… from the bungalow


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Promises Guide: 21-25 (5 of 20) – Little Bird

This post comprises five promises from a dad to his son on five separate pages. At the bottom of each promise is a link to the next promise, or you can jump directly to a page within this post. Comments left will be visible on any of the five promise pages.

21) “I promise to encourage your sense of persistence, even when I perceive it as stubbornness.”

Ever since he could walk, Little Bird has had a perfectionist streak. If something didn’t go the way he wanted it to, he’d want to do it over. I remember walking out of a dollar store to our car when he was a toddler, and he didn’t get to step off the curb the way he wanted to. We needed to get home, and he didn’t like the way I held his hand and sort of pulled him along as we stepped off the curb and crossed the parking lot. He cried the whole way home and for about half an hour beyond that because he wanted to do it over. Do overs: that was his thing. It still is to an extent and he’s almost 8. And he can be very persistent about doing something his way. He bargains, negotiates and blackmails to get his way. Well, he tries. And he never backs down when he thinks he’s justified, even when he knows he’s embellishing the truth (lying). I’m still learning how to redirect that stubbornness, but I admire his persistence. I’d rather not “break” him of it. He just needs to find ways to use it to his advantage.

Do This

Think of some ways in which you perceive your kid in a negative light, then put a spin on it. With a little perspective, opposition becomes critical thinking, manipulation becomes cunning, and mouthiness becomes outspokenness. That doesn’t mean let a mouthy kid talk to you disrespectfully. (I don’t tolerate that for one second!) But modeling appropriate behavior is way more effective than yelling or punishing. A little perspective goes a long way when it comes to maintaining your cool, and your sanity.

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Promises Guide: 16-20 (4 of 20) – The Little Professor

This post comprises five promises from a dad to his son on five separate pages. At the bottom of each promise is a link to the next promise, or you can jump directly to a page within this post. Comments left will be visible on any of the five promise pages.

16) “I promise to always act in your best interest, even if that meant sending you to live with your mom. As much as I feel I need you here, I’ll never let that get in the way of you living your best life.”

Since buying my current house in August of 2009, my ex-wife and I agreed upon a rough two-thirds/one-third split. They’d live with me during the school year, and with her during the summer and on school breaks. This seems to be working out well. I especially like the arrangement because I honestly don’t know what my life would be without The Little Professor around every day. I get used to it in the summers, but I know he’s coming back. If he went to live with his mom full-time, or even two-thirds of the time, I imagine I’d get pretty severely depressed. Well, more severely depressed than I’ve already been. But if all parties (his mom, her husband, my wife and I) agreed that he would be better off living with his mom more than with me, I would totally agree to it, as much as it may hurt me. It’s not about me.

Do This

Be honest with yourself about whether your idea of what’s best for your kids is really, truly what’s best for your kids, and not what’s best for you. For the most part, I’m sure this is a no-brainer, but I think it’s easy to let thoughts become skewed when you’re dealing with an ex-spouse. You don’t have to be divorced, though. At all times and in all situations, try to be objective about whether your perspective is clear or muddied.

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Promises Guide: 11-15 (3 of 20) – The Little Professor

This post comprises five promises from a dad to his son on five separate pages. At the bottom of each promise is a link to the next promise, or you can jump directly to a page within this post. Comments left will be visible on any of the five promise pages.

11) “I promise to share lots of music with you.”

The Little Professor doesn’t play with toys much. He doesn’t really “get” imaginative play all that well. What that means for us is that he either needs focused interaction to do something creative, or screen time (educational stuff on iPad, not-so-educational stuff on NintendoDS, or TV), and we have a no-video-games rule on school nights. [Note: he only owns an iPad because he uses it as an Augmentative and Alternative Communication device, and for the educational software.] But one thing he does love is music. For as little as he can actually say, and it’s very little–grunts, mostly–he loves to sing. It’s mostly just syllabic grunts, but it’s definitely music to my ears. Lately he’s been adding in gestures and hand motions with the more dramatic songs, and he loves to dance!

So for Yule (Christmastime) in lieu of toys that he’ll rarely-to-never play with, I got him a small mp3 player and put a bunch of Disney songs on it, along with a few classic favorites (Billy Joel, Heart, They Might Be Giants, etc.). I stuck it in a speaker carrying case, and I’ll be darned if he didn’t carry that thing everywhere he goes. It’s still not as entertaining has his iPad, but he loves it. And when he goes for the high note at the end of a dramatic song and lifts his hand in the air, it’s freaking magical.

