Sunday, March 1, 2015

The "A-Word" - Part 2

I wrote a post with a,"to be continued…," attached to the end of it, and I have been debating on whether to do a formal update.  As I've thought about it and also after being SO impatient for subsequent Back to the Future installments, I know the struggle and I need a proper follow up on our visit to The Marcus Institute (for the THRONGS of readers I have). You guys reached out to me in amazing and loving ways and you just simply don't know how much it has meant.  We feel so loved.

How to give this update has been tricky to figure out.

Because, here's the thing - I don't really have any intentions of blogging about Wesley's journey. I'd rather go back to posting humorous essays twice a year (the rate I'm currently going) about how I can't find my vacuum cleaner and how much I hate Moon Dough (like it's awful).

There comes a time when your child stops being an extension of you and they have their own secrets and stories to tell. In other words, one day, this ceases to be OUR story and becomes WESLEY'S story.

And I'm not here to be his spokesman, I'm here to be his advocate.

Inspiration for writing for me is usually born from a form of frustration and a passionate desire to share my experience in the hopes of connecting with people.  It's how I get my random thoughts in order too. Usually that's with humor. But maybe something I'm navigating resonates with someone out there who feels alone. With Wesley in particular, it has been a lot of connecting with people I already know who have walked this journey and have given me critical pieces of information that I honestly don't know I would have had without it.

- The former coworker who introduced me to Babies Can't Wait.
- The old school friend who's son sounds so similar to mine and offered me paragraphs of information about what I was about to encounter on the path to possible diagnosis.
- The people in the community who have embarked on IEP journeys in the schools systems of their own and have lent me some great advice.

I like these connections. I find the camaraderie to be comforting and the advice and guidance to have been critical in all the steps we've taken to this point.  This year has been emotional and confusing and I have learned a few things along the way with a LOT of help.

But I also want to be careful about shining a light on a member of my family who will grow up one day and read this on his own. No judgement meant…just personal feelings.

Nevertheless (is that one word…cuz, I feel like it should be like five), at our appointment, it was determined that Wesley is smart, sweet and perfect (obviously) but that he exhibits a few red flags of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).  We will go for a full day of structured testing in a few weeks where we will receive our special "map of Wesley," a diagnosis (if it applies), a game plan for intervention and a ceramic dalmation (just kidding…there's no dalmation - I know, I was disappointed too).

This appointment was VALIDATING - They acknowledged that he was a tough case to call.  The appointment was REASSURING - I was finally told by an expert that up until this point, I truly HAD been doing everything I could.  The appointment was POSITIVE - because whatever we call it, Wesley is and is going to continue to be just fine.

At first glance it appears that he's so engrossed in his world of letters and numbers and his own play that he tunes out. Not always, but enough to miss out on some important social and cultural learning  you pick up in your life (seriously, I'm pretty sure I'm doing this very same thing when I play Candy Crush).

Then we come to the label. "Autism".  We won't know if we claim that word until the 18th of March. I have to be honest that at this point, I don't really care if we do or if we don't.  Wesley is a person, the label is merely a means to an intervention.  A classification that is incredibly beneficial but fails to adequately describe the extraordinary son we have.  If you have an hour or twelve…I'll bore you with the amazing-ness of my boys.

Still there is that word. Autism. It can mean a lot of things. If we come to own that label, Wesley lies on a seemingly very high-functioning part of that spectrum. That fact is kind of important and kind of irrelevant all at the same time.  There are families who have kids who lie on a more challenging place in that spectrum.  We could have very easily been one of those .  Those kids are just as special and important and unique.  And I feel weird celebrating Wesley's placement for any other reason than simply his road in overcoming vulnerabilities might be a little easier.

There is a very good chance that he could get a diagnosis now and then not meet the criteria for it in a few years. A lot of great research suggests that THAT is due to early intervention. - This is why I beg, plead and implore you to put aside your fears and seek out answers if you see anything that makes you wonder about your own children. The earlier the better. If you need support - I'M HERE - but don't stay paralyzed by fear and don't get discouraged.

There is also a chance he doesn't meet the the criteria to be on it now.  We simply won't know until he gets structured testing.

