What’s For Dinner?

Ugh.  I can’t decide if its fate or irony that I would have a child whose autism diagnosis pretty much guarantees that he will be a picky eater. Even trained therapists can make no headway with Red Fish. The child is food stubborn.

Why is this fate or irony, you ask?  I HATE food.  When left to my own devices, I will either not eat or revert to a diet of goldfish, pieces of American cheese, and cereal.  Which is what my kids eat!

Some women fantasize about cooking healthier, meal planning for a month, cooking gourmet.  I fantasize about being someone who fantasizes about these things.  I will put together a plan to get the boys to eat better and then fold after a day of their self-imposed fasting. Why? How could I do this?  Because I totally relate to their plight.

I have been talking for weeks now that I am going to meal plan a week’s worth of meals and then…follow through!  In my purse right now is that week’s worth of meals.  Are they awesome? Are they elevated? Nope.  One night says spaghetti.  One night says chicken and rice. I picked two lunches that I will be alternating.

It is important to note that these meals are just for me and the hubs right now.  My boys either eat at school or at the grand-p’s during the week. So I call this Stage 1.

Meal plan: check

Feasible meals: check

Simple grocery list: check

Setting good example for boys: check

Eating healthier than fast food: check

Knowing what’s for dinner: check

Feeling silly that this seems like an accomplishment and embarrassed to show the world that I have trouble feeding my family because of kid AND parent food issues: check

Admitting that I make this harder on  myself by feeling that way: check

Current grade for all things food: D

Learning to be ok with this, cut myself some slack for being a working mom, believing that I can do better, and deciding to do better – even if I don’t know exactly how yet.

RF

They so did not eat this:

  

Desert Dry but Still Beating

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My first ever Walk Now for Autism Speaks is in less than three weeks!  And someone in Europe bought my book.

I kinda feel like a rock star.  A little one.

I also just got off the phone with Tyler’s school.  They scheduled a conference to change Tyler’s diagnosis for therapy from uncategorized to autistic.

I work in a clinical laboratory that provides a prognostic test for multiple myeloma.  Before that I worked in cancer research.  I am very familiar with fundraising for a cause, even if I never hopped right on with the advocacy thing before.  So I had a little bit of a high expectation when I started advocating for autism.  This is WAY different.  Much, much harder.

So the fact that I am going to a Walk with a bunch of other families living with autism and that I sold a copy of my book is awesome.  I have been to a couple of other events leading up to the Walk that had a few people from this community there.  They are amazing people.  People who really want to connect instead of just measure and weigh you.  People who know what you have been through and who know what it is like to go alone.  I am thrilled I am getting to spend the day with these people and the amazing friends and family who are on our Walk Team: Team Ty-Ty.

And…I sold a copy of my book.  To a non-family member.  Someone who I don’t even know.

I also have a t-shirt campaign going right now.  Just started today.  www.trycustomink.com set me up with a Booster campaign.  If I sell at least 20 shirts, they will go to print.  If I sell more than 30, money starts being donated directly to Autism Speaks.  Very cool, but I am nervous about the qty I have to sell.  Gotta try though, right?   The link is http://www.booster.com/tylerstrain.  I love the shirts and I think anyone who gets one will love it too.

Still tired all the time.  Still having trouble with the boys at bedtime.  Still have very little time to do anything and almost no time to myself.  But my autism advocacy just registered a bleep on its heart monitor.

Feels good.

I feel like a cactus that goes all year with no rain.  But then the spring rains never come.  That’s okay.  I am not giving up, no matter how long the dry spell lasts.  And when I do feel a sprinkle, I am going to really feel it.

For more info on the walk, go to http://www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/arkansas/rflinchum

From my heart,

Rachel

(c) Rachel Flinchum 9/17/2013

My life. My choice.

Lately I have been total blah.  I have been sad and low energy.  It has been difficult for me to do anything.  There are things I want to do, but by the time I go to work and then come home and take care of the boys until I get them into bed, I am too tired.  That is not a new routine, but lately it has taken everything out of me.

