behaviors

Gotcha Day: What it is and how it changed my life

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Miriam Webster's Definition of Gotcha:   an unexpected usually disconcerting challenge, revelation, or catch.
 
Not sure if that is how I would describe the day my darling Payton was put into my arms for the first time 12 years ago.  For some reason, the slang term for the day you receive your child in Chinese adoption is called Gotcha Day. Either way, I got her and I have never looked back.
 
When the decision was made to adopt, it seemed like a smart, easy one.  After all, my oldest has autism, there is genetic component and we were unwilling to take any chances. We began the adoption process. Much like my experience with Spencer's therapies, I threw myself into the entire adoption process. I had to decide if we wanted domestic or international, which country and which agency.  Once those decisions were made, we needed homestudies, fingerprints, recommendations, passports, visas, immunizations.  The list seemed endless and so did the process.  But I was set on my Chinese baby girl. After all, I was told cognitively Chinese children were perfect.  Is there such a thing?  All I knew was that after all the therapies I had been through with Spencer I wanted and thought I deserved a “typical baby” I wanted to know what it felt like to parent a typical child. 
 
Three years after we started the process of the adoption, I got the call.  “Mrs. Montgomerie, please pull your car over.  We need to make sure you are in a safe place when we tell you.” I was so excited. I had finally been matched with a baby. I pulled the car over to park. “Ok, I’m safe, tell me about my baby.” “Your child Long Xan Man is waiting for you. Please make your travel arrangements for 6 weeks. We will send you all the paperwork you need.” I hung up, cried, cried and cried some more. Long Xan Man I’m coming to get you.
 
Gotcha Day was very surreal. It was cold and gray in Nanchang. We were told to meet in the ballroom of our hotel. We were told, “don’t come early, we don’t want you seeing the babies.” Walking down to the room, we saw the “nanny’s” bringing in the babies. I tried desperately to find Long Xan Man. We were sent 2 pictures. That’s it. From that I couldn’t seem to recognize her. As we arrived in the room, they told the parents to stand on one side of the room and the babies were on the other side. When your name was called, you were to come and meet your baby. It was like when you go grocery shopping and it is your turn at the deli counter only it is such a better gift. Then finally. “Montgomerie”. I ran and grabbed Long Xan Man and hugged her so tight. In that moment she became my Payton. Just like when Spencer was born, I had difficulty letting people hold her. Not because I was nervous. It was because it hurt too much to have my babies in anyone else’s arms.
 
We finally came home to be greeted by our family and friends. It was amazing. And just like that the 3 long years of my “adoption pregnancy” were over and my family was complete.
 
I have since learned there are no perfect kids. Like all kids, regardless of whether they were adopted or have autism, they all have their own set of issues. Payton is no different. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are so perfectly matched, it was as if the universe knew I needed to wait 3 years to get my Payton.
 
Payton Grace Montgomerie, I gotcha now and I’m never letting go. I kaklunk to Iabab. Thank you for giving me the privilege of being your mother.

Love,
Elise

Easy, inexpensive Valentines Day presents for your kids.

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Each year I give my kids little gifts of love that reflect them. This year I thought it would be cool to do something that fulfills all of the 5 love languages (The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, great book, a must read). That way I am sure they will know the depth of my love. After all, if they don’t interpret love by receiving gifts, I have to make sure they know just how loved they really are. Here are my ideas to show each love language:
 

  1. Words of affirmation - Make a banner and list all the reasons we love our kids.

  2. Quality time - Carve out time where you can be one on one with each child. It doesn’t have to be hours. Maybe just a date to go get ice cream. Whatever it is, it will be your time together to connect.

  3. Receiving gifts - We think every child would like gifts, but that is not always the case. The key to great gift giving is something that shows thought. Maybe they have mentioned wanting something in particular. Or you recognize something that they need. When you do this, it shows much more thought than just a gift card.

  4. Acts of service - Lend a helping hand. People want validation that they work hard at whatever they do and kids are no exception. So, give them a little help with a chore or homework that would normally be done alone.

  5. Physical touch - Some people don’t need a hug while others crave the physical connection. Recently, my daughter has been really craving this and it is just fine by me. We actually set aside time just to cuddle on the couch. Again, a great time just to reset ourselves.