The truth is, Wesley now is no different than the Wesley that I held on September 11, 2012 (all 10lbs of him). We've just had the pleasure of getting to know him better.  I'm the one that has had to do the changing.  I've had to come to terms with a word that, quite frankly, used to scare the hell out of me.  I've had to open my hand wider…to not clench so hard because my expectations of my kids are laughable. They are their own people, with their own strengths, with their own weaknesses. They are never going to be a reflection of my plans for them - at least I hope they won't.  I am here to merely help them unlock the people they were designed to be. To teach them about life. To lead them to a loving God.  To keep them from juggling knives.  To BE THERE for them as they grow up in a world that is strange and confusing and cruel and also wonderful. To help them understand that they are a contributor to this world and not a victim of it.

So while Autism is a spectrum...the love of the parent with a child with Autism…or any other special need - is not a spectrum.  The trajectory of all of our children's lives has to be their own. We must help them blaze their own trail…in their own way.  That trail may look extraordinary.  That trail may look ordinary.  That trail may look strange or sad to others.  But whatever form it takes, the potential to do great things on that trail is not something that can be measured by anyone.

In closing, please forgive me if I don't answer the big "Is he or isn't he?" question on the 18th on the blog.  It's not that I want to keep it a secret. It's merely that it's no longer the point. One day Wesley can choose to keep that fact to himself or wear the descriptor proudly. If you want to know something and we are Facebook friends, feel free to ask me, as my mother would say, "behind the wall," in a private message. Or email me: justpeachy1123(at)yahoo(dot)com.  I am thrilled to share my experiences, hear great advice or know that we are being thought about even a little in your busy lives.



Thursday, January 29, 2015

The “A-word”

On February 24th, we are taking my youngest son, Wesley, to the Marcus Autism Institute to see if he needs some further testing. So as you read our story, please know that I don’t know if Wesley is on the spectrum. I am writing this because I think it’s time. I am writing because being in Autism limbo is confusing and maddening. I am mostly writing because I don’t want anyone out there to be afraid to explore a potential diagnosis or intervention because of fear or because someone tells you they are too young. I have already begun to see the benefits of early intervention.    

In February of last year, I noticed my youngest standing about an inch away from license plates…a lot.  He was getting to an age where it was becoming apparent that his speech was delayed, but honestly, that was the least of my worries.  It was his fascination with letters, his constant counting and his tendency to isolate himself that secretly terrified me and kept me up late Googling.  After failing the 18 month MCHAT (the autism screen), my pediatrician recommended first addressing his chronic ear infections before jumping to any neuro-conclusions (totally made that word up). 

So within a week, he had tubes put in, adenoids removed and allergy testing done.  In terms of ear infections, it was a game changer. To date, he hasn’t had an ear infection in almost a year.  Also, he began to isolate himself less, he attempted more words, his balance seemed to get a bit better.  What remained was his obsession with letters and numbers and no real interest in communicating.  Always sweet, giggly and laid back – I didn’t see anything that I thought was considered “on the spectrum”.  I mean, I have a Masters in Googling and what not.

We began the Babies Can’t Wait process for his speech delay.  This is a state offered program that offers a free evaluation for kids showing delays. If you qualify, the therapy is affordable. I would recommend it to ANYONE in the state of Georgia.  Wesley got evaluated in July, qualified for the program and we began speech and play therapy in August about a month before he turned two.  At the start of Babies Can’t Wait he knew 13 words and ten of them were the numbers 1 - 10.

A few weeks in he had a language explosion.  He went from a few words to all of them.  I began to relax. Autism left my mind.  An idea that had once terrified me seemed preposterous now.  He was talking like crazy. But what I would soon realize is that he was doing more repeating than communicating.

I went to his follow up ENT appt.  When it was over, the doctor looked at me and asked if I thought my son’s behavior was normal.  I felt my heart sink to the floor, but I tried to play it cool.  I knew he had some quirks.  We ALL have quirks. He told me to make an appointment with the Marcus Institute. Two is a good age to go I remember him saying as I tried not to cry.  

I did end up crying in a parking lot to my husband as I was giving Wesley to him to take home so I could go to work.  He grabbed my shoulders and said words that I won’t ever ever forget, “None of this changes who he already is, Rachel. THIS is not cancer. THIS is not fatal. WE can deal with THIS. Whatever IT is.” 

I love that man.

Later that week, I relayed the ridiculous interaction with the ENT with his play therapist.  I looked at her and said, “I mean, are YOU watching him for Autism?”

She nodded her head.

Wait.

