Friday, August 22, 2014

Private School Program

Our children have been accepted into an extremely exclusive private school program. The teachers are innovative, personable, passionate about learning, and they love our children. They have a wonderfully broad study release program for any class that they aren't equipped to teach. They utilize the entire communities resources, and are not limited by contractual agreements. The teachers are also given stewardship over our children, and with that, they are given the right to revelation regarding our children and what is best for them.

We have been homeschooling for two weeks.

We have many reasons for choosing to begin this scary adventure. The most important reason being: We know our children best, we have a testimony that this will be the best choice for our children right now. The rest of the reasons don't really matter. If it bugs you that this is the only reason listed, feel free to talk to us about it. We are HAPPY to talk about it.

Now to dispel the myths  of why people assume we will be homeschooling:

  • "it's the easy way out" (Seriously, who would think that keeping all of your children home from public school is the EASY way out?)
  • "to make you look good" (Parents who home school their children aren't parents with super powers. They are just parents that want what is best for their child and the public school system isn't filling those needs for that specific child/family)
  • "you hate all things public school" (Nope. There are an innumerable amount of amazing public educators out there. I do hate the distortion of expectations that has occurred in public education. I hate the one-size fits all model. I hate the totally overwhelming job we've given teachers to teach 25+ children in a class. I loathe Common Core Standards.)
  • "to baby your children" (One of the problems we were running into with public education is being able to provide engaging material for subjects they excel in, and allowing more time to grasp subject matter they were struggling with. Heaven forbid we encourage them to go further into topics that they love, and provide time to actually learn things that aren't second nature.)
  • "because you can't stand them being gone for so many hours" (Laws. Agnes. SO not the case. I LOVE my alone time. I love my quiet time. However, I also LOVE seeing my kids go into the world and interact with people because more often than not it's a success. More often than not I hear that my children have lovely manners and are a joy to be around. I love being able to give my children a better opportunity to do that with homeschooling- to meet a broader spectrum of people than just the 25+ class mates assigned to them and the other children in their grade level. I will get to interact with them as they go out into the world to learn- and I am thrilled. I am thrilled to utilize people in my community and throughout the world to help my children foster a love of learning so that they can have the strongest set of wings when it's time to leave the nest.)
  • "what about the socialization?!" With this question I leave you with a humorous answer: At public school, what do you get in trouble for doing in class? Socializing. (the link is a comedian's answer to that same question- and after you watch that you should watch his yoga pants video)
Feel free to think we're nuts. We're over the moon excited about this. We have loved doing our first few weeks and seeing the love of learning as a family grow. 

With Love,
Jack and Amanda

P.S. If you want to be a part of our children's private schooling venture, let us know! We love being able to let other people share their talents with our children!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

about time. sheesh.

It's been a loooooong time since I wrote a post on our blog and I thought I'd give it a go as a means of some A: stress relief and B: procrastination of other duties (dishes eh hem)

Have I ever told you that I have CRAZY psychotic nightmares/dreams that I can remember pretty frequently? And by psychotic I mean that they are sometimes violent, gory, horror film material. Most often they are dreams of my children being close to the edge of my bed and they're falling off the edge of my bed so I launch myself forward to save them (I really do launch across the bed to try and catch the imagined child in peril-poor jack). Sometimes there will be an alarm going off in my dream and for some reason I can't get it to turn off and that's the only thing that makes me realize that I am in fact dreaming and there really is an alarm going off and I need to wake up. I think it has something to do with the fact that I may have some anxiety issues. Anytime I notice my dreams getting more and more "out there" I start to take stock on my life, and my stress level. As soon as I do so, I notice patterns of increasing stress levels. It doesn't matter if it's good stress or bad stress- either is sufficient to send me into the deep recesses of my nightmares leaving a mother of 4 waking up feeling as though I've been running an emotional marathon rather than logging some serious R and R. At some point I think I will find a good therapist to see if there are things that would help me manage said stress levels. For now, however, I will stick to the things that I've found to help until I can afford to spend the money on a therapist.
Things that help me to de-stress:

  • Massage with lavender
  • Listening to a calming soundtrack (sounds of the ocean, or classical music)
  • Nice Hot Bubble Bath
  • Fresh clean sheets from the dryer
  • a good movie to cry over and letting it all out with a soft box of tissues 
  • making a list of things that are stressing me out- taking note of which ones are things I can control/change and which ones I need to let go of
  • looking for good quotes that pertain to that situation on Pinterest
So now here is the issue- how does one make the time to do these things regularly in order to stay mentally and emotionally happy??

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Almost Pedicure and Birthing with underpants on.

