Backyard & Garden Make-Over Series: Part 1

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We’ve lived in our house for coming up on 5 years and for whatever reason I’m just now getting around to re-doing the landscape and putting in some structures for our backyard. I guess I’m the kind of person who has to sit on an idea for a bit before I pursue such a large project. Because once this stuff is in I don’t wanna take it out! I don’t like wasting hours and effort (mine or my husbands) when doing projects, I like being productive and not have to undo something 5 times because I didn’t plan it well enough in the first place.

There was originally black lava rock over this dirt with some very shabby weed barrier beneath it. This is after we cleared those things out.

Anywho, here we are half a decade later with actual plans for a total make-over of our yard! We’ve planted veggies and flowers in the past but mainly just scattered the seeds about and hoped for the best. We got pumpkins, like 5 green beans, a few lettuce leaves….aaaand that was about it! Our blueberries never produced, my herbs just didn’t take off (except for mint, that stuff spreads like wildfire), and the cantalope never got past pollination. Sunflowers and borage did well along the back fence line where it gets full sun, but we have a lot of shade in our back yard, mainly where it’s scaped for an actual garden to be planted. The photo above and below you can see the rich soil and curbing, but all this is totally in shade all day!

You can see these areas were all covered in lava rock originally, which is great for reducing water usage but I was sick of them landing in our grass and wanted something more enjoyable to look at.

We had used some lava rock to make a border around the fence line (because frankly the fence was falling down but our landlord was waiting for the weather to perk up) but that just interfered with mowing. The large wood planks were up against the house in an attempt to keep the dirt and water away from the vents…..it didn’t work as well as the inventor had planned. They were quite rotted in places which you never want near your home.

In my next edition to this series I’ll show the progress we made and the ideas I had for our yard!

This was the first of many steps in our gardening journey. Follow for more!

Parenting a Person With ADHD: Chapter 4-Deep Breathing and Other Tools

This post may contain affiliate links. Please view our affiliate policy and our terms and conditions here. I am not a mental health professional, all the opinions in this post are my own and reflect what has worked for me. None is of this is given as medical or professional advice. Please seek professional advice in the matters of mental/physical health should you or a loved one need it.

Holy heck it’s been awhile since my last post! Needless to say, life got rather crazy there for a little bit but that’s a story for another time . Without further ado, let’s get into it and back on track!

If you haven’t read the first parts in this series here are the links:

This post is going to focus on tools/skills to be used in the heat of the moment. These are helpful for adults to learn themselves and teach to kids. These also work best when you the adult are doing these with your own emotions and stressful moments.

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By far one of the most helpful skills we utilize (with ourselves and our sons) is deep breathing. We use it when the energy is too high and the kids are bouncing off the walls; when any of us are getting upset and starting to loose our patience; and we use it in both the calm down corner and time-out.

I have to say it’s extremely gratifying to hear your kiddo using their deep breathing exercises (that they used to fight you on) all on their own while they are seated in the calm down corner or on time-out. We had that success roughly a year into working with our counselor and implementing these tactics, which seems like a long time when you’re in the thick of it but looking back, that year flew by quickly.

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There’s a ton of variations on how to do deep breathing and make it fun for kids (your counselor may have some books that make it fun too! See Chapter 6 for some we used) but our kiddo likes the “snake breathing” the best. You take a slow deep belly breath in through the nose then you breath out making a “SSSSSS” sound while keeping your breath controlled and steady. Do this at least 3 times, I find 5+ is best, and see who can make the sound the longest!

We often do this right before bedtime, and it helps set the mood and mind for the next steps (usually lullabies) of the nightly routine.

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The other tool we used was the S.T.O.P skill. It’s ultimately an acronym for: S-Stop what you’re doing, stop engaging, stop moving, just STOP. T-Take a step back, both mentally and physically, to pull yourself out of the situation and get out of your emotional state. O-Observe, how you are feeling, how others are feeling around you, put yourself in their shoes and try to see how they are experiencing this interaction. P-Plan what your next step is now that you have removed yourself from the heat of the moment, gotten some perspective, and seen the situation from all sides.

For our son this was some pretty advanced stuff and he worked with it like a champ. The reality is, we just introduced this skill to him to start the process of learning and practicing it. Because that’s what this is all about! We all have heard “practice makes perfect” but there is no such thing as perfection, it’s an illusion. I prefer “practice makes permanent”. The more you do something the better you know it and how to do it and are more likely to do it in the future.