She nodded her head?

OMG I have given my child Autism.

A few weeks later, I took Wesley to an after-hours pediatrician.  He literally wouldn’t talk about Wesley’s upset stomach because he was too busy commenting on his toe-walking, on his lack of eye contact. All I wanted was a prescription but he wanted me to know that Wesley had some characteristics of a child with Autism.

I wasn’t sure how to process this. It was now October and I had been afraid of Autism since February. All the people who knew him on a medical/therapy level, told me he showed characteristics. All the people who knew him on a personal/educational level told me he was a typical two-year old. I was exhausted. I was stressed out. I was so done thinking about it. Every time Wesley did anything, I would think to myself, “Is that an autism thing?”

When really, it was just a Wesley thing.  

And as my wonderful girlfriends reminded me on a desperate FB thread I started, Wesley was the happiest kid they knew. 

He wasn’t a bit upset about what we all thought HE had.

It was around that time that I realized he knew the alphabet. It was the next week that I realized one night he was sitting in his car seat spelling the word train. He was barely two. After train came snow, stop, Wesley, frog, lion, dog, dad, ice, key, etc.  It was fascinating. I soon counted about 40 words that he could spell, identify when spelled and read off of a page. Trust me when I say that I wasn’t working with him. He was spelling words my 7 year old struggled through.  His play therapist called it Hyperlexia…and it can be a splinter skill of autism or it can be its own thing.  It was the one bright spot “red flag” wedged in the am-I-doing-what’s-right-for-my-child world I was in. 

Wesley is a bright, sweet, funny, laid back and happy kid.  He’s goofy and silly in ways that leave Andy and I in stitches. He cuddles with me where my first, I am in charge of the world, child never did. He sleeps like an angel, rarely throws tantrums and is never happier than when we are leaving Target and he can scream out the numbers on the check out lane signs.

We have heard the word “aspergers”, “mild” and “high-functioning” as it relates to him. The statement that took all my fears away was when I was wavering on this Marcus appointment and my pediatrician looked at me and said, “Rachel, do this now.  Have him evaluated now. If he does have Autism, at this age with intervention, I’m not going to tell you he can be cured of it, but he can overcome it.”

Andy and I are in a good place with this. We have had time to digest and discuss and agree on what’s best for Wesley.  We’ve been doing it for a year. We have adopted the mission statement that we will do whatever we can to eliminate frustration and roadblocks for learning long term.  If that means Wesley gets a label, then so be it. We have also discussed the possibility that we will go to Marcus and pay money for people to tell us that Wesley just doesn’t really have anything to say to us. Both would be fine and neither would change all the things about Wesley that we already know.  We all have challenges in our life that we have to overcome.  Wesley is no different.

I have had a wonderful community of people reach out, pray and simply share their input.  In fact, I have learned the most helpful things from other people who have been there and done that.  That’s why I’m unafraid to share this. 

If Wesley is on the spectrum, we will have a lot of things to learn and decisions to make.  I am a bit overwhelmed at the thought and so I would appreciate good thoughts and prayers on the 24th that we will listen and understand what we are being told.

And pray for sweet Wesley. His best interest is at the forefront of our minds and hearts. God chose our two boys to be ours and, like all of you, we are in this for life. He is one of two of the biggest blessings we have ever been given. Andy and I would do anything for these precious boys. 

Through this process I am learning to allow fear its due time but let resolve quickly overtake it so you can focus on doing what’s best for your children and your family. 

And in all things, we thank God for his presence in our lives. 


Rachel 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Night Without the Kids

You get back to the house after dropping your kids off with grandma.  New Years in the house by yourself.  You have been looking forward to this for weeks.  Tonight you are going to get caught up with your life, have the quiet to think to yourself and get really ready for 2015.

Walk into the house, remove your coat and savor the silence for about 10 minutes. You don’t know what to do first.  You are overwhelmed with options. You have a running bucket list of things you want to do when you get control of your home again and you literally don’t know where to begin. 

But you are excited…because the undeniable truth is that at some point tonight you, my friend, will get to pee alone.

Tonight you are going to have the quiet to finally whip the house into shape.  Christmas decorations will come down. You will make your purge, donate, return bins and get a jump on that resolution to declutter your home for good.  It’s going to be heaven. But you’ve got time for that…you need some downtime too.

