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.

Whoa.

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

What the EPIGENETIC?

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!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Housekeeping

It's time to arrange a few things.

I have a blog list going on the sidebar here, and many of them are older than dirt. If you want your blog listed, I will be happy to pull my hair out, scream new cuss words, and ultimately, list your blog.


Giving out a BIG FAT THANK YOU to all the people who donated to our trip. I'm not sure how to manage  etiquette vs. personal information. To the following folks, MWAHHH!

PC
MK
CW
DS
WJ
AM
CC

I wanted to write out first names, but one is fairly distinctive and after all, I don't use MY real name here so I just did not want to risk any sort of anything. Anyway, seriously, THANK YOU SO MUCH! I've been awed, each time I see a donation in my email, to think that people I've never met (some who have never even commented in the 6 years this blog has been around) are helping us out. It's amazing!

THANK YOU as well to people who bought a book! I have no way of knowing who you are, though out of the 6 there are only a couple mysteries, ha ha.

For fun, a few one-liners around here this week:

Genea: "I sure am glad I got stuck in a home I love"!

I came out of the shower and the mirror was fogged up except for the writing, which said, "I knew you were TROUBLE". Courtesy of Teena, the Taylor Swift fan.

Unknown family member: "Sometimes I go to grab a t-shirt from the laundry and grab underwear instead. They're both huge".

I have had the most brain splintering headache for 2 weeks now. I don't think it's allergies, but I don't know what it is. I want to smash my head through concrete because that would hurt less.

I am shocked and stunned by the news of Robin Williams suicide. I look at him, the homeless street person, and my daughter and see the same thing. It is a profound tragedy when a person cannot trust their own mind to accurately relay the world around or inside of them.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hoping for Help!

Last year Genea started taking performing arts classes at a studio near by. She has been singing, dancing, acting, and most recently, tapping her little feet out for local audiences. At Christmas, the whole studio does a show at our largest venue and this year, it was filmed and shown on PBS stations across the state. So, it's a serious thing.

 She is somewhere in there, I swear!





Genea has gone from a shuddering, soggy, mess of hair to a sort- of confident and brave performer. She gets excited and struggles with a triple dose of overwhelming anxiety but to her, it's worth it to push through and try her best.



Girl can sing. Not just I'm-her- mom- I have- to -say-that sing, really sing. She has a beautiful, sweet voice with a natural vibrato that is startling to hear from a kid. She is starting private voice lessons in the fall, and earned her way to a higher level ensemble group at the studio.

So, am I just bragging or what?

Well, I'm super squeamish about this. My bragging is about to turn into begging.

This fall, the studio is taking a trip to New York City and Genea and I signed up! We will stay in Times Square and spend a lot of time in Broadway theaters. She will attend performance workshops, see a professional show and go back stage. Meet real actors and actresses, and be able to ask questions.

 NYC is an expensive place and the trip, while pricey, is within a reasonable range as far as these things go. The problem is, Genea and I have to have our own hotel room. Most people are sharing rooms, which cuts the cost down by a huge chunk. I guess if anyone has been reading here for a while, it is easy to imagine why we cannot share a room with another mom/daughter. Just Genea's medication list would probably scare the crap out of any regular family, not even considering the ocean front bedding issue. Regardless, it's going to be a LOT for Genea and so far out of her comfort zone she will be able to touch Jupiter. There's no way we could go if room sharing were required- thankfully we have the choice. We just have to pay for it.



*Begging Alert*
(argh, the hair on my legs is cringing I dread this so much)
If anyone out there should, you know, think they maybe might want to help out in the financial department here, there are a couple things.

I wrote a tiny little short 40+ page e-booklet about Reactive Attachment Disorder. For the longest time my biggest struggle with Genea was why. Why is this happening, why is this not working, why am I getting this reaction, why why why. I wrote down what I figured out, and threw in some tips, tricks and idea's. It probably sucks. Argh. Anyway.

It's available on Smashwords.com It is called Parenting Pandora, Understanding Reactive Attachment Disorder. Written by me, Essie Johnson. It is priced at $12.99 which should result in an $8-$9 dollar donation for our trip. It can be purchased directly from Smashwords for any e-reader and in about a week it will show up on book retailer sites like Amazon, B&N, ibooks, etc.

I got the title, Parenting Pandora, from the Greek myth and not from the ipod app. Pandora was a goddess given all the best qualities at birth. At her wedding, she received a gift  from Zeus. When she opened the box, the evils of the world were released. All that was left in the box was hope.

