Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Black Holes and Revelations

On our way to therapy last week, Genea started telling me a lengthy story about Daddy's shirt. It's from Denver, and he got it a long time ago. And when she asked him about it, and he told her, she remembered another question she'd been meaning to ask.

"Why didn't that other family want me"?


"Do you remember what we've told you?"


Whenever this has come up in the past, maybe a handful of times, we've always told her it was because the parents who adopted her first were getting a divorce. This is not exactly the truth, though that marriage had clearly been over for a while, and they did wind up divorcing a year later. Genea has been young enough, or oblivious enough, that the answer was enough. She accepted it with the idea that all three of them separated from each other. 

The truth as I know it is, she was too much for them. Her shrieking, that primal infant scream that they could not stop with any usual methods. They resorted to some unusual methods and the shrieking stopped, but there was nothing there then. They had no relationship, and felt like she hated them. She may have. She had stopped growing after a few months with them and developed a cortisol disorder similar to Addisons Syndrome. She also developed the bizarre ability to stop herself from making any sound while crying. Imagine a 3 year old who can do that. If I'd not seen it I would never had believed it.

In the therapists office, Genea pushed me for more information. "I don't know" was not going to cut it this time. I said "I can tell you what they told me, which was they thought they were bad parents and they didn't know how to help you. You were so sad all the time and they tried but they had some really bad ideas of what to try, and that made it worse". I asked her if that made sense, and she said sort of.

I explained some more, the things about her screaming and how they thought she was miserable. I made a point to tell her none of it was her fault. There is nothing a 4 year old can do to make parents do anything. The entire responsibility is on them. It was a hard conversation for many reasons, one being to describe her as she was then, without using any language to suggest anything was her fault.

When I asked her again if it was making sense, she again said "sort of". I realized she was waiting to hear a good reason. Something she could hang on to, to tell herself, oh so that's why. A reasonable explanation as to why the people who adopted her first didn't want her. Just throw a cement mixing truck at my head, I'll eventually catch on.

"If you're waiting to hear something logical, there isn't anything. If you're trying to understand what the good reason they had was, there isn't one. It was the wrong thing to do and they shouldn't have done it. What they did was bad for you, it hurt you".

And so she understood, in her 11 year old Genea way, that it was not going to made sense.  I'm certain it will all come up again and again, and I'm not sure why she doesn't remember. My suspicion is that she struggles so much daily just to hold the usual stuff together, that hard stuff gets pushed to the side and eventually forgotten.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What the what?

They say there is no such thing as a stupid question. I don't know who "they" is, but "they" are wrong. There are plenty of stupid questions. So. Many. Stupid. Questions!
We recently had a relative from not-my-side come out to visit. She had friends here who wanted to meet my family (really?). So off we went, through the blizzarding snow, to meet these friends of the Relative From Out Of Town. For the sake of expediency, we'll call her Root.
(you have to know how badly I wanted to make the acronym ROT, but it just seemed like too much).
Roots friends have a 2nd home here in Green Bay. One might think of that as an oddity worthy of its own show on TLC. After all, if I were to have a second home you can be guaranteed it would be more than a thousand miles from Wisconsin. Key West, or Hilton Head Island, New Orleans, NYC to name a few. But its actually something people do (freaky- deaky people, ahem). Buy a second home in Green Bay so you can use it for the 10 times the Packers play football at Lambeau Field. I'm serious. It's a thing!
Anyway, we went in and made introductions blah blah blah etc.  These people were loud. They responded to normal speech so I don't think it was a hearing issue. They were just super, eardrum- vibrating loud. So much that Teena kept her hands over her ears the whole time. But they were fun, sociable and pleasant. Until one of them made a comment, and it snowballed.

“Teena you look so much like your mom. I mean, I'm sitting here and I just met you, and gosh, you just look so much alike! Genea, how come you don’t look like them?"
Genea- “I’m adopted”
I explain, no, she really is adopted.
Root chimes in with, "she’s from ThuhyooCRANE!"
LP- “OH, are you a gymnast?”
(huh? what? a what???)
At this point I should explain that my brain was frantically firing neurons to come up with a logical explanation as to where this was going and why. Distressed little axons whipped about seeking clarity that would not come. So it was busy. (ps, I'm not sure what that means but I thought it sounded good).
Root- “NO, but all my friends think she looks JUST LIKE Nadia Comaneci”!!!!

The Husband says- “Nadia is Romanian

This here is Genea. From ThuhyoooCRANE.