Maybe you’ll watch some tv first. Who are you kidding…it’s time for those yoga pants. Go get them on if you aren’t already wearing them…always.

You walk over to the remote control and hit the “on” button.  Dora immediately begins screeching orders at you. “Not this time, you pint-sized, screeching like nails-on-a-chalkboard, type A banshee.  You have to find your own crap.”  You begin flipping channels.  Several hundred channels of options and you can’t wait. 

Maybe some House Hunters? There’s a marathon on. 

Or perhaps you’ll watch a movie with a lot of profanity…just because you can. 

You could watch the 24-hour crime show channel.  Ring in the New Year with a little “Momsters: When Moms Go Bad.” 

You scroll the channels for a full 15 minutes looking for something to catch your eye. What the heck did you used to watch?  At one time you had complete clicker control, and you were an expert at show choosing.  But now you act like you just arrived in this century and you’ve never seen television before. 

You finally settle on the evil mom show.

You grab your phone because tonight, is the night.  You will play candy crush at full volume. Without the fear of little feet running up behind you and plucking it out of your hands yelling for the Super Why! game. You settle back in your chair of choice, put your feet up, half listen to moms going bad while you crush candies. 

At some point you’ll get into the hummus but pace yourself dear…the night is young.  It’s only 5pm and you won’t start getting drowsy for another 45 minutes at least. 

Even though you are enjoying yourself, there is that voice in the back of your head reminding you what a huge, lame waste of time all of this is. 

It’s a good thing we don’t listen to that hussy. Crush those candies, girl.

The next few hours are a blur.

You decide to get going and go through some of the kids’ toys while they are gone.  Got to make room for the mother load of incoming Legos and V-tech cars and tracks that are sitting in the hallway from Christmas. You'll throw out toys your kids will never miss and have that playroom looking Pinterest ready in no time. 

I mean that was the intention.

At some point you realize you are now just sitting in a bean bag chair in the playroom, playing slots on your tablet and watching moms go bad…still.  Someone ordered Jimmy Johns.  It must have been you.  Taking bites in between spins, you resolve that you are going to get to the next level of Wizard of Oz slots tonight if it kills you. 

Clearly you’ve mastered the art of time suckage. But any minute you’ll get up and start cleaning and organizing like Martha Stewart and June Cleaver. 

Next thing you know, you are waking up on the couch. There’s a half eaten bag of pita chips, and an open container of hummus on the floor beside you.  It’s 6:30 in the morning on the first day of 2015 and you are having a super lame, non hangover “Hangover” experience as you try to piece together your super wild night. Christmas decorations are still up, your butt print is in the kids new beanbag chair and every tv in the house is on the Investigation Discovery channel. 

You get off the couch wide awake because the fact that you had the freedom to stay up late and sleep in doesn't mean you are cable of doing it anymore. 


You wonder how the kids are.  Gosh, you miss those little guys. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Humans love

Ugh.

Lately it feels like I need a serious pair of waders just to trudge through the bad, the very bad and the devastating. 

Suffering. Pain. Loss. Inexplicable grief. It’s everywhere.

A grown son, just starting out in life, lost in a car accident today.
A couple, carrying a baby with a devastating prognosis, still making the most of their pregnancy milestones while praying for a miracle.
A beautiful girl robbed of the future and abilities, with parents who are determined to make the most of their remaining time.

It’s everywhere. And it physically feels heavy.   

It doesn’t need to happen to you for you to feel it.  

I’m always moved by the love that immediately shows up and surrounds a family who are watching something tragic unfold in front of their eyes. Their worst nightmare coming true. It’s like I get so disenchanted with humans at times but then I see people carrying pain with their friends. Feeling it with them. They drum up support. They anticipate the needs of their loved ones and get on the ball to meet them.

We are in this life together and in times like these, we have two choices to make. We can conserve our love or we can share it. 

I have to say…I see an awful lot of sharing going on around me right now.

It’s a beautiful bright spot in the midst of overwhelming pain.

Humans don’t leave behind their weak. They pick them up and they stay strong for them. For as long as they have to, they carry burdens alongside those they love (and if you’re from the South, they bring you chicken casseroles which is pretty darn nice too). 

I’m not calling any person weak here. People going through a difficult time are most definitely not weak…but they are singularly focused.  How could you not be?  They are emotionally spent. And they are putting the needs of the family member suffering more in front of their own than they ever have in their lives.

