Managing a Household with Neurodivergencies (ADHD, ASD, etc.)

Earlier this week my friend Sam posted on Facebook, “Neurodivergent Friends what are some tools you use with others that help you with daily life, communication, relationships?”

A few friends posted that they needed help with meal prep, day-to-day stuff, and as y’all know, that’s my bag, baby!

Both my kids are Neurodivergent (ADHD/ASD and ADHD), and their dad has ADHD (combined type/ C) and because of that, we’ve had to make some adjustments to our daily life and how we function. And while our processes and schedules may not work for everyone, hopefully, these tips give you some idea and hope if you need it.

Some of these directly affect/benefit the kids, and some make my life easier, which in turn makes their lives easier.

Having an accurate(ish) pantry, fridge, and freezer inventory. I have made my own sheets in the past (using Canva), but the ones from Organized Home are great.

Meal Prep and meal planning (this includes using Dream Dinners once every few months). This frees up time each night to read, hang out, bathe, and get kids ready for bed.

Meal Prep can be as easy as cut up veggies, fruit, pre-portioned foods, and easy meals or side dishes prepared in advance that only need to be heated up to avoid wasting money eating out because “there is nothing to eat”. Also having one night for take-out. And I have a whiteboard that lists our meal plan for the week- I try and post it weekly on Instagram.

The Snack Box- I also organized our fridge and pantry to be more ND-friendly. Stuff that should be eaten (healthy food like fruit, cheese sticks, yogurt, etc.) is at kid eye level in clear packaging and is labeled (I use expo markers on my Rubbermaid containers), and I have a “Snack box” in the pantry that is available 24/7 for hungry faces. It’s got individually portioned shelf-stable snacks and meal components. And on days when I am too tired/rushed to cook we have “Meal of snacks” where I serve a variety of snacks on old-school sectioned cafeteria trays- fruits, veggies, crackers, cheese, cookies, and a drink (juice or iced tea is a hit).

We have a list of snacks on the fridge so the kids know what there is to snack on. It is a visual list (I drew it), and when we are out of specific items, I cover the picture with a piece of posit note.

Calendars– in the kitchen, and one in each bedroom. I update them weekly, plus the grownups use the calendars on their phones and we have a shared family calendar. Kids get reminders each day in the morning and afternoon of any appointments or events that will take place during the day. The visual and auditory reminders really help cement the appointment in their mind.

Visual reminders– next to the front door at eye level there is a sign that reminds us we need: cellphone, wallet, keys, and garage door opener. It’s laminated.

Visual schedule– this is mainly for the kids. I drew up a daily schedule using words and pictures. I wrote a post about it here.

Lists– Everyone has a “Care tasks” list each week that includes appts, returning borrowed items, and tasks to do throughout the week. You can read about my weekly Care Tasks here. 

Larger font digital clock with day of the week, date, and what part of the day (morning, afternoon, evening, night). The kids can read a clock, but it can take time to engage their brains and count by 5’s, but the “old people clock” as it was marketed on Amazon helps them instantly and helps a lot with the “is it time for xxxxx yet?!?!”

Using your phone to stay on top of details- I saw this on Facebook in a group and I’ve started doing this. If you have an iPhone, there is a notes section in each contact. I’ve seen them used to keep track of favorite fast food at various restaurants, favorite foods/drinks, clothing sizes and brands, favorite colors, birthdays, and anniversaries. It’s such a game changer.

The fidget/stim box– we have a plastic box full of fidget/stim toys for everyone to grab when they need to focus. And everyone has some in their room too. This includes headphones to cut down on loud sounds (I buy the landscapers kind from harbor freight). We have 3 pairs in the house and two pairs in the car. For those not familiar- fidget toys can help calm the body so the mind can focus.

Some favorites include pop-its, hand strengthening eggs, fidget cubes, fidget spinners, stretchy tubes, pop tubes, and stress balls (the kind with Orbeez are super satisfying). Amazon sells really great fidget toys mutli-packs.

