Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"Life as a Spectrum Mom"

Earlier this year my counselor told me I was sabotaging my writing. In a fit that would make my children proud, I thought, Oh yeah. I'll show you.

I am proud to present the book Life as a Spectrum Mom: The Ups, Downs, and Upside Downs of Parenting Autistic Kids. It's a series of essays, short stories, and laughable moments about my learning curve as a mom raising three kids on the spectrum. As far as style goes, think Erma Bombeck and Lisa Scottoline.

This is the first book in a series of books that will including such topics as transitions, routines, schools, tests, parent survival tips, and more. My goal is to expand the series to include the stories from other parents expounding on a portrait of their experiences. We all may be in a similar predicament, but our stories are as individual as our personalities.

To learn more about what Autism is like from a parent's perspective, click here: Life as a Spectrum Mom

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Day I Did Nothing

My mom called this morning as I was getting my children ready for school. She asked, "What are you going to do today?"

"Nothing," I replied. "Today is the first day this week that all three kids have gone to school. I am going to recuperate and have some much needed down time. Besides, I have critique group tonight and want to save up my energy for that."

So what have I done today?

I did nothing but wake up an hour before my children in order to set out their breakfast, and their clothes, and establish a time frame that fits with their daily special needs routine, so that I could handle facing the day with optimism in-spite of a 6 day migraine.

I did nothing but rely on my husband for help when getting the children up and ready was more than my sleep deprived body could handle, then kissed him tenderly and whispered, "Please come home safely" as he walked out the door to catch a train to work.

I did nothing as I made sure my kids wore clothes appropriate for their schools walk-a-thon, wore sunglasses, hats, water and sent them out the door with kisses, hugs, jokes, and a prayer for their safe return.

I did nothing as I listened to religious talks on my Kindle while playing several rousing rounds of Mario Kart 8 all by myself.

I did nothing as I dug out my husband's tools and attempted the electrical feat of fixing both ceiling fans in my children's rooms while kneeling on my kids' beds on the top bunk on a knee recovering from surgery in attempt to obliterate the annoying knocking sound they produced.

I did nothing as I watched two episodes of a documentary on legendary castles of England as I sorted through old files to discard product manuals for products we haven't had in years all while icing my leg in hopes to minimize the swelling from working on the ceiling fans.

I did nothing as I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher just so we could have clean cups.

I did nothing as I moved over the load of laundry while waiting for my youngest son's bus from preschool to arrive.

I did nothing as I de-thawed and baked chicken in preparation for making chicken salad for my lunch for tomorrow.

I did nothing as I set out the trash on the back porch, eagerly waiting my husband's help at the end of the day to take it the rest of the way out to the dumpster.

I did nothing as I sat on our back porch swing eating my lunch of leftovers while watching my 4 year old practice cursive writing as we waited for my 6 year old's kindergarten bus to arrive.

I did nothing as I constantly replay the broken record of MANNERS to my children.

I did nothing as I broke up two pro-wrestling toddlers from their daily recurring matches.

I did nothing as I read a book about a librarian chasing the gingerbread man in order to get him back in his book while my son ate his lunch.

I did nothing as I continued the daily attempt at potty training my autistic kindergartner.

I did nothing as I braved getting out play-doh for my 4 yr old to hack, maim, and create, praying all the while it doesn't fall on the floor, get stepped on, or be eaten by my 6 yr old.

I did nothing as I grieved with friends and loved ones in what ways I could (though minor), hopefully relieving even an ounce of their stress and struggles as they go through watching a love one with cancer, going through a divorce, or making a major move.

I did nothing as I researched into ways to improve being a parent, a healthier eater, a kinder person, and a better writer, to deal with my ADHD and read uplifting stories on parents dealing with special needs children.

I did nothing as I worked on our finances in an attempt to make $10 last 9 days.

I did nothing as I talked on and off with my husband through instant message to coordinate, to cheer one another, and just to let him know I care.

And that is only up to lunchtime.......

