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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

One step to a happy vacation

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I recently returned from a vacation with my kids. The day I was leaving a friend said to me: “Good luck. I sure hope your kids behave and that you can enjoy your vacation”. My first thought was: “You know what I do for a living right? You are my friend?”  Luck has nothing to do with having a great vacation with your kids.  Planning appropriately is the key to whether you enjoy your vacation. I don’t mean planning out the vacation details. Rather, plan your parenting guidelines. 

Make plans for various behaviors. What are you going to do when your child acts up on the plane?  On a ride? An excursion?  Do all house rules go out of the window? Hell no. This is the moment of truth. If you follow through on your consequences during vacation your kids will know you really mean business. 

Start your behavior modification plan early. Don’t start punishing your child when they won’t stop kicking the chair in front of them when you have never experienced that before. Don’t start new rules immediately before your trip. You should start a month before you leave. Prepare your child. Clearly explain you expectations and what will happen if they don’t adhere to your rules. It’s that simple

If you say: “We are leaving this beach right now if you don’t listen”; If your child doesn’t listen, get up and leave the beach. I know it totally sucks for you but I promise your child will be much better behaved afterwards.You just taught them that you mean business and follow through. 

Happy vacationing,
Elise

What makes a great mom?

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Happy Mother’s Day

What is a great mother? People have different definitions of a great mom. My definition changed when I became a mother. Some moms make everything pretty for their kids. Some are amazing PTA moms and are always the class mom or maybe you see yourself as an average mom. I can assure you, there is no such thing. There are shitty moms but never average. In fact, if you are reading this, you are definitely not an average mom. How do I know that? Because you wouldn’t be reading about moms if you were average.
So I will tell you my version of an exceptional Mommy. The person that always puts their children before themselves. A person who even when it doesn’t feel good to do the right thing, does it. No need for accolades (although if we get some, that is much appreciated) because they do it when no one is looking. They fight tirelessly and fearlessly for their children and know when to let go and teach their babies how to fight for themselves. So if you make birthday presents beautiful or are the PTA mom that’s just the cherry on top. Unconditional love is the gift of the mother. Although we are not perfect and may not always do the exact right thing, we are Mother’s. We are warriors for our babies. So this Mother’s Day let me salute all of you for your amazing work for your kids. Thank you for putting in the time and energy even when it feels like your kiddies don’t deserve it. Enjoy being taken care of on this honorary day.


Happy parenting.
 Elise

How to succeed in an argument.

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Is it even possible to succeed in argument?  Absolutely. 

Have you ever been in an argument and yell the same thing over and over again only to not be heard? Do you wonder: ”How can you not agree with me when my point is so valid?” I will tell you why. Your delivery sucks! That’s right. your delivery sucks and therefore you didn’t communicate effectively. You lost your audience when you started screaming. If you want to learn how to argue effectively, follow these simple steps.

  1. Stop yelling. And if you need to yell because you are so mad, leave the room and yell by yourself. Yell whatever damaging insults you want to yell at your spouse or child to the wall instead. If you are still mad quickly watch a funny video to shift your mindset.

  2. Once you have calmed down think about what you want your end result to be. Is nagging going to accomplish this? No. Is screaming going to accomplish this? No. Is calmly stating facts and feelings going to accomplish this. Yes.

  3. Always give an example of how this may effect the other person if the roles were reversed. If your feelings are hurt because you were called a name, ask them how they would feel. And if it wouldn’t hurt their feelings think of something that would and how they would like it. Then you have made your point.



So the next time you feel your blood boil and want to scream like a lunatic follow these simple steps to get your point across.

Where does the time go with our kids?

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My baby turns 18 this month! Is that possible? I checked his birth certificate to be sure and as I suspected he is turning 18.

It wasn’t always easy with Spencer. He was diagnosed with autism days before he turned 2. His behaviors were challenging to put it mildly. We went through many therapies, traveled all over the country and spoke to countless doctors to try and help Spencer with the numerous deficiencies autism brings. When I reflect back, I remember the tantrums and the difficult times but somehow, they seem to fade. Now instead of deficiencies I see gifts. Instead of tantrums I see a young man that sticks to his word. Each new therapist I hired I remember thinking, “This will be the magic bullet.” Spencer has taught me so many valuable lessons, too many to list, but slow and steady like the turtle may just be the best one. Because there is NO one magic bullet that is going to make your child listen, go to bed easily, eat every food on the planet or not throw temper tantrums. Parenting is like the story of the turtle and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race. It was not one particular therapy that changed Spencer into the unbelievable well adjusted, social person he is today. It was the combination of everything. That along with boundless love and adoration and his willingness to let me mold him into the young man he is today.