 
Valentine’s Day is a great way to show our loved ones how much they mean to us. I hope this will inspire you to show your kiddies just how much they mean to you. 


Happy parenting!

Elise 

When your child misbehaves

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Have you ever been yelled at, screamed at, punched, or kicked by a child? I have! Have you gotten the awful  “I hate you” while they're kicking you? It's exhausting, infuriating and sometimes even painful. So as a parent, how do you find any empathy with a child who acts that way? It's quite simple. 


Understand that this is the only way your child knows how to communicate. Think about it: as adults, we have had years of training to be able to articulate our feelings in a calm manner even if we're upset (and many of us still aren't there yet). I'm sure many of us have acted in ways we wouldn't want our own children to act. Yet, we expect our little people to be perfect at clearly communicating their needs. Cmon...when you say it out loud it sounds ridiculous, right? There is no way you can expect a tiny person with only a few years of life behind them to do it better than adults. 

So the next time your little one screams hideous things at you, remember he's just tying to explain his feelings. Give him the tools to explain and identify what he is feeling. Even better, next time you are mad as hell at them, model exactly the way you would want to be treated. Don't yell or scream. That just reiterates that this is effective communication. And don't take it so personally, they don't really know how to say in a calm voice: "Mommy, you hurt my feelings. I wasn't finished at my play date. Making me leave made me feel insignificant!" Yeah right, call me when your child says that and you can start hosting some of my webinars :) 

Be kind to the little ones, they are just trying to figure out what works, just like we are. 

Till next time, 

Elise

Listen

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Recently, a dear friend of mine told me that it may be time to stop talking and just listen to my child. I had never heard something so absurd ;) 

I thought I had mastered the art of listening, but since people pay me to hear what I have to say, I often forget the power of truly listening. There comes a certain age that your kid no longer listens intently to what you are saying. In fact, they usually do the opposite of what you tell them to do. 

So what do we do? We listen. And it can be really difficult. Not difficult in the way of skiing on a black diamond slope; difficult like "I have to actually bite my tongue in order to not speak." The real kind of difficult. It's easier to just tell them what to do. But we must listen and allow them to feel heard. Ultimately, that's what every single human being wants: validation.

So what is this listening thing? Listening is having faith that you have taught your child the lessons of life and that eventually they will come up with the right decisions even if they take a wrong turn down a dark alley; faith that they will find their way back to what you have taught them. Listening gives your child the freedom to make a mistake and come back and ask for help.It builds trust. 

Ready to take the listening challenge? Hit "reply" and let me know how it goes!

Elise

Be the change

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Be the change. 

Have you ever felt so passionately about something that it became the driving force of your life? Did it keep you up at night with excitement and fill your heart with determination? There's so much going on in the world that desperately needs fixing. It's often overwhelming to know what we can do on a "small" level. 

Today, I'm going to challenge you to BE THE CHANGE. I know that not everyone feels called to be a leader but guess what?  Foot soldiers are just as important in creating change. Here are some steps for creating change in your own life and in the world:

  1. Identify your cause or passion

  2. Find someone locally that has your same passion

  3. Reach out to them ( 2 heads are better than 1)

  4. What change needs to happen in order for your problem to be solved? Are you worried about children starving in America? Instead of solely blaming the government (which can only get us so far), do SOMETHING. Maybe go to restaurants, grocery stores, and collect leftover food to donate.

  5. If you want to take the political route, fantastic. Understand that is going to take change in legislation -- find local politicians to help you. It might seem tedious but if you want policy change, you have to be a turtle….slow and steady wins the race

  6. Say it out loud to anyone that will listen. When I was discussing my personal cause, I discussed it with all of my friends and colleagues. Eventually I was directed to the correct person.

  7. ENJOY THE NATURAL HIGH OF MAKING CHANGES!

Ready to be the change? Email me back about what you are inspired to do. Accountability is everything :) 

Elise

Happy Thanksgiving

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Ah, I love Thanksgiving. It's the perfect time to think about what we are thankful for and take inventory of our lives. You might have already started counting your blessings but if you've gotten lost in holiday shenanigans, I invite you to start now: 

What are you really thankful for? 

It can be something that you usually take for granted or something big that happened this year. Gratitude is gratitude. Plus, if you need even more of an incentive to be grateful, check out this article on all the health benefits of focusing on what you're grateful for. 