Do This

First of all, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t always know what kind(s) of presents to buy for your kid. I struggle every single holiday and birthday to figure out what TLP will actually use and enjoy. And when you have two other typically-abled kids, it’s easy to run into guilty feelings over the fact that you know exactly what to buy them while remaining completely clueless about the other. And don’t mistake fixation for inspiration. Despite the fact that TLP asks to play his DS no less than 37 times a day, I do not buy him new DS games very often.

Do get creative. Does your child have sensory issues or fine motor delays? Get some Moon Sand or Silly Putty. Or better yet, make your own versions of Moon Sand or Silly Putty. Does he respond well to music? Play some music. Make some music. Have a dance party. The key here is trial and error and engagement. Sit and play with your kid, and if something doesn’t work out, do something else. You probably know your kid better than anyone. And if you don’t, make a point of getting there, then share in what he loves.

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Promises Guide: 6-10 (2 of 20) – The Little Professor

This post comprises five promises from a dad to his son on five separate pages. At the bottom of each promise is a link to the next promise, or you can jump directly to a page within this post. Comments left will be visible on any of the five promise pages.

6) “I promise to let you dress yourself for school. My hurried schedule should not interfere with your personal development.”

Here’s a typical morning routine at the bungalow:

6:45:00-6:49:59 a.m. – Snooze
6:50:00-6:54:59 a.m. – Snooze
6:55:00-6:59:59 a.m. – Snooze
7:00:00-7:32:59 a.m. – Jump out of bed, frantically grab work clothes, turn on lights to wake up wife, go downstairs and wake up The Little Professor, set out TLP’s clothes, get screamed at, resist urge to dress TLP, leave to use bathroom, get dressed, return and re-dress TLP because 85% of his clothes are on backwards, leave again to brush teeth, fix hair, nuke a breakfast sandwich while he eats his applesauce with supplements and vitamins prepared by wife, kiss family goodbye, forget wallet and get in car while TLP puts shoes on wrong feet, return to get wallet, fix shoes, try to leave but bus arrives, walk TLP to bus, race to work.

le sigh

Not a good start to my day. But there’s a key component to the mad rush: he dresses himself. For a long time, I was in too much of a hurry to wait for him to fumble around at putting on his own clothes because he couldn’t miss the bus. I started getting up 5-10 minutes earlier so he’d have some time to try. The amount of help I offer wanes over time, and he’s gotten much better at it. You’d think putting his clothes on the right way would be a 50/50 shot, but he somehow consistently puts most things on backwards. Motor skills are tricky. When you struggle and struggle and you’ve got a foot in a hole, you go with it! Pants on backwards? Oh well. I’m dressed. It took me a while to learn that I need to give him space to grow, even especially when it comes to activities of daily living (ADLs to the IEP-savvy folks). Now if only I’d give myself more time.

Do This

Think about ways in which you might be enabling, coddling, or otherwise stifling your child. For me, it comes from both a place of wanting to take care of my baby boy and a place of wanting to move the frak along with our day. Whatever the intent, he needs that opportunity to learn. Give him that assist when he needs it, but make him feel like it was his victory.

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Promises Guide: 1-5 (1 of 20) – The Little Professor

This post comprises five promises from a dad to his son on five separate pages. At the bottom of each promise is a link to the next promise, or you can jump directly to a page within this post. Comments left will be visible on any of the five promise pages.

1) “I promise to be patient with you when you’re agitated and cannot express yourself.”

On top of being moderately cognitively impaired and on the autism spectrum, The Little Professor has severe speech apraxia. He has receptive language skills, but his expressive language is minimal. Understandably, he gets frustrated and agitated fairly often, which results in one, or some combination of the following:

  • screaming
  • hitting
  • biting
  • hair-pulling

Add to the fact that he has had sleep issues his entire life, and we occasionally find ourselves getting screamed at and hit in the face at three o’clock in the morning. I will tell you that it is jarring, to say the least, and it’s not easy to deal with when it happens.

Do This

Whether you have a child with special needs or a typically-abled child, chances are you’ve lost your patience at some point. Think about a time when you felt your ire rising. Did you feel it in your chest? Your head? Did you notice an increase in heart rate? Did you grit your teeth? Take note of those warning signs that you’re about to go Nicholas Cage on your kid(s). Practice stopping that feeling in its tracks. We’re not always in a situation to remove ourselves from situations involving our kids, but if you are, go ahead and take a few minutes. Breathe–whether or not you actually leave to compose yourself. Take a few deep breaths and compose yourself. When we get angry, the more basic, primal area of our brain takes over, and we no longer think rationally. You don’t deserve to be so riled up, and your kids don’t deserve to be on the receiving end of it.