Thursday May 30, 2013

To do List:

  • Rebecca Appointment @ 11:30 (mom will be here at 10:00 to watch kids)
  • Sign Commitment to Enroll Form and pick up registration packet at Entheos on the way home (bring birth cert. And immunization record)
  • Possibly grab some groceries
  • Evict the plant babies from the front room
  • Pedi this evening?
  • Snuggle up with Jack for a movie when kids are in bed?

This is how the day really went: (times in bold are exact times from my phone call log)

10:00 am - Mom gets here to play with the kiddos so I can get ready for my appointment.

11:30 am – Rebecca Appointment- I’m at 4 cm and 60% effaced! Woo! If things haven’t started by Saturday maybe we can talk about stripping membranes or something.

12:30 pm– I Fill out Entheos paperwork to get Corban registered for next fall.

1:00 – Go to Reams to pick up Bacon (on sale!!! 1.59/lb) and a few groceries for dinner tonight. I’m thinking yummy pork chops, salad, Mangoes, and strawberry shortcake for dessert.

2:00 – I come home and have lunch with Mom while kids are asleep/doing quiet time. She made the yummiest lunch ever- a roasted balsamic tomato on a bed of couscous. Scarfed it.

3:00 – Rest for a bit

4:30 – Mom takes kids to the Magna Elementary school playground for a bit

4:40 – I start working on getting the porch planters ready to be planted.

4:55- Jack gets home.

5:00- I rest in a lawn chair in the shade while I have a few contractions every so often and Jack helps get the pots all set up for me to plant while sitting in a chair. (These were strong enough that I needed to breathe a bit through them but not enough that they required my full attention or anything.)

5:20 – Plant the herbs and seeds in the porch planters. Kids get home from the playground. Jack starts making the most delicious dinner ever. Mom heads to Costco and reminds me to call if we need anything.

5:45 – I head inside because I’m starting to get overheated outside and I’ve finished planting the porch planters. One is a Basil Pot, and the other is Sweet Pepper and Herb pot.

5:58 – I call Hawaii Nails to see if they have an appointment avail for 6:00 so I can get a pedicure while Jack’s delicious dinner is cooking AND so I have cute toes to deliver a baby at some point.

6:00- Start to leave for Hawaii Nails (right by Smith’s off 8000 w in magna) but have to pause on the top step for an unusually strong contraction out of the blue.

6:05 – Another strong contraction while I’m on my way to Hawaii Nails

6:10- Have another quite strong contraction in the parking lot of Carl’s Jr/Smith’s.

6:11 I call Hawaii Nails and cancel my pedi appointment because I figure I maybe…might… be starting a long labor process. I go through the drive through at Carl’s and order an Oreo shake (extra Oreos). I call Jack to let him know I’m coming back home after I get a shake because I think this might be it.

6:14- Have another strong contraction in the drive through line that is taking forever and a day.

6:16- I also call my mom and let her know that maybe she should head out now to get the kids and they can just eat with us then go to her house tonight.

6:21 – Arrive home but have to wait in the car while I have another strong one. I call Rebecca to let her know about these last few tough contractions. We both agree that it’s probably just because I had been checked this afternoon. I tell her I’ll keep her informed if anything changes and head inside to lie down. I set my shake down on the kitchen counter. I decide I should use the restroom to make sure I’m not contracting because of a full bladder.

6:25 – Have another contraction while lying down. Chloe comes in for a visit for a bit while I breathe through contractions.

6:30 – I ask Jack to start inflating the pool because I’m hoping to have the baby in the next day or two. I am in and out of the restroom- wondering if maybe this is my body emptying itself before “real labor”. I was drinking lots of water trying to stay hydrated. (Remember that Oreo Milk Shake from Carl’s on my kitchen counter? Never got another sip of it…ha ha.)

6:40- Pool is all blown up; my contractions are steadily 5 min apart, and 1 min long minimum. I try to listen to my hypnobabies soundtracks but can’t get comfortable with them (I don’t think I devoted enough time to practicing beforehand-that was my fault). I start needing Jack to use counter pressure against my hips during each contraction.

I labored between the restroom, and my bedroom. I leaned against the yoga ball while Jack provided counter pressure during contractions. I started realizing that maybe we should be filling the pool up because our water pressure is terrible and it will take time to fill. Jack began hooking the hose up and filling the pool between my contractions. My mom arrives to help the kids start eating their dinner. Jack is running back and forth between me and the hose and the kids like a rock star. I use the restroom and notice there’s lots of water leaking out the bottom of the bathroom sink (where the hose is hooked up to fill the birth pool). Jack is trying to help me with contractions and stop the leak in the sink and help get everything together for the kids to leave for their sleepover at Grandma’s. Grandma is helping keep the kids out of the restroom, and eating their dinner, and keep them away from the birth pool. I have Jack get one last pregnant belly picture. I lie down again to see if that will help and notice that my legs are shaking right as each contraction starts. My body is obviously doing something strenuous enough to cause this shaking.

