probably would have never considered anything “alternative,” like the GFCF diet that unlocked speech for Prince Charming.

My boys are better off now because my husband had cancer. That is a completely bizarre thought, but it’s true.

I wish I could have been there for my husband in the ways I had hoped to as his wife, but our life just didn’t allow for it at the time. I think any wife and wannabe super mom always hopes to do it all, and it’s hard when reality doesn’t allow you to even try. I know that I can’t change what happened and that Titan understood, but I still wish I could have done more. There is still a lot of pain and pangs of guilt over that, which all came flooding back when I watched Parenthood.

Now that we are so far removed from the diagnosis and treatment, I can allow myself to feel those feelings. A little bit of distance from it helps me realize how remarkable the whole thing was, and how well we did in the circumstances.

It feels like an eternity has passed, yet when watching the show, it’s like it was just yesterday. I guess as long as the cancer storyline continues on Parenthood, I’ll get a little bit of therapy one episode at a time.      


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Caffeinated Autism Mom for Governor?

Apparently I was written in as a candidate for Governor on a ballot! Talk about shock. Wanna know who thought I was more qualified than the other candidates?

My dad.

I guess I should take it as a compliment, although I thought it was a waste of a perfectly good vote.
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I will admit that I got a tiny bit of satisfaction thinking that some person in the Auditor's office was going to have to add me to a list of write-in candidates.

Right along with Mickey Mouse.

Well, I was almost famous for one day with my single vote for Governor.

In honor of election day and my brief stint as a candidate for Governor, I thought I would make an announcement.

I won the Best Parenting Blog in the Best of Western Washington contest that I was harrassing you about on Facebook for the better part of September and October!

If you voted for me, I really appreciate it. The contest may be a local one, but to those of us who live in the Seattle area, it's kind of a big deal and I'm very excited about winning.

One little side note:
I saw on their website that I won the contest (and even checked it twice that day out of disbelief!), but then their site went down. Now, I can't obsessively check it just to "make sure." Since then, they keep pushing out the date they will re-release the final tally. Something about technical issues. So, I won according to their site, pre-crash, and I hope it stays that way! I'm moving forward with it, and hope I don't have to eat my words later...  

You may also remember me asking begging you for your vote in the Chase Community Giving $5 million grant contest. My nonprofit was ultimately too small and unpopular to win, but I'm happy for each and every vote we got. I hope we can try again next year and do even better. I guess I can't win 'em all, right?

I found this little gem on Facebook.
Make sure my coffee is Stumptown Roasters.
Their coffee is so yummy! :-)
In honor of the one thing I did win, and as a thank you to everyone for putting up with the constant barrage of voting requests on Facebook and Twitter, I'm announcing a blog giveaway!

I have a coffee-themed gift. Several, actually. Did you expect anything less from CAM? I haven't chosen the specific item I'm going to give away for this contest, but they are all cool if you like coffee. And, you do like coffee, don't you? 

To enter, all you have to do is leave me your favorite picture, cartoon, or image related to coffee and post it on my Facebook page. Make sure to include your email address so I can reach you if you win! I will select a winner and make the announcement on Monday the 12th.

Good luck, and thank you for voting!        
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