Mama Miller Parenting

Passionate parenting and homemaking.

Not a helicopter

Tonight was a rough night for us as parents and it began last week…

We took our kiddos to registration night on Friday. We logically went to school where K has attended for the last 3 years.

Why would we have thought any different?

Upon arriving we were told that our address was now listested as attending the other elementary school for our district. In fact, our whole little neighborhood was. The principal was also confused but would not allow us to register.

Long story short… After a lot of tears and phone calls we found out we are offically rezoned and had to register both kids with the other elementary.

So not only is E starting Kindergarten but K has to start an entirely new school.

Guys…I’m tired.

Some have been with us through our process of getting Konner diagnosed. The admins and teachers of his school have been with us. It has taken so much trial and error, advocacy and tears, phone calls and meetings to get us where we are…where we were.

I feel like a child who has lost her favorite shoes. I understand the new shoes are good shoes. But I don’t want new shoes. I want my old comfortable shoes. My old ones weren’t perfect but they were broken in and I knew what to expect when I slipped them on.

So tonight was Meet the Teacher Night.

K was distraught on Friday but did really well tonight. He wanted to go into every room and touch all the things but he has calmed a bit to the idea of a new school. E also seems to be excited about her teacher.

I was a wreck.

It was so busy and K’s 504 hasn’t been sent over yet. I was trying to discretely pull teachers aside to tell them about his diagnosis and needs. They don’t know that he panics when there is a fire drill or that he needs a chewable pencil topper to keep him from chewing holes in his shirts. They don’t know to keep his supplies separate from his desk so he doesn’t play with them all the time. They don’t have the advantage of every admin knowing him and when he needs a sensory break to calm down.

I’m sure I seemed like a crazed helicopter mom to some. But I’m realizing that sometimes when you have a child with certain needs you have to be a little pushy. Being an advocate for your child sometimes means asking a lot of questions and writing a lot of emails.

I’m ok with tough love and learning through play. I don’t stand right next to them as they scamper up the slide at the play ground. If they fall I wait to see if they are hurt or if they are going to just pop up and brush it off. I make them learn how to do things for themselves…

But the thought of losing all our progress is terrifying. We’ve worked so hard and come so far to lose ground now. I hope they pardon me if I seem hypervigilant for a bit. I won’t hover but I will hold my breath until things settle into place. And I’m sure they will all know my face within a few weeks.

So here is to all the other advocate-not-helicopter parents preparing for battle as the new school year begins. May you have every bit of luck with 504s and IEPs and counselor meetings. We raise our noise canceling headphones and sensory necklaces to you. Keep fighting the good fight.

With Love,

Mama Miller

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They Just Keep Growing

Personal update time for the Miller crew!

K is 8 now! He is going into 3rd grade but if he wandered into the intermediate school I don’t think they would notice. We’ve found some great resources for him, including a change of doctors. He is still largely in love with Legos, Star Wars, and Minecraft. We also mix in some Pokemon from time to time. He even attended Lego Camp this summer.

A few weeks ago we made the rough decision to try medication for him for the ADHD aspect of his diagnosis. He has always done well in school but his concentration and focus are lacking. So far it has been a very positive change and we hope it helps him navigate the higher expectations of 3rd grade!

E is starting Kindergarten! My heart can’t take it. When I started blogging she was a baby. She is now a spunky almost 6 year old.

She loves party planning. We have at least one toy wedding a week at our house. She goes all out too. I end up on hair duty. Partly because of my mad skills…and partly because I won’t let her steal my brush because she always loses hers. I’ve also become adept at making dresses with toilet paper, bits of cloth, or whatever else she dreams up.

Baby F is no longer a baby. He is a couple months from being 4. He is goofy and sweet and enjoys bothering his Gan (great grandma). She also enjoys pestering him. Their love language with each other is mutual arguing, usually over who won a completely made-up game.

Today Nana and Dad left to pick up dinner and he ran to me in tears.

They left me! They left mama!

Oh no. Do you need kisses?

I kissed all over his little face.

Was that enough?

No. Right here too.

Sweet boy. He recovered quickly and ran off to play.

So pretty much the usual chaos and business of life. Sometimes it can be tedious but it is never boring. We just keep loving and growing and wiping noses.

-Mama Miller

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Homeless Care Packs

Hello all.

I know it has been far too long! I’ll do a more personal update later but I wanted to take a minute to share something awesome in which we participated.