From here I must do nothing so that when my daughter comes home from school I can help her check for sunburns from their walk-a-thon, keep all three kids hydrated on a warm day, while trying to explain once again why we cannot go play out front, and arguing with their logic that the backyard is not interesting enough.

To help them with their homework when every sight, sound, and touch of air distracts them and overwhelms their ability to think spiraling them into a whirlwind of emotions that they do not understand and therefore fear.

To attempt to feed my children, who will willingly starve rather than eat anything that is a combined texture, or "looks wrong". 

To hug my sweet husband as he comes home from a long commute after a long day of work. To tag team our children into taking baths.

To keep the children from fighting over the Kindles and who is not sharing this time.

Then, I can finally do nothing as I clean myself up, pull my hair back, and put on my writing hat as I go off to critique group where dragons are born and darlings are killed all for the benefit of weaving a hopefully brilliantly crafted story. All to be later edited in the week on the only computer available, an ancient beast in our bedroom because my laptop died a month ago. But at the same time be lifted by like minded souls with their own struggles who get my quirky antics, get my love for my family, and get me.

So yeah, I often plan on spending a day accomplishing nothing, but have you ever seen something so wonderful and beautiful and filling as keeping a family alive, hopefully flourishing, and not killing each other. I have NEVER EVER felt more exhausted & accomplished then when I am doing nothing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Have Shrink, Will Write

I know it has been months since I posted, but its been an extremely rocky several months. Now that things are on the mend, I'd like to share a blog post that I did as a guest on Fictorians, an amazing group of writers that I met while at Superstars Writing Seminars in Colorado last month.  So, for your viewing enjoyment here is the reblog of my post from Fictorians, Have Counselor, Will Write:

A Guest Post by Karen Pellett

Just last month, I was lying in the same-day surgery wing of the hospital prepping for knee surgery when the pre-op nurse asked what kind of work I do. I smiled as I took the marker and dutifully wrote “Yes, please,” on my right knee, a protective measure against the surgeon working on the wrong leg, and answered, “I’m a mom and a writer.” Over the next hour we talked more about what I do for a living. Finally, she shook her head, and asked, “How do you do it?”

“I have a fantastic counselor,” I said.

She broke out laughing.

It is true though. Life is chaos. That is a given fact for pretty much everyone. It is a big mess of trials, failures, joy and heartache that all mesh into one big ball of fun.

Once upon a time, in a land known as Seattle, I quit my full time job as a business analyst to write. I’d wake up in the morning, kiss my husband send him off to work, and then sit down at my computer and……twiddle my thumbs. I had all the time to write, and struggled to write a single word. It honestly took my friend giving me a random writing prompt before I wrote my first short story Curse of the Light Switches. Believe me, it was totally and completely pathetic. But it was what I needed to kick my imagination gears into motion. Over the next two years, I wrote and edited seven drafts of my first ever epic fantasy novel. Thinking the project finished and a work of art, I started submitting to agents. The mail box remained empty for months. The few responses I did receive were form letters. The greatest rejection stated that while I was a talented storyteller, I was not a fit for their publishing firm.

Then, after seven years of fertility issues, we invented the child. Not just any child, but a little girl who rolled over in the hospital three days after birth and has never stopped moving. She was our little miracle, but the moment she came into existence my motivation and ability to write drastically dropped faster than an Olympic skier racing down a bunny hill. Two months after our daughter was born we moved from Seattle to Utah so that she could grow up near her half-brothers. A short twenty months later I had a son after four and a half months of bed rest. When he was ten months old, I informed the doctor that I wanted to have one more child, but that they had to be farther apart. Either I was a totally suck-tastic mother or my children were literally more than I could handle. The doctor informed me in return….Guess what? You are already pregnant.