Later I thought, perhaps they were thinking of Oksana Baiul who is Ukrainian. And a figure skater.
At any rate, I am so completely bewildered I have lost the ability to speak

I shit you not. The conversation then extends to all the people everyone ever knew who was adopted.
One of the LP's asked Genea, "do you know other orphans from ThuhyooCRANE? My neighbor has a daughter from Korea and she knows another little girl from Korea too!".

Someone asks about travelling to ThuhyooCRANE in the future.
Root answers. Why would ROOT answer? Just the fact gave my sad little misfiring neurons a toilet swirly. Let alone the words that followed.
 “WE are going to take her there when she is 18. WE want her to be old enough to appreciate it. We are definitely going, and it will be a big trip for us. We just want her to be old enough to understand what's happening. But WE will take her there when she's 18.” 

The stink eye I sent her the first time progressed to the evil eye, then to a full on WTF face.
My head exploded. WE are not going ANYWHERE!!!!! When and if Genea's parents decide it is a stable time in her emotional and cognitive development, and if she wants to, her PARENTS will take her. In fact, her father and I have discussed 15 or 16. There will be MONTHS of counseling involved before and after.  At 18 she can take herself if she wants! However, I managed to let the comments gooooo, let it gooooo, let it GOOOOOO. Why? I have an unfortunate history with Root wherein she says stupid shit, and I call it out and make her take it back. Apparently in some circles this is not as appreciated as it should be. So I try.
But there’s more.

LP “Genea, you are SO LUCKY to be adopted!”
That's the point where I almost let loose with a little crazy of my own. Possibly they sensed it, because it was quickly expanded to "you're so lucky you have them for parents- Teena too!"

Seriously, I didn't realize before how fortunate we are that we’ve never been around people like that before.  I’ve always heard stories of stuff like this happening, but this was my first experience with hard core dumbasses. Obviously, us all being Caucasians means we rarely get a second glance and that's probably a big part of it. At least nobody asked her WHY her real mother didn’t want her (although I’d bet a tray of cheese curds they were all trying to think of a way to bring it up).
The stupid. It hurts.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ye Olde Crusty Post- Mimimize Holiday Meltdowns!

I've put this up a couple times before, but I like it. So I'm posting it again!

The holidays are too much for many of our kids. Though it seems to us regular adults from regular childhoods that this should be the most wonderful time of year, for a kid who struggles getting though a normal day, getting through a series of high-expectation days with multiple events is stressful.

I have learned a few things over the years about managing the holidays with a child who has Reactive Attachment Disorder, Bipolar Disorder and DSM-NOS. Things which have worked to help Genea remain on the planet during times of stress, and I thought I would pass them on. I'm not an expert and I don't even play one on TV.

With holidays and school breaks, kids easily go haywire and stay off track for weeks, even months. Most childcare professionals will verify- kids who are sensitive often destabilize this time of year. In other words, they blow their shit.

First and foremost, be mindful that your RADish will probably struggle. Work from a position that expects problems and makes the effort to contain them before the fallout. Anticipate. Think to previous years and plan. Understand what is causing the blowouts and why.

RADishes do not like change!
My RADish (affectionate term for a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder) does not like change. She has every day scheduled to be exactly the same as yesterday. It might seem as if a  holiday like Thanksgiving where my little food hoarder/sneaker can eat all she wants would be a positive. However, the overriding feeling will be anxiety due to change in schedules, locations, people and rules.

But.. but... but... it's Christmas! She's getting presents! How could she flip out about that? That was my question until I realized, it's because of the changes. All change- even good change- is bad.

When things are predictable, she feels safe. Even though she knows it's Christmas, maybe she didn't realize that meant her regularly scheduled breakfast would be at 7:05 instead of 7:00 and there would be a parade to watch on tv instead of her usual cartoon. A typical kid wouldn't think twice about it but for the child with RAD, one change means everything could change and that is dangerous.

Anxiety always comes out.

When your child starts up with provoking behavior, constant demands and does bizarre things it may mean she is feeling unsure and unsafe.

So what do you do? You talk it through at every opportunity. I would describe every single thing I could think of to Genea ahead of time. We are going to Grandma's house. We are taking my car and leaving our house at 12:00. It will be a long car ride and I want you to bring a few books. We will try to drive straight there without stopping. When we get to Grandma's, remember her 2 dogs will bark at you at first. We will not eat right away, it will be about 2 hours after we get there but she always has snacks out for you right? She's having ham and those mashed potatoes you love (and sweet mother of tequila, those potatoes better be there) for dinner. These are the people who are coming.

But wait! Do not tell her too far ahead of time because then she will freak out anticipating the day of changes. For Genea, usually the night before a big event is good. Sometimes, the day of. Seriously, rarely more notice than that. Where you have anticipatory anxiety you have your meltdown. Simple.