7:18- I call Rebecca and ask if maybe she could come out so we can break my water and see where things are going. I was really calm on the phone and “seemed so nonchalant” to Rebecca. She agrees that this might be it and says she’ll load the car and head out. I acted like it was no big deal and she didn’t need to rush. (She told me repeatedly to call her if things felt like they were getting more serious and she needed to hustle-I agree that I will.)  

7:23- I text our Doula- Barbara Packard and ask her to head on over because I think this will for sure be the night/morning that we have this baby. I get changed into my swim top and some bottoms.

7:51 – Jack calls Rebecca for me because I want to get into the pool to labor but don’t want to get in if she’s just around the corner and can be here soon to break my water. (Her phone didn’t work right then so it was forwarded to her daughter’s phone)

I choose to get into the pool regardless because I want to relax. The pool wasn’t quite to the full line but I didn’t care I wanted to float. The water felt like HEAVEN. I leaned with my arms on the side of the pool and kneeled on the cushy bottom of the pool. The kids thought the pool was the coolest thing ever. They stood at the gate of the front room and wanted to see me in the pool. I kept asking them to listen to Grandma and get ready to go. I loved that they could see me from behind the gate but felt like things were getting a little too intense and was ready for them to head to Grandma’s house. Grandma was helping them grab the last of their “snuggles” for bedtime.

8:01- After two contractions (ten min) in the pool with Jack doing counter pressure I start realizing I’m beginning to feel kind of “pushy” and no one is here but Jack and my Mom and the kids! AND Jack had told me he’d rather not be the one to catch this baby.

***My thoughts: I can’t have this baby yet, no one has broken my water yet. There’s no way he’s going anywhere without someone breaking my water first.

Next contraction hits like a freight train and I feel my water break (which was the weirdest sensation I’ve ever felt!) as my body decides to bear down regardless of what my thoughts were two seconds ago. I realize that I still have my underwear on?!? So I start shimmying them down a bit but only make it to my knees before I have to get ready for the next contraction.

Barbara arrives (in the nick of time) and sits right in front of my face reminding me to keep my mouth open and just let things happen. She starts talking about how great I’m doing and to just keep things open. (“Open” meaning animal like yelling “ahhhhhh my gosh!” right??) I don’t recall much of a break between but I remember asking if his head was out yet because between the pop of the water breaking and my body bearing down I couldn’t quite tell what was happening because it was all happening at once! The next contraction his head was out, there was a small break between contractions (I remember thinking- what on earth? I don’t even have my underwear off- how am I having a baby?!?) The rest of him was born with the next contraction.

***There was plenty of unstoppable yelling but not out of fear or pain- it was just what felt natural- kind of like when martial artists use a good loud yell to add power to a punch or kick. This yelling during deliver was definitely for strength and power. There was never a tear because there was never really pain-pain. It was just so intense and fast. I’m not going to lie- the yelling helped. A lot. Almost like being a teapot that has reached the boiling point. Think: Pressure relief valve going off.

8:09- Barbara caught him and supported his body, and helped feed the umbilical chord through my legs while Jack helped me get turned around (and get my underwear off). Barbara handed Rigby to me to snuggle.

I will forever remember the look on Jack’s face when I was all turned around and holding our newest addition to the family. It was a look of awe, shock, and complete joy. All he could say was “Wow hun! You did it! You’re amazing!”. After a min Jack ran downstairs to grab some clean towels to keep Rigby and I warm. My mom had been loading the kids into the car during the delivery process and I asked that Jack go grab them and let the kids see their new baby brother. They had been quite worried because of all the noise but as soon as they saw that everything was alright, that they had a new baby brother, and a smiling mommy, they were okay. They just could not get enough of seeing Rigby. (Gabe asked if he could see the “special baby hole” [his terminology not ours] I declined politely and tried really hard not to giggle). They were all very smitten with him from that moment on.

8:15- Rebecca called to say she had gotten turned around but was close- Jack told her the baby had just been born and helped her with directions. She was so sad to have missed it. Jack helped her unload her car and get things set up while me and Rigby just got to cuddle in the pool for a bit. She got everything set up then helped deliver the placenta. We got out of the pool and into a nice warm bed. Barbara fed me some bites from Jack’s amazing dinner while I got all fixed up. I had a small tear that needed two stitches but it didn’t involve any muscle tissue like all my previous deliveries had. My tail bone didn’t feel as though it had been broken and I wasn’t bleeding a bunch like my other deliveries. Because I was on my knees and leaning on the side of the pool I saved myself a lot of discomfort in the recovery process. I’ve felt better in this recovery than I have with any of my other deliveries. Rebecca checked Rigby out after we had snuggled for a few hours and he’d had a good chance to nurse. He was 9 lbs. 5 oz, 20 inches long, with a head circumference of 14 ½ cm (chest was a full 15 cm!)! After Rebecca was finished with everything and Barbara left we stayed up for several hours to make a few phone calls and just cherish our new little one. We just had to keep kissing his forehead- it was the cutest squishy forehead because he was so chubby.  We thought and thought about names, we went over our newest list (my phone had died the weekend before and our list was saved on it so we had to make a new one that week). We had thought of several that were our top picks but he just didn’t fit any of those names. We went to bed and started fresh in the morning. The name Rigby was on one of our earliest name lists we’d made in this pregnancy but we’d let it drop off the lists because we were worried people would assume we got the name from a cartoon. When we woke up Friday morning after a little prayer we realized that our son was a Rigby, and that’s all there was to it.