 Also,  remember some family and friends may not have Thanksgiving plans... I'd encourage you to reach out and invite them to your celebration. Being alone during the holidays can be very lonely and difficult. Payton felt destroyed when her friends didn't invite her for Halloween plans...  imagine how adults feel without anywhere to go for the holidays.  

 

Thanksgiving often comes with some family drama. Instead, be proactive and decide that you will have a different perspective. Understand that no one is perfect. The annoying parent that seems to only “criticize” you? They might just be really scared and doing the best they can.  Try to empathize with the path they have taken in life to arrive at the place they are. Perhaps they only know negativity. Show compassion through your own positivity.

 

Wondering what the hell you are going to do with the kids the entire vacation? Rest and relax!  Sleep in, make a mess, let the kids come in your bed for snuggles. You will miss this time in a few years. Do things that your normal schedule wouldn't allow. for. Bake, sing loudly, dance, play. Enjoy the togetherness of family time.  It’s a beautiful blessing.  If you have a toddler that screams and throws temper tantrums, take this opportunity to do some behavior modification techniques while you have the time to devote.

Finally, relax and enjoy the blessings of life and family.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love, 

Elise 

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Hi Friends, 

This evening, I'm writing to you right after I put my little one to bed (she's not so little anymore... almost ten years old).  I was reminded of how precious time is. Time with our children, time with our spouse, time with our family. It sounds super cliche but it really does go by so fast.

So I want to ask you, are you present when you're with your kids? Are you really in the moment with them, even for just for 15 minutes a day? Sometimes we are "with" them all day but are we really present?  

This week, instead of getting annoyed when your children interrupt you, try actually listening. I get it... when we are busy with all of the other pressing responsibilities that go along with parenting, even 15 minutes seems like a lot; but find the place in your life where children are not a distraction, but rather a gift.

There will come a time in the not- so- distant future that you will be beggingthem to talk to you. So enjoy all this time now, it goes by so fast. Be in the moment.

If you're feeling inspired and want to connect with other like-minded parents, come on over to my Facebook group. We've really created a community over there and I feel so honored to be a part of it. This Thursday night, at 9 pm, I will be doing a Facebook live. So come with an open heart and lots of questions. I'll see you then!

Lots of love,

Elise 

Do you ever take a vacation from parenting?

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Hi Friends,

 

TGIF! As parents, the weekends don’t necessarily mean we’re off duty… parenting is a full time role! The weekend is often spent immersed in our children’s lives and often, we neglect our own needs. 

 

Today, I want to remind you of something very important: It’s okay — actually, it’s necessary — to take time for yourself. It’s best for you and for your children. Here are some tips for preventing burnout: 

 

1. Know your limits: Rather than waiting to have a meltdown, give yourself a time out. You are the leader. You need to be well rested and ready to tackle the day. Take a bath, go on a run, listen to some music and dance. (Even blasting music in the house and dancing with the kids is an awesome way to get moving and release some endorphins). 

 

2. Take a social media break: As parents, we want the very best our kids. But it messes with our minds when we scroll through Facebook and see the “picture perfect” lives of others. Just like knowing when to take a “time out,” know when to say goodbye to social media. You’d be amazed at what 3 days off can do… 

 

3. Now that you’re taking a break from Facebook, you can put this extra time to great use! Get organized for the week ahead, relax a bit, eat good food. Take advantage of the weekend to plant seeds for the week ahead while recharging your battery.

 

Have a great weekend!

 

Elise 

Saying yes to the right things

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Do you ever feel like you say “yes” to the wrong things? 

A few days ago, I went to Target with Payton. While passing the toy aisle, she asked — yet again — for another box of Pokémon cards. Seriously, how many cards does one child need? Anyway, I explained that, in our house, we get presents for Chanukah and birthdays… not every time we go to Target.

The night before, as I was putting Payton to bed, she asked if we could work on one of our night time projects. Immediately, in my head, I was thinking "I really don't want to start this now," but instead I decided to say yes. We began our ritual of discussing new laws for our make believe city, Everything World. We write them down in a book and sign each new law into our constitution…very serious business. Payton is President and I am her VP. When she asked to work on the constitution, it was probably the last thing I felt like doing. What I really wanted was to lie down like a slug and have her read to me but my angel asked for my attention, so I obliged. 