Medication Boxes- We refill our medication boxes each week (both AM and PM).  The three of us take our meds together each morning at breakfast time. Our medication boxes live on the kitchen counter, along with our pill minders: Jon Cena and Skeletor.

Stuff has a place– The kid’s shoes and backpacks are always by the door during the school year, ready to be cleaned out and refilled each night. My car keys and purse live in the same spot, the pool key has a special spot. The extra toilet paper and paper towels are always in the same spot (under the front bathroom sink). These are just a few examples of the ways that we remind ourselves and create routines. Creating routines can give us a sense of normalcy and be calming.

The Family Binder– One last thing that doesn’t directly “help” the kids but helps the family, especially in times of emergency is the family binder. I’ve had one since 2010 in various incarnations. I have a really old post about it here.  It’s basically my brain in paper form. It’s got all of our important papers, insurance info, important phone numbers, policy numbers, warranty information, receipts for expensive/valuable stuff, copies of most recent IEPS, copies of diagnosis paperwork, lists of everyone’s meds, doctors info, etc. Think of it as all the info you’d need if you lost power for an extended period, your house burned down, or there was a tornado.

There are a lot of other things that we do in our home to help the kids- keep them safe, regulated, and happy. The stuff listed above is just a small sample. Everyone’s home runs differently. And this was and continues to be a lot of work. The examples above are continually changing, and evolving in our home, and are a combination of 11+ years of hard work, learning, and failing. Some of this stuff I did to try and get organized in my late 20s, even before I was married and had kids.

 

 

2021 Summer Lunch Programs for Kids (And Other Free Food Resources in San Diego)

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I have been working on this post for weeks, making phone calls and researching. I wanted to get this post up as soon as I could. Unfortunately, there are still some areas that haven’t posted their plans for free summer meals for kids.

Santee School District will be providing summer drive-thru meal distribution from June 14 through July 30, Monday-Friday, from 10:00-10:30 am, at Pepper Drive and Rio Seco schools.  Extended school year (summer school) and students attending Project Safe will be provided with food.

San Diego Unified School District has partnered with San Diego Parks and Recreation to have food available at neighborhood schools and Recreation centers throughout the city of San Diego. The complete list of locations can be found here. Times vary by location.

Grossmont Union High School District will be providing lunch for kids 2-18 all summer. Kicking it off, they will be giving out meal boxes on Monday June 7 from 11:30 to 1:30 on a first come first serve basis in the same area where lunches are distributed.  Summer meal distribution starts on June 14th 11:30-1:30 Monday through Friday.

Other school districts may be offering free lunches this summer, but currently there isn’t much information available.

If you don’t find any facilities near you offering free lunches, I recommend contacting 211, they may have more updated information.

And the San Diego Food Bank is continuing their neighborhood distributions– Lots of produce and goodies are available each week. No proof of need or residency requirements.

There are all sorts of organizations looking to help families in need.

Even if you are not in dire need, if you need help stretching your budget, these resources are here for you!

Talk Back: How are you stretching your food budget this summer?

Hit Your Fundraising Goals with Dream Dinners!

Fundraising is usually not fun. Having kids sell wrapping paper, candy bars, Entertainment Books..ugh. It’s hard because it’s usually something that not everyone needs.

Dream Dinners wants to help you with a fun, successful fundraiser! Everyone eats, and this fundraiser not only supports your local nonprofit but gives caregivers extra time (most Dream Dinners take about 30 minutes to prepare and serve) around dinner time. The menu options for March are super yummy, and there are lots of kid friendly options!

March Matchness VR Email Header 2Host a fundraising event for you during our March Matchness campaign! In past years, Dream Dinners has raised more than $20,000 each March for non-profits around the country. This year, Dream Dinners will provide a match of up to $500 to the top ten fundraisers in March!