Welcome to our family Rigby Jack Larsen!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Larsen Update

Time for another Larsen Family Update :)

We would much prefer to be able to call each and every one of you to share this information personally but there just simply isn't enough time in the day to make that happen. We're grateful to be able to share all this with everyone through email and hope that you forgive us if it isn't your favorite way to find out about things.

Two years ago when we had Corban evaluated at The Children's Center for ADHD we also followed up by having Gabe evaluated. When Gabe was evaluated he tested positive for ADHD as well as being right under the line indicating the possibility of having an Autism Spectrum Disorder. We knew that we would likely have to revisit that evaluation a little later to see if it was still close to an Autism diagnosis or if he was moving away from that line. We have done a second evaluation with The Children's Center and it is now clear that Gabe does in fact have Autism in addition to ADHD. He is no longer close to the line for Autism Spectrum Disorders, he is well above the line into the Autism Spectrum.

We are not worried or scared about this diagnosis, in fact we are somewhat comforted by the fact that we now have another piece to the puzzle and more information to help us be the best parents we can be. We are learning more and more about ways we can encourage him in his social abilities as well as his academic endeavors. We love that this diagnosis doesn't change who Gabe is or how much he is loved, but gives us a better understanding of how he is functioning and what some of his strengths and weaknesses may be throughout his life.

Analogy to understanding Autism:
by Mirana Steffen

"Say you want to watch a movie. You need a DVD player, TV, and the red/white/yellow cable. If you get all of the colors put in the right place, you will see and hear your movie. If you don't get them in the right place, you may see the picture but not hear it or hear it but not see it. You may not see or hear anything, rather, get a low hum. You may see and hear everything, but with mild interference because the cords need to simply be tightened.
Either way, all of the equipment for success is there. There is NOTHING missing. Someone with an *ASD has everything they need to be successful, but their "cables" may not be coded "correctly." It's our job as parents, family members, friends, educators, and a community at large, to help our ASD buddies find their Picture, no matter what it may look like to you and me."
*ASD=Autism Spectrum Disorder

There are many resources online to learn more about Autism as well as ADHD. We're happy to share new information as we learn more about these two topics in an effort to help others understand what our children are working with. We'll share a few links in this email as well as some excerpts from an informational packet "Autism Speaks 100 day kit" with notes about Gabe in a bold and colored text.

Feel free to read/skim as far as you'd like or as little as you'd like. We just wanted to provide some basics about this new diagnosis for those that would like to learn more.

Information about ADHD:

Excellent Book that covers a multitude of helpful topics for any child:
Square Peg: my story and what it means for raising innovators, visionaries, and out of the box thinkers by L. Todd Rose

Information about Autism:

Autism Speaks 100 Day kit can be downloaded for free here in it's entirety:

Autism Speaks 100 day kit excerpts:

Why does my child need a diagnosis?
There are however, several reasons having a diagnosis is important for your child. A thorough and detailed diagnosis provides important information about your child’s behavior and development. It can help create a road map for treatment, by identifying your child’s specific strengths and challenges and providing useful information about which needs and skills should be targeted for effective intervention. A diagnosis is often required to access autism specific services through early intervention programs or your local school district.

While the causes of autism are complex, it is clear that it is not caused by bad parenting. Dr. Leo Kanner, the psychiatrist who first described autism as a unique condition in 1943, believed that it was caused by cold, unloving mothers. Bruno Bettelheim, a renowned professor of child development perpetuated this misinterpretation of autism. Their promotion of the idea that unloving mothers caused their children’s autism created a generation of parents who carried the tremendous burden of guilt for their children’s disability. In the 1960s and 70s, Dr. Bernard Rimland, the father of a son with autism, who later founded the Autism Society of America and the Autism Research Institute, helped the medical community understand that autism is a biological disorder, and is not caused by cold parents.

