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Scheduling Mama, Scheduling Kid

I’m back! It’s been about 2 of the craziest weeks since the holidays. If you’re like me, between kids and working and hobbies and errand running and family obligations stuff just gets so busy everything gets done but nothing gets done well.

I don’t like that. Call it the perfectionist in me, but doing a lot simply to check it off the list isn’t good enough. I want to be present in my life – even the mundane stuff like house cleaning and walking the kids to school.

Someone who knows a bit about mindfullness is a writer friend of mine, Kate Hanley. Check out her weekly column at Ms.Mindbody. She’s even written the ultimate Chill Guide which you can find at her website.

I can’t even close to call myself a meditator. One of my biggest beefs with that practice has always been, “How can I find silence when my kid is vocally ticking!”

But even if I weren’t kidding – which I am (come on, people, haven’t you heard of ear plugs?) – the fact is that I simply haven’t carved out the time to do it. I have, though, found some ways to  organize my time so that I work more efficiently.

I’d like to talk about that this week, for in taking care of Mama, it has worked out that I am less worried about the things I can’t control, like T.S.! I can just do my best. That’s all any of us can do.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite pics taken over the past 2 weeks. I’d love to hear how you and your family are doing, too.

Here’s my daughter and me at Pip’s First Confession. Yes, I confess I have been a bad blogger! Oh, readership – all 20 of you – forgive me!

Here’s Rex, the kids, and little Miss L chilling out on a weekend night before a typical Saturday sleepover.

And here we have one of my favorite moments from our snow getaway last weekend. The kids had been disappointed that our cabin wasn’t covered in white, but the very next morning, we woke up to just enough flakes to enjoy some delicious sample tasting and a sled run down the hill.

Life with T.S. can feel far from perfect, folk, but I promise you that the more you live in the moment, the more you’ll look beyond a few annoying tics and cherish the friendships, the love and the smiles. A few extra snowflakes? That’s just icing on the cake.

Until next time,  hug that ticker of yours today!

Andrea

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I’m Still Here

It’s been crazy busy. I will post later today.

Meanwhile, how is your world? What’s going on with the tics? Update for others – it’s lovely to share our journey.

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Acupuncture Update #3 and Meditation

Stink was a bit head shaky, twitchy on Thursday. A session with Martina cleared this right up.

At first, Stink would complain about acupuncture. It was not the needles, but the time he had to take out of his day to sit still, that bugged him.

But now, he loves it. He is especially fond of Thursday’s sessions when he lays in Mama and Papa’s bed and hears this awesome meditation CD. In fact, the CD relaxes him so much, he and his sister go to sleep with it at night. It even worked in knocking him and his best buddy out in fifteen minutes on Saturday night.

This was after playing the Wii, seeing a movie, and running around like hellions in the backyard.

Just saying, if my kid and his 9 year old friend can go from this…

…to this

…it might be worth a shot for your little tickers.

Meditation CDs and acupuncture aren’t miracle cures, but for us, they are working.

More later!

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Wii Like Mario Now

For those of you who read me, you know that the Nintendo DS proved to be an absolute nightmare on many levels. Stink would obsess about when he could play it next. He’d make the finger movements in class when he should have been working on his writing assignment. He’d make the ever lovely Tarzan “ah ah ah” warble. His eyes would dart up down and round and round like a mad scientist tic-toc clock buzzed on Red Bull.

It didn’t matter how many expectations we’d set in order for him to play the game:

  • pay attention in class
  • no interrupting
  • no complaining over homework

My little gamer would ultimately break his end of the bargain. This resulted in many tears and feelings of shame as I ultimately held onto my end of the bargain which meant NO MARIO.

While I am not a mother who frets over my child’s self-esteem when it comes to doling out uncomfortable consequences (sorry, that’s life, kid) – I found it heartbreaking when I knew from the start he couldn’t control his impulses due to the very machine he was jonesing to play.

We found ourselves in a constant no-win circle. I likened it to telling a junkie they could have a shot of heroin only if they were able to meditate for an hour each day once/week and gain ten pounds back in the process.

It just so happens that I had enough of this Mario B.S D.S. right around the same time the school administration informed us about starting an I.E.P. evaluation for Stink.

Stink cried to mama when I told him that his hand held would be gone by Thanksgiving.

Mama cried to Papa when she was convinced Stink would be labeled as a special needs problem child by Christmas.

Along with the extra emotions and tics that come with Tic Trick or Treat… it was a fun Halloween season at he Frazer domicile.