To all the parents that want a quick fix to a problem, trust me, it’s not out there. I’ve looked everywhere. You can’t trick good old-fashioned parenting. It’s a marathon not a sprint, so take your time and enjoy the distance because in an instant it flies by.

To my son, happy 18th birthday. I love you with all this mother’s heart can hold. Thank you for the many gifts you have given me and the world. Your autism never really needed to be fixed, just shaped. I love you to the moon and back.
 
Love Mommy

 

Happy Parenting
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 

Stop trying so hard!

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I went on a walk with my 17 1/2 year old son last night, and the coolest thing happened. He talked to me about really important stuff;  college, friends, work, money, life values. Holy shit- if I had paid him a million dollars, I wouldn’t have gotten as much information out of him. Parents are always asking tons of questions to their kids, and it is usually followed by very short answers. I have recently learned to stop talking so much and start listening. But it gets tough to listen when they won’t talk. So below are a few suggestions/ideas to get even the most tight lipped teenager to talk.

1.  Do something THEY want (or enjoy) doing. Spencer was going for an evening walk last night, and he asked me if I wanted to join. Not really something I wanted to do at 8pm, but private one on one time with him is so infrequent that I hopped at the chance. Carpe Diem..

2.    Don’t ask too many questions when you are doing their preferred activity.  This is when their defenses are down, because of this, you will get a more authentic child without their guard up.  This is when they will start talking without you even asking. Its a beautiful thing, they will come to you.

3.  Be sure to get to know some facts about their hobbies, likes and dislikes,  (or fears) so you have some common ground to talk about down the road. 

4. Finally, don’t push, let the magic happen all on its own. 

Happy parenting!

Elise

Happy Holidays!

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The kids hadn’t even finished their Halloween candy and I was already getting excited for the holiday season. It started when I was a little girl and I would come down to South Florida to visit my grandparents. I would come back with a Jewish tan: dark on the front, pale on the back. When I went to college, I loved coming home and going shopping, having my mom cook and do my laundry for me and getting a break from school.  

Now, as I have my own family, this is also a favorite time of the year. My ex-husband wasn’t Jewish so I was able to get the coveted Christmas tree which became the highlight for me, another place to make something pretty. After I divorced, I kept the tradition of the Christmas tree (don’t call the Jewish police). Rather than worry about my perfectly matched ornaments and bows, I let my children pick out the tree theme. They did what every child does: the multicolor lights and ornaments. I embraced my new kid-friendly themed tree in exchange for my sophisticated tree of the past. My holidays now became about the experience instead of what the holiday looked like. My perfect tree topper was now a crooked ornament that has never quite fit, but it is magical.  

I love everything about the holidays. I love to shop for everyone’s presents, picking out the tree, decorating the tree, making potato latkes and seeing all the children tear open their presents with anticipation.

This holiday season, try to do one thing new that is super fun that can be a new tradition with your family.  Maybe something goofy, or a tree that’s just for your kids.  Maybe let them each pick out an ornament, or if you celebrate a different holiday, create a dish that you and your kids pick out and make together every year.  

Remember that holidays can be difficult for people so be considerate. While these times often come with stress, remember the beauty that surrounds this time. It is a time of miracles and celebration. 

Wishing you very happy holidays! 

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

Are you resistant to change?

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I don't want my baby to grow up. 

Over the last year, I’ve been telling my youngest child, leading up to her tenth birthday, that she’s not allowed to get older. I want her to remain the same beautiful, innocent human that she is. She agreed for the entire year up until a couple of days ago. She proclaimed, “I'm ready to grow up.” After some resistance, I agreed that yes she could, indeed, turn double digits.  I then began thinking about why I didn’t want her to grow up?  Payton is kind, sweet, funny and loving. Why would anyone want that to change? The answer is: FEAR! It drives parents, friends, spouses and employees absolutely crazy. We’re scared of the unknown. In this case, I feared what this milestone would mean for my precious Payton. My job, as a mother, is to nurture and mold this tiny human into an incredible, independent adult that makes a difference in this world. And to do so, my angel will have to spread her wings, fall down and shed some tears. Rather than resist, I’ve decided to embrace it. So as I  celebrate her birthday I will no longer be sad, even though time seems to move way too fast. I will love every molecule of her being and appreciate every moment I have right now. I will honor her growth by being present and for the first time in my life I will embrace the unknown.  

Today, I encourage you to get curious about what you may be resisting. You may have gotten comfortable in a lack-luster relationship or a “just-okay” job. I want you to remember that your life can evolve into a much more exciting, fulfilling version when we just let fear take a backseat and get behind the wheel. You’re so much more capable than you know… 

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.