Due to COVID-19, they’ve adjusted their in-store fundraising events to take place as a socially safe, curbside pickup at our store. Here’s how it works:

Calendar IconChoose a date and time for your curbside fundraiser. Do you plan on having a lot of people attend? Dream Dinners can book multiple dates and times!
Chat Bubble IconInvite guests to your fundraiser event. Dream Dinners provides PDF invitations and content for you to share on social media!
Piggy Bank IconYour guests will pay $50 to attend and each attendee* will receive three medium-size meals (nine total servings) to take home and enjoy with their family. Your organization will earn a portion of the sales from each order!
Heart Plate IconRaise an extra $20 for each guest that places a follow-up order at Dream Dinners!
The Dream Dinners fundraisers are perfect for local nonprofits, including school groups, sports teams, animal rescues, food banks, churches, and other causes. Contact Dream Dinners today for more information and to book your curbside fundraiser event at Dream Dinners!

The La Mesa Dream Dinners Team can be contacted via phone at 619-460-6800

*One fundraiser order per household.

Talk Back: I’d love to hear about your favorite fundraising techniques for your local nonprofit!

Food Resources for February 2021 (San Diego County)

I’ve decided to put together a monthly round-up of food resources for San Diego County.

You can still find resources here for Central and East County, and Here for North County.

Neighborhood Distributions for February 2021:

These Distributions are primarily produce/fruits & veg, however, some locations may also distribute canned goods, dairy, and bread.

Super Pantry Locations can be found here (this listing is countywide).

If you have a child attending public school in San Diego County, check to see if your school distributes free lunches daily.

In Eastern San Diego County, Grossmont Union High School District schools are distributing lunches to kids ages 2-18, Monday through Friday at various times (Check your closest school to find out exact times and locations within each school). They also do Pizza Fridays, where each kid receives a pizza, drink, salad, plus food to be eaten over the weekend. It is definitely more than enough food to keep kids fed over the weekend.

 

If you know of other resources, please leave a comment! And feel free to share this post with anyone you may know in need.

 

 

 

 

Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family During Covid Fatigue (& A Giveaway)

So many of us are suffering from Covid Fatigue. Our bodies and minds have been put through the wringer. Worrying about our health, jobs, finances… It takes its toll.

I’m here to tell you- We don’t know when it’s going to end, but there are resources out there to help you. Don’t be proud. Take help that is offered, when you do, it can relieve some of the burden on your mind. 

I post a lot about different free and frugal opportunities to help my readers. When I talk to readers (I text and chat on FB messenger with a lot of y’all), I am frequently met with many of the same responses when I suggest that y’all take advantage of some of the opportunities I post. People feel bad about taking advantage of deals, offers, and freebies. 

I recommend that even if you feel like you aren’t “that bad off”, or that you know there are other people who “have it worse”, take advantage of free food events. Many times I have gone or driven a friend to events and the people sponsoring the events are so glad that SOMEONE has shown up, and because they have X number of items to give, but far fewer people show up.

If you feel like you aren’t in “enough” need, offer to drive people in your bubble, or grab food for t friends and coordinate a porch drop off. Most of them are sponsored or paid for by government entities, grants, or subsidies that are funded by our tax dollars. These resources may not have the ability to store or drive food to people who don’t have transportation. 

Helping others, even if it’s a porch drop off of produce can brighten your spirits. There are so many ways to release some of the heaviness that weighs on you. That heaviness is Covid Fatigue.

Here are a few ways I’ve tried to lessen the stress monster sitting on my chest:

Focus on what I can change. For me that’s making sure we are all clean and fed. That we get outside to play (socially distanced with masks), get fresh air, move our bodies, and get to bed at a decent time.

Work hard, but not to the point where I am burnt out. Tomorrow is another day. Laundry can wait to be put away, the carpet will still need to be vacuumed tomorrow.

Take time to contact friends. It’s hard to be without friends and family for so long. Message them on FB, text them, or pick up the phone. If you don’t have enough spoons for that, scroll through your social media of choice and like some of their statuses. 

Disconnect as needed.  Yeah, I know it’s the opposite of the above, but doomscrolling or constantly refreshing your social media feeds obsessively isn’t good for you. Leave your phone in the other room, or put it in do not disturb mode. 