On top of that, Ash has been impossible to get to go to sleep.  I lay with him forever and then as soon as I leave the room, I hear him getting up.  If I let him stay out of his bed long enough there will be a “Roar!” coming from the room.  I go in and his is sitting on top of a sleeping Tyler and roaring at him like a dinosaur.  Funny and not funny at the same time.

Tyler has always been a rule follower.  He is very compulsive about a lot of his behaviors, but once he accepts a rule he will stick with it.  Ash is an impulse-following, chaos-bomb ready to go off at any time.  Any time.

I realized last night that I needed to give Ash and Tyler more time.  Different time.  They are getting older and so things/routines/interactions needed to change even more.

The Walk Now for Autism Speaks event is in three weeks and it feels further away than it did three months ago.  It has just gotten so hard to do anything.

I worry that I finally have chronic fatigue syndrome or something else that is going undiagnosed.

But I have also come to an important conclusion.  I am not choosing to let my autism advocacy motivate me right now.  It got hard.  I got tired.  The walk fund stopped growing.  I should say that it got harder.  It has always been hard.  But then it got harder and harder.  And I let myself stop being thrilled by it.  I stopped being fed by it.  I stopped remembering that by giving myself to it, I allowed myself to get something back.

So now I am going home to work on my stuff for the vendor fair I am in on Saturday.  All proceeds go to Autism Speaks.  I am choosing to be motivated by this tonight.  My life.  My choice.

Three more weeks until the Walk, but the Walk is one chapter of my journey with autism and autism awareness.  Do you want to do something?  Check out my Walk Fund at www.walknowforautismspeaks.org/arkansas/rflinchum to see what this amazing event is all about.  Even just navigating the website will help with awareness and would mean a great deal to me.

From my heart,

Rachel

(c) Rachel Flinchum

Cave

I knew this would happen when I entered the Sadness part of the Grief Cycle I am on.  I am getting nothing done.  My energy level went from “I can push a little more out of myself” to “I’ll do that tomorrow…maybe.”  And then to top it off, I got sick.  I was sick for awhile.  Then I got better, but the boys’ night time routine went from a 30 minute thing to a 2 hour thing because Tyler doesn’t get his paci anymore.

I realize that all these things are excuses…some better than others.  I could still get some things done.  I just haven’t been.

But the nice thing about life is that it just keeps coming every day.  So there is always time to get back on the wagon.

Back on the treadmill.

Back on top of grocery shopping.

Back on doing the dishes.

Back on preparing for the vendor fair I am going to be doing in ten days and for which I will only have 1 hour to set up, which is a ridiculously small amount of time with no room for errors.

I guess the anniversary of 9/11 is a good time for people to take stock and realize that it is time to get back in the game.  There is always time to decide to not take life for granted, but if you do it later rather than sooner, you will look back and wish you had picked the sooner option.

I guess that means I am running on the treadmill tonight.  At 10 PM.  So much about my ability to do something like that should be appreciated.  The ability to own a treadmill.  To run.  To not run in fear but for something that means a lot to me.

And I guess I can make sure the kitchen is cleaned up.  I really do feel better when the kitchen is clean.

So many amazing things in my life right now.  It is weird to be in this place that I am in.  I caught a glimpse of sunlight before entering a cave.  But the cave is beautiful as well and I need to get through it to get to the other side.  It has been placed in my path for a reason.  Life doesn’t stop at the different stages of life or the grief cycle.  My body and mind need this place right now…that is why I am here.

I do, however, really need to get back on the treadmill tonight.

From my heart,

Rachel

(c) Rachel Flinchum 9/11/2013

 

Uncharismatic Me

My whole life I have liked making money.  I liked it as a kid doing extra chores.  I liked it as a college student so I could help pay my living expenses.

Making money means I get to make choices.  I get to decide what I am going to do with that money.  Sometimes I spend it, sometimes I save it, sometimes I give it away.  My choice.

Getting married and having kids has thrown a wrench into my perfect money decision process.  I am no longer the sole authority on how the money is spent and I will admit, it is a difficult pill for me to swallow.  Very difficult.