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Sometimes there are outbursts that my son has where I just kinda have to to let him come down on his own. His therapist described it as “letting the train get through the tunnel” and once he’s able to see the light on the other side and rejoin the rest of us, I’m then able to use the skills above or talk about how he got to that high level of anger or whatever other feeling he was having. We usually end this discussion with a hug it out session .

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your kid….is nothing. And it’s not doing nothing and acting like you don’t care. You’re doing nothing while still being available; you’re giving them space (and respecting their individual needs) while keeping the boundaries in place and showing that you are consistent and can be counted on to be there once they chill out and need a hug or snugs.

What’s your go to skill for calming yourself or your little one down? Tell me about it in the comments.

Next time: Parenting a Person With ADHD: It Takes a Village

Dealing With Those Hard Days

This post may contain affiliate links. Please view our affiliate policy and our terms and conditions here. I am not a mental health professional, all the opinions in this post are my own and reflect what has worked for me. None is of this is given as medical or professional advice. Please seek professional advice in the matters of mental/physical health should you or a loved one need it.

I’m gonna start this post off with a trigger warning. It’s not regarding violence or addiction but this subject I’m about to broach can be a really sensitive one for some. I strongly feel this is a conversation we need to be having more often and normalizing, both within ourselves and with our peers. It needs to be a conversation without judgement and with lots of room for grace and understanding. I ask that we practice kindness to yourselves and others.

There are some days when I don’t like my son. This is a hard feeling to have as a parent, and it’s even harder to talk about. I love my child, I jump through hoops frequently to give him what he needs…but it doesn’t change that some days he acts like an asshat and is hard to be around. This topic usually sends most people running for the hills when brought up in casual conversation. Whether it be they are scared to discuss it with others, or scared to admit that they’ve had these feelings themselves; we as parents still need to address this turmoil inside that some of us face.

If I tell you that while growing up there were days I didn’t like my mom, you wouldn’t blink an eye; most people struggled with parental relationships as a youth. Some of us still do as adults.

So why is it such taboo if it’s the other way around?

Why are we, as parents, left to feel guilty when we don’t want to hang out with the screaming jerk-face that just happens to be our off-spring? If it was any other jerk-face behaving that way people would be telling us to get the heck away from them!

But for some inexplicable reason the tables turn when the culprit is someone you’ve had a hand in creating and/or raising. The funny thing is though-WE DON’T CHOOSE OUR KIDS! We don’t choose who they are from birth and we don’t get to choose who they become. Certainly, we have the job of guiding them down better paths but we are not the one’s in the drivers seat, much as we may want to be sometimes.

Yet somehow we allow others to convince us that if only we did this thing instead of that, then everything would have ended up perfect for our child. We tell ourselves “I should have done this better, I should have handled that differently” and while yes there is always room to improve, we are forgetting the reality every parent faces: that children don’t come with an instruction manual, and even if they did each child would require their own version. They are all different people. They are all unique and individual.

What works for calming my eldest right now, will likely not work for my littlest when he gets to crossing that same bridge. And how my littlest knows I love him is different than how my eldest receives my love. Both wants snuggles when they are sick; both are busy and active on a constant basis. But each has a very different relationship with me. I love them equally, and that is with my whole heart; however what they need from me as a parent is varied and different. It is unique and individual, just like them.

So although we cannot choose who are children are or will become, we CAN choose to love and accept them as they are. I make that choice, everyday. Because love is a choice, it is work and commitment. Regardless of the attitude or behaviors being thrown my way, I do my best to remind each of my boys that they are loved and wanted and they are special, to the world and to me. Even on days when I don’t like being around them, I still love them with my whole heart. And I let them know it.

Parenting a Person with ADHD/ODD and Anxiety

This post likely contains affiliate links. Please view our affiliate policy here and our terms and conditions here. I am not a mental health professional, all the opinions in this post are my own and reflect what has worked for me. None is of this is given as medical or professional advice. Please seek professional advice in the matters of mental/physical health should you or a loved one need it.

When I held my son for the first time I new it was going to be an adventurous journey to raise him. However I never expected the 3 year old him to be hitting walls, slamming doors, physically fighting us, and yelling louder than I thought humanly possible. I blamed it on the poor examples at his daycare (he was fine until he moved to the 3 year old’s room and came across some VERY out of control examples). We even moved schools to follow a teacher we really loved…who ended up not being his classroom teacher.

