Saturday, February 9, 2013

Not Resolutions per se...Week 6 update

Back on December 31st, 2012, I posted about some changes that I have been wanting to make. I didn't call them resolutions because I just didn't think that was quite the right term for them. But I did want to update you on those changes I wanted to make and how they have been going. So here goes:

Personal Scripture Study: F
Same as I said last time...Between doing the reading for Sunday School (which I don't attend because I'm a Nursery leader) and Relief Society (which I also don't attend for the same reason) as well as the reading that relates to my Visiting Teaching message and to my Nursery leader role, I really haven't been doing any personal reading. I do still plan to do it though.

I have yet to really do any personal scripture study. I think I may need to change this one out, to be honest.

Scripture Study with Bree: C
I had planned to order our Seminary books so that we could start as soon as the kids were back in school on the 7th of January, but time got away from me and I ended up not ordering them until the 9th and as of yet, we haven't received them, they are due here though, on the 22nd, although I anticipate them actually showing up before then.
They actually showed up on the 18th, although we didn't start them until the 20th/21st. I gave her the copy of her book at church that day and we started the next day. I have been pretty faithful (missed one day but had an extra long session the previous day that I felt kind of balanced it out, even though I know that it doesn't really) about doing my Seminary reading.

We are doing pretty well on this. Bree is going through our study more quickly than I am, but I am also going through it more slowly because I have never been through it before and she has. I feel like I have more to learn from it than she probably does.

Tackling a particular area of the house each week: B
I had planned to start with the den. And as far as this goes, I forgot to do a post the next day with pictures of the items and then the finished product. However, I will say that nearly all of the homeless items were either re-homed to someone else's house, discarded or given a proper home here. The one exception to that would be the things that are under my husband's desk. Practical excuse: When I have the time, his legs are usually under his desk. In reality: I have more time than when he is actually using his desk, but when he's not, I push the chair in (out of habit) and the chair essentially hides those few remaining homeless items. Therefore, out of sight, out of mind. I WILL get that done (with pictures to prove it) before this week is over.
For next week's tackle, I plan on attacking laundry in a major major way. It just needs to be done.
I did get that area done but no pics. Sigh. One of these days my posts WILL have pics again. One of these days. I have been working on the laundry in a major way. There is still more to do, but it's a process and I'm plugging away at it. And making great progress, I might add! I think this laundry tackle may be one that I will actually continue doing throughout the month of February.

I have been working really hard on the laundry situation this week. Just this past week, I sat and sorted through socks and when all was said and done, I matched and folded probably 240 pairs of socks. I'm not even done with it, but once I had about 40 pairs per person, I was done with it. It is actually really great that I was able to do that early on in the week, because the latter half of the week, I was barely even home, much less able to do anything around the house.

Meal Planning: A
Week 1 (aka 1-1-13 to 1-6-13) was planned and followed
Week 2 (aka 1-7-13 to 1-13-13) was planned and followed
Week 3 (aka 1-14-13 to 1-20-13) was planned and is being followed but I didn't blog it because I was busy and forgot to do it.
Week 4 (aka 1-21-13 to 1-27-13) was planned and followed
Week 5 (aka 1-28-13 to 2-3-13) was planned and is being followed but I didn't blog it because of illnesses and the fact that it's been kind of a loose plan due to the illnesses.

Week 6 (aka 2-4-13 to 2-10-13) was planned and is being followed

Savings Goal of $1200: A+
I have saved up an additional $300 already this month, on top of the $300 that I already had. In reality, Hubby's check is going to be short this next pay period so most likely the extra $200 that I have saved will be re-routed to make up the shortage on his check. However, it will not affect the amount that I have saved this far and it also won't drive me off track with my goal either. Hubby did see something this one idea on Facebook though and while it does seem interesting, I'm not sure that it is entirely practical for our family.

Someone had commented that they were doing it backwards so that it would get progressively easier as opposed to progressively harder. Plus, if you put away the most amount of money early on, and you have it in a bank or someplace where you are earning interest on it, you're making more interest earlier on. Not to mention, you are more likely to save more money at the beginning of the year when your resolve to save is at it's freshest. I hope that makes sense.

Hubby's work missed a paycheck that is still unaccounted for and he had a less than usual paycheck as well, so we are back to just the $100 (+ $300=$400) saved. We might need to dig into that, though, to make up for the missed paycheck. That's what it is there for though, right?