The other thing that helps is to tell her you know what is happening and why. You know change is hard for her and makes her feel nervous. It is hard! But you will be there to help her, and you've always kept her safe.

Do what you have to do to keep the chances for failure at a minimum.

My child could not control her urine when stressed. Even though she was 7 and fully capable, unfortunately her continence was always one of the first things to go. We used protective garments at the homes of other people. If Genea doesn't need the back up, she doesn't need it but if she does it will not ruin the whole day, her clothes, or the furniture of others.

Know your child's signs of stress and look for them.

Genea can look perfectly calm, even happy, on the outside. I know she is feeling anxious because her pupils dilate. That may well be the only sign at all that she is internally dysregulated. And where does all that go if left to fester? After all, she looks good on the outside, why not take that for the truth? Here is why: because the meltdown is coming- it never just fades away. Maybe not at Grandma's for Christmas, but the next day? The next 7 unstructured days at home without school? Oh yeah, you will feel it!

Check in with your child often with physical contact.

I am always amazed when I casually hug Genea and I can feel her heart thumping like the drummer from a death metal band has moved into her chest cavity. Another cue she is feeling stress! I make her sit  next to me and I firmly hold her. Not forcefully, but as the adult in charge. We might discreetly work on breathing or counting. I will have her place her hand on her chest to feel her heart beat and work on slowing it down (I call that biofeedback for the poor, lol). I'll slowly "draw" the infinity symbol on her back, purposefully crossing the medial line to engage both sides of the brain.

We might escape to a bedroom and close the door and do some strong sitting in quiet.  We can do quick brain shifts or some academics. I might ask her to spell "frog" or use the math trick. The answer doesn't matter in the slightest- it will shift the brain out of panic and fear and away from fight/ flight/ freeze. Other ideas- ask her favorite color, favorite tv show, etc. Think of it as driving a car with a manual transmission (good God, why do those things still exist). If the car is in 1st gear going 45 miles an hour you are going to wind up with a messed up car. You have to shift to bring it into safety.

Other things that have helped Genea and I survive:
  • Keep visits to other homes short. Short.  Short as you can.
  • Plate your child's food for her. A buffet style or family style meal is going to overwhelm and freak out your little loved one.
  • Keep as many rules from home as possible. Example- we have a rule that you have to try everything on your plate with one bite, then you can decide not to eat it. Awkward and annoying to keep that rule at another persons home, but rules are reminders that someone is in charge and the child is safe.
  • Try not to "let it go because it is a holiday". I have wound up with 2 ungrateful, overstimulated brats on many occasions thinking I was giving the gift of fun and freedom from structure.
Get over the idea that this is your holiday too and you should be able to have some fun. Maybe you will, maybe you won't. Yes this will all be a lot of work. No, it probably isn't fair.

What about pushy relatives?

Those that are sure your RADish needs a fistful of crackers and you are just being too strict, you know them? They spend half the holiday trying to convince you that you are too hard on the child, you need to loosen up. Or the other where your child runs off totally out of control and just needs a good spanking. I have two lines that I have found will stop all opinions, second guessing, and unwanted "help".

1. Say this with your head tilted to the side and try to look tragic.

"You know, she will just never be totally sure that we won't abandon her too. No matter how long it has been she still doesn't quite fully believe we will always bring her home. Our rules may seem odd but she functions so much better with them".

Without fail, the "helpful" relative will make sad clucking noises, look off into the distance, and wander away. I think the it helps kick open the door that reminds people, we are not working from a regular box of chocolates here. Half the box isn't even candy.

2. Looking helpless or a little doubtful, shift the focus (blame) off of yourself.

"Mmmm hmmmm, her therapist (insert whatever professional you want) says we have to 'blank' for her to get better. You know, after all she's been through".

Around my relatives that will move immediately into a discussion about this feelings crap in society now-a-days, psychiatrists are nothing but drug pushers and the Big Pharmaceutical Companies are running the world.  And then the subject of medical malpractice with both a malpractice attorney and a medical doctor in the house. Before the beer bottles actually start flying, get out of the way because no one cares about you anymore. (though, hmm, that might  just be my family).

I realize the above ideas may turn folks off completely. Do what works for you. This is what has worked for me. 

Now, on to gifts!

Around here, my kids get a lot of gifts. What a problem, right? No, it's not something I complain about. However with my children, too many new things at one time overwhelms them. Then they wind up playing with the box or an old cat toy from way under the couch. Spread it out.

We will do our family gifts 3 days before Christmas. No one has ever been arrested for opening gifts early. Winter Break from school starts five full days before the actual holiday this year- that's a long time and I'm sitting on a pile of new toys? Gifts mailed out from relatives get opened two days before. That will give the kids most of the next day to play with their new stuff.