Autism affects the way your child perceives the world and makes communication and social interaction difficult. Gabe has issues with making/keeping friends. Even at the young age of 3 and 4 other kids notice that he's different in the way he plays and most shy away from him. When he does invite someone into his world he gets easily frustrated if they don't "pretend the right way". He assumes that everyone has the same thoughts about how to pretend so we're working on trying to help him explain more of how he wants us to pretend with him as we play. We have also been trying to schedule play dates often in places where it's a neutral ground so neither party feels as though it is "their turf". He may also have repetitive behaviors or intense interests. Symptoms and their severity are different for each child in each of the affected areas (Communication, Social Interaction, and Repetitive Behaviors). Your child may not have the same symptoms and may seem very different from another child with the same diagnosis.

Although autism is usually a life-long condition, the symptoms of autism can change over time. The long term outcome is highly variable. Some children lose their diagnosis over time, while others remain severely affected. Many have normal cognitive skills, despite challenges in social and language abilities. Most individuals with autism develop speech and learn to communicate with others. Early intervention can make extraordinary differences in your child’s development. How your child is functioning now may be very different from how he or she will function later on in life.

Social Difficulties
Children with autism are also slower in learning to interpret what others are thinking and feeling. Subtle social cues such as a smile, a wave, or a grimace may have little meaning to a child with autism. To a child who misses these cues, "Come here" may always mean the same thing, whether the speaker is smiling and extending her arms for a hug, or frowning and planting her fists on her hips. Without the ability to interpret gestures and facial expressions, the social world may seem bewildering. To compound the problem, people with autism have difficulty seeing things from another person’s perspective. Most five-year-olds understand that other people have thoughts, feelings, and goals that are different from their own. A child with autism may lack such understanding. This inability leaves them unable to predict or understand other people’s actions.

Although not universal, it is common for people with autism to have difficulty regulating their emotions. This can take the form of "immature" behavior such as crying in class, or verbal outbursts that seem inappropriate to those around them. Sometimes they may be disruptive and physically aggressive, making social relationships even more difficult. They have a tendency to "lose control", particularly when they’re in a strange or overwhelming environment, or when they are angry or frustrated. At times, they may break things, attack others, or hurt themselves. In their frustration, some bang their heads, pull their hair or bite their arms. We've been blessed that Gabe doesn't use self harm, however, many times during a frustrating situation he will lash out physically by throwing a toy, or hitting whoever he feels is responsible for his frustration. This happens with regular kids as well, however it takes much much much longer for a child with Autism and/or ADHD to learn to Stop. Think. THEN Act because their brain just functions on a "Ready Fire Aim" mindset naturally. It involves many role playing situations and many teaching moments after accidents happen and just when you think they're getting it you start over at square one after some big explosive set back. We are also still working with Corban on this same issue daily. The violence that they exhibit is something we deal with on a daily basis and stress about more than any other aspect of these two disorders. Support, encouragement, and non-jugemental comfort in this area is appreciated more than we can ever express.

Communication Difficulties
By age three, most children have passed predictable milestones on the path to learning language; one of the earliest is babbling. By the first birthday, a typical toddler says a word or two, turns and looks when he hears his name, points when he wants a toy, and when offered something distasteful, makes it clear that the answer is "no". Although a minority of people with autism doesn’t use speech, the large majority develops spoken language, and all eventually learn to communicate in some way. Most infants who later show signs of autism "coo" and babble during the first few months of life, but over time, they stop. Others may be delayed, developing language as late as age five to nine. Some children may learn to use communication systems such as pictures or sign language. Children with autism who do speak often use language in unusual ways. Gabe never had delays in his early speech-He has always had quite a sizable vocabulary for his age. He does however use language in unique ways as well as stuttering quite often, or repeating the same portion of a sentance over and over again. They seem unable to combine words into meaningful sentences. Some speak only single words, while others repeat the same phrase over and over. They may repeat or "parrot" what they hear, a condition called echolalia. Although many children with autism go through a stage where they repeat what they hear, it normally passes by the time they turn three. Some children with autism who are only mildly affected may exhibit slight delays in language, or even seem to have precocious language and unusually large vocabularies, but still have great difficulty in sustaining a conversation. The "give and take" of normal conversations may be hard, but they may often carry on a monologue on a favorite subject, giving others little opportunity to comment. Gabe frequently talks "at people" he struggles a great deal with being able to carry on a conversation in a back and forth manner. Another common difficulty is the inability to understand body language, tone of voice, or "phrases of speech." For example, someone with autism might interpret a sarcastic expression such as "Oh, that’s just great" as meaning it really IS great. It can be challenging sometimes for others to understand what children with autism are saying, as well as what their body language means. Facial expressions, movements, and gestures may not match what they are saying. Also their tone of voice may fail to reflect their feelings. They may use a high-pitched, sing-song, or flat, robot-like voice. Gabe speaks in different voices usually around 50-70% of the day. His favorites are "a kitty voice" and a "robot voice". We are fortunate that he is kind enough to "speak in a Gabe voice" when we request it in situations where we need to know that he's listening to instructions about safety or directions to what we need him to do. Some children with relatively good language skills speak like little adults, failing to pick up on the "kid-speak" that is common in their peers. Gabe (while playing with a dinosaur who was consuming an action figure) yelled at me in a tortured guy voice: "help me help me!! get me out of this monstrosity!!!" Gabe's verbal skills are a great blessing and source of many many laughs throughout the day to say the least. Without meaningful gestures or the language to ask for things, people with autism have difficulty letting others know what they need. As a result, they may simply scream or grab what they want. Fortunately, children with autism can be taught to communicate in more appropriate way.