But on the whole, a lot of my time as an adult as been based on decisions that allowed me to either continue to bring in a paycheck or to improve the numbers on the paycheck.  I never meant for them to, but things kept popping up that needed money and I needed to be able to provide money.  My husband is in the same boat.  He works long hours and has made sacrifices to bring home a bigger paycheck.

So it is very strange and very liberating to be fundraising for autism.  I am working my little tail off to help Autism Speaks get donations.  I don’t have to decide what is done with the money.  They have that all figured out already.  I don’t have to feel guilty about how it is managed, because I never even see it or lay hands on it.

I always thought fundraising was something given by people and that the person asking for it was just a money hand-exchanger.  The truth is that I am really working for this.  I put in hours and effort and creativity and heart and body into this.  I am working hard.  And all of my rewards go to Autism Speaks.

I am just now understanding that volunteers are people who work but ask you to pay someone else instead of them.  That is huge.  I volunteered in my younger years, but it was always a one-night thing or a weekend thing or a fun thing.  Yes, this is fun and yes there are one-night events, but I am doing this and thinking about this and planning this every day.

I wish I was better at it.  I wish I was one of those charismatic people who have lots of friends and can walk into a room and people are falling over themselves to get on board.  The truth is that I have no friends.  I am shy and awkward and come off as standoffish because I am so shy.  I don’t know how to motivate people.  I am a loner.

So doing this whole autism advocacy thing is a HUGE leap into a new world for me.  This is not something I am good at or that comes easily for me.  I am making mistakes and have definitely been hurt a few times.

I am learning a lot of things.  I wish I could say I was learning how to advocate better, but what I am learning usually has nothing to do with that.  I am learning more about autism and how it fits into my life, Tyler’s life, and our family’s life.  I am learning how important it is to listen to people and see what is important to them.  I am learning how to give some of my money away again.  I am learning how to talk about things.  I am learning how to put the different parts of my life into perspective.  I am learning how to work really hard for something without being selfish about the rewards.  I am learning the joy of a sacrifice freely given.  When I receive a donation on my walk page or a purchase of my baby items that will go towards the Walk, I feel successful in a way that I don’t feel when I see a paycheck deposited into my bank account.

I am trying to do as much as I can to help autism awareness, but it is really doing more good for me than I am doing for it.  Maybe it is reshaping me into something that can be useful.  God knows I am not loaded up with useful the past few years.

I never thought that being a mother would bring me down this road.  That it would change so much of me.  I am glad that it has, because I desperately needed saving.

From my heart,

Rachel

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(c) Rachel Flinchum 9/10/2013

Stop Looking Back

Last night was Night 2 of no more pacifiers for Tyler.  For years, Benny has been trying to convince me to get rid of Tyler’s pacifiers.  He never wanted Tyler to even start using them.  Tyler had an attached tongue and we had a lot of trouble breastfeeding when he was born.  As a result, he was never really able to latch on or to fulfill his need to suckle.  He kept crying and crying.  One night I put a paci in his mouth and it was like he found peace for the first time.  He didn’t even need any help learning how to latch on to it.

When he was about 1, his pacifiers were only for use during bedtime or nap time.  He wasn’t allowed to have them during the day.  Benny kept wanting to get rid of them, but every time the issue came up I refused to get rid of them.  I can still remember how important my teddy bear, Stitch, was to me as I was growing up.  I still have him.  I also know that Tyler needs anchors when he is having an emotional meltdown and that his paci was always something that helped to bring him back.

I am just as bad about Ash’s Frog and Dog.  He has two little blankies that have animal heads. They are Frog and Dog.  I don’t know why Frog is first because he likes Dog so much more, but that is what they are called.  Ash however is only two and the discussion of whether or not he should continue to have these is not one that I want to have for awhile.  He only sucks his thumb when he has Frog and Dog and that is the problem.  Paci sucking is bad, but thumb sucking is worse.  However, I repeat…he is only two!  And he is still my baby, so I have a few mommy hangups.

Back to Tyler.