But things started to get worse. He was biting (and being bitten) and spitting at his classmates and teachers. One day I went to take him to daycare and he started crying, begging me not to leave him there. I was devastated. During the conference with the director and teacher, his teacher informed us that she had to “Bear Hug” him two separate times when he would just not cooperate and she felt he would hurt himself or others. This was the first time I had heard anything about this situation occurring and needless to say, I was livid at the lack of transparency from a professional childcare agency. We pulled him out that very day.

After 2 other day cares, countless issues and getting no where with the advice the “child care professionals”(they may have a degree but I don’t see any clinical practice going on in these places) had given us, we decided to keep him home until kindergarten. There were multiple factors leading up to this decision but it seemed like the best option: keep him home and try to undo all the damage done while he’d been in daycare. Which meant I left my career to become a stay at home mom…while having a complicated pregnancy and a child who constantly defied me. Oh man do I not miss those days. Any time I would ask him to do something, anything!, he turned into a tiny dragon with a big furious temper. So naturally I suited up in my battle armor and put him on time-out….endlessly….and to no avail. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, but I couldn’t just do nothing! I kept asking myself over and over…

Why is this happening? What am I doing wrong? I’m following what the articles and people are saying to do but it’s just making things worse!

And it continued to get worse, until we hunted down a mental health professional. By that I mean a counselor. One who specialized not only in “problem” aneurotypical children but the only one in our state who was trained and actively using CPP (Child Parent Psychotherapy). I found her on my own; not through a referral, not through my child’s pediatrician office, BY. MY. SELF. I did the leg work. And I found that incredibly frustrating and…well just wrong!

Why hadn’t my son’s doctor sent us to therapy from the get go when we came to him with problems? To his credit he sent a developmental pediatrician referral but we wouldn’t get in there until over a year later for our first appointment! We needed help now before my child seriously hurt someone, which he very nearly did when he kicked a child in the head at school! Yes that really happened. I know, I couldn’t believe it either.

Also why had NONE of the day cares given us a name, ANY name of someone who could help us deal with our child’s issues? Are they not in the position to write down a name and number and say “I think this person might be able to help”. They are in the field of child development so what the hell? Even the school counselor in kindergarten had questionable methods. “Throw them in the trash can” referring to my son’s emotional upset in an attempt to teach him to let things go….I still roll my eyes thinking about her saying that. I felt so alone trying to find help for my son, and for myself.

What I learned, the hard way, was this:

  • I will always need to be the advocate for my child, it’s my responsibility to push the bolder (sometimes up-hill) towards the goal
  • I don’t have to push that boulder alone, nor should I!

Finding my son a specialized counselor was literally LIFE SAVING. She gave me my sanity back and tools of how to deal with my child when he was being defiant. She was the one who figured out he not only had ADHD but ODD and a sprinkle of anxiety to top it all off. She helped me to understand where my son was at mentally when he was in the midst’s of a large fit….he was hurting, he was lost, and he was scared. He didn’t understand what was happening to him and he didn’t know how to handle those really big emotions rolling around inside of him, let alone actually being in a state to talk about those emotions. I learned how to help him through those scenarios in the way that HE needed me to, not how I thought he needed me to.

Our counselor also helped me to recognize and deal with my own past traumas, such as my son’s biological father being abusive and the sort of coping mechanisms I was auto-piloting to when handling my son. I came to realize that his behavior was essentially triggering me because it was so similar to my ex’s behavior. Yaaa…that’s about as fun as it sounds..

So what tools did we gain and how did we apply them in real life?

  • We (husband and myself) actively ignored the negative nonsense
  • We swapped our sticker chart for tickets and made a reward system using those tickets
  • We saved time-outs for those severe outbursts and created a calm down corner with special toys
  • We used deep breathing A LOT, and everyone participates-even the baby!
  • We had the school join in with the tickets for a seamless continuation of the reward system

Over the next few weeks I will be going in depth into each of the tools listed above, explaining how we practice them in our home and what changes we’ve seen after implementing them.

I can say though, if you told me 2 years ago that my son would now be making friends, not hurting others at school, and keeping his temper controlled at home…I would have laughed you straight in the face. I didn’t think that we would be where we are now. I certainly didn’t believe we could have gotten here so soon! But with proper guidance and some serious will power, we achieved a level of functionality that I hope my son will be able to keep going for his whole life.

Stay tuned for the next episode in the series “Parenting A Person”.