Three kids in three and a half years. Try writing anything through that and I’ll personally bake you a cake.
I attempted to salvage my feeble writing career by attending a myriad of local writing conferences and by joining two different critique groups. Their feedback was invaluable. But as I read their stories and compared them to mine, I wanted to cry. However, I’m the type of person who is just too stubborn to give up. I hung in there, submitted crap, and took the feedback as my saving grace and ran with it.
Our chaotic life then spiraled out of control. I ruptured a disc in my back that required major surgery. What writing I did attempt felt like crap, and I felt like the grand prize winner of the Worst Mother of the Year award. On top of that, my husband had a bad reaction to medication, sending him into six months of suicidal tendencies.

That is when I met Bonnie (a.k.a. the most incredible counselor in the universe). She was exactly what I needed in a counselor—long almost black hair, bangles up the arms, at least four necklaces, ripped leather pants, camouflage shirt, combat boots, and a bike jacket. Bonnie became my counseling version of the fairy godmother. She helped me learn what I could control, what I couldn’t, and how to see the difference.
Then in 2014 my littlest son hit me in the head with a car seat, giving me a concussion and one of the greatest miracles of my life. Because of my concussion the doctors did several MRIs and identified “three white matter brain lesions in non-MS typical locations.” This simply means… I’m a writer in transition to superhero glory.

I wish.

At the same time all three of my kids were diagnosed with special needs—running from ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, Moderate-functioning Autism, aggressive tendencies, and developmental delays. My kids are pretty much creative geniuses that learn uniquely and see the world in remarkable ways while not grasping social expectations. The truth behind the difficult paths I traveled hit me when I made Bonnie cry. (There’s no crying in therapy! Oh wait….yes, there is. Just not usually from your counselor.)

So how do I balance life and writing in this chaos? I don’t. Thanks to those tiny aliens in my noggin’, the three precious miracle children in my life, a very supportive husband, and my genius counselor, I’ve had to learn to let go. Instead I wing it. Personally, I can’t write at night. I cherish my sleep way too much. And I already get up at oh-dark-thirty thanks to my autistic son who doesn’t require anywhere near a decent amount of sleep. So instead, for four days a week in the precious two hours that all three kids are in special needs classes, I attempt to write. Just like in college, I still tend to work best under pressure, so I set deadlines and goals to keep me motivated (and yes, chocolate and caffeine are often involved). Then there’s my amazing husband who will stay home with the kids and send me off to the library to work when I require a much needed sanity break. (Back off ladies, he’s mine!)

Through it all I’ve written two novels, unpublished to date, but they will be published someday. I’ve had a piece published in a magazine about what it is like being a stepmom. Another piece won first place in an online writing contest and was included in an anthology on being a mommy writer. My third essay came out last year on the trials my husband and I experienced going through fertility issues. And my first ever short story was published this last Christmas to help raise money for Primary Children’s Hospital.
Yes, my life is still a ball of intense chaos, but I love it. It is not easy. But the fight is worth it. And thanks to a brilliant counselor, I’ve had to learn that if I want to survive, if I want to thrive, I must do something that takes care of me—and that something is writing. I’m worth it.

Karen Pellett is a crazy woman with a computer, and she’s not afraid to use it. Most of her time is spent between raising three overly brilliant and stinkin’ cute children, playing video games with her stepsons, and the rare peaceful moment with her husband. When opportunity provides she escapes to the alternate dimension to write fantasy & magical realism novels, the occasional short story, and essays on raising special needs children. Karen lives, plots & writes in American Fork, Utah.

P.S. I highly recommend reading the blog Fictorians for other information, ideas, and such from other authors at all levels of their writing journey. You should check it out.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

When you don't know what you're doing?

One of the difficulties of being a mother with special needs children is not knowing every single one of the triggers that may set off my children.  Now, I'm grateful for the ones I do know, for example:

- Loud noises will trigger my autistic son, especially when it comes from my daughter.
- Mixed textures in any food will set off all three kids
- The inappropriate food at all will set off the kids
- Lack of decent sleep will set off the kids
- The wrong texture of clothes will set off the kids
- A parent misinterpreting anything will set off the kids

Now I have three of these kids. They are amazing, miraculous, incredible, beautiful, generous, lovable, adorable, and so much more.