The point of this story? Our instincts are to say yes to the easy, quick things (like buying the 100th box of Pokeman cards) and say no to the important things like being present for our children. The next time your children ask you to buy them something, resist the urge for the quick fix and opt for the meaningful one, the one's that are planting the seeds for your future relationship. Trust me, it'll be worth it. 

Love, 

Elise

Laugh all weekend long

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Is there anything better than a child's laugh?

My kids and I were sitting at the dinner table last week and I must have said something funny because both of them started hysterically laughing. So then I started to laugh uncontrollably; the kind of laughter that makes your stomach hurt. What better medicine, right? 

I looked at my kids and wanted to savor the moment. I wanted to savor their innocence and their ability to laugh anything. 

I thought back to the different ways I used to make my kids: talking in a goofy voice, making fun of myself, and — the most fun —  dancing around the kitchen with whisks as our microphones. We serenaded our pretend audiences to our favorite LIVE song.  

It's so important to have laughter and fun in the house. We get crazy running our kids around from activity to activity, making sure they are eating correctly and getting their homework finished. So often, we lose sight of just having a good laugh. I want my home to always be the place that brings my kids joy, comfort and laughter. 

So when things get just a bit too hectic in your house, step back and have a good laugh. It will work wonders. 

Till next time, 

Elise

Have you ever felt misunderstood?

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Have you ever been in an argument with your spouse, sibling, or a friend where you felt utterly misunderstood? 
 

Think about how you felt.


Frustrated, alone, confused? In most cases, these arguments are on an even playing field. We often yell until you are understood. We fight until our feelings becomes validated. 

Now think about how it feels to be a child and not feel understood. Think about how it feels to be punished for yelling and being disrespectful. They, too, have opinions, wants, and needs; but if it doesn't align with their parents', then often times they are dismissed. Think about how you would feel if your spouse dismissed your feelings? Your reaction may be to do something to get their attention to make your point.

Children feel the same way!


Next time your child starts acting out or "fighting back” to a request, just ask “why?”. Give them the validation they want through listening and making them feel respected and worthy. This automatically diffuses the situation and makes them feel less defensive. This opens up a discussion instead of an argument. Validating feelings doesn't mean you agree, it just means you hear them and are offering empathy. 

The next time you find yourself in an argument. Step back, listen to the other person, validate and then come together to come up with a plan. It will work wonders. 

Elise 

Do you always say what you mean?

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What I say is what I mean and what I mean is what I say! 
 

I was on the phone with a friend of mine who happens to be a famous boxing coach. He promised me tickets to one of his most prized fighter’s next match. I thanked him profusely and he said,“what I say is what I mean and what I mean is what I say!”

 

It got me thinking….how often do people actually do that?  We are taught to be kind to others and we teach our children to be kind to others but how often do we forget to put in in to practice? Why don’t we actually say what we mean and mean what we say?  Often times we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings and, in turn, we keep our thoughts to ourselves.

 But at what price? We get angry and bitter towards the people that we’ve suppressed emotions towards. 

But guess what? With just one shift in your thinking, you can learn how to truly say what you mean and mean what you say!

 

Is the other person more important than you? Are they more worthy of peace and understanding? NO. So why shouldn’t you tell them how you feel? Remember no one is going to take care of you if you don’t take care of yourself…

 

I’ve never had the problem of keeping my feelings to myself. If anything I am a bit too transparent (if you have ever seen my weekly Facebook lives you would know what I mean). However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that life is not so black and white and I would like to think that I found a way to express my feelings with conviction without hurting anyone in my line of fire. For those that suffer from oversharing their feelings, I have a couple tips for you.

  1. Take a step back and put yourself in the other persons position.It sounds so simple but it’s incredibly effective. How would they feel receiving the information with your delivery?

  2. Take a moment to understand what your goal is in communicating. Do you want to feel understood? No one will understand what you are saying when you say it in an inflammatory way, so take the emotion out of the conversation and stick with facts about yourself. For example, recently on facebook a women misread a comment I made and came back to me with a bit of a zinger. I could have responded in an inflammatory way but what does that achieve? Nothing…it just starts a fight. What I really wanted her to know is that she misread the comment so that was all I said and ya know what? She ended up apologizing without my starting a Facebook fight (life’s just too short for that!).