We all got over ourselves around the time we moved the Christmas tree into the living room late November. The lights on the tree seemed to illuminate the best thing to happen in our house since Mario moved out: Sanity.

You can imagine my dismay, then, when Papa recommended that Santa buy Stink a Wii.  After smacking Rex over the head with a yule log,  I agreed. It made sense that the bigger screen and inability to transport that damn little box from place to place might dissipate tics and hyperactivity. We could buy movement games in addition to his beloved Plumber Lover.

I did provide a caveat though: If it caused any of the same symptoms as the DS, it was going to end quicker than Kim Kardashian’s wedding.

One month in, I’m happy to report that we have seen ZERO of the side effects we’ve seen with the DS. Stink still rushes to play his beloved Mario right after school on Fridays (no screen time during the week) but he’s fine with his 2 hour minimum.

His game time is tied into good behavior at school and home. So far, he’s doing phenomenally.

(Well, he still finds it hysterical to take pictures of his mother’s ass, such as this classic from Christmas Eve, but he’s 9. I’m into refining him into a nice young man, not a saint.)

In even stranger news, we finally heard back from the school about the I.E.P.. Turns out he doesn’t qualify based on high academic test scores and a fine enough ability to interact with others. He’s quirky. He’s odd. He’s stubborn as hell. He needs to curb the interruptions. He spaces out. But he doesn’t need an I.E.P.

I’m telling you, without even joking, that I I’d bet dollars to gluten free doughnuts that this I.E.P. process never would have gotten started if we hadn’t given him that D.S. in the first place last holiday season.

Of course, one will never know, but I’m relieved to know what our path is now. We have a few choices:

  1. $20k art school where he can tap dance his way into improv P.E. and be as quirky as he wants because, hey, we’re paying for teachers to “understand his eccentricities”
  2. Kick his butt into a better classroom management routine where he has consequences and rewards based on behavior

Guess which option we’re choosing?

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Acupuncture Update: 3rd Visit Results

We have fallen into a lovely routine already for Stink’s acupuncture visits with Martina.

Thursdays Martina makes a house call. While Stink does his meditations upstairs, Little L and Pipsqueak do homework downstairs.

Tuesdays after school I pick up all three kiddos. Note: This works only when I have not left my wallet in my husband’s truck due to my insane need to pick up roadside treasures and have to drive to his work to get my belongings (ahem, not a great day yesterday.)

We drive home.

We do homework.

We jump on the trampoline. (Well, they do. I have this post – birth bladder that doesn’t do so well with jumping anymore. Ahem, again.)

We eat a healthy snack.

And then drive over to Martina’s Woodland Hills office for his treatment. Looking like a cross between the White House and Cinderella’s castle, I always have a burst of joy walking past the columns into the large checkerboard marble hallways. Between the mirrors and the antique style oil paintings, an internal petite Eloise giggles within my 42 year old, 6’1 body. I momentarily pretend I’m really going home to the Plaza where I will be served tea and chat with a stoic elevator operator.

Sadly, Martina is located on the first floor only (no elevator rides) but the squeals of Little L and Pipsqueak, adorned in princess attire and tiaras are equally lovely. I mean, really, why would you not wear ball gowns to acupuncture?

After all, it helps to pass the time doing addition in the foyer while Stink is being poked with needles. (“Still doesn’t hurt!” he says.)

And it is such a fine, elegant way to assist Martina with her “color therapy”. If you didn’t look closely, you might think those two imps were holding magic wands at his ears, not pulsing tubes of light. (A video will come later next week, hopefully, where Martina will explain exactly what the colors and pulsations are for.)

Thier dresses are cause for celebration which means nothing less than a Taco Tuesday feast at Queen Grandma’s who lives a mile from the acupuncture castle.

Great “Huzzahs!” ensue – and not just that King Papa makes surprise visits occasionally. You see, thus far, Stink seems calmer after his visits with Martina. All tics are not erased, but he seems more focused. He sleeps well on the nights after his royal treatment.

Side Note: It’s interesting that if he starts the session with needles in his hands, and he’s still twitching/shaking his face slightly, Martina will “move the wind down his body” by adding two more needles to the feet.

 If I didn’t see his shaking subside drastically with that “release of wind” I wouldn’t believe it myself.

But then again, like my daughter and Little L, some things don’t have to be understood completely to work. It’s just magical, and I’m okay with that.

* top photo of the New York Plaza hotel

* middle photo of Pip and Little L, taken over the summer. I can picture this same photo in twenty years, but with margaritas in their hands instead. Dear Jesus, let that not be the case in ten years! I will lock them up in the dungeon if so!