I know many people feel they should be teaching their children delayed gratification. That kids should darn good and well learn to wait and they'll be better people for it. That is totally valid, and I get it. It's true. My thinking though, is that my daughter spent the first year and a half of her life in abject neglect. She was forced into a life where delayed gratification was the standard. Only it wasn't a new my- little- pony doll, it was food that was insubstantial. Hugs that never happened. Non existent stimulation. She knows too well what delayed gratification is because it damaged her brain and torpedoed her development.

Anyway, like I said, these are the things that have worked for us. You may have already tried every single thing on the list and none of it worked. For me, it's about maximizing the fun and helping my RADish be successful. We will absolutely still have fallout, but if we try to work at the problems ahead of time and have a plan for the other stuff, it helps.

I actually wrote this a few years back, but to this day we still do most of the same things. I've updated it and added a little. Of course Genea is older now and able to respond better so that helps.  

So, opinions? Suggestions? What has worked for you and your family that is not typical? Fill me in, I will take all the help I can get!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Zero Dark Always

I've worked with many children who suffered from the "trophy for showing up" trend, and the "criticize the action not the child" movement (prisons are full of people who believe they are disconnected from their actions!). For them to have come to me at my former job in the first place meant they had severe problems getting through each day. But as we worked through the issues and would have success,  one specific blockade was awfully durable.

The kids felt, almost universally, they deserved fireworks and a Mardi Gras parade for showing an effort. Never mind what they were capable of, and for sure never mind what the rest of the day looked like. We could have a school suspension, been picked up by police- intoxicated, and said child expected a parade because when she came home she hung up her coat. Even though it should go in the closet and she hung it on a doorknob, because she remembered to bring it home and didn't throw it on the floor.

It was near impossible to get through to the kids what a minimum day should look like. That hanging up your coat is a basic expectation that should be done right, every time, without anyone telling you to do it. That hanging your coat does not erase the alcohol you stole. Hanging your coat does not even erase your snotty attitude. It is basic. It is a "zero".

Eventually I came up with the idea for a list I called Zero Dark Always. It uses a range of numbers from [-5] to [ +5] to describe what's expected, what could turn a good day bad, and what really would deserve a parade.

When Genea came to me last week genuinely confused why she was restricted from fun until a specific chore was done, I tried out a Zero Dark Always list. She said, "I do everything you tell me and I'm still grounded". The job was to wash the windows. Her attitude was so nasty and the job so half arsed, I really could not believe she didn't get it. She had ripped down a curtain at one window, breaking the rod. She had "fallen" down the stairs, actually hurting and bruising herself, to get out of it (didn't work, I knew she had done it deliberately and she admitted it later). She "accidentally" yanked a large set of heavy wooden blinds out of the wall. It bonked her in the face, making for another injury (still insists that one was real- I'm guessing the injury was not intentional but yanking down the blinds was). Screamed, cried and banged things around the entire time. About 1/2 the windows were worked on and of those, the job was 1/4 complete. 

So what was my problem? She had shown up! And all those problems were from her actions, not her!

Anyway, here's what I wrote up for her.

{+5} great manners and attitude, helps w/o being asked, occupies self, pleasant/fun to be with, using calming before it's needed, gets everything done right away, needs no reminders
{+4} Good manners, keeps self busy, accepts changes, uses calming when annoyed
{+3} flexible, pleasant, helps out, extra music practice,
{+2} Calms with reminders, asks to help, positive attitude and voice
{+1} is quiet/not disruptive, accepts "no" the first time, dry bed, uses calming without complaining, respectful to everyone

"ZERO" : pick up your things, take care of all pea, polite, honest, no tantrums, listen the first time.
Does: chores, homework, music practice, hygiene and dressing. May need 1 reminder for 1 task.

{-1} complains, in others' business, does most of chores, needs 2 or more reminders for daily routine, fake crying, cooperates with calming after tantrum. Any issues with the cats.
{-2} whiny/short tantrums, uses mean voice, rude, noisy, corrects adults
{-3} nasty to others, stomps around, bangs things, ignores "no", ignores reminders, completes 1/2 or less of routine, resists calming
{-4} yelling, screaming, refusing to use calming
{-5} full volume crying/screaming, shrieking, hitting, destroys things, hurts self or others

So the point is not to push [+5] days every day. I expect a [+5] to come around about as often as a [-5]. Which is to say, almost never. If there are all [+5]'s, that could very well indicate something else was going on (like she ate all your candy bars and is hoping you won't notice. Just for example). The ideal mix would be zero to [+2], with a few [-1] or [ -2]'s here and there, because no one is perfect.  Usually I would build in more room for reminders but with Genea, relentless unnecessary questions and confirmations are part of her issue. Everything is written down for her in detail and posted on the wall. Yes, it looks like a group home in here sometimes.

