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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I'd be a lousy southerner

Where do you go when you want to take a vacation but all your funds are tied up, choking and gagging?

You impose the hell out of yourselves on relatives, of course!

The Husband's grandmother from way south Ohio moved into an assisted living place, leaving her home of 70 years empty. To kill 2 birds with one minivan, we ventured out onto A Dreaded Road Trip of Brain Death. We could stay at Granny's house, visit Granny, and roam to random places of interest in Kentucky. We could visit with other extended family too, those who refer to my kids as "yer young'uns".

So one might think I dread the road trip because of my charming family. One kid with ADHD in the 97th percentile, and one with DSM- NOS,( also known as more mental health diagnosis' than can be counted on one hand). And lest we forget, a husband who loves minutiae more then gravy.

That's not it, actually. Truth is, it's me who is miserable on a long drive. Its awkward and uncomfortable to knit or read. I get so antsy and bored my brain feels like it was replaced with steel wool and everything else in there set on fire, whether I'm driving or not. Plus, I am annoying and short tempered. I even annoy myself. But gawwwwwwd I get SOoooooooo BORED!

At any rate, that's what we did. It's a 10 hour drive to Granny's house, a fantastic microcosm of every decade since 1940 (specific post to follow because omg, that house!).

Here are my observations of Kentucky.

People talk funny. HA! No, what was striking was the dramatic difference over the border. Ohio-ins have a typically Midwest sort of accent with the strong vowels mellowed, where Kentucky-ins have an outright full blown southern accent, to the extent I had to translate for the kids! The Husband pointed out, the Ohio- Kentucky border is the line between being a northerner or a southerner. I did not know this bit of trivia.

(side note- growing up in the Chicago area, my education was ethno- Chicago- centric. We were taught many "facts" putting Chicago in charge of the US. Such as, newscasters around the country take elocution lessons to learn how to speak like Chicagoans. Not exactly true).

HOLY CRAP THE BUGS! Bugs the size of vermin. Several bugs that carried weapons. One spider looking thing that was wearing a black leather biker jacket and toting an AK- 47. Only I've never seen a real life spider that big and so maybe it was some mutated giraffe. Pictures to follow, so YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, skip the pics!

Inhabitants of Kentucky do not find me funny. It's possible they find me appalling. Ooops. I cracked to a cashier that my family needed badly to shower. Maybe I added that in my opinion, it could take several showers to undo the funk. She made that half-laugh -omg grunt sound as when a person is horrified and doesn't want to be rude about it. She repeated the words "OH MY", alternating with that grunt, 6 times. I wonder if she was struck with the genius of my comedic comment. Maybe not.

Mammoth Cave is big. There is no cell service down there.

Kentucky is beautiful. Lush, rolling hills with lots of green. Highways are clear of billboards and lined with trees. I say that as the sandwich topping to my next comment.

We went to a Wal Mart, in Kentucky, on a Sunday night. Yikes. As Mr. McKay on South Park says, "drugs are bad, mmmkay?". Zowie. Seems I saw on a news magazine show they have a bad meth problem in Kentucky. Can confirm. 

Other side of the sandwich- the people who are not on meth are really nice. People are friendly, pleasant and helpful. Genuinely kind. They smile and were extra sweet to the kids. Called them "Beautiful little darlin'" and such.

(I'm not judging the people on meth, they might be very nice too, I just didn't talk to any since they seemed in a hurry).

Photographic evidence of vermin sized bugs:
(hoo-da-hell goes on vacation and takes pictures of bugs?)


What is this thing?
 Meet Satan's Spider. It's a sucky picture because I was not going to get any closer, and it's like 12x's magnified. The white blob is a water faucet.  The black blob to the right is the spider.

This appears to be an orange wasp. Freaky thing was the size of my fist. It threatened me and gave me the finger. IT DID.

After my evidently offensive comment about unpleasant stenches, I tried to be more culturally sensitive and use nicer language. I hollered across a room to The Husband (I guess that was probably not great, the hollering) I was taking the girls to the "delicate ladies resting room". So naturally, the girls were all like, WHAT? WHERE ARE WE GOING? WHY ARE WE GOING THERE? I NEED TO GO POTTY!

So! The south! I think they'd prefer I stay north. Too bad though, because I really liked it.

Friday, September 5, 2014

You've got this!

Starting a new school year is not easy for someone who dislikes change. Even though it's the same thing every year, it's the disruption in day to day living that will change. And, a new year is NEW so therein we have a double offense to our gossamer thin sensibilities.

I've written about the really hard transitions Genea has going from summer break - back to school several times. Notably because they have sucked mightily. We spent many an August month marinating in every circle of hell Dante thought up. Plus, I'm certain we invented a few more.