NuCalm

One thing I have been using to help relax at night so I can get some peaceful sleep is I downloaded the NuCalm appNuCalm is the world’s only patented neuroscience technology clinically proven to resolve stress and improve sleep quality – without drugs. I’ve been using the Reboot for the past few nights, and it’s really helped me fall sleep and stay asleep. You can select whatever amount of time works for you, and you can even loop it if you want to enjoy the peace all night. The kids love NuCalm too. 

Giveaway Time: I’d love to hear about what you do to lessen your stress and battle Covid Fatigue. Leave a comment and I’ll choose one on 12/31/2020. The winner will receive a $50 Amazon Gift Card- But there is one condition- You have to spend it on yourself! Something that sparks joy!

Tips to Reign In and Out Of Control Family Budget: Saving on Entertainment!

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This is one of the most divisive topics I write about. I am completely serious. Television. Specifically- cutting or lowing your cable or dish package to save money.

This is a big bone of contention for a lot of people who ask me how we live on one income. For some people, they “need their shows“ or they “have to” watch the game every week.

Cable and satellite television is expensive, and now with all of the streaming services in addition to cable, it is conceivable that a family may spend upwards of $300 a month on television. That’s JUST TELEVISION! That doesn’t include movie tickets!

Sit down and gather up the cost of each streaming service and/or cable subscription/dish subscription. Where is there overlapping entertainment?

  • Hulu Plus has a live option, which gives you access to sports, and television shows on the same day they air on cable television.
  • If you have cable that includes the Disney Channel, CBS, HBO, or Showtime, is there really a reason for you to pay for the subscription/on-demand versions of those networks?

If you feel like you are ok with changing your television viewing habits, ditching cable in favor for a few streaming options and over the air television which can be viewed with our digital antenna (which is easy to use/install) and is available for purchase for about $50-$100.

Depending on how strong the signals in your area are, you should be able to receive:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • NBC
  • CW
  • Fox
  • PBS (We get three PBS channels)

There are additional networks that are available in various areas of the county.  Here in So Cal, we also get:

Plus we get a few more Spanish language channels, and one Korean language channel.

Now that you’ve trimmed/cut the cord, what other entertainment do you see/attend/do? We don’t go to the movies too often, but we have a weekly date night budget of $50. I try to get it out of the bank in cash and if we are going out together, we spend it together, but if we are going out with other friends, or staying home with the kids, I give him half.  If we don’t use it one week, we roll it over to the next week!

images.jpgOne of my other main sources of Entertainment is the gym. I try and go at least 4 times per week for at least an hour.  Other places that you can trim and your family budget can include your gym membership. If you don’t require a gym that has the bells and whistles and lots of classes, you might consider changing your full-service gym to a more budget-friendly or discount gym like Crunch or Planet Fitness. Both of them have extremely reasonable rates, but they don’t offer classes or childcare usually.

If you’re looking at something that is slightly more family-friendly, I cannot recommend the YMCA enough! For our family, we pay $69 a month, and that is inclusive of childcare on-site for both children up to four hours a day (two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon as long as there is a lapse of four hours of time in between the two sessions), we can visit any YMCA location in San Diego County, and also have travel benefits if we go out of town. There are free classes for everyone in the family, on various types of exercise from family yoga to family kickboxing to open gym for the kids two-three times a week.

They have great swimming facilities for spring and summer, and the family swim is available year-round in the large pool at our local YMCA. I also like that they have trained people in the childcare/kids club area that know how to work with kids who have special needs, so I never feel like my big kid will be ignored or be feeling out of place. If you are a local and want to check out the YMCA, let me know and I’ll get you a guest pass!

In the past we had some really bad experiences with 24-Hour Fitness. We were also paying a lot of money to go to 24-Hour Fitness (upwards of $120/month Between our membership dues and the cost of the on-site childcare) and I felt like our fitness goals could not be supported because of the lack of support and education with their child care employees.

I also like that the YMCA offers discounted rates/scholarships for military families (active duty and retired), those with low-incomes, or receiving certain government benefits.