I haven't tried this with Genea before I guess because I thought she was too young to get it. And I have to say, had my own mother given me list like this I would have blown a gasket in 3 different languages. It should probably come from someone else, a therapist or teacher maybe. I did it for Genea because she asked. Obviously this one is specific to her.

But with the teenagers, after about a month they would be consistently over +2. Naturally they played it at first, and usually hovered at -1 or -2 in the beginning. The message had to be strong and unwavering, showing up is not enough. Usually, when they "got it", they got it good and would actually strive for higher numbers which was weird because that was not the goal at all.

I think, this is my opinion only, that most kids know smoke is being blown up their butts when people praise them for nothing. But as kids, they accept it and become complacent. It's easier to make half an effort and then go off for something more fun or to their own interest. They've known all along it was wrong, and felt disdain for the meaningless awards. It only builds an empty and dissonant confidence, and it makes for a far greater fall when the truth roars up.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Middle School Perils

I'd be happy to report this was a normal "freak out" if in fact it was not me "freaking out". And if I was happy about it.

I should be more descriptive. It's less of a peril and more a landmine positioned on top of quicksand. In space.

Hints have been wafting through the fetid air of my house for weeks. I'd chosen to save my sanity by ignoring all of it. I've learned a lot of calming techniques over the past several years. Change my focus. Breathe. Do math in my head. Tap-tap-tap. The hints kept coming and I tapped harder, focused on bigger unicorns, exhaled the entire tidal volume of my lungs and attempted the Fibonacci sequence (I can do double digits now!).

There is a dance this week. At the middle school. Where my daughter attends! I sort of feel like I just announced they found snakes in the toilets or a sniper on the roof. Or both. How are you going to tell me my 4 year old is going to a school dance (in my head she's still 4- see that cute pic on the right sidebar? That's her, forever) that will have booooooooooys! Boys who might want to daaaaaaaaaaaance! WITH GENEA!

Because lemme tell ya, no hormone addled mini perv is going near my daughter. I'm not the kind of parent who wants to be friends with her kids friends. I want them to fear the sound of my footsteps in case a foot slips and lands where the sun don't shine. I want them to stutter when they speak to me. I want visible shaking. Because your limited life experience means you cannot even imagine what I will do to you if you touch my little girl. And it will hurt.

A few weeks ago, Genea came to me- very serious- to ask how she would know if she 'like' liked a boy, and how she would know if he 'like' liked her back. I covered my stomach with a pillow to hide the sudden onset abdominal convulsions and pinned my face with binder clips to reflect calm curiosity. My brain was screaming- get those thoughts out of your head right now little girl you are only four! Fortunately the screaming stayed in there and didn't fall out, so I asked her for details.

What passes for interaction these days slays me. This boy has an ipad, and doesn't let anyone watch him play on it except for her. Aaaaaaand, she thinks he is cute. ACKKKKKK!

Being only 4 years old, Genea had already jumped to wanting to ask him on a date.


Okay, see honey, you're skipping a few steps there. What do you know about him (#anyfelonies)? What does he like (#betterhavenetnannyonthatipad) to do? What makes you think he might like you (#checkthesexoffenderlist)? What's his full name and address, parents names and occupations (#backgroundchecksforeverbody!)?

I get that this is the goal and I should be proud of Genea (I am). This is what moms are told to do- lay the groundwork when they're little so when big things start coming up kids come to us with them. I just think the theory is a much better thing as a theory. One I'd still be working towards. Sigh.

At any rate, thankfully Electronica Boy moved with just a few days notice and *poof* the issue is gone. I won't get that lucky again. And now this dance is coming.


I'd like to interrupt myself with an elevator pitch. I was sent this super cute spa bag by simply bridal  to review. I answered the original email by saying, my blog is about adoption and most of the people who read are already married! She wrote back- I know but check out our gifts! And sure enough! This is the cute spa bag:

(there's a way nicer pic on the link with all the different colors)

It holds full size bottles and such. For me though, it works awesome for my daily stuff of distraction. I was kind of surprised at how much fit in there. My tablet, day planner, knitting project with 2 skeins of yarn, water bottle, sunglasses, notepad and some pretzels.  Anyway, it's really well constructed, super cute and can be monogrammed. The best thing though is the fabric can be easily wiped clean. UNLIKE my other travel- stuff bag which has a multitude of messy reminders all over it.