"But wait Essie, what if I just want to send like, a thousand dollars but don't want your ebook"?
I thought of that! I put up a link to Pay Pal on the top left sidebar hoping for donations.

SO THERE YOU GO! I am sucking it up and doing this, lol. I know people do fundraisers all the time on blogs so I shouldn't be flipping my lid but I AM. I am actually planning to cut costs and take an electric kettle so we can sort-of- cook. I figure I can pack a bunch of protein bars, fruit, ramen noodles and instant coffee which should save us a couple hundred bucks. We are having a garage sale fundraiser for ourselves, and doing car wash fundraisers with the studio for group workshops.

If anyone can help us out it will be SO GREATLY APPRECIATED YOU HAVE NO IDEA!!!!!!!

AND, if you like the book and could link it on your facebook groups, message boards, twitter etc I would be SO happy!
 
 
(Click the words not the picture. Surely there is a way to imbed the link right in the picture but I surely do not know what that might be)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Yooooohoooo

Hello Wendy? You won the book, Beauty from Ashes! Yippee!
I have your email address from the comment you left, so will send you a message to get your information.

In other news, we have a BIG THING coming up. It's very exciting, (it's not Oprah though) and I have a few things going that might be interesting. How's that for vague?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Beauty from Ashes

The subtitle to this book is "An Eyewitness Account of Haiti's Tragic Earthquake", written by Melanie Wright Zeeb.

Tragic indeed. 

As did many others, I followed the news in horror. I knew several people who adopted from Haiti and had met their children. It was terrible to imagine all the families around the world who were waiting somewhere in the adoption process but had not yet brought their children home. The process of adoption was already arduous, but became near impossible once the buildings that held records were reduced to gravel and dust.

The author was employed by God's Littlest Angels, an orphanage outside Port-au-Prince. Children were placed there by parents who either intended to come back for them, or wished for them to be adopted. Ms Zeeb was responsible for updating adoptive families with photos and information about the children. Following the disaster, they were of the few who still had communications, and helped tell the world of the devastation.

The book focuses on the children- all of whom survived-  and the difficulties and concerns in trying to keep them safe and alive. Haiti was already a hard country where it was difficult to meet life needs. A good example given by the author is simply water.  Before, to have running water, one had to pay a company to deliver it by truck. After, there was no way to know what would happen. Had the owners of the business even lived? Were the trucks intact to make deliveries? Were roads passable? Was the water source clear?

The author develops strong visuals for readers describing the actual earthquake and it's aftershocks. She states the ground was constantly moving to the degree that people experienced motion sickness. It went on for weeks with the earth moving a specific direction, so that some things moved and others did not.

Readers meet many of the intended adoptive families. We learn of the incredible logistics in trying to legally evacuate the children and the constant uncertainties. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll stop here!

The book is highly detailed and concise.  The author concentrates on the effect of the tragedy on children of the orphanage, and spends very little time on the horrors many of us saw on TV. I think that makes is a safe read for most people.

So! Details!

Beauty from Ashes: An Eyewitness Account of Haiti's Tragic Earthquake
An Eyewitness Account of Haiti's Tragic Earthquake
Written by Melanie Wright Zeeb

AND since the book was given to me I would like to pass it on! To win this copy, leave a comment with your email address and I will draw a name next week. Hmmm, lets say Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Deciphering Facial Expression

Boring post title, interesting information.

Researchers set out to discover if teenagers with attachment disorder process facial emotions differently from teenagers with secure attachment. This study was done as part of  the Attachment Adoption Adolescents Research Network (AAARN), an international project focusing on attachment representation in adolescents and their parents.

( a handy sort of organization to know about, which I did not).

That seemed interesting. I never thought  differences in attachment vs. lack of attachment might be linked to how the person interprets facial expressions.

After a whole lot of testing and evaluating which I did not understand, they discovered that the attachment disordered group processed facial expression more slowly and with less accuracy than the control group ("attached" teenagers).

They also found a variety of "significant" deficits in the group with attachment disorder. Most of these are probably not a surprise to anyone who lives with it. Anyway, here they are:

executive function attention
processing speed
visuospatial abilities
cognitive flexibility

They concluded that the deficits were a result of the way the group processed facial emotion. Being slower and less accurate with defining facial expressions seems to hinder other abilities.

The article relates how different attachment styles are shown to involve different area's of the brain. There are visible differences between anxious, avoidant and insecure attachments that can be seen in activated brain regions.