In addition to Hubby's missed paycheck, we also had another thing come up that cut us short by an additional $700 so far. It's a scary situation to be in right now. I called on Monday to find out what was going on and it was resolved on Tuesday.

Chores: B+
Our chore system is still going strong. I have tweaked it and will post about it (and some of the previous tweaks that I have done to it). Who knows? Maybe this current system (or one of the previous tweaks) will work for you as well. Or maybe give you something to start off from.
The chore system is going better than ever! Loving it! My older boys are continuously going above and beyond their expected chores nearly every day. Cannot complain about that!

Our chore system is rocking out! Even Jeriah is starting to get on board with it, when Cephas encourages him.

Use our gym membership at least once per week: D
Week 1 - 0
Week 2 - 0
Week 3 - 0
However, I did just sign the kids up today for swim lessons (Oralee and Jeriah) and swim team (Cephas and Koren) as well as for Recreational Soccer (Cephas), Flag Football (Koren), Micro Volleyball (Oralee) and Micro Soccer (Jeriah). So, that kind of used our membership...kinda. Once we are already at the gym for those lessons, it's so much easier to just go ahead and work out. Funny how things work out like that.
Week 4 - 3 times
Week 5 - 0 times so far due to illnesses. Blech! (in the end, we went once.)

Week 6 - 2 times

Losing 2% of my weight per month: D
At this point, I'd have to go weigh myself, but I don't believe that I have currently lost any weight at all.
I weighed myself on 1/26/13 and at that point, I had lost 1%. Not all that I'd hoped for, but it's a start.

I do know that it isn't going well. And I am pretty sure that the 1% that I'd lost is gained back and some. This is a major struggle. I need to really work on this one. This is my new main focus for the month. It WILL happen this month. No excuses.

Eating more meals prepared at home: C+
We have definitely done better in this department. There is still room for improvement though. Ideally, we would be eating out once per month, twice in a birthday or anniversary month.
Still doing better, still lots of room for improvement. Our biggest downfall is those unexpected trips that come up that ends up preventing us from being home in time to start the meal at a time that would make sense. I just need to do a better job of planning ahead and making sure that I am home in time to make the meal.

This has gone really well. I ate out once with Bree, her treat and ended up only eating half the appetizer and my veggies from my meal. My plate had to be remade and by the time they brought it out, I was done eating, so I took home basically a full meal, much of which Hubby ate for me.

Cutting out soda: D
Complete fail at this point in time. My plan was to trade soda in for decaf tea, but I haven't gotten there just yet. If I were to just make some and have it ready to go in the fridge, I'd set myself up for success right there. However, I haven't as of yet. There's nothing like the present to get started on that one though!
Still a fail, but mostly because I haven't yet bought the tea. I thought I had decaf tea, but I didn't. So instead of giving up the soda, I have been drinking non-caffeinated soda or diet soda. I wish it was both, but it's generally one or the other. I don't really like the diet versions of the caffeine free sodas. But this last week of January, I have actually been doing really well with it. I did have one diet soda when we ate at Hubby's work this week, but that was only because the server knows us and that's what I always order and she never even asked me what I wanted to drink - she just brought it out.

I did really well with this until a particularly grueling time with Cephas and that's when I broke down and had some Diet Coke. Hubby knew I was stressed and when he went to the grocery store, he picked some up for me. Super sweet of him to think of me, not so awesome when I'm trying to cut it out. The sweetness definitely wins out. My hubby is the best.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

ADHD, ODD and Aspergers, oh my!

I have talked some before about Jeriah's Aspergers and how he is doing such a fantastic job with school and social situattions, and learning and all that. And I have mentioned briefly about Cephas and his ADHD. Well, here's a little bit of an update about these two kiddos.

Jeriah is still doing an amazing job at school. He has adapted quite nicely to his school routine and to his work and expectations there. His grades at school are all at either meeting or exceeding district standards, which is amazing. At home, though, it's a different story. He has been really defiant and refuses to help out or cooperate or whatever. It's trying on a mama, let me tell you. There are some days and situations where my energy and abilities are long spent just a few hours after he wakes up. I need to schedule another appointment for him with our therapist. This mama needs some resources to deal with this very strong-willed child. He is amazingly smart and I adore him to pieces, but I'm at a point where I need some kind of resources and ideas for what to do now.