So the point of the post – well, I wanted to write out my feelings (which always helps me sort through them) and I wanted to share an opportunity to support a family that I know going through something unbelievably hard. 

Layla is four. She was given the unbelievable blessing of being born to a wonderful loving family. Her parents adore her and she has an amazing big brother.  After spending an extended period of time trying to understand Layla’s seizures, they were punched in the gut with a diagnosis that no parent should ever ever ever have to get.

Like – excuse my bluntness – but this diagnosis can kiss it.  

Here are her parents standing in full armor ready to fight whatever battle needs to be fought to heal her – but there’s no battle. There’s no fight. The outcome is out of their hands. 

I cannot begin to comprehend that level of helplessness.

Friends. I’m asking you to help if you can.  Because the thing is…the battle now has to be this.

To make the most of the time they get.

All those outings we plan to take our kids on one day.  The Disney trip we are going to wait just a few more years for. Those plans we make for the future.

Future.

They don’t have that.

Please visit their website and if you can give, awesome. If you can’t, maybe there are prayers you can offer up.  Or maybe, you can look around at the people in your own life and community who are dealing with a monster that they are struggling to defeat…and you can share your love and strength with them. 

Take their hand and be what I know humans to be…compassionate and loving people who surround the suffering with love and support.

To this sweet family - I want you to know that I am  praying for you as often and intentionally as I can. 

To the sweet friends of this family – you guys are amazing and I am moved by your love and care.

And to that sweet little girl bravely fighting a battle very few people have ever had to face…you are a Warrior Princess and there are a lot of people who want to help you cram all the life and love possible into these precious years. You have touched so many already. Stay brave, sweet girl.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Week One: Short Story September

Happy Labor Day.

And by the way, this completely feels like day one of filling out a brand new diary.  It will be interesting to look back and see if

1.) I even write four short stories.  I mean…I AM. I AM going to write four short stories (I'm using The Secret)
or if
2.) I blog about any of it.

But I swear to you, people of the blog reading world…I am totally writing.  I am NOT watching a Shark Tank marathon.

But if I WERE watching a Shark Tank marathon (hypothetically speaking) it would be because I've never had any desire to watch any episodes of this show until I sat down to write my story tonight.

Can you say, "SQUIRREL?!"

Seriously, I did do a little pre-Short Story September reconnaissance so I know the story line of what I'm going to write about and started writing on Friday so I kind of feel, as I used to say in college at midnight, the night before exams while watching The Carnie Wilson show, I'm WAY ahead of the game.

So far, my takeaway is this…

What I have noticed as I take my idea and try to put it in written form is how laborious writing can be.  It's been kind of a long time since I wrote a short story.  My ideas in my head are AMAZING.  They are fast-paced and quippy. Sometimes, thinking of a story line in my car can near bring me to tears…which really confuses the Starbucks baristas in the drive thru…but writing them down? Arranging the details on paper…crafting dialogue…all those quotation marks?  Well, I'm finding writing is less of an art and more of a test of endurance.

When I write a blog post, an article or personal essay…it's really just a quick stream of my own thoughts…there's not a whole lot of editing that goes on there. If you know me in person…you kind of know that I am the person I write about in my blog.

But this is a different animal.

It's a mental game. That's why the more I dive into this field, the more I learn and the more I pursue…well, the more forgiving I am when I finish a terrible book because I think…"but they finished it. They actually wrote things down until they were done."

Who am I to believe that my stories are any better, because, I haven't even taken the time to write them down.

I guess being a writer in your head is kind of a form of rejection avoidance.

But I challenge you…even if you don't write…even if it's something else that you want to do but don't. Go out and do it.  Don't just pursue things in your mind.  Pursue them in person.  So you may be terrible.  Almost guaranteed you'll be terrible at first. I try to teach my son that he's not going to be great at something the first time he tries it. Chances are, most things we do at first, WE WILL SUCK AT!  I tell him to keep trying.

How can I not also take that advice?

So this is week one. I am starting to draft my first short story.  I am going to try to remember this:

"I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so later I can build castles."  ~ Shannon Hale

I love that quote.  Take the stress out of the first draft…write it all, as it flows. Do not stop to edit, keep writing…get all the sand into the box you can…you'll be so glad you did when you go back to edit it.

