Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Contest: The Happy Mama Conference and Retreat

I've never done this before, but today I'm honoured to welcome a guest blogger. I'm a big fan of Kay's and the blogs she contributes to, so I'm happy to share this. Kay is sponsoring a contest to send one lucky mom (sorry dads...moms only!) to The Happy Mama Conference and Retreat in North Carolina this July. The conference is an amazing opportunity to spend a weekend with other moms who get what we go through on a daily basis. Not only will you hear some great speakers, but you'll get pampered as well. Notice it's a conference "and retreat"!? I have to admit that I nearly didn't share this post because I've entered the contest myself and would really like to limit the competition, but that just seemed wrong. If I don't win (and I have less of a chance now that I've told all of you about it!), I'll be saving my pennies to go next year. Because trust me, I'd be there in a second if I could!

Note: The contest closes tomorrow, so don't put it off!!!!

Take Care of Yourself in a Big Way at the Happy Mama Conference & Retreat: A weekend getaway for moms of kids with ADHD, ASD, FASD, and other brain-based disabilities 
by Kay Marner

This mama ain’t been very happy lately. In fact, my never-ending worries about my 11 year old daughter,
Natalie, who has ADHD, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, and is on the fetal alcohol spectrum, have put me in a real funk. Most days, my bed starts calling my name by mid-afternoon. I’ve had zero motivation to work or do most anything else. I’ve felt like avoiding any and all social interactions. This funk has been severe enough, and lasted long enough, that I decided I had to make a conscious effort to do something about it—to take better care of myself. So, I made a few small changes in my daily routine. I started going for a short walk several days each week. I pulled my vitamin and mineral supplements out of the cupboard and recommitted to taking them daily. I gave myself permission to spend more time reading for pleasure. I’ve been scheduling a few lunches out with friends.

I firmly believe that when you’re living with the stress of raising a child with special needs, you have to make a conscious effort to take care of yourself. After all, as the saying goes, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Even small investments in your own well-being, like those I listed above, can make a difference in how well you cope with day-to-day challenges.

Yes, small is good. But big is even better! So, I’ve also pledged to do something significant. I’ve registered to attend the
Happy Mama Conference & Retreat, a two day getaway especially for moms of kids with special needs.

The Happy Mama Conference & Retreat will take place July 28–29, 2012, at the
Rock Barn Golf & Spa, in Conover, North Carolina. Here’s what the retreat is all about, as described on the Happy Mama website, www.if-mama-aint-happy.com:

What: A CONFERENCE that focuses on your needs as the mom to a child with a very real, but invisible, brain-based disability, like ADHD, ADD, OCD, ODD, FASD, PBD, SPD, PDD, or one of the many other overlapping conditions that make parenting your child an extra challenging situation, and a RETREAT, where we’ll provide you with wonderful food, spa opportunities, fun activities, and camaraderie with other moms who know exactly where you’re coming from.

Why: Because parenting children with invisible disabilities is an extremely stressful, isolating, and emotional job and one which can impact your health and well-being in a negative way.

The retreat, hosted by
DRT Press (publisher of the book I co-edited, Easy to Love but Hard to Raise) and the website {a mom’s view of ADHD} (founded and edited by Penny Williams) and supported by a growing list of sponsors, including CHADD and the Catawba Valley Medical Center, will offer the perfect blend of education, support, and pampering.

Saturday’s speakers will cover: “Parenthood, Stress, Health, and Resiliency,” “Advocating for Your Child in School,” and “How to Be Happy: Calming Techniques for You and Your Child.” Sunday will be devoted to fun and pampering, which may include spa treatments, relaxing by the pool, gem mining, hiking, yoga, horseback riding, or kayaking.

Doesn’t that sound fabulous? I can hardly wait!

By interacting with other parents of kids with special needs via the Web, I’ve learned that support from others in my situation is the best support there is. My
ADDitudeMag.com blog, “My Picture-Perfect Family,” is one avenue for those interactions. To celebrate the 4th anniversary of that blog, and in honor of the support and community we parents of kids with special needs offer to each other, I’m running a contest. I will sponsor one lucky mom’s registration, travel and lodging expenses (not to exceed $1000, some meals included, some meals, activities and miscellaneous costs at winner’s expense) to attend the Happy Mama Conference & Retreat. For more information, and to enter the contest, click here. The contest ends at 5:00 pm EST on May 30.