Repetative Behaviors
Although children with autism usually appear physically normal, odd repetitive motions may set them apart from other children. These behaviors might be extreme and highly apparent or more subtle. Some children and older individuals with autism repeatedly flap their arms or walk on their toes. Gabe flaps his hands frequently when he gets excited or when he is playing. Some suddenly freeze in a position. As children, individuals with autism might spend hours lining up their cars and trains in a certain way, rather than using them for pretend play. Gabe lines up his toys in many different ways "in movies" he does have an extremely hard time if someone disturbs his movie guys but he is learning to take a deep breath and use his words instead of using a physical response like hitting. If someone moves one of the toys, the children may become tremendously upset. Many children with autism need and demand absolute consistency in their environment. A slight change in routines, such as eating a meal, getting dressed, taking a bath, and going to school at a certain time or by the same route, can be extremely stressful. Repetitive behavior sometimes takes the form of a persistent, intense preoccupation. These strong interests may be unusual because of their content (e.g. fans or toilets) or because of the intensity of the interest (e.g. extremely detailed information about Thomas the Tank Engine). For example, a child with autism might be obsessed with learning all about vacuum cleaners, train schedules, or lighthouses. Often older children with autism have a great interest in numbers/ letters, symbols, dates or science topics.

Just as individuals with autism have a variety of difficulties, they also have some distinctive strengths. Some of the strengths that individuals with autism have may include:  Ability to understand concrete concepts, rules and sequences

 Strong long term memory skills Gabe

 Math skills

 Computer skills

 Musical ability Gabe

 Artistic ability

 Ability to think in a visual way Gabe

Ability to decode written language at an early age (This ability is called

Hyperlexia. Some children with autism can decode written language earlier than they can comprehend written language.)

Honesty – sometimes to a fault

Ability to be extremely focused – if they are working on a preferred activity Gabe has this ability and it is also a symptom of ADHD- called Hyperfocusing. This can be a HUGE help or a HUGE setback. Example: If a child is hyperfocusing on completing an art project it's a good thing right? until art time is over and they need to transition to a different subject and can't hear the teacher say that art time is over because they're focusing so intently on the art project.

 Excellent sense of direction Gabe can become concerned if we use a different route to drive somewhere so we've been working on making small deviations (while talking him through it) from the normal ways we drive to expose him to the idea that it's alright to take a different way- we won't get lost.

"How can my child have Autism when he seems so smart?"From Does My Child Have Autism? by Wendy Stone

Right now you might be thinking about all the things your child with autism learned at a much younger age than other children you know. And yes, you are right: there are also things that children with autism learn on their own much faster than their typically developing peers or siblings. For example, they can be very good at learning to pick out their favorite DVD from a stack, even when it’s not in its case. They may learn at a very young age how to operate the remote controls to the TV and DVD player so that they can rewind their videos to their favorite parts (or fast forward through the parts they don’t like). They can be very creative in figuring out ways to climb up on the counter to reach a cabinet that has their favorite cereal, or even how to use the key to unlock the dead bolt on the back door so they can go outside to play on the swing. Clearly, these are not behaviors that you would even think about trying to teach a two-year-old child. And yet some children with autism somehow manage to acquire these skills on their own. How can we understand this inconsistency between the things children with autism do and don’t learn? How can a child who can’t put different shapes into a shape sorter learn to turn on the TV and DVD player, put a DVD in, and push the play button? How can a child who can’t understand a simple direction like "get your coat" figure out how to unlock a door to get outside? We've run into this issue frequently at our house. Many of you who are "facebook friends" have seen posts about how Gabe escapes into the snow in barefeet so he can go see the chickens in just the amount of time for a mommy to take a potty break. Or escape to tell a neighbor hi. Or escape to go swing. Or escape to just enjoy the "nice fresh air". We installed chain locks on our doors in hopes that would deter him however he just started using toys as tools to unlock the chain and escape anyway. We're still working on coming up with a Gabe proof door lock. Don't get us wrong- we don't want our home to be a prison, but we need him to be supervised while he goes on these adventures. Mommy needs potty breaks, Chloe still needs naps, etc. so we can't be outside all the time-even though gabe would probably love to live like a mountain man.