So anyway. The dance is this week after school. It's even in the afternoon. I'm letting her go with a friend despite my reluctance. She's actually 11 years old. That's young, I think, for a boy-girl dance. But all the kids are in that range and if I can remember that far back, mostly there's a lot of ignoring and giggling going on between genders. It's a costume dance. I'm thinking she can be duct tape- which I'll apply. With precision.

Have I mentioned she's learning the saxophone? It's big and it's heavy. I gotta teach her how to swing that thing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

And then.....

We saw Aladdin Friday night. The group rate must have been something awesome because we were in the 3rd row- I've never been so close in my life! Genea for sure never has. It was her first "Big Production" and she was in awe. She'd met Courtney (Jasmine) earlier that day and it was cool to see her perform.

Leaving the hotel to walk over to the theater.
(That's my- holy hell I hope we can find it if one more person tells me how easy nyc is to navigate and holds their hands up to show me a rectangle I'm gonna drop down and do the wango tango -face)
(Sigh, actually it's my -no my eyebrows are not sagging down to my chin because I'm so danged old if I lift them up they will look like they used to- face)

The theater was an amazing place with beautiful details. This is the main entrance.

A shot of the inside.

After, Aladdin and Jasmine came out to chat with the kids in their normal faces and clothes. Two ensemble members joined as well. They made a big deal about how flying the magic carpet is a Big Secret. Genea raised her hand to tell them she knew it was on wires- I shushed her just in time, in case anyone had not grasped that for themselves. She asked a different question then, about food that appears on a table. "Disney magic" was the answer. She has come so far- just a few years ago she would have frozen like a rock and now here she is asking chatty questions of Broadway theater performers!

We were told the cast exits the same door as the audience so we waited around to try to grab some autographs. However, the guy who told us that was lying- there were the expected back door exits and we were not there. Because we were here.

Yes actually, we did plan for her sweater to match the color scheme of the production.

At this point, it's like 11:30 at night and Genea's bed time passed us by 4 hours earlier. But, as Genea said, we had the "staying up late disease" city people get. We still had to walk back to the hotel and- wait! What's that? A gelato shop open at almost midnight? We couldn't pass up that opportunity, and btw, it was delicious!

Back at the hotel Genea was certain she was not... tired so..... she........ thunk- and- out.

Saturday morning was a tour bus thing called The Ride. I'm not sure how to even describe it- it was hilarious and definitely not the usual tour bus! There were 3 rows of stadium type seats running sideways and 2 hosts to facilitate. They had microphones that could talk to people outside, which was wild. At a red light, they were talking to a man with a delivery package and broadcasting music when the man started tap dancing right there on the street. Similar things happened at each red light and we finally realized it was set up that way, lol.

It was raining- which I had prepared for but we still got wet- and we had planned to go to the TKTS booth (the place with the huge red stairs where  The Amazing Race started this year) but even in the rain the line was ridiculous. They are in Times Square and sell theater tickets at a discount 3 hours before a show and usually have great deals. I knew I wanted to take Genea to see Mama Mia because she suuuuuuuper loves ABBA, so we slogged over to the theater and got good seats straight from the source, and for the same (or better) discount!

Seats were pretty good!

Following the show we did  more tourist-ing.

This is from the Disney Store. They use these mannequins that I just think are creepy. They are all basically the same with different "skin" tones. A clown crawling out of a sewer grate would be less creepy. In my opinion.

Sunday was check out and we packed ourselves up but still had 4 hours until our airport bus would arrive (whee!). Genea and I walked over to the Museum of Modern Art, which was a block away, to browse their design stores. I'd heard they have something to do with innovation and inventions and awards? Anyway, they had cool stuff to see and play with.

AND THEN, we went back to the hotel and waited for "maggiek", who often comments here and on other blogs. She came with her children to meet us and go on a backstage tour of Radio City Music Hall. How cool was that of her!

That was something special because we got the rare chance to go on stage!!!!!!!!!! They said, "it almost never happens"!!!

We're Rockettes on a day off in our normal clothes. Seriously.

Why yes, I did take a picture of the bathroom. I love art deco and this was gorgeous!