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100th Blog Post: 100 promises to my family

For my 100th blog post, rather than list 100 things I’ve learned from blogging or the like, I felt it appropriate to write an open letter to my family. I’ve been really depressed lately, and part of my work to get out of this pit is to change my thought patterns. It’s tricky, but one way I can create change is to be more purposeful in the way I nurture and encourage my family, including myself.

These are not just words. This is not a simple declaration. These 100 promises to my family will serve as the benchmark against which I measure my daily interactions with everyone in the household, and by which I hold myself accountable.

I am also working on a walk-through of each of these 100 promises: where they stem from, how I’m implementing them, and how you can apply them to your life as well. Some of these promises are things I’m already silently doing, and some are things I need to work on.  Either way, I will be sharing these promises with my family members and keeping you posted on how it affects everyone individually and as a family.

So, are you ready? Great. Here we go!

FtB's 100th Blog Post: 100 promises to my family

DSCN1715Promises to The Little Professor:

  1. I promise to be patient with you when you’re agitated and cannot express yourself. (Read more.)
  2. I promise to sing you your bedtime song every night that you and I are together. (Read more.)
  3. I promise to provide opportunities for you to grow and learn, even if that causes discomfort in me, others, or even you. (Read more.)
  4. I promise to provide food, supplements, and shelter for you, even when I hate my job. (Read more.)
  5. I promise to protect you from harm, but not always from intensity. Intensity pushes us to expand. (Read more.)
  6. I promise to let you dress yourself for school. My hurried schedule should not interfere with your personal development. (Read more.)
  7. I promise to be proud of you at every moment, in all cases, regardless of any pressure I may feel to make apologies for your behavior. (Read more.)
  8. I promise to act silly and make you laugh with faces and voices. (Read more.)
  9. I promise to keep the driveway shoveled and salted in the winter, and walk you out to the bus for as long as you need me to. You will never break another bone if I can help it. (Read more.)
  10. I promise to shower you with hugs. (Read more.)
  11. I promise to share lots of music with you. (Read more.)
  12. I promise to take you to museums and movies. (Read more.)
  13. I promise to be involved in your IEP meetings and communicate with your teachers and therapists, trusting them to do the jobs they are trained to do. (Read more.)
  14. I promise to tickle you unless you tell me to stop. And sometimes even when you do. (Read more.)
  15. I promise to push you on the swing and pretend to let you kick me in the face then fall down. (Read more.)
  16. I promise to always act in your best interest, even if that meant sending you to live with your mom. As much as I feel I need you here, I’ll never let that get in the way of you living your best life. (Read more.)
  17. I promise to reassure you when you need it, but never to indulge you when you’re “milking it.” (Read more.)
  18. I promise to advocate for you. (Read more.)
  19. I promise to play with you at your level, on your terms. (Read more.)
  20. I promise to do whatever I can to make this world a better place because of the light you’ve shown me, a deed for which I will eternally be grateful. (Read more.)

Continue to page 2: Promises to Little Bird


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12 days that amaze, Day 10: Know when to walk away

This is the tenth of 12 “amazing” installments of “12 days that amaze.” I am pushing myself to write 12 posts about things that amaze me leading up to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser in Chicago that Karin, Deb and I are participating in. In doing so, I must also be open to the everyday amazing things that happen around me.


We had a bit of a rough night here at the bungalow. I’ve come to dread bedtime. I mean, I need and love the time that I get once they’re all in bed and asleep, but the whole “bedtime routine” is generally a fiasco. I shared my frustration on the Facebook page:

Can’t do it tonight, folks. I just can’t bring myself to write anything inspiring. I had really hoped to write about something amazing for 12 straight days, so I won’t say I’m not disappointed. But that’s life, I guess.

It seems like bedtime is a gorram fiasco more often than not, and tonight is one of those nights. I’ve spent all the energy I had on my child, and about 45 minutes of my time. I had to wash my hands of it and walk away. Some days it’s just too much, you know?

Dadgummit, blah.

Well dang it if I’m not going to write a post anyway. Some of you commented with great words of encouragement like this: “I take inspiration from good parents knowing when to walk away.” (Thanks for that, Shannon.) Nicole suggested it’s amazing I didn’t defenestrate the little bugger. This, too, pretty much sums it up.

We’re learning about Parenting with Love and Logic, and most days Continue reading