What accounts for this unique learning style? In a word: motivation. We all pay attention better to the things that interest us, so we become much more proficient at learning them. Understanding what is motivating to your child (all children are different) will be one of the keys to increasing their learning and their skills. Your child’s special talents may be part of his unique and inherent learning style and nature. Once again the Hyperfocusing can be a gift or a curse depending on what context it is in. Gabe is motivated by: Kitties, Tigers, Lions, Puppies, Dogs, anything fuzzy/soft really so most animals fall into this category, the outdoors, Chloe, Cherry Tomatoes, Carrots, Swinging, Skylanders, Library books, and many many more "favorites" as he calls them.

We would love to share the whole section entitled: You, Your Family, & Autism with everyone but we're already taking a large portion of your time with everything in this post. If you would take the time to download the kit and read at least that section we would really appreciate it. We love all of you and sincerely appreciate your love and support. Feel free to call or email us with any further questions, comments, or suggestions. Thanks again!

With Love,
The Larsen Family

(and baby squatch due in may or june)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Birth packing list

A friend asked about my suggestions for what to pack in a hospital bag-thought I'd share it :)

Just try to think through what sounds the most comfortable when you're not feeling super great- think "If I had a bad head cold- what would I want to wear, listen to, watch, snuggle up in, etc." Usually those same things will feel good and comforting during labor :) so some of the things on my list may not sound nice to you but they were what I wanted- just take what you like and leave the rest.

One more thing to keep in mind-there's a possibility of getting some *ehem* bodily fluids on anything you wear during delivery of your baby so don't bring something that you'd be totally bummed if it gets stained-most anything will wash out if washed quickly but you'll have a fun new baby you're focusing on instead of laundry.

Packing for the birth of your baby :)

****Slippers****/tennis shoes these are almost a necessity if you don't want to be caught in the heel-less hospital slipper/socks
warm socks- feet get chilly because usually you're working so hard that the rest of you is roasting so they adjust the temp in the room for you (if you ask)
Favorite blanket/Hoodie
Comfortable t shirt and pants to labor in/pj's you don't have to wear a gown unless you'd like to- choose whichever YOU will feel most comfortable in
Sports bra comfort/modesty
Granny panties laboring/to wear home while you're still dealing with a lot of lochia (afterbirth period)
Nursing bra/tank top if you plan to nurse
Yoga ball ask your hospital if they provide one first- but it's super comforting to sit(rock, bounce, roll) on (while it's wrapped in a towel) during labor, it definitely helps the baby move down and helps your hips relax
Movies ask if your hospital provides a DVD player in each labor room. I took a few action movies that I loved, and some comedies so that I could either have the loud action help distract me or laugh at a comedy- Laughing through contractions is SUPER SUPER helpful-not even kidding you
ipod + docking station/speakers +charger OR cd player and cd's music that you can relax to. Start turning on a specific playlist and focusing on your breathing and relaxation each night at the same time- have your hubby help do it too so that he can help rub your back, hips, and feet. This way when you're in labor you have a playlist that helps you relax automatically and focus on your breathing.
Chapstick self explanatory- lips dry out quickly when you're working out.
Lotion/essential oils anything that helps you relax- getting a nice back rub with some relaxing scented lotion can work wonders
Snacks (most hospitals don't allow you to eat so they just give you fluids in your iv. Ask your dr point blank if they're cool with you having some protein bars and such to sneak in between nurse visits so you keep your energy up- after all this is a work out of a lifetime. Plenty of research shows that women in labor do better with nourishment-vs the lack of research done on what happens when you force a woman in labor to fast.)
Basic overnight stuff contacts/fluid/case, glasses, toothbrush, paste, deodorant, etc. (the hospital usually provides a lot of these things in a bag but some are different from others- you can call and ask which of these things they provide)

Don't be afraid to ask for something if you forgot to bring it. ex: water jugs are usually provided but a water bottle is easier to carry while you're walking through labor. They usually send you home with some really hot mesh underwear things to go over GIANT pads- request to take some extras home- even though they're atrocious they're super comfortable while hips, stomach, and things are all still tender. Ask your nurse to grab extra "GIANT pads" too- the less you spend on buying the little pads at the store the better- you'll need lots and lots. Think mega period for up to 5/6 weeks. Any of the supplies they use to help the comfort level of your lady parts postpartum are good things to stock up on and usually your nurse is more than happy to grab extras for you if you ask.