  3. Finally: you never know what someone is going through. Don’t say something you don’t mean in the heat of the moment in response to a person who may be rude to youIt never solves anything. Express the same compassion you desire as well.

 

Now it’s YOUR turn, hit “reply” and let me know one thing thing that would help you stay true to your word. 
 

Have a wonderful weekend, 


Elise 

Elise's Story

By the time my son turned 3-months old, my maternal instincts kicked into high alert and had me questioning his behaviors.

Why didn’t he make eye contact with me? When he cried, why did he cry harder, louder and longer than any other child? Why was he not playing with toys that were in front of him? Why didn’t he care about toys and people? Why did he only like vents, fans, and wheels?

There were no answers.

Pediatricians told me to stop comparing him to other children and that he would be fine.

I knew differently.

One day when I was reading, I came across a checklist of traits for autism. If you answer yes to 9 out of the 14, your child is autistic. How could it be so simple to test? But I read the questions and answered yes to nearly all of them.

My heart sank and I was paralyzed.

The overwhelming sense of responsibility washed over me again. What do I do? How do I help my innocent and seemingly perfect child? I researched and found out that my state conducted free tests to determine reasons for which children do not hit milestones. I signed up and was put on a 4-month wait. Then the day finally came for our now 23-month old son to be evaluated.

It was like cheering for a losing team.

You watch and want them to be able to make the basket, score the touchdown, or make the goal but not one can be done. After a grueling 3 hours of watching my child not achieve any of the tasks asked of him, the therapist sat me down and explained that my little baby had PDD: Pervasive Developmental Disorder; it’s on the autism spectrum. The good news is that I was right. Mommies always know their child.

The bad news was I was right. My son was autistic.

I immediately went into SUPER MOM mode, calling anyone and everyone that could possibly help us. Not everyone has that reaction. Some ignore and hope it will go away but it doesn’t.

I had to help my son. He was my responsibility.

I hired a team of therapists with me as the quarterback. I sat in on every therapy session my son has ever had, even to this day. I can’t risk missing important information about my child. So I read every book, knew all the terminology and I sounded educated. The doctors and therapists listened to me because I made it my business to know their business. But this was exhausting. I started boxing as a means of coping. After 30 hours of therapy each week and a screaming child all the time because he was on sensory overload, hitting someone felt really good. 

But that wasn’t enough, I was falling apart.

I did everything in my power to try and understand how my son felt. I wanted to get into his world, so I could better help him get into ours. I suffered because no one was taking care of me and without me, the ship would sink.

I wish I had someone who would have told me I was going to be ok, regardless of how my son was doing. He was the sun, moon, and stars to me so I probably wouldn’t have believed it. I took him around the country for every therapy imaginable, but piece by piece, I was losing myself and losing my way.

How is it possible to find happiness and peace when your child suffers?

I medicated myself so that I became numb. I drank excessive amounts of alcohol and got divorced.  On top of everything else, I was now a single mother of two children.  I adopted my darling daughter from China to give me a chance at mothering a typical child. I became alone, sad, and scared that my children would not be ok. FEAR paralyzed me and “what ifs” consumed me. I was having a nervous breakdown. I never took care of myself. 

Everyone else had typical children so it was much easier for them to be happy. I believed that as a parent of a special needs child I would never really know true happiness and peace. This mentality all changed the day I went to a yoga class, my instructor said something that resonated with me and has since become my mantra.

We are happy, our natural state is happiness.  Anything that takes us away from our natural state is merely a disturbance or a distraction.” 

At first, I thought, that was easy for him to say since he didn’t have an autistic child. Nothing applied to me, I couldn’t control my happiness. How am I supposed to be happy when I am fighting with the school board and also advocating for my son?  It was then, while I was sobbing, that my instructor said to me,

“Elise, you can give yourself permission to cry and react for a couple minutes. Stomp your feet and say it sucks, it’s not fair, no one understands but then realize that you can get just as much, if not more, accomplished when you are calm and happy.” 

So I screamed and cried and complained for about 15 more minutes and then I got on the phone and happily kicked ass. I never again let anyone or anything, not even my children, take my happiness from me. I no longer let my son’s Autism define me.

I have arrived at my destination, it is peace.