But there are days when I have absolutely no clue what in heaven or earth has set off my kids. Like today. Like the entire last week. The kids are overreacting to the littlest things and overreacting to the most extreme. I feel bruised, battered, emotionally torn and exhausted, and extremely overwhelmed.  I have had very little sleep, I'm eating poorly, and I'm incredibly crabby. Sometimes I wish there was a magical translation stone to help me understand, because its moments like this when I feel totally helpless. Like nothing I doing is the right thing for them or for me. So here's a prayer from me to all special needs parents who are enduring similar situations. I'll pray for you and you pray for me. Together we'll make it through. We'll find the answers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How Life As A Mom Can Be Scary & Fun

Here for your enjoyment is the story won me 3rd place in the Adult category for our local Halloween Scary Short Story Contest last night. 

by Karen Pellett
October 2015

The sun tucked behind the distant mountains, hiding her escape but also making it impossible to see where it was safe to run. Cindy’s skin prickled with the kiss of bitter smoke on the wind and the sudden drop in temperature. She grabbed hold of a nearby tree to steady her weakened knees, but the coarse bark cut into her palm until it bled. The rain-soaked ground undulated beneath her feet, resembling the body of a serpent slithering below her in the fading light. The pain and numbness from the drugs’ lasting effects only intensified the hallucinogenic feeling.
Clawing her way up the tree-blanketed hill side, her hair fell in shriveled threads out of its ponytail, creating temporary cracks in her vision. She brushed the errant strands out of her eyes looking for a path through the forest brush. As she stepped over a fallen branch, her foot sunk into a puddle of mud, leaves, and slime. Cindy tugged her foot hard until it pulled free with a slurp and a pop. The frayed pink strap on her sandal snapped and sank silently into an oozy grave.
Her heart pounded like a jackhammer on steroids, but she had to think. How long had it been? Ten, fifteen minutes? They must have discovered her absence by now. The marks on her wrists from the ropes that once bound her felt tender. Memories rampaged through her head. The people hidden behind surgical masks. The experiments. The pain. The screaming.  The smell of burnt nylon and skin so real she nearly gagged.
The crickets ceased their chirping. Cindy bit down on her cheek to quiet the pending sob until blood seeped through her lips. As she slid down the trunk of a nearby tree, the bark tore at the fabric of her stained shift and tearing at her back. What were a few more scratches to the tally she’d already earned that night?
The crisp leaves crunched under her weight as she shifted, startling a garden snake from the safety of its hole. She gasped. A low guttural sound rumbled the woods from down the hill in answer, sending a feral echo through the night. A flock of birds escaped into the safety of the blackened sky. Cindy closed her eyes, wishing that she could sprout wings and fly with them to the safety of the stars—away from the Hunters.
She peeked out at the forest around her. The white of the quaking aspen trunks looked like skeleton fingers digging their way out of the ground, grasping for air, for life. She shivered and rubbed her arms to erase the feeling, leaving a single bloody trail on her skin; she looked down at her feet—the one pink sandal still holding tightly on her right foot, blue nail polish worn and scratched. Wrapping her arms around her knees she rocked to and fro, the sandal coming in and out of view.
Pink. Forest floor. Pink. Forest floor.
The rhythm soothed her aching heart as she counted along to the time of her rocking. But something tickled at her conscience. Something felt off.
You mean more wrong than being hunted as prey, she thought to herself.
Pink. That inkling tugged at her pained skull. Something about the color.
What’s wrong with pink?
She stopped rocking, staring down at her feet. The pink glared at her against the darkness, a beacon in the night. She fumbled with the strap; her fingers numbly tugging at the metal until the leather strap broke lose.   Ripping the sandal free from her foot she clawed at the moist soil until the dirt broke away in chunks.
No. No. No.
She shoved the shoe into the hole and desperately dragged the crushed leaves, twigs and dirt to hide the signs of its existence.
A few moments later, the muffled sound of the Hunter’s young voice reached through the darkness. “I think I saw something over this direction . . . It’s one of her shoes. We’re close.”
Not yet. Please.
The trees to her left thinned too much for Cindy to escape into; to the right, a mesh of long forgotten shrubbery which just might lead to safety. Moving to her hands and knees, she crawled in the direction of the hedge.
“Shhh, I think I heard something,” said the young male hunter.
Cindy inched further toward the bushes. Rounding their worn edge inch by inch, her arms trembled, her body worn out, until she spied the framed of a cabin. Her heart pounded as she debated the still slow crawl or a mad dash to safety. The bushes behind Cindy rustled. She leapt to her feet and ran—the safety of the porch mere feet away.
Two heavy bodies plowed into Cindy, knocking her to the ground. Her hair knotted with the debris from the pile of leaves she landed in.
“No!” she screamed.
An animal jumped around the edge of her vision, growling and barking. As her attackers struggled to subdue her, the bang of the cabin door opening was a gunshot in the night. Cindy’s attackers froze giving her a clear view of the doorway. A man towered in the doorway, his shoulders blocked out the majority of the door, his head nearly touching the frame, but his bearded face clouded over as he looked down on them.
“Please!” Cindy yelled. “Help me.” The Hunters’ weight on her chest made it impossible to say more.
The man rushed to her aid with a roar.
“You’re home!” The Hunters squealed as they leapt off of her tired frame.
The family cocker spaniel no longer growled his feral rumble from the hunt but yipped around the children’s feet as they rushed into their father’s arms. Cindy collapsed back onto the pile of leaves she and the Hunters had raked up earlier that morning, her muscles aching with the strain of the day. She wanted to run into the safety of her husband’s arms as quickly as her children had, but she could barely move.
The crunch of heavy boots on the scattered leaves grew louder. After a few moments of silence her husband took her by the hand and helped Cindy to her feet. “Need a break?”
She shook her head, and then stopped. The pain wasn’t a part of the costume. “And miss out on Trick or Treating?”
He rolled his eyes at her. Hand in hand, they walked toward the cabin; the sounds of their children inside vibrated the walls.
Cindy sighed at the noise, stopped to look into the murky woods that outlined their home, and bit her lip. She had to do it. Standing on her tiptoes she kissed her husband’s scratchy beard.
“I forgot my shoe.” She ran toward the hedge border, calling over her shoulder, and said, “Every Cinderella must have her slipper.”
Her haunting laughter echoed through the forest as the darkness enveloped her into its quiet arms.