Don't balk at them asking you to take a stool softener- you'll want that first..._____ afterwards as soft as possible because that's when most new moms kind of freak out-it's not bad, you just need to wrap your head around it- your body knows what it's doing and as long as you stay really hydrated, eat lots of fruits and veggies, and get your fiber you'll be fine. relax :)

Remember that most of the atmosphere in the hospital can be changed with some assistance- temp, lighting, volume of tv, music, etc- tell your husband or birth attendants what you'd like to have happen so you are as comfortable as possible. You are the star of this show- (until baby gets here) and you deserve anything and everything that will help you bring a happy healthy baby into this world. Don't be afraid of asking for a different nurse if the one you have is uncooperative with your wishes or desires. Offending one nurse so you can be more at ease with who is attending your birth is an EXTREMELY small thing to worry about.

Remember to have faith in what your body is made to do- trust your instincts and feelings.

You'll be great!!

You can do this!!!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

How do you know it's ADHD?

I've been asked "how do you know your kids are adhd?" "what do you look for?" etc. So I thought I'd share the parameters that you should use in order to know for yourself if you should be seeking help. I'm sharing the information provided by CHADD's National Resource Center on ADHD but first a few notes from me:

First have a thorough health exam to exclude any health conditions that could be causing the symptoms. When reading through this criteria keep in mind that in order to "qualify" as being ADHD you need to have had symptoms for 6 months or longer, they need to affect TWO areas of your life (home, school, social settings, work, etc.) and you need to fit in at least 6 of the 9 criteria for either inattentive or hyperactive or in both areas for combined type. Also the symptoms need to be more frequent or severe when compared with other people the same age. If you're wondering about adult ADHD you need to have had symptoms from childhood.

Also when reading through this criteria it is wise to be as unbiased as possible. Yes we all love our kids. Yes our own children are the cutest children on the planet. Yes our children are the smartest in their class, etc etc etc.... but when filling out something like this you need to think comparatively. You need to be thinking about the fact that- if my child has a disability do I have the guts to get them the help they deserve or do I just sweep it under the rug, hope it goes away, and tell my child to "just work harder"? Our boundless love will not protect them forever if they don't know why they're having to work 10 times harder than everyone else. They will have to work harder but having a diagnosis gives you an EXPLANATION of why they're behaving a certain way NOT AN EXCUSE. It also helps the child to know that they're not dumb, they're not lazy, and they're certainly not a bad kid.

The single most important part of parenting is retaining, nurturing, and growing a wonderful relationship with your children.

Hug your kids. Love them. Even when they're running around crazy and you feel like giving up.


feel free to use this link to access this information yourself.

Symptoms and Diagnostic Criteria

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is the guide that lays out the criteria to be used by doctors, mental health professionals, and other qualified clinicians when making a diagnosis of ADHD. The most recent edition of the manual is the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision). The next edition of the manual, DSM-5, was approved by the APA Board of Trustees on December 1, 2012 and is expected to be pushed in spring 2013. See this DSM-5 Fact Sheet on ADHD for upcoming changes
 As with all DSM-IV diagnoses, it is essential first to rule out other conditions that may be the true cause of symptoms. The DSM-IV identifies three sub-types of ADHD, depending on the presence or absence of particular symptoms: Inattentive type, Hyperactive type, and Combined type.  Because everyone shows signs of these behaviors at one time or another, the guidelines for determining whether a person has ADHD are very specific. To be diagnosed with ADHD, individuals must have six of the nine characteristics in either or both DSM-IV categories listed below. In children and teenagers, the symptoms must be more frequent or severe compared to other children the same age. In adults, the symptoms must affect the ability to function in daily life and persist from childhood.  In addition, the behaviors must create significant difficulty in at least two areas of life, such as home, social settings, school, or work. Symptoms must be present for at least six months. Criteria for the three primary subtypes are:  ADHD - Predominantly Inattentive Type
  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes.
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention.
  • Does not appear to listen.
  • Struggles to follow through on instructions.
  • Has difficulty with organization.
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort.
  • Loses things.
  • Is easily distracted.
  • Is forgetful in daily activities.
ADHD - Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Type
  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair.
  • Has difficulty remaining seated.
  • Runs about or climbs excessively.
  • Difficulty engaging in activities quietly.
  • Acts as if driven by a motor.
  • Talks excessively.
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed.
  • Difficulty waiting or taking turns.
  • Interrupts or intrudes upon others.
ADHD - Combined Type
  • Individual meets both sets of inattention and hyperactive/impulsive criteria.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Our Family Video

We had our family portrait done by Sam and Chas from Kelly Arts Films. We couldn't be happier with the results. It was so fun to do- it was just so natural. We felt like it was just a fun day of family time- we didn't have to keep telling our kids to stand up, hold still, stop wiggling, all those things that are hard for sweet young boys with ADHD. It really was such a wonderful day I can't thank them enough. I could tell that my kids also appreciated their happy attitudes, there wasn't ever a time where they felt like they were in trouble. They were so patient and sweet and seemed like they were having as much fun as we were.

Thank you ever so Sam and Chas.

We Love Love Love it.

The Larsens