I had this same issue with Cephas at this age. It was so INCREDIBLY difficult because with Cephas, I had two younger children at this age, one of which was a baby. With Jeriah, I think it's almost worse though, because I also have Cephas at his current stage, which is taxing at this point, to say the least.

Cephas was diagnosed with ADHD last Spring ('12) and we didn't want to medicate initially. Plus, he had Midget Football, which took up a LOT of time and energy and everything else. It was something that was physically grueling for him and kept him busy enough that he was too exhausted on a regular basis to act out. And then football season ended. And then we started back in with some of the issues.

Two weeks ago, after about a month of really considering the options, we went ahead and met with someone in the psychology office who is in charge of prescribing medications. She put him on a low dose of one ADHD med for him to take that week. It's a short-acting medication and is only in his system for a very limited period of time. Then, the second week (this week), the dose was doubled and would last for twice as long. And it has done an AMAZING job for him at school. He has been able to focus and not even his best friend goofing around here and there has been much of a distraction issue while he is in school. But then, he gets home, the medication wears off and we have our hands FULL. I try to get him to do his chores and homework immediately after school while his meds are still possibly in effect, but if something comes up and we're delayed by an hour or so, the rest of the night is a complete struggle.

Anyhow, before I go into all of that, I should share about the visit that we had with his psychologist before we went to meet with the person in the office who makes the medication decisions. Anyhow, I was talking to the psychologist and told her that it often feels like in addition to his ADHD (which we have talked about and worked with at length) that it feels like he also has ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) and sometimes a touch of depression and with all of these things combined, it's like he has bi-polar or something.

She validated my feelings about all of that and showed my Cephas' graded assessments, in which his scores were 99.99% ADHD, 99.99% ODD, 99.99% Aggression (something or other) and I was like, Oh wow. Suddenly, it all seems to make sense. It's not just me losing my mind with this child (whom I love dearly, don't get me wrong!)

So, we met with the other person and started him on this medication. We have a meeting with both women coming up this next week and I cannot wait! There's potential that we will end up giving Cephas the low-dose med after school to get him through the evening and we may end up needing to give him another one to help him sleep as well. I don't know if I have ever mentioned this, but I really and truly dislike medications, but we are at the point where there's little other choice. We cannot have him un-medicated right now. But part of the problem that we are having right now is a side effect from the med of restlessness and insomnia. He's always had sleep issues and now on top of that, he has a medication that makes him more prone to it. So, in addition to the medication wearing off around the same time that he gets home from school, he's also not sleeping well at night and he is excessively tired, yet restless at the same time. It seems to be a vicious cycle.

These past few days in particular have been extremely challenging. I think that there has been three days in a row now that have me at my wit's end. The first two days that he was on the stronger dose, we didn't really have any major issues. However, I do think that by the third day, the sleep issue was really starting to catch up with him. All I know for sure is that I cannot wait until next week to meet with both ladies. I don't know if they are going to change his med, add on to it for the evening hours, or give him a sleeping aid of some sort. I almost want to try for the sleep aid first and see if that helps with the evening hours and the restlessness and insomnia issue first. But I don't know what route would be best to go.

It seems that he functions best when he is over-scheduled. You know, there was a big thing about kids being too over-scheduled and how they don't have downtime in our society, etc for quite a while a few years back. But Cephas seems to thrive and function the best when he is constantly on the go. However, I can't do it. Even if I don't have to do all of it, I'm still the one that has to take him here, there and everywhere else and it wears me out.

Right now, we have him involved in Swim Club. (Koren is also in Swim Club, while Oralee and Jeriah are in swim lessons.) Swim Club is quite physically demanding. Koren was complaining that they pushed him too hard, but Cephas kept pace with it really well. He has to do Swim Club before he can do Swim Team. I cannot wait for him to do Swim Team. He needs that intensity. Right now, Swim Club is twice a week. After this session is over, I plan on keeping Koren in Club and putting Cephas on the Team. Hopefully that will help matters as well. Then, this Spring, Cephas will also be playing soccer, Koren will be playing flag football, Oralee will be playing volleyball and Jeriah will be in soccer as well. It's such a demanding sports schedule, but given the similarities between Cephas and Jeriah at Jeriah's current age, I think it may be very beneficial to keep him busy as well. I've also toyed with the idea of having the boys do gymnastics, as Koren wants to and so does Jeriah. Oralee wants to do dance classes.