* bottom photo: do I really need to explain Stink’s stinky feet?

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5 Ways to Write About T.S. For Sanity!

As you may or may not know, I write for the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome. It might seem odd that an L.A. gal is hooked up with an East Coast support group, but for some reason the good folk over there were the only ones who seemed to write me back when I was desperately searching for support five years ago. It was because of them that I realized other moms might need help, which encouraged me to write my own blog on T.S. as well as start my own private support group. I am forever indebted to the New Jersey chapter and want to give back.

On that note, I encourage all of you to write your way to peace and serenity. You might not be able to stop tics 100%, but it’s hard to think about what you can’t change while typing words onto the screen or paper.

Not all of us are born writers, but I am pretty sure we are all born complainers, so here’s my 5 tips for writing your way into serenity:

1. Journal: Whenever I journal, I have such an immense sense of peace. It’s a place for me to whine and complain, as well as count my blessings. No one is going to read it, so I don’t feel bad stating, “Today I want to take a sledge hammer to my husband’s red Rx7 and use the insurance money for a one week trip to the Bahamas where I will bathe nightly in buckets of red wine and smoke the doobage like it’s Vitamin B.” (Note: I am one of the few people in L.A. who has never inhaled. No joke. Perhaps I need to do my Winnebago RV Blogging tour for all 28 of you who read me and we can talk tics while we light up and eat Frito pie.)

The other awesome thing about journaling is I can also brag without feeling like I’m obnoxious because, again, no one is going to read it. Except now, which I will brag about, because I came to my in-box this morning, tired and groggy from two hours of sleep, to find this from my dear Rx7 driving spouse:

Morning!

I love you – your back is going to feel better!

I love you –  we’re going to have spending money eventually!

I love you – you’ll fall asleep soon!

I love you – for fighting the caffeine!

I love you – even if you tell me to stop playing it up when I’m trying to tell you this.

2. Start an Online Blog: My private Google group, lovingly known as Twitch and Bitch, begun out of a need to connect to other moms going through the same thing as me. To start your own Google Group, all you have to do is click the link I provided for you. It’s free and simple to set up. You can find people to add to your group simply by paying attention to tip #3.

3. Leave Comments on Inspirational Blogs: Finding blogs that speak to your heart, whether it be about T.S. or losing weight or how to start an Ebay biz, is a way to connect to other people who share your passion. The more you tap into the positive, the less you’ll be taken down from the often confusing syndrome known as T.S. The more consistently you leave comments, the more consistently either the author or others will also leave comments and write you back. You can get a great feel for peoples’ character and integrity from their comments. After connecting to folk, especially if it’s a blog about T.S., you can start your own group and email them an invitation.

4. Take a Writing Course: So many of you, I have found, are really great at leaving comments that are thoughtful and interesting. You are clearly educated! Why not put some of this to use writing articles for pay? I used to teach an online writing course. I am thinking of doing so again, based on some of your inquiries, but I hesitate. I’m not sure if I want to mix biz with pleasure – such as you all! Let me know if it seems cheesey to offer this class here or not. I want to be of service for tics for free and don’t want to come off like a cheap car salesman!

5. Write for the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome: They are looking for writers to post. They don’t pay, but they will give you the opportunity to share your story and help others. It will also be something you can put on your writing resume if you are trying to get other writing jobs down the road. Email me privately at LifeHappins@Gmail.com. If you are interested in writing for them, I’ll recommend you personally.

That’s it for now! What do you think about writing? Do you do it? If not, would you consider it? And what do you think about me advertising a class here? Be honest – I am walking a thin line. Sure, I’d like an income until my next paid column comes along, but my first priority is tic support!

Come visit my other writing, as other thriving parents’ blogs,  for daily support at the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome website!

Photo above from Allposters

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My Favorite Art Pieces: Huntington Library

Thursday I visited the Huntington Library in beautiful Pasadena. Known for it’s collection of rare and historic books and art, the Huntington also has some of the most beautiful gardens in Los Angeles.

Last time I came here was about three  years ago. My babies were little. We spent the whole time at the children’s garden. This was the first time I was able to go by myself and check out other parts of the grounds.

One of the most breathtaking was the Chinese garden. The moment I stepped in I was hit with an overpowering scent of fresh flowers. I found myself wishing my husband, our resident gardener, was here to appreciate it. He’d have loved the painstaking attention to detail. It was so crisp – so thoughtfully organized from the bridge to the wood carved artwork – it made me wonder why I didn’t take time to appreciate places like this more often.