Last night was his second night with no pacifiers.  We woke up in the middle of the night to him in our bed and Ash wandering around the house.  Tyler must have woken up and not been able to get back to sleep with no paci.  So he got up and came into our room, leaving the door to his and Ash’s room open.  Thankfully, Benny got Ash back into bed and the three of us slept in the big bed.

It is actually going better than I thought.  The first night there was a lot of, “I need my paci.  Where’s my paci?  I need my paci.” over and over again.  Finally exhaustion kicked in and he fell asleep.  Last night I tried the distraction tactic, which I regretted almost instantly.  I decided to get silly with the boys so Tyler wouldn’t think about his paci, but the silliness went on for about two hours, which is about 1 hour and 45 minutes longer than I wanted it to go on for.

This morning I dropped Tyler off at school and thought a lot about that and the paci thing while I drove to work.  His paci was a link to the time when he was still my baby Tyler.  I have always been sentimental, but I never knew how hard it would be for me to let go of the things that hold them to their younger years.  My gosh, he is only four and I am already having trouble helping him move to the next stage.  While I totally take responsibility for my own lameness on this issue, it still makes me really sad that he has to grow up.

And to compound that with him being at school all day!  It is like he has this totally independent life from me now.  Granted I have always had to work, so he has been going to the grandparents since he was a baby, but they are family.  I may not agree with how my mother-in-law decides to discipline them, feed them, etc, but I know how much she loves them and wants the best for them.

Now he is four and has a life apart from us.  Am I crazy for being blown away by this?  Am I insane to mourn the loss of the paci?  I tend to focus on helping Tyler get past his emotional meltdowns and all the other issues that come with autism.  So when a regular part of growing up comes along, I am not prepared for it.

When Tyler was a newborn, I had to stay up with him all night.  He needed to be held or he would cry.  The first 6 weeks was rough.  I handled it by sitting on the couch with him and watching Tivo’d House episodes.  I was so miserable during this time.  I hated it!

A few months later, I did not hate it.  I missed it!  When Ash came along, I was really looking forward to my nights with just him and me.  I started recording shows I was going to watch.  Turns out Ash couldn’t sleep if I was holding him.  He has only ever fallen asleep with me holding him twice and both times he was older and very sick with a cold.  I still spent time sleeping on the couch, because if I had slept on the bed it would have been too difficult to keep getting up every hour or so.

So even though there are a lot of hard times right now.  The fussiness, the fighting, the potty training, the meltdowns, etc.  I know when I look back I will cherish this time and mourn its passing.  I celebrate their growth, but at the same time it makes my heart stop for a few seconds when a growth spurt sneaks up on me.  I will miss Ash’s crocodile tears and Tyler’s black and white interpretation of the world.  I will miss them needing me to do everything.

As I push them to greater heights, I have an image of myself getting left behind as I push them higher than they could go on their own.  Mommy needs to get back in the game and keep climbing too.  Still a long way to go.  Deep breath.  Keep climbing.  Don’t stop moving or it will be harder to get started again.  And for goodness sake, Rachel, stop looking back.  Not helpful.

From my heart,

Rachel

(c) Rachel Flinchum 9/9/2013

Wind Moving

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A wind moves

Through my blood

Power building

Needs releasing

Words that are born

Images that flash

Otherworldly

A Muse Dancing

How do I tell you

That when I see you

Or when I see a picture

When I hear your words

That a wind moves

Through my blood

That I can feel something

Happening unseen

Not felt by most

Beyond observation

Waxing inspiration

Your child is coming

Your thoughts are dark

Your past is crashing

Or your skeletons are dancing

In front of my eyes

I am not a shepherd

I am not a leader

I am not a builder

I am not a healer

I am a watcher

I see the dreams

And the nightmares

I see the becoming of things

And the endings of some things

And the words

That sometimes come with my seeing

Frighten me

Empower me

Are stronger than me

I cannot heal you

I cannot lead you

I cannot guide you

I cannot build you

But I can see you

And you will push me away

The good with the bad

This I already saw

 

From my heart,

Rachel

(c) Rachel Flinchum 9/4/2013