I thrive on predictability. When I lived in Brazil as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I ate rice and beans and some sort of meat (normally chicken) at every lunch date we had. After my first month in Ceara, Brazil we had a special luncheon at the Mission President’s House. The Mission President is the one in charge of our spiritual, emotional, and physical well being while we are out in the field for the year and a half to two years we are away from our families. My companion (we are always paired with another missionary or two – 2 Cor. 13:1 In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.) told me that the meal at the Mission Home would be the best food our entire mission. I was utterly excited! I don’t remember what I imagined what the meal would be like, but my mouth salivated. I was so tired of rice and beans, I was ready for something delicious.
I quivered in anticipation as the first dish was placed on the table: RICE. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach as the second dish was placed on the table: BEANS. I began to sob – yes, literally SOB when the third dish was placed on the table: SOME SORT OF MEAT (I think it was chicken!). I don’t think I stopped crying for about an hour. My Mission President and his wife were at a complete loss because they couldn’t understand what I was saying. They were from Sao Paulo, Brazil and although they spoke pretty good English they couldn’t quite understand the garbled words coming from this weeping young woman. My companion happened to be an American, and she attempted to talk to me – but I was too much in shock. The thought hit me that I had another year and a half of rice and beans for every, and I mean EVERY meal. SIGH! The good news, not every meal was rice and beans. There was pasta every once in a while (no spaghetti sauce, just pasta with oil – maybe some cilantro if we were lucky), and some of the best beet and potato salad you can imagine! By the time I went home I had lost quite a few pounds, and I did gain a love of rice and beans (although NOT every day).
The moral to this story – predictability is a good thing, but sometimes it is important to vary things a bit. My husband and sons thrive on structure and routine. My daughter – well, she thrives. While the routines, and expectations are often ritualistic in our home the way that each of us deals with them are often as broad as the spectrum is. it is important to find a variety of activities that can both stimulate and calm down the senses to best help Chase. Not only that, but it is imperative that we get an idea of what happens during a typical day – so that we can prepare and implement some of the activities. I never thought about jotting down the daily routines in the life of my kiddo as a way to catch a glimpse at how he deals with the world around him. Not only will I be looking at Chase, but the rest of us as well. It is through looking at our family’s schedule that I am able to have those “aha” moments of clarity to better define what our strengths are as a family and analyze what our top priorities should be in organizing peace out of chaos.
- Morning routine is a struggle for all of us. Donovan, Gavin and I are NOT morning people, however as soon as the sun streaks into Mia’s room she is bright eyed and bushy tailed. When Dee is with us on the weekends I have to give him some time to himself so he wakes up without biting everyone’s head off. During the week I spend time with Mia and make forays into the bedroom to gently prod Gavin awake. If he growls I leave him alone.
- While he is gone at school I work on the house with Mia seated at the table either doing her own work (coloring, tracing letters, cutting, whatever she is into) or helping Momma.
- After school is a huge trigger for Gavin. Mia is ready to play with him, I want to know how his day went, Daddy is just waking up (He works from 8pm to 6am) and Gavin gets off the bus either in meltdown mode or giddy – both are not good signs. We let him have some time to defrag and usually that means he is drawing or playing with trains.
- Homework time is always a total failure. He is just worked out at school. They want him reading, writing a two sentence reading response, and then a page of math. We tried this at the beginning of the school year. Two hours is just too much. I set the alarm for 15 minutes and then he is DONE. So am I!!!!!
- I love to cook, “, Gavin the helper guy” as he calls himself, loves to be in the kitchen with me. The other night I had him read to me while I made supper. It was a great success. I wonder if it will work in the future. Knowing my little guy – yes and no!
- Dinner is my frazzle time. I made a connection to my own meltdowns at dinner time to how Dinner was a stressful time at my house as I grew up. I don’t have many peaceful memories of dinner time. I have to deep breath as I get the kids to the table and clamp my mouth shut while my four year old looks at what I have made and yells “That is disgusting. I don’t yike it.” Then smile through the steam escaping my ears as she eats for Daddy. It is always a flip of the coin as to whether Gavin will eat or not. Lately he is eating. A wonderful side effect of the meds he is currently taking.
- Our night time routine needs to get back on track. When we have bath, brush teeth, read a book then go to bed things go much more smoothly.
- Our weekends are different. Saturday we tend to go to Costco to get samples, and often end up at Walmart for stuff. Sunday is the Lord’s day and we go to church. Gavin really struggles with the three hour block of church. We have tried being in the chapel, but I get anxious as he gets loud. I know we should just stay in the chapel, but sitting out in the foyer where there are couches, and a place to walk when he needs physical input is what we end up doing. The second hour of church is Singing Time for the kids. He HATES music time at school and at church. The noise, children’s singing voices, chaos is just too stimulating for his senses. He enjoys the last hour when he is with his small class. There are only 6 children in his age group. Two sets of twins, him, and another little girl. Even though it is such a small group they split the children up to keep it smaller as a way to accommodate the special needs of my son – to which I am eternally grateful. His teacher provides play-dough, a snack, and carpet squares for the times he doesn’t want to sit on a chair. She is wonderful, and a true gift from God in my sons life.
Looking at what is working, and what doesn’t it really hit me that the first step to creating a sense of tranquility in our chaotic life is to start with the bedrooms. We spend the majority of our family time in the living room. It is where all three kids would prefer to sleep at night, that or in bed with Mom and Dad. This just isn’t working anymore. We are going to reorganize all three bedrooms.