We’ve been attending our new church for just over a year now. We’ve also been doing homeless ministry as a family over the past couple of years. We decided it was time to introduce the two to each other.

For our packs we set a number of 24 and asked each family to bring 24 of the item they signed up for. We have a huge Sunday School class with even bigger hearts. Many signed up to bring multiple items.

We gave everyone a month or so to get their items to the church. Then we set an assembly day to put our packs together. Today we had a few people take packs out along with cold water and sack lunches to pass out.

The great thing about these is that any not immediately passed out can be kept handy in your car for when you see a need. (Just don’t keep them too long.)

What was in our packs:

The actual packs are drawstring bags from Dollar Tree. We designated pink and purple packs for women and added pads and tampons to those. Our men’s packs were identicle but without those items.

We included:

  • Laundry Kit- detergent tabs, unscented dryer sheets, quarters
  • First Aid Kit- Purchased on Amazon and we added individual packets of antibacterial ointment, Tylenol, and aspirin.
  • Socks
  • Flip Flops- purchased at Old Navy
  • Cotonelle Wipes
  • Tissues
  • Sturdy Nail Clippers
  • Razors
  • Comb
  • Toothbrush Kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Deodorant
  • Lotion
  • Chapstick
  • Hand Sanitizers
  • Flashlights- we put 2 and made sure all had batteries.
  • Journal and Pen
  • Drinks
  • Bag of Snacks- cracker packs, beef jerky, trail mix
  • Bag of Mints, Candy, and Gum
  • Personal Note- written by members
  • Feminine Hygene Products
  • Cooling Neck Wrap

Items that were also recommended but not in our packs:

  • Pudding, Fruit, or Veggie Cups
  • Plastic Utensils
  • Travel Cups- especially good if they come with discounted refils at a local gas station
  • Bug Spray- we had a few cans to pass out but they were not in all packs
  • Ball Caps/Hats
  • Other Personal Care Items

Keep in mind that our list is catered to a more rural area of Texas in the summer. The list could easily be altered to fit your area and season. These can also be made by individuals instead of groups.

Tips:

  • Keep things with heavy scents separate from food items. We put all minty treats in one bag. We also chose unscented laundry products.
  • If you are with a religous group consider forgoing bible tracts. They can seem trite and inauthentic. We opted for little handwritten notes instead.
  • Plan to get out of your car and really meet people if possible. Sometimes the greatest gift you can offer is your time. Standing out in the heat taking time to get to know them and their needs is so much more meaningful.
  • Plan to go back and check on people if you are doing outreach in your area. Occasionally our regular people request needed items and we do our best to find them when we can.
  • Donate soap based toiletries to a shelter or mission. They are more likely to have shower facilities for the homeless. Opt for on the go toiletries for care packs. Things like baby/toilet wipes or face wipes are more useful for those camping or sleeping on the street.
  • You can call local missions and shelters for ideas of where to go to pass out packs. Local police and emergency responders may also have good info on areas.
  • Keep an open mind. Some may be homeless because of poor choices, but many more are trying and still struggling. We’ve met veterans, disabled individuals, people who have been laid off, people who’ve lost their family… They are all just people doing the best they can through terrible circumstances.

I hope you found this useful and that it inspires more homeless outreach. You can’t completely change the circumstances of everyone you meet, but you can do something to meet their current needs.

Love,

Mama Miller

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A Rainbow of Acceptance: A Newby Mom’s Guide to Autism Acceptance Month

PicsArt_1459380615307This April is my first Autism Acceptance Month with a diagnosed ASD kiddo. Through several awesome Facebook support groups I have learned so much about the rich and beautiful spectrum of autism. I’ve grown as a mom and gained insight into my own childhood.

Something that stood out to me though was the somewhat confusing number of campaigns and colors for Autism Awareness/Acceptance. So this is the basic guide I’ve made through my research. I’m having trouble linking to various things, so please look these up and do research for yourself. Knowledge is power.

The Puzzle Piece- This is one of the first symbols for Autism. It dates back to 1963 and was chosen because of the “puzzling” nature of autism. It originally had an image of a crying child in it to show the sorrow autism caused. It has been updated to colorful primary hues. Some support this symbol as a way of showing that autistic people deserve to “fit” in society and that we are all part of the greater picture. Others avoid it because of the past connotations that autistic people are like a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit or that they are somehow missing pieces needed to be a whole person.