 Happy Halloween Everyone!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Scary Thing About Being A Mom.....

As it is Halloween season I thought I'd talk about some of the scary aspects of being a mom (funny & not so funny):

Not Funny:

- Watching your child having a seizure after growing up with a brother with Grand Mal seizures. (Never want to go through that again)
- Seeing that your kids have no fear about everything they should be fearful of.
- Waking one day to see your son having gotten the knives out of the knife block and line them up one by one in a row next to his sleeping brother. (I'm not sure he intended to use them. He just likes to line them up).
- Worrying about what the future will be like for your children and if a day will come that, for your safety and theirs, that you will have to put them in a care facility. Or that they might never be able to be independent enough to move out.

Funny Scary:

- When you realize you're kids are stinkin' brilliant and you feel a few potatoes short of a pound.
- When you become an expert at locks because you're constantly trying to find one that your kids can't bypass.

I had a whole list earlier, but my mind went blank from keeping eyes on my children & their mischief ways. I guess that's kind of funny/scary too.

So what are some of the things that you find scary (funny or not so funny) about being a parent?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Power of 3

No I am not referencing Doctor Who when I talk about the power of three.  I'm talking about two aspects of three:

1) When you have 3 children,
2) When any of them turn 3 years old.

Aspect #1:

After Frank and I had our second child the doctor wanted to convince me that I was done and that I should have my tubes tied. It was too dangerous. Each pregnancy took such a great toll on me and was life threatening to me and the baby. But I knew in my heart that there was one more.  I begged him to let us wait to have one more. He reluctantly agreed.