If you are interested in attending whether you win this contest or not, please don’t hesitate to
register now. Registration is just $129 until July 1. If you are “in the business” of ADHD, FASD, ASD, or other brain-based disorders and wish to become a retreat sponsor, email happymamaretreat@gmail.com for their sponsorship package.

In the meantime, take a few steps, big or small, to take better care of yourself. You work so hard to bring happiness to your special child. You deserve to be happy too.


Kay Marner, a freelance writer and editor, is the co-editor of Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories (DRT Press, 2012). Marner contributes regularly to ADDitude magazine, and her ADHD parenting blog, “My Picture-Perfect Family,” appears on ADDitudeMag.com. You can reach her at kay@kaymarner.com

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pretty Things Can Wait

Every Mother's Day for the past few years my father has sent flowers to the three women in his life: my mom, my sister, and me. That might sound a little strange to you, but I think it's beautiful. Mom's flowers are to thank her for the great job she did raising us. (Hey...we turned out well!) My sister and I receive flowers to thank us for being such good mothers to our children, Dad's grandchildren. My sister's children are 15 and 18, so the hard work is behind her. It's now up to them to take the lessons she's taught them and to find their places in the world.They're both really good kids, so she can rest easy that she's done her job well. I, on the other hand, am still in the midst of the formative years, so the pressure is on.

My sister's flowers have a place of honour in her dining room, on a lovely buffet with a pretty white runner. Mine are hidden in my room, on top of my dresser. At least they are now that I've moved the toys, books, diaper cream, and assorted other child-related things off "my" dresser to make some room for them. And even then, they still only got a corner.

As I stood in front of my dresser tonight I was hit by a pang of jealousy that I can't display my flowers like my sister can. For a second or two I was actually consumed with resentment of the fact that all my pretty things have had to be packed away, safe from little hands. The two headless figurines now hidden behind my flowers are a testament to lessons learned the hard way. But as I stared around my disaster of a bedroom, with its dirty diapers on the bed, toys strewn about the floor and out-grown clothes piled in the corner, the absurdity of it all struck me.

For I am a mother -- Mom, Mommy, Momma -- to two adorable monkeys. They are the reason for both receiving the flowers and for not being able to display the flowers. Without them and their dirty little faces, their pudgy little hands, their silly little giggles, and their soft little kisses, there would be no flowers. There would be no me...for that is who I am. That is who I was made to be. Mom...Mommy...Momma to these two precious little boys.

Pretty things can wait.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mommy Still Needs her Kisses

As I buckled him into his booster seat, his sweet face beckoned me to kiss it. Unable to resist, I placed a gentle kiss on one soft little cheek. He frowned a tiny bit, but I caught a glint of smile in his eyes. Knowing I need to take advantage of these moments when I get them, I cupped his face in my hands, looked deep into his eyes, and said "I love you so much, Bear."

"Yay!" he responded, which is our "thing." "Yay!" I answered back, burying my face in his soft cheek again and smothering him with kisses.

"Oh, Bear," I said. "Someday you're going to be big and you're not going to want me to give you kisses."

"Yes I will, Mommy!" he protested. "At least I think I will. I don't know. Maybe."

Oh, my baby Bear...please don't grow up too soon. Mommy still needs her kisses.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What's Your Message?

I'm honoured to have been asked to address a group of women this week who many or may not know anything about children's mental illness. In case you weren't aware, May 6-12, 2012 is Children's Mental Health Week, so the timing couldn't be more perfect.

My goal is to share a bit of what it's like to be the parent of a child with a mental health challenge, but I'd love to have the chance to share a bit about what you think, too. With that said, here are a few questions for you. I know my answers to these questions, but I'd love to hear what you think as well.

So, here goes.

1) What message do you feel needs to get out there? What do you want people to know?

 2) When your child is acting up in public, what is the most helpful thing someone can do? (ignore? smile reassuringly? offer help?)

 3) What can friends/family do to help?

I've asked these questions over on TheODDMom Facebook page as well, so feel free to go check out what's going on over there as well. If you haven't joined us yet, you'll find the link to the right of this blog.

Thanks, everyone. I look forward to hearing from all of you.