I am not going to blog every day…I'm not Doogie Houser.  I'm just going to pop in from time to time, as I avoid writing, to tell you how it's going.

I have two amazing lady writers, Ann and Rachel on this journey with me…it's not too late to join us. No one is posting anything for public view unless they want to.  We don't even need to read it…just join us for moral support if you would like to.

Also, I have a pretty fun Pinterest Board dedicated to writing that you are welcome to check out.

I'm amazing at hoarding other people's advice.  I do go through my board and try to read all the articles so I can weed out the links that go no where, but I'm sure a few have slipped past me.

Happy writing,
Rachel

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hi and Short Story September

Life is in transition.  

I'm leaving a job I've had for almost 10 years and starting a brand new adventure. The kids are both in school in some form or fashion and the papers that return to my house at the end of the day are at epic levels. I am overwhelmed by appointments and such.  

Still, writing is always on my heart and on my mind. If you write, you completely understand this nagging obsession.  This love/hate relationship with yourself as a writer.  Thinking about writing all day long only to sit down at the end of the day and be too tired and too overwhelmed to start.   

I am doing a lot of reading about writing fiction and crafting stories. I read a quote the other day that stuck with me. It basically said you can learn more about story structure from writing 20 short stories than from writing one novel.  

I've thought about that for several days.  

I have a never ending list of "started stories" and the idea of committing to one is something I just avoid. It's kind of why I'm a fan of the personal essay.  I can start and finish one in about an hour on a weeknight while watching Netflix.  

So I'm issuing a challenge to myself (and to anyone else who is interested, please join me).  I am going to challenge myself to writing four short stories (1500 + words) in the month of September.  That's a story a week. 

The plan is this: Take four of my favorite ideas and develop them into a short story.  I may find ideas that I want to explore further or I may find that all of my ideas belong in the circular file.  

I may post them here…I may not. :) 

So the gauntlet has been thrown...who's in?   September 1 is our start date.  

Comment here, or email me: justpeachy1123@gmail.com

Rachel
 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What to do when water is pouring out of your ceiling.

In eleven easy steps.

You hear water.  It's 6:30 in the morning and you think to yourself, "Man, it is really coming down out there."

Step One:  Head over to the dining room window and watch as the water cascades down the window pane. Nature is amazing.  

Step Two: In horror, you realize that the water is cascading down on the same side of the window you are on.  You step back and like an offensive hip hop song you see that the water is indeed, FROM THE WINDOW TO THE WALL...everywhere.  It's like someone turned on a faucet in your ceiling and water is pouring out of the air vent.

Step Three: This is a critical step. Don't skip it.  Stand there and stare....maybe let your mouth hang open.

Step Four:  Run upstairs, turning on all the lights on the way and yell for your husband to get up.

Once the two of you are downstairs and assessing the situation, surely a plan will form.

Step Five:  Both of you stand there and stare.  Together.  Maybe hold hands.  This is a moment.

Step Six: Husband gets a few buckets while you go outside and unsuccessfully shut the water off by turning all of the power off to the house.  Consider running through the gate to freedom rather than facing family ever again.  You could make it.  They are, after all, currently in complete darkness. I'm just saying, there could be a main water shutoff "switch" instead of a "valve".

Step Seven:  Come back inside and stare at cell phone while husband continues to rotate buckets.  Realize there is no one a phone call away that can help you.  NO ONE!  YOU ARE ALL ALONE. You and your husband could be stranded for the next few days, months or years taking turns in the bucket rotation.  What can I google to solve this crisis?

Step Eight: Go out into the street and wander up and down it in your red and hot pink owl pajamas and soaked house shoes looking for someone, anyone, who will save you from this disaster.  Do the 360 degree turn thing in the middle of the street a la Jennifer Love Hewitt in I Know What you Did Last Summer and yell at the universe as you realize that, again, there is no one.  Do this with much less makeup and way less cleavage because, well...37 year old helpless mother of two in owl pajamas.

Step Nine:  Call the fire department and open your conversation with a three minute apology about the fact that what you are about to request of them, is not a real emergency and how you KNOW that you should KNOW where the valve thingies are in your house.

Step Ten: Firemen arrive and shut water off before fire engine is even cut off. Offer them one of your children in gratitude. Over thank them.  To the point where everyone is just uncomfortable.  Feel a little better when they tell you they do this a lot.

Step Eleven:  Learn where all the valve thingies are.