And yet, despite its beauty, a bit of melancholy accompanied me this day. Call it the kids being back in school, or the holiday let down, or maybe just a lack of sleep I’ve encountered this month (die, caffeine, die!) but I just felt antsy.

I wanted to be there – I wanted to appreciate all the art around me – but my eyes kept darting over to the objects that ring the deepest in my heart.

 Yeah. Those darn little four-wheel strollers. (Well, some of them were the three-wheel-pivot-$600-costs-as-much-as-a-Mercedes-car-payment-L.A. strollers, but I am more of an Umbrella K-Mart gal. You get my point.)

I don’t feel done with the kids.

I know I’m 42.

Rex is totally over it.

When I think about how much work it would be, and how much less freedom I’d have, and how much less time I’d give to my own grade schoolers, I know it’s the right decision to stop.

Perhaps, when I really dig deep, I want the opportunity for a fresh start. I want to hold that “perfect” newborn in my arms and enjoy those precious few years before diagnoses hit… before reality hits… before I started worrying about “what could be” and simply enjoyed every little coo, sigh and milestone in the present.

I know that nothing in life is perfect, and there’s no guarantee a new child would escape any issues. In fact, there’s a decent chance that he or she would come against something because that’s what life does to all of us: it hits us in one way or another. There’s no escaping it.

That aside, though, I want the magic back.

Of course I have the magic with my little ones at home now, and a baby simply grows up also, but the truth is, these children are the most beautiful pieces of art I have ever seen. Call me a proud collector, but I wouldn’t mind acquiring a few more prized possessions.

Anyone else feel like that?

Come visit my other writing, as other thriving parents’ blogs,  for daily support at the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome website!

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Acupuncture for Tourettes and Tics

Many times in the early days, when Stink’s tics seemed awful, I’d say, “God, I’ll trade in x if you take Stink’s tics away.”

When things were calm, I’d say, “God, I’ll trade in x if you keep the twitches mellow just like they are.”

My prayer request was not granted, but as the Rolling Stone song says, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

Apparently what Mama needed was her life back – a life that didn’t consist of worrying about Stink 24 hours a day. It didn’t mean I didn’t have to try to suppress the tics and keep him healthy, but as the motto for my website goes, I had to work toward “Accepting the tics I couldn’t change, change the tics I could, and have the wisdom to know the difference.”

After some careful prayer and consideration, it was pretty obvious I had to get back to my writing, hence this blog and my book. (The book… I’m so behind. I’m going to have to stop talking about it and just do it.)

While doing what I love didn’t change Stink’s tics, it helped me stop focusing like a laser light on what I couldn’t change and try a few new things. One of those is acupuncture with the talented Martina Eberhard.

As you can see, needles in Stink’s ears left him highly traumatized.

Stink will be seeing Martina 2 days/week for at least two months. I’ll keep you informed of his progress.

Meanwhile, Martina will be working on his “wind” to create better digestion. Apparently his tongue is an off color, indicating that he is not processing food as well as he could which doesn’t help with tics. Given he’s eaten more gluten than a truckload of Webby’s bread this vacation, I’m shocked his tongue hasn’t transformed into a oblong ball of white spongy flour.

What about you all? What kind of treatments have you pursued either for yourself or your kids?

Until next time, enjoy the pleasant visual of needles being placed into my kid’s shins and head. The irony that just 12 hours earlier I was using sewing needles to hem his pants did not escape me.

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5 Ways To Face TS and Tics In 2012

I’m excited to bring you my very first post at my new website domain! Like my son’s favorite present from Santa, I hope my site can be a treasured gift to you so that you can find joy despite a diagnosis you may not be thrilled with. If there’s something you disagree with, let me know.

For those of you new to my blog, you can catch up on my TS journey at my old site here. But like Tourettes, despite good and bad days getting used to my new platform, this is my new home. Welcome!

For my first entry, I thought I’d cut and paste an entry I wrote in response to a friend of mine who was worried about her son’s new facial tics. She, like many new moms at the beginning, has moments of complete devastation. Sure, there are times when she feels like she’s okay with her son’s diagnosis (like the time when her son’s tics are the most minimal – shocking, I know.) But just when she feels like maybe she’s accepted his condition, a new twitch starts. With it comes fear, riding on a raging horse.

She wrote that she felt bad about, well, feeling bad! Like somehow she should be more accepting! Other moms in our group, it seems, are “over T.S.” and she isn’t.