Looking down from maybe the 2nd floor balcony? I think there were 4 stories of seating.
We bummed around with maggiek and her adorable daughters and headed over to Rockefeller Center. maggiek is lovely and her daughters are polite and silly and cute. Here is one of them photo bombing us-
Here I am with that damn scarf again. You'd think I didn't bring 2 other choices!
Everything was as perfect as could be. For Genea, it showed her a world of experiences and choices she hadn't even imagined. She loved everything we did and never got "symptomatic".  She was flexible, she went with the flow, she put in her opinion. She didn't seem to get overwhelmed and it was crazy overwhelming! She was happy and enjoyable, calm and pleasant. Wonderful.
Then came,
The airport of doom.
Can I just vent?
 Dear Southwest Airlines- you can call it "open seating" all you want. When you divide passengers into 3 separate groups for boarding, then divide each of those into  2 more groups, then have them line up in groups of 4 to stand next to a sequentially numbered pillar (and don't you dare mess up your pillar) YOU HAVE JUST ASSIGNED SEATS!!! Who do you think you are kidding?
(I really like Southwest and normally wouldn't bitch about a few mishaps but this was ridiculous)
It was so fucked up, seriously. We were at the end of the last group to board and Genea and I could not sit together. I was lucky to find 2 middle seats, one behind the other. One row had 2 enormous buffalo men and the other had 2 lovely, fit women. I debated with myself for just a second before I directed Genea (the smaller of us) to the spacious seat with room to hula dance between the 2 women, while I jammed myself in between the buffaloes. And you know what else? They were both armrest assholes.
But we did not have it the worst. Just before boarding another mom who had come with her 2 young girls approached me with tears in her eyes. She asked if I would watch out for her daughters on the plane and make sure they were okay through Milwaukee and on to Green Bay. There were only 2 seats left on the plane and she was going to send them alone so they could get home, leaving her to flounder around LaGuardia indefinitely. Ultimately people bumped and she got on, but what a horrible plan to have to make.
And so, we got home around 1 AM. And I was sad when no one came to make my bed in the morning or bring me dry towels. And Genea went to school Monday because I was like- hey, you want to be a performer, this is the performer life dude! I however, went back to bed after the kids went to school and slept until 2:00.
As promised, I am lowering the price of Parenting Pandora significantly. Mwah!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Here, and probably staying forever

NYC is fabulous!

We left Thursday morning at 4:30 AM, otherwise known as the buttcrack of dawn.

 and got in at about 1:00. Our bus from the airport took the kids straight to their first workshop- with the cast of The Lion King! Parents went to the hotel and dragged in all the bags. I'm not going to say we over packed because I like options, but maybe the over flow bag was one too many.

ANyWAY, the kids met us at the hotel and we went to Ellen's Stardust Diner- where the wait staff also puts on a show. So much awesome! Here we are....

The guy standing in the middle was standing on a table singing- they were so good it was scary.

So, when a group of performers goes to a diner to see performers, you get a lot of back up vocals and assistance with your chorus. It was cute.

After dinner I thought we would be exhausted but we weren't. Genea said she thought we probably got that disease that makes people in the city stay up all night. We decided to go to the 9/11 memorial. We got out "in the area, right over there". We walked a few feet, turned around, turned around again, and asked for help. I thought it would be obvious- there are 2 enormous water features, but I couldn't find it. Just about every 20 feet there was a city police officer, so that was really helpful and I spoke with each one individually. Finally the last guy was like, you're there. Oh. Oh!

It was incredibly quiet and peaceful, with a small crowd. I know there is some controversy around it, but I thought it was beautiful. Names of those killed surround the edges of the square pond and are backlit. Water is pooled around the edge up high, then cascades into a pool and disappears into a smaller square at the bottom. Here are pictures I took.

Friday, it was off to another workshop with Jasmine (aka Genea's new best friend Courtney) from Aladdin. They ran some scenes and got critiqued. According to Genea, she got no critique. Instead they told her she showed great emotion and expression. True/not true, I don't care, works for me!

While she was there, I bopped over to Grand Central Terminal and met Casa Bicicleta! Hold your green stones people, she was as awesome as she seems! And totally adorable! Here is a picture she took of me:

(I dunno, it didn't LOOK like an old lady scarf when I put it on!)
I don't have a picture of her and she keeps pics private on her blog so I didn't ask. I guess that means my claim is suspicious and without evidence.

Genea and I spent the time afterward roaming Times Square. In my persistent quest to find a benefit to some of the more *ahem* intrusive behaviors, I have to say Genea seems born to live here. Child maneuvered crowds like a pro! Her compulsion to be first in line, first to "get", first to see, makes her incredibly quick and worm-like when getting to her goal. I think she walks faster than she runs- and I'm no crowd slouch, I've long considered myself a crowd-maneuvering savant.

(I would decide later I don't like all those people. It's not that I mind the crowds per se, its that I cannot stand any of the people in front of me blocking my way with their picture taking, map reading, confusion).

Toys r Us here has an actual live Ferris Wheel inside. WHAT? I was excited we got the Barbie car.

 We also stopped in the M&M store. I've seen one before, Vegas maybe? But this one was 3 stories tall. Genea was highly impressed with the unique colors.