So, they concluded that attachment patterns shape social emotional processing.

Of course, that led me to a pant load of questions!

Could kids with Attachment Disorders (AD) be taught to interpret facial expression?

In working with kids with Autism, a big area of focus is cuing in and interpreting facial expression. Usually, a therapist starts with flash cards of faces with the intention of eventually using real faces. I wonder if that ever becomes 'natural' for the kids. Like, do they see a face and automatically know? Or is it always a 2 step or more process? Would the same work for kids with AD's?

The origins of Autism and the causes of Attachment Disorders are different, does that matter?

If one were to teach a child with AD to more quickly identify emotions, would the other areas (attention, processing speed etc.) improve? The authors of the study seemed to link them.

Since different areas of the brain are involved in different attachment styles, could there be therapies targeted some day to the specific sub-sets? Would that be SO FREAKING AWESOME?

Is the slow processing of other peoples emotions why the kids seem so oblivious sometimes?
Is it why my daughter is so ever-lovin' histrionic? She overplays it because that's the only way she identifies it in others? Maybe she thinks that's the way it is for everyone?
Is it part of why she is so hyper- vigilant to her environment? She doesn't pick up cues from people as to 'the mood of the room' so she obsessively studies what is happening instead?
Could that be why she always tries to dominate the room with herself? She can't identify a mood so she inserts the mood of her choosing?

Though the study was done on adolescents, I am guessing it applies to younger kids as well. I don't think puberty flips a switch that cuts off social- emotional processing, though I could be wrong.

And what causes it? Is it their brains are too overloaded with fear to access the sort of 'higher order' things? Is it because the cause of AD is lack of care and so they don't learn faces in infancy from adults? What else am I not thinking of?

This is the official study:
Attachment Patterns Trigger Differential Neural Signature of Emotional Processing in Adolescents
Authors are listed at the top.

There is a TON of good stuff on this site. It's just a tad overwhelming for those of us without forty seven doctorates in neuropsychology. A smidge. Ahem. Yeeks.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This Mother's Day

Yep, another Mothers Day went by where I qualified for celebration. Me, and like, a billion other people. In the past, the day has sucked so bad that once I actually announced a do-over. Then the do-over also sucked and I came upon an important life truth. Mothers Day means, go bug your father. And make him take you somewhere.

This year though, was so good it is going in the Hall of Fame. They can argue for 97 years about who gets to be the first name on the marquee. I'm serious. They were great. 

When I got up Genea had made me- as she called it- Breakfast On The Couch (instead of Breakfast In Bed). She took so much care setting it up. She got out a big casserole dish to use as a serving tray. The main entrĂ©e was Cherie-oos ala Honey de la shoobie Nut. She had a little cup with milk, another cup for sugar and the spoon. She had gone to the trouble of digging out my favorite cereal bowl- how she remembers stuff like that I just don't know. I haven't used it in years.  Anyway, it's an awesome bowl because its tiny at the bottom therefore the cereal doesn't get all mushy and disgusting right away, and she set it all up with an empty coffee cup to be filled upon my rising.

She made a couple art projects too. One was a big flower in my 2 favorite colors. The other was 2 paper flowers in a paper vase with a poem.

Roses are red,
Grass is green,
I hope on Mothers Day
You're treated like a Queen.

So much cute! She told me her Occupational Therapist helped her with that one. I knew I liked that woman. A lot.

Teena wrote me a book. It is hilarious what is important and notable in the mind of a 9 year old.

"A Mom is...."

A Mom is someone who lets you watch your favorite Minecraft videos, even when she says it is the voice of the devil. Which it is not.
(that man's voice, makes me want to stab out my ears with a knitting needle. Stampy? Something like that)
A Mom is someone who takes you to the lake and swimming in the summer.
A Mom is someone who lets you stay up late sometimes on weekends.
A Mom is someone who lets you take gymnastics and piano lessons and even watches you do the recitals.
A Mom is someone who notices when you are responsible and rewards you with things like hugs and a KINDLE!
A Mom is someone who sometimes makes your dad do the dirty work, like when she makes him clean the cats' poo!
A Mom is someone who will love you forever and ever!

It was a great one. OH YEAH- and they got me a red velvet cheesecake! One pound per hip per bite, it was fabulously delicious. And, their Dad took them out for a few hours. Perfect.

So, if your Mother's Days have always been a sucktacular chaos fest like mine, there IS hope!

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