Anyone else exhausted just thinking about this? Because I am just from typing it and trying to keep it all straight. If I am sparse in posting over the next few weeks, this is why. I'm just trying to keep up with my ASD kiddos.

I also got into a huge disagreement with one of my best friends tonight. This is someone who hasn't been around for just over six months because he was deployed for a month, then he was home for about a month and has been gone for another three months. He doesn't spend all that much time with Cephas either. But as I was talking to him about just the ADHD, ODD, the meds and the current struggle, he made the mistake of telling me that Cephas doesn't have a disorder, that he's just twelve and developing his personality and such. This friend does not have children, does not work with children, rarely is even around children, much less any Spectrum children. Needless to say, we did not exactly see eye to eye about it and our discussion got heated and in the end, I unfriended him on Facebook. I told Bree about the conversation, as her son also has ADHD and ODD, although he's three years younger than Cephas is. But she understands what I'm going through with Cephas. And while she doesn't always understand completely what I'm going through with Jeriah, she's there and she's supportive and validates what it is that I'm feeling and going through with him. This other friend did the exact opposite. I also happened to be talking to Bree on Facebook and she was also getting riled up about this other friend's attitude.

This other friend gets home from his deployment tomorrow and I unfriended him tonight. Not exactly the best timing, but I was angry. Livid, really. I also wanted to talk to his wife tonight, before he gets home tomorrow, to let her know where I stood with her husband at this point in time. Let's just say, he really isn't scoring points with anyone at this point in time. His wife said that he was lucky this conversation took place while he is deployed and that it wasn't in front of her because she'd end up telling him a thing or two herself. I used to get along with him better than I did with her, but over the last few years, I have really lost a lot of respect for him. I hate to say that and to feel that way, but that's just the way that it is. I'm really grateful though, to have rediscovered such a good friend in his wife.

Okay, so this post was in large part an update and also a vent. Sometimes, it is so hard to balance all of this stress though. Thanks for reading through this. I'm exhausted and probably a little worked up yet. And to add to the stress, I also just found out today that Hubby is going to be back to work six to seven days each week. That is going to take yet another toll on me, because I'm going to lose him as a regular resource on Sundays. Wish me luck?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Cold outside, chores inside.

I know some areas are worse, but man, oh man, is it ever cold outside this week. This past weekend was GORGEOUS! Fifty-five degrees and sunny and today it was bitterly cold, overcast and windy. Okay, in all reality, our high for the day was 16 degrees and our highest windchill temp I do believe got up to around -5 degrees. But brrr!

All the super cold means that we have been spending a lot of time indoors. Doing a lot of planning and chore work. Which means that right now is a great time to show-and-tell our current chore system here.

I have four children. Each child has an age in years. Each child is expected to do the same number of chores in living areas of the home as they are old. If all of these chores are done each and every day without fail, said child receives a dollar amount equal to their age once a month. What this ends up working out to being is 3.5 cents per chore. I wanted something that would give the kids money but not be something that would break our budget either.

So here is how it works for Cephas (the child with the greatest age/number of chores/earning potential):

His room has to be clean in order for him to earn any stickers (the way we keep track of our chores) for chores. A clean room means that his bed is neat and tidy, under his bed is free of debris, his dresser, desk and bookshelf are all neat and tidy, the closet is neat and tidy with all items on hangers or in the canvas bins that we use for underclothes. This may sound like a normal thing to the rest of you, but to my twelve year old and his apparent lack of ability to see mess, it is something that has o be clearly defined.

Now for his chores. Currently, at his request, he has the living room. Once again, it may seem silly that we have such a specific list for him, but quite honestly, he needs to have completely clear expectations. His chores are: (1) clear the bookshelf of anything that doesn't belong on there, (2) clear the TV stand of anything that doesn't belong on there and make it look neat, (3) clear off the cedar chest, (4) clear off the couch, (5) clear under couch cushions, (6) make sure the area under the couch is clear,  (7) hang up all the coats and backpacks neatly, (8) make sure all shoes are put on racks or in the shoe baskets, (9) clear off entry table of all non-essential items, (10) pick up floor area in TV area, making sure to check the perimeter area of the floor, (11) pick up floor area in the entry/shoe area, (12) clear off mom's side table.