Light it up Blue- This campaign is sponsored by Autism Speaks and is often represented by a blue puzzle piece. This one tends to lean more towards awareness than true acceptance. They are criticized by many autistic people because of their views on the causes of autism and that it should be cured.

Red Instead/Walk in Red- In response to the backlash against Autism Speaks and Light It Up Blue, this movement was founded. It encourages people to seek autism acceptance and education and to chose red instead of blue.

Tone It Down Taupe- This is similar to Red Instead. It was founded by autistic women in hopes of giving an alternative to Autism Speaks and the blue puzzle piece. They encourage people to tone it down and focus on education and acceptance.

Autism Doesn’t Make Me Blue (Gold)- This is another alternative campaign. Au is the periodic symbol for gold. So this plays on the “Au” in Autism.

Rainbow Infinity Symbol/Color the World- The rainbow symbolizes the vast spectrum of autism. And the infinity sign symbolizes the greater Neurodiversity Movement. (This is my personal favorite because I adore the concept of neurodiversity.)

I hope this helps you navigate this month and what it means. No matter how you choose to color your world, please use this month to educate yourself and others on the beauty of the spectrum. Please research any charity or organization you want to support. Ask yourself if they are really bettering the world for autistic peoples? Are they seeking awareness of an “illness” or acceptance of those with a neurodivergent brain?

Again, I am new on my knowledge journey and this is just a basic overview of my research. If you have anything to add or useful links, please feel free to comment with them!

With Love,

Cori “Mama” Miller

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It’s a pen.

Well friends,

We continue along on our journey for an official diagnosis for K. It is going well and we have an awesome developmental pediatrician. So far we are definitely looking at High Functioning Autism and possible ADHD.

On Wednesday we did academic and IQ testing. We weren’t at all surprised to learn he is one smart kiddo. His reading skills are especially developed.

During the IQ testing there was a section of verbal riddles.

“They have buttons. You hold it in your hand. You use it to solve math problems.”

“Pen!”

“Good try, but not what I was looking for.”

He grabs the pen he’d just used to do a math assessment off the table.

“Look! It has clicky buttons. I hold it. I do math with it.”

“That is clever, but not what I was looking for.”

“Oh. A calculator then. But pen is still right.”

I love the way his mind works.

Things I’ve learned so far:

*Sometimes advocating for your child means being mean or pushy with the school. (His teacher is awesome, but the admins were dragging on some things. We are finally getting a 504 in place to officially allow him some of the modifications his teacher already does. And after his IQ testing, his teacher pushed for him to get to do some advanced math with the GT teacher once a week.)

*Some of his most endearing personality traits are also part of his autism. I adore his speech patterns and his creativity. I love the way his mind works.

*Helping him will be a balance of teaching him “normal” social skills and teaching those around him that “normal” is often overrated.

*Sometimes people get so caught up in not labeling kids, but we are all labeled to an extent. I’d rather him be labeled Autistic (a medical condition) than just be labeled a problem kid because he has a hard time staying focused.

*The more I learn about it, the more I see things in my own personality and childhood. I don’t know that I’m necessarily autistic as well, but K did get some of his personality from me.

*ADHD surprised me because I’ve never considered him hyper. But it does make sense with trouble focusing on tasks. But I love that the doctor said no medication for now. ADHD does not have to mean automatically being medicated. It may be needed down the road, but for now we are redirecting and eliminating sensory overload.

*The extra attention for K means a very needy E. This week has her wanting to be in my lap all the time. So I’m trying to balance time between each of them.

That’s all I’ve got for now!

Love,

Cori “Mama” Miller

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My Child Is Not Broken: surviving the testing process for Asperger’s

We announced to family and friends today that our oldest is starting testing for Asperger’s Syndrome (also called High Functioning Autism).

Our K has always had a quirky, beautiful personality. As a toddler he sounded like a tiny professor. He had an advanced vocabulary and an obsession for machines and astronomy. We also noticed that he was very sensitive. He had an extreme hatred for the vacuum and for group singing (the birthday song especially). I would have to set up pretend scenarios to get his cooperation with basic tasks.

“Ok Mighty Machine Boy, I need you to go move five toy cars the toy box garage.”

As he has gotten into school we noticed that his verbal and reading skills were much higher than his motor skills. Writing was hard. He isn’t as coordinated in PE.