Wow, so yeah, this is all still Friday and I haven't got to the evening yet!
Okay, last thing. When you are in a place like New York City, you sample from the world renown cuisine right? The top restaurants anywhere are right here. Genea agreed. She's pretty good about trying new food but not so good about liking new food. So we went super- exotic.

Genea is getting antsy so I will continue this later. I have to say again, THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who helped us- including CH for her donation. It has been absolutely amazing and I'm pretty sure I'm going to stay!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Parenting Pandora

"You held out your hands, opened your arms, and accepted the puzzle that is your child. It's a puzzle make of up of 1000 pieces. The picture on the box does not match what is inside. There are missing pieces, but also the pieces of a dozen other puzzles mixed in. It is impossible to put the whole puzzle together as it was new. Some pieces will never be found".
Quote from Parenting Pandora, section titled "It's Not Your  Fault", by Essie Johnson.


See, I wrote this little e-booklet thing to raise funds for the trip Genea and I are taking to visit Broadway in NYC. I don't own a cookie sheet so a bake sale was out of the question. We did a car wash, and raised $34.00, and that will cover some food, which is cool.  I thought I would explain a little about the contents of my booklet and maybe sell a few more!

(hint- go to the end for a coupon!)

 My main premise is that the kids compulsively manipulate to control their constant internal anxiety by forcing the people around them to act predictably.

"Child, you sucked the nothing out of me six months ago!"

I cover relentless attention seeking, and why negative attention is not negative to the child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. Why that fake charming behavior in public is actually a good thing. I suggest using inconsistency to change unwanted behavior and talk about why standard parenting techniques do not work when your child has RAD. Here is an example:

Love and Logic does not work because "a child with RAD has not developed a system of logic that responds to loving guidance. Her logic developed in response to trauma".

(consider the booklet as a gift for teachers, therapists, family or friends!)

Included is a brilliant, if I do say so myself, idea for managing voluntary daytime pea-ing. Perhaps the best idea I ever had about anything. In addition, is my unusual opinion on why kids with RAD are so dedicated to pea-ing.

Of the ways suggested to manage lying, is this. Let them lie and watch closely for "tells". If there aren't any perceptible "tells", plant one.

The booklet is self published. Reading through it again, that fact stands out even more than it did originally. Admittedly it is a little janky. I really tried to be clear and not wander off on tangents and such, but some of it reads very 'amateur'. 

The beauty of self publishing is there was no editor to remove my *ummm* jokes. Here's my favorite "The child is told to wipe down the kitchen table after lunch. She does, and it's an excellent job on all but one conspicuous corner. I call that the "F-you spot". Heh heh, still makes me laugh.

The unfortunate side is there was no editor to say, this is stupid and makes no sense!
(I did recruit a lovely friend to give it a look. Hi Tia! She's why it's not super awful)

SO! I am offering a discount coupon for the time up until our trip. 20% off!
Go here:
Parenting Pandora
The link goes to Smashwords, the publisher I used. You can download to any e-reader right there! Kindle, Nook or others. It will also download to any computer or i-gadget.

Then enter this coupon code:

That will bring the price down to 10 bucks and change. I programmed in a free sample which gives the first 20% of the book. I did not understand how it worked until after I put up the final copy so the sample is just some introduction and not really the good stuff. However, it is free :)

If anyone wants to put this on their facebook or twitter or whatever else, I will give you a big juicy smooch! If anyone leaves a better-than- suckass review on Smashwords you will get TWO smooches! (Does not apply to anyone I will meet in the next couple weeks). (Ok, honest truth, I'm only saying that because it won't happen).

When Genea and I return from NYC, my plan is to drop the price significantly. I would feel like a shitty person if I was not upfront about that. So if you are truly interested but cannot afford the $10, hang on.

Remember, if you are like, but WAIT ESSIE! I want to send Genea more! Or, I don't want your janky booklet can I just send funds? YES! Use the link on the left that says "Broadway Bound" to send us a much appreciated donation.

Speaking of, a BIG THANK YOU to AKP for your recent donation!

I'm SO freaking excited to be doing this! Genea is starting to have nerves about the changes in her routine, and it will be hellish until we leave. So she's SUPER excited and a bit flippy too. Once the anticipation is over she's always happier and she'll have a fabulous time.

The first stop after we get off the plane is a theater where she will workshop with an actor who has been in The Lion King for 20 years. Parents are not invited- we go to the hotel. So I asked her if she would be okay by herself, thinking she would be scared to death about it, and offered to take up the issue and insist on my presence. No, she said, I'll be okay because you'll be with me the rest of the time.


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