As far as kids’ entertainment, our local community library has us covered over school breaks. Between summer reading programs, spring break events, Star Wars Days, Back To School supply giveaways, and Christmas cookie decorating/Polar Express PJ parties. You would be surprised at all of the cool stuff going on at your local library!

 

Talk Back: I’d love to hear about how you save money on entertainment!

5 Ways to Maximize Your Routine!

991d001cb11fbb9af4e45d3b104865ea.jpgParents know that kids need a routine- It gives them stability and a sense of security. But, adults need a routine too. Working from home, routine is absolutely needed to keep me productive. I was talking to a lady at the gym today after yoga. She said it must be nice to work from home- all the free time! But really, today was my busiest day this week. After the gym, we had errands, then home to start dinner, school pick up, and prep for tomorrows tie-dye session while Bitty is at preschool.

Here are my 5 Tips for Maximizing your Routine:

Update your calendar: I sit down on Saturday night and go over my calendar for the next week. I take my paper calendars (Yes, I have one next to my bathroom vanity, and one on my desk), and make sure they match with the calendar on my phone. That way I’m not dependant on my phone all the time and everyone in the house can be on the same page.

Take Notes: I keep a spiral-bound notebook and pens in my purse at all times. I make notes about all kinds of stuff: Ideas for blog posts, appointments (Which I later put into my phone), shopping lists, etc. I sometimes use my phones note feature for this too, but there is something about putting pen to paper and writing.

Lay it out: Before bed, I lay out my clothes and the kids clothes for the next day. I also grind the coffee and set up the coffee maker. I put the kid’s lunch bags out of their backpacks and set them on the kitchen counter. It makes the next morning so much easier.

Look Ahead: Before you go to bed, take a look at your next day.  What kinds of activities do you have? Work, school, gym, meetings? I feel more at ease knowing what is on deck for the next day.

Give yourself Grace: You are only human. If you can’t get everything done in one day, it’s cool. Tomorrow is another day (literally). There are so few things in this world that positively need to be done on a specific day (bills and doctor’s appointments are a few things that come to mind). Push your tasks forward to the next day, and make a conscious decision to work on those items or tasks the next day as priority items.  No one is perfect (or insta-perfect).

 

Talk Back: How do you get the most out of your daily routine?

When Life Gets Crazy…

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Oh, God.. I won’t lie. I had this entire post written, hit save, and it disappeared. Further proof that life is totally crazy right now.

I’ve got 3 weeks left of school, then (fingers crossed), I will graduate from college after a 17-year hiatus. So, I’ve got a lot of stress right now, between my regular responsibilities, studying, and getting ready for a huge almost weeklong camping event with my friends and a lot of my family.

I wanted to share some tips for how I keep it together when life is just crazy. These may not all apply to you, but they definitely help me.

Ask for help. I’ve been relying a lot on family, friends, and our respite hours through San Diego Regional Center so I can get out of the house without the kids to get stuff done. I love them, but sometimes shopping without them is just easier. Having a few hours alone to study in the library is nice. It’s hard to study when Legos are being played with right next to you.

Keeping to our schedule. Granted, there have been some changes to accommodate my schooling, but we are trying to get the kids to bed at night on time (sometimes that doesn’t happen), and out the door in the morning for school.  This includes my visits to the YMCA 4-5 times a week. I really believe that exercise helps me maintain a positive attitude and helps me manage my stress. I also have been continuing to meal plan, even though I sometimes forget to post it.

Be Flexible. This is a tough one for some of us (myself included). Sometimes life gets crazy, and you need to go with the flow. Sometimes that means cereal for dinner, sometimes it means going to bed the same time the kids do because everyone is tired.

Give Yourself Grace. Remember that this portion of your life won’t last forever. It won’t always be stressful, busy, or this hard.

Do What is Right for Your Family. This one can be hard, especially since we live in the era of Pinterest worthy, social media one-upmanship. I’m a fucking hot mess and I’ll admit it. As long as my family is loved and cared for- that’s all that matters. And sometimes that means cereal for dinner!

 

Talk Back: What do you do when life gets busy/crazy/unpredictable?