We first featured Marj Hatzell (known on the Internet through her blog The Domestic Goddess) back in 2010. We loved her interview so much that we decided to check in on her and see how she and her family have progressed over the years. From what it sounds like, her little ones have grown up to be whip-smart, independent guys! Another update: Marj is shelving Domestic Goddess for now and planning on launching a new one sometime soon. We'll keep you posted!
First, quickly remind us who you and your family are.
I'm Marj, mom to Ian (12, nonverbal autism, ADHD, other alphabet soup diagnoses) and Luke (14, Aspie, ADHD, curmudgeon) and wife to Isaac. We have two awesome doggies and are never bored. We'd pay money to be bored, actually.
We'd love to check in on what's been going on with you since we last spoke in 2010. Five years later, what's new with you and your family?
The boys are in 6th (Ian) and 8th (Luke) grade now. They are eating me out of house and home. We buy a lot of shoes since they have giant hobbit feet. Thanks, puberty!
How is life different? The same?
Now with a tween and a teen, things are vastly different. They are much more independent, we seem to have the many health issues under control, and we might even be getting a little more sleep. A little. They are still the same in personality. Ian is a bundle of energy and always on the go. He's extremely physically active. Luke is still a curmudgeon. I realized I was basically raising my father, right down to the "slow down, the speed limit is 25!" and "Get off my lawn! Darn kids."
We've started being able to go on small vacations again. That was something we couldn't do for a while because things were so chaotic and unpredictable at home. But we've established good routines and have taken baby steps and now we're feeling more confident with eating out, traveling, etc. The good news is my guys are pros in the car. We have it down to a science. We stay in the same hotel chain every time so they all look familiar. We always pick a place with a pool.
Luke has become more socially active and has a great group of friends. He has struggled with it in the past but with the right supports from his school he has thrived at our local school and is an honor student. We're thrilled with his success there. Ian still attends a private placement outside the school district with very small class sizes (5!) and one-on-one all day. It's made a huge difference in his progress.
Ian has had major sleep disorders in the past. We finally have the health issues under control and the meds straightened out and I feel like we're making progress. He has been sleeping most nights through the night for the first time in all his twelve years. And now, ironically, I often have insomnia no doubt due to the fact that I'm used to pulling all-nighters!
The biggest change in our lives, though, has been the iPad. We did win one online a few years back and we installed communication software. Ian didn't want much to do with it at first but now he's independently navigating it. He uses it to communicate and we bring it everywhere. Some recent gems have been, "I'm bored. When are we going?" and "I'm hungry. What's for dinner? Fried chicken!"
Looking back on your last interview, what do you feel you have learned since then?
I've learned to relax and let my kids be kids. We spent so many years going to therapies and I always felt like I was a therapist instead of their mother. Back then there wasn't as much parenting going on, you know? I mean, I have a degree in Special Education but I longed to be a parent. Looking back I realized I was their parent. I just needed to trust myself and trust them. All I needed to do was love them and believe in them. And I did.
Anything you wish you could tell your 4-years-ago self?
Yep. Don't sweat the small stuff and stop second-guessing yourself. You will eventually sleep! Honest! I'm not lying!! After 12 years, we're finally averaging 8 hours a night and IT IS AMAZING.
Last time, you mentioned perfectionism and its role in your life. Do you feel as though it affects your parenting today?
Somewhat. Funny, I do push myself to be better and I'm always striving to do more. But I've learned not to be so hard on myself. I've learned not to doubt myself so much. I've also learned to say NO to people and to accept help from others. I'm learning to take care of myself because I've learned that I cannot be an effective parent if I'm strung out and burnt out all the time! So learning to get regular exercise and take better care of myself without feeling guilty over it was a real learning experience. But one every parent needs to learn.
What are you looking forward to 5 years from now?
College. KIDDING! My teen tells me he's never moving out and he'll commute to college. Yippee. But I'm also looking forward to seeing where Ian goes and how far. He's made tons of progress and we're thrilled with it. While he still doesn't speak, the fact that he's learned to communicate more effectively has made a huge difference in our day-to-day functioning. He's much less frustrated, we have far fewer behavioral challenges. Except we've learned that even with a communication device, a nonverbal child can have echolalia! "I want. M&M candy. Please. Thank you." Is something I hear about 100 times a day. And if I say no, he just types in, "Please. Target. I love you." Little stinker knows how to get to me. Good thing he's so cute. :)
A large thanks to Marj and her family for sharing her journey with us! How about you - what has changed in your family over the past five years? Share with us in the comments, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on our social media pages!