We’ve worked extensively with his teacher this year to find what works well for him. She is amazing. She knows how to earn his cooperation. She knows that schedule changes and fire drills are difficult for him. This process and this school year have been immeasurably better because of her.

So here we are now. After a therapy evaluation and visits with his pediatrician we have come to realize many of these things are markers for Asperger’s.

This month we will have three appointments to do various testing and he will have a genetic screening. We should have a diagnosis by March. We are very fortunate to have found a developmental pediatrician that can see us so quickly. Many people wait months and months to get in to one.

Things you need to know about this process:

  1. My child is not broken and diagnosis will not “fix” him. Getting the diagnosis will help us be the best parents we can be for him. It will also allow the school to grant certain modifications to help him reach his maximum learning potential.
  2. Please do not feel sorry for us or offer condolences. Again, he is NOT broken. This diagnosis does not change who he is. My child is still beautiful and amazing. His brain is just wired a little differently. A diagnosis of Autism is not something to mourn.
  3. Please continue to laugh with us and appreciate the beautiful soul he is. Pray for him to continue to feel loved and to hold up well during the testing process. He may want to tell you about it. He might not. Just love him.
  4. Please let us parent. We are doing the best we can and it can be hard to balance disciple with not overwhelming him. We are working with his pediatrician, developmental pediatrician, and therapist. What worked for you as a parent may, and probably will, be very different for us. We know our child and how to approach him.
  5. We love and appreciate our family and friends, but will be very busy in the coming month. Getting a diagnosis is a process and we are exhausted. If we forget to call you back, please know that it isn’t a purposeful slight.

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This is a shirt we recently got him while explaining all of this. It represents our current journey with him. Neurodiversity means that some special souls have brains that are wired a bit differently from the rest of us. Our differences help keep the world beautiful.

Love Always,

Cori “Mama” Miller

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When Fun Mom Gets Broken

“I’m going to do something special for my kids today. It will be great. I’m totally a fun mom.”

Famous last words…

I decided to do something fun with my kids this afternoon. My oldest got out early for his last day of school before winter break. I’m not sure what malfunctioned in my brain to make me think it was a good idea to kick off two busy weeks of togetherness with a trip to the Golden Arches.

Whatever virus infected my brain must have been in the water today. I swear half the local populous also decided to visit the land of fries and McJunk. It was a madhouse.

I got the kids inside and seated while I tried to order our lunch. F would not stay at the table. He was fixated on the Christmas tree in the middle of the place. K and E kept trying to sneak away to a table with a computer touchscreen game (that was already inhabited by people).

Oh, and there was a older lady in a motorized scooter that wouldn’t leave us alone. We’ll call her Grammy Creeper.

So, I feel for Grammy Creeper. I really do. She seemed lonely. I don’t mind chatting with people or letting them talk to my kids. However, she earned her new moniker with her desire to mother my kiddos.

I was trying to dole out questionable chicken and French fries and Grammy rolls on over to our table. She started telling me how to set up their food. F wanted down and she grabbed his toy, knocking a container of ranch dressing on the floor in the process, and told him he couldn’t have his toy if he didn’t eat.

I was floored… She took my two year old’s toy. My two year old who just woke up was not pleased with this. She also told E that she would use her mean grandma voice and then went on about her 11 grandbabies.

At that point I was conflicted between my desire to be kind and my desire to ask her to go away. She just kept coming by our table. It was so awkward.

So now we are eating quickly and trying to get out of there. We are almost out the door and E had to potty. While she is pottying, K finds an open computer. F goes to the Christmas tree again.

I finally got all three kids back to the car.

“I am still hungry. I want an ice cream.”

-_-

I’m sure a scene like this has played out for every mom everywhere. Those days that your “fun days” are anything but fun. Days when crafts end up looking like poo or everyone turns into a whiny mess.

I remember my grandpa telling us, “We’re going to have fun dammit!”

Just know sweet mamas, some days our inner fun mom gets broken. You can’t help tantrums or crowds or people with boundary issues. Some days you cut bait and quit while your ahead.

I had planned to go to Target after our lunch. Nope. We came home and decided watch movies. Now this is fun.

-Cori “Mama” Miller

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Kindness Challenge

more-blessed-to-give-than-to-receive.jpg

As a Christian I am called to show kindness to others. We are told to bless others and take care of the orphans and widows.

I am infinitely fortunate to be married to one of the most giving and kind men I know. He has a heart for the homeless. I love that he is teaching our children to give when they can and to pray for others.