For those of you who might feel like you are alone – that other folk can handle T.S. (or any disorder) and you’re in a fetal position in the corner drowning your sorrows with Two Buck Chuck from a sippy cup (hey, I resemble that remark!) rest assured – we all have our off days. Or weeks. Or months. Just hang in there – you will feel better in time.

Here’s my two cents on the subject. I edited my response a bit for the purposes of this blog.

I have been better lately for a variety of reasons.

1. Time: I have been down this road for FIVE years. I get the waxing and waning. I’ve done it all, from food and diet to supplements and possible medication options. I’ve done the holistic docs. I’m starting acupuncture. I have gotten to a point where I accept that Stink has TS and I”m doing my best. I don’t feel like ‘why can’t I fix it’ because I know I can’t 100%. But that leads me to #2.

2. A Plan.I have one. I’m going to do Brain Balance. I need to make some money to do that. This means selling some articles, teaching some online writing classes, Ebay, etc. Doing what I’m passionate about not only makes me joyful, but it has the added benefit of making me think less about the tics so I can actually change something I have control over: my attitude.

3. My Faith – Hope: Christianity has been a tremendous source of support for my up and down emotions.

* Note: Where I ramble like a Bible Thumper –  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This passage is a source of great hope for me. It means that my “suffering” is not in vain.

That tics are just like a puzzle piece. For a while, like when Stink was first diagnosed, the puzzle pieces seemed jarring. It felt like they would never fit together. Slowly, with my plan, I got the border put together. That was my emotional balance.

Now I have some of the middle put together. I can see a beautiful picture despite some missing holes. With faith, the holes can be filled in with a picture I create. That picture is a life where Stink is happy, healthy, funny and over T.S.. And if he’s not over T.S., it’s not in vain, because his character, and mine, was shaped from it.

* More thumping: And a sidenote!  I encourage all of you to find your own personal road to faith! Romans 5: 3-5 promises “And we rejoice in the HOPE of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance: perseverance, character: and character, HOPE. And HOPE does not disappoint us.” (Hooray for hope! I love hope!)

4. Finding my Passion: My writing has been tremendously helpful to me. It’s my love. I can’t form sentences and write blog posts while, at the same time, obsessing about tics. It’s simply impossible. In writing this blog, I am serving others as well. I have bad days like we all do, but in lifting others up, I am selfishly lifting myself up also. The key for me in helping others was realizing that I can’t just serve when I’m feeling okay. God can use me when I’m feeling like a piece of spit out gum stuck to the sidewalk. Before long, I’m blowing good bubbles of encouragement. And I even forgive myself for stupid analogies like the one I just wrote.

* Last thing on serving others: This is not meant as some do-good Christian tip. I don’t care what your religion is or how you feel. Taking your eyes off yourself, and putting them on someone else, is the cure-all for anthing. Don’t believe me? Try it. You’ll get hooked.

5. Acceptance: I accept that some days I’m just down. I don’t like the verbal tics any more than you all do. I have moments where I can’t be in the same room with Stink. I need a break. I have to fight for my “me” time and my “down time” and work on my marriage to do this. It’s created a wedge between my husband and me, at times, as I’m no longer the “yes” person where he gets all the breaks after his hard day at work and I continue to slave. Yes, I have down time while the kids are at school, but I also do a hell of a lot of work while I’m at home alone. I know… I KNOW… I’m worth some relaxation. Rex is starting to understand that. It’s not been a fun road, but he’s getting there, and that is all I need. Love is not a feeling – it’s an action. It’s a verb.

To help with all five points above, I am not ashamed to say I take 75mg of Zoloft every day. It’s evened me out enough to take my head out of my ass and face life the way life is. I hope to not be on it forever, but if I need to take it, I will. My good friend, Chrissy, sent me a link that talks about depression better than I could.

In closing, please know I’m here for all of you. I hope you’ll consider making a plan for yourselves to then get a plan for your child. If it’s meds, go for it. If it’s back to work, go for it. If it’s exercise, go for it. But know this: if it weren’t TS, you’d face something else at some point in your life. Perhaps your mom would die, throwing you into a tailspin. Or a husband who cheats on you. Or your child could have some other illness or you could be diagnosed with something.

I truly truly believe, now, that TS is the invitation we all need to accept life on life’s terms and do the best we can. I pray that you all find peace and are not so hard on yourselves. I’ll take the same hope for me, too.

Until tomorrow, remember my motto: A kid who tics with confidence outweighs an insecure  ass wipe any day of the week. (I should probably consider revising this tagline, but for now, the sentiment remains! Hug that ticker today!)