By the time our second child was 11 months old I went into the doctor and told him, "Yes, I want a third, but they HAVE to be further apart." He laughed. Our daughter Rose and our son Cyprus were only 22 months apart and I couldn't handle it (it was only years later that I learned they had special needs).  The doctor and I laid out a plan, he gave me the fertility meds and told me to go home and take a pregnancy test.  I did. It was positive. I cried. 

I still wanted that third baby no matter what, and YEAH I got pregnant without the fertility drugs, but (insert cuss words) I couldn't handle the two I had.  I was tired. I was frustrated. I was weary. The pregnancy was hard. SO HARD. And a month into it my husband lost his job through cutbacks. Rough rough times for our family. A month prior to delivery I ended up in the hospital with severe migraines, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia. I was hospitalized for 4 days and sent home on strict bed rest. I was only 33 weeks.  And then my husband started work and had no time off and we had two toddlers at home. Enough said.

Anyway, through prayer and major support from friends and church members we made it and little Juniper was born. He and Cyprus were only 20 months apart.  I gladly allowed my doctor to tie my tubes (though its often been an internal battle since whether or not that was the right decision, I still couldn't risk it).

A few weeks later my husband and I crashed in bed after an exhausting day and he sighed. "We miscalculated."   When I asked him to clarify, he said, "The kids now outnumber the adults." 

That's where the first Power of 3 comes in. When you hit three kids, suddenly you no longer have enough hands (whether or not they are special needs). It takes a good year or two before you can find a natural rhythm as husband and wife to adjust to who keeps track of whom. There were some days I dreaded even stepping outside of my house, it was so bad.

Aspect #2

For some reason when all three of my kids hit 2 1/2 to 3 years of age they put on this armor of anxiety polished with a coat of desire for control and it is bad. It is so rough sometimes. They become bossy, stubborn (okay they have good examples of that from their parents to start with), and full of tantrums.  And if you DARE even think of stepping two feet of where they expect or want you to be they start screaming "MOMMY!!!! DON'T LEAVE ME!!!" loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear.

Talk about laying on the guilt.

I've really struggled these last few weeks dealing with this second aspect of threes for many reasons. Juniper is my last child to be 3. In fact in just over a week he'll be 4. And sometimes that's hard to deal with knowing that I will never have another child. I can't physically, mentally, emotionally or financially handle it right now. It just won't happen, no matter how much my heart hurts and longs for another daughter, in spite of all the difficulty.

But its also been hard because now I know what my children are going through. Thanks to working with amazing specialists I understand better what my kids see, why they think the way they do, what battles they are fighting internally. I get it.....logically.   But my soul is weary. We've had another extremely hard year. Harder by far than many in the past, even the year I was pregnant with Juniper. My body aches, my heart aches, my soul aches. And my little ones do not, cannot, understand. So as they scream "MOMMY DON"T LEAVE ME!!!!" I cry. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I hide in my shower and let the water wash away the overwhelming weakness that I feel. 

How can I make my little ones understand that I'm only going upstairs to turn on the swamp cooler? Or I'm just going around the corner to flip a light switch. Or going to the store to by bread and milk and that they are still safe because Daddy or Grandma or whoever is still with them, without their world crashing down on them and the fear overwhelming all of us. How can I stop getting into arguments with a three year old who only hears what he wants to hear (and sometimes only what he can hear because his special needs have blocked everything else out)?

I'm never going to give up on my little ones. I still count them as my miracles each and every day. I'm still grateful to have them as part of my life and wouldn't give them up for anything.  But man the POWER OF THREE is hard.  And I look forward to when we move beyond the second aspect and my children will understand that me going upstairs to get a load of laundry does not mean that I no longer love them.  I long for the day when they trust that my love is there no matter what. The day that they realize that I will never give up on them. They day when they can let me go and know that I will always do whatever is in my power to come back (even if I'm only gone for 5 minutes). 

I love to watch my garden grow. These children are amazing. They are my heart. And one day they will know.