Now I am officially challenging you to go out and spread some kindness. Whether you are a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Atheist, or anything in between: go out and do something. Our world can use a little more kindness.

  • Leave baggies of change on vending machines (especially in hospitals)
  • Pay for the person behind you when you get coffee or fast food
  • Keep large ziplocks of toiletries and food to hand to the homeless
  • Make cards to send our troops
  • Collect school supplies for local teachers
  • Leave baggies of change on machines at the laundromat
  • Have a pizza delivered to a friend having a rough day
  • Purchase a gift card and hand it to someone in the grocery store
  • Give a big tip to your waiter/waitress
  • Donate toys or do an angel tree
  • Take socks and toiletries to a shelter

And some ideas that don’t cost anything:

  • Offer to watch a parent’s kids so they can go shopping or wrap presents
  • Volunteer time at an animal shelter
  • Offer to walk an elderly neighbor’s dog
  • Spend some time at a nursing home
  • Offer to read to kids at the library
  • Donate (gently used, good condition) clothing to a shelter
  • Be a nice person

Go out there and do something! Don’t take pictures and toot your own horn. Just spread some kindness. Find little ways every day to bless those around you.

Love,

Cori “Mama” Miller

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Let It Go

We took the kids to the mall today for some holiday shopping. ThinkGeek opened a store. It is completely magical.

ThinkGeek.jpg

Magical

After dividing and conquering our shopping, we all met back up by the Penny’s elevator. E had finally grown tired of annoying K and decided to play matchmaker. She really really wanted Poppy to kiss Nana. Nana and Poppy love each other, but didn’t really want to give into the demands of a wild 4 year old in the middle of Penny’s.

 

“Poppy! Give Nana a flower! Kiss her Poppy!”

There was a man waiting with us. He witnessed all of this. E’s pleas continued until the elevator opened. We all file in and Poppy told E, “Let it go!”

And then K bursts into song. Yes, that song. Loudly. On the elevator. So so loud.

I’d feel bad about the man who actually thought getting into an elevator with my three kids was a good idea, but he seemed to get a good laugh out of it.

– Cori “Mama” Miller

 

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A New Life

It has been far too long.

Since I last wrote life has gone on, but also changed. Somewhere along the way I let depression take my voice. Every time I started to write, a whisper in my mind would say, “Why bother?”

But life doesn’t stop when you are battling depression. Postpartum depression and PMDD don’t make your babies stop growing any faster. They don’t slow down the steady cadence of time.

So here we are almost two years later. I’m still fighting to regain myself. Some days are better than others. Overall I am happy. I still have the best husband ever and three beautiful kiddos.

Our New Normal

So an update on life…

I’m now 30. I kind of thought I’d feel more adult-y at this point. Growing up is a much slower process than I’d ever imagined… Until I hang around teenagers. Then I feel all sorts of adult.

We have lived in “the old house” for two years now. We still have our rescue dog, Miri. I’m a stay at home mom.

K is now 6 and in the first grade. He is completely obsessed with Minecraft and Star Wars. He is still the funniest kid ever. He has an amazing teacher who really does well with his quirkiness.

E is 4 and still our fearless, sometimes vexingly so, child. She plays guitar and loves to sing. (In this case “plays guitar” means she stands on a chair while furiously strumming her little pink guitar and singing made up songs.)

Baby F is now a hybrid toddler/zombie/dinosaur. He enjoys roaring at people and trying to eat their brains. He has remained significantly more petite than his giant siblings. He is my little buddy.

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Life with three kids is still an entirely new beast from having 1 or 2. I will never “just run into the store” ever again. A trip now involves one of those behemoth carts that has the turning radius of an AT-AT. It also involves threats on screen time and frequently repeating “don’t touch that” and “come back here”.

In fact I recently said the most mom thing I’ve ever uttered on a trip to the store. I looked up to find E chasing K down the aisle. I finally got them back to the cart. K told me E had started chasing him.

I actually heard the phrase, “I don’t care who started it. I’m finishing it.” Then I realized that it has come from me. I said that.

I’m pretty sure my mom must have felt a disturbance in the force and shed a single proud tear.

So that is where I am for now. I’m momming it up and doing the best I can with my own little circus.

-Cori “Mama” Miller

If you or someone you know is suffering from postpartum depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, please don’t stay silent or let them go it alone. Talking to others and reaching out for help is so so important. 

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