At any rate, I was pretty sure nothing less than renting out all of Disney World for ourselves would make a dent in this summers transition. It's been especially evil this time because...

 *cue drama music*

Genea changed over to  middle school.

Just the thought has sent my nerves tap dancing every year since she started kindergarten! The dread, I tell you, my stomach clenches just writing this. Not only was middle school the setting for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it brings so many changes, oh dear lord the changes!

So we have talked about it A LOT. She had the usual fears, but escalated to hot-air balloon proportions. Since *we* still are not terribly clear on expressing ourselves with words and using our multiple calming strategies, *we* rely on our faithful EPIC TANTRUM. The Husband and I have done so much coaching we could write 7 books and still have plenty more to report. My best advice has been, smile, say hi,  keep your tongue tucked in your mouth, and it will work out. We told her, everyone is nervous, teachers too (she didn't believe me until I texted a college professor friend who confirmed). Even if it is the worse day of your life -and it won't be- it WILL end. Whatever happens, at 3:00 it's over.

Then I thought, if I describe to her some of the other scary things she has done over the past several years, she might see that while this is big, she has done LOTS of hard things and come out fine (ish).

"Look at ALL the hard stuff you have done! You rode a horse!  You walked to the park by yourself! You went zip-lining! You put your face under water! You perform on stage! You ride a bike! You did all that stuff and you can do middle school too! You've got this!"

I even told her I expected a whopper tantrum. Before anyone calls the Rotten Parenting Commission, I had reason. Because sometimes, it's okay. She would be doing a lot of new things and it would all be really hard on her. It might be too many things to manage and if it was overwhelming, go ahead and let it out. We'd work through it when she was done. With great pride (yes, that go-eth before great fall, I know), it turned out she handled it all minus the meltdown!

She accepted my offer of a ride the first day. We actually drove her to school for several years to avoid the chaos and frazzle of the morning bus. I always felt if she started her day freaked out because she could not control all those other kids, she would not make it through school without falling apart. Oh yeah, and learning stuff too. She took the bus home everyday. Anyway, she did not want me to walk her in, just drop her off in front of the building.


I appreciate it if you read through all this. Truth is, it's mostly a post so I have an excuse to brag and post these super cute pics.

First day of kindergarten! OMG she was so cute and LITTLE!

GET. Me. OFFA. This. BUS!

 Waiting to leave. Excellent posture suggests extreme stress.
Getting there. I told her dumb jokes and she relaxed a little.

Walking the wrong way to enter the building. Ah well, she figured it out. I dropped her off a good 20 minutes early.

She rocked her first day of middle school.

She's got this!

Friday, August 22, 2014


Quick Take:
A recent study found evidence that child abuse, and trauma from abuse, causes actual changes in the body.

I came across some interesting- to- me stuff, and thought it might be interesting -to- other- people too.  So I'm going to write about it as I understand it, given their excessive (IMO) use of ultra big words and fancy terms.

The study focused on epigenetic changes in children who had been abused. "Epigenetic" is when a gene changes in response to something external. So, lets say you put a hot dog in the microwave for too long and it splits (but on the inside where you can't see it, to make the example work). It started as a hot dog and is still a hot dog. It's still made out of beef or whatever, but a part has been changed. The microwave caused an epigenetic change.

When a child is abused, it flips a switch in their bodies and changes their genes.  The switch makes stuff called "methyl group". Methylation can wake up certain genes and put other genes down for a nap. The genes have now been changed, and are activated for cancer, autoimmune disease, mental disorders, and diabetes.

Here is a very readable link for details Abuse Casts a Long Shadow by Changing Children's Genes
The gene that helps manage stress, NR3C1, was altered following traumatic abuse. And guess what NR3C1 affects? Cortisol! And the Adrenal gland! It makes a burst of energy and amps up vigilance while shutting down processes that are not important during the perceived emergency.
So does it seem like kids with RAD are stuck in fight or flight? They are!
Like the kid wakes up already amped and on edge? Yes!
Like once she gets going in a meltdown she can't pull herself out of it and it goes on forever? Totally true!
Research in epigenetics proves children are not resilient (I so totally fucking hate that phrase). They are changed by what happens to them. It also shows why a child who experienced traumatic abuse as a baby for example, has problems from it decades later.
The good news is, this is not bad news! Before the study on children was a study on rats that was essentially the same. When the rats were later paired with nurturing mothers, the gene went back to the way it started. No one has figured out how to reverse the change in a human yet, but there is a huge puzzle piece filled in.
The next time someone says, "you're too hard on her/ too easy on her, have you tried *fill in the blank?*", you can tell them this: "We are trying our best to help her but her NR3C1 gene has been methylated and epigenetically altered, what do you suggest?". 
Epigenetics yo'! This stuff is so cool!


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