All are super quick things to do, especially if he does it daily. If he doesn't do it daily, then it builds up and he has to work harder and longer to get it all done. He only earns one sticker per item each day and only if he keeps the chore items up throughout the day. He does have he ability to ask a sibling or a parent to pick up their item if he sees them leaving an item in an area that he is responsible for keeping tidy. He has to do it with respect though. He will get twelve stickers for doing these very basic routine pick up jobs in this one room. The other kids have similarly specific chore items to do in other rooms. This is a system that works for us.

On the wall in our hallway, I have a row of their current school pictures. Under this row of pictures, I have a string that is threaded through 8 mini clothespins that I got from Walmart. Two clothespins for each child hold a sheet of 8x11 printer paper on which we put their stickers. At night, after they go to bed, we place sticker strips with their accumulated stickers from the day in one of their clothespins. Then, once a month, we pay out for their stickers. They can keep the sheet or toss it. The boys generally toss theirs, while Oralee keeps her sheets and hangs them on her wall in her bedroom. Once paid, they get new sheets for the month.

I do allow the kids to do extra work and award extra stickers. For instance, if Cephas or Koren decide to do a load of laundry, it usually nets them 3 stickers (unloading the dryer and bringing the load to my bed or to the couch, transferring the laundry from washer to dryer, reloading the washer). They know all the little parts that need to be done each time. Sorting the load to make sure they are washing like items, using the right amount and temperature of water, cleaning the lint trap of the dryer, etc. etc. Last weekend, they worked together and did six loads of laundry. They worked together on it and I had no issues (because of how well they were working together, cooperating and showing initiative - I didn't say anything to them at all about doing laundry) of giving them each the same number of stickers that I would have given them if they did the work solo. My reasoning? Their joint work ethic. I wanted to reward that as well. And to show them that if they work together nicely, they can get the job done quickly and easily and reap even more benefits than working solo. Their additional benefit was half the workload, same amount of stickers and more time to spend doing what they wanted to do.

Cephas and Koren have been incredibly helpful around the house this week. They have helped me clean Oralee and Jeriah's bedroom, did probably 9 loads of laundry, Cephas cleaned his and Koren's bedroom, and helped me with some laundry work in my room. To be honest, my bedroom most often resembles a clothing store explosion. They earned A LOT of extra stickers for going so far above and beyond this week. The only thing that I actually asked them to do was offering them the opportunity to earn stickers for Oralee and Jeriah's bedroom. Bedroom chores are NOT generally worth any stickers. But if your bedroom chores are not done, you can earn stickers, but you may not collect them, if that makes sense at all.

Okay, so this is what our hallway looks like right now. I will be paying out for their stickers later today as it is the first day of the month.

This is Koren's chart. He has currently earned nearly $5.00 for two weeks worth of work. We had the same concept before, but the stickers were on a different chart (10-strips).


This here is Cephas' chart. He also has been working for about two weeks, and he has currently earned nearly $6.00.

This is Oralee's chart. She prefers her stickers to be placed on there at random. She has earned a little over a dollar and a half.

Jeriah's chart has the least amount of stickers, as he is the youngest and currently the most resistant to doing chores. He has earned just cents shy of a dollar.

I love this system! I love the fact that the kids' chores are so specific that there isn't any doubt that they know exactly what is expected of them. They know what each area is supposed to look like when it is done. It is great! They know what to do and how to do it. Also, I had mentioned that they can earn extra stickers for doing extra chores, if they choose, but their prerequisite for that is that their chore rooms have to be done and their bedrooms have to be clean. It has been a beautiful little arrangement.

Oh, and we are also about to institute a dinner chore wheel, where everyone has a roll to play in the dinner prep or clean up. Those mini-chores are not for stickers, but as part of being a family and learning to be a responsible member of the family. The dinner chores include: unload the dishwasher, clear off the table for dinner, help prepare the actual meal, set the table with dishes, help bring the food to the table, help clear the table of the extra food (everyone is responsible for getting their own place setting scraped off and to the sink), rinsing dishes, load the dishwasher, wipe down the table and chairs, wipe down the counters and stove, sweep kitchen and dining room floors, take out the trash. If everyone chips in and does even two items, the work will fly right by and we will have more time to spend doing whatever we want in the evening.

I think it is a great and wonderful plan and cannot wait to implement it later today as well. I love our chore system and how well it works for us. Maybe something in it will help you, maybe it won't. But I thought I'd share it because it is a system that we have been using for quite awhile now and it just works so well for us.