Tuesday, May 31, 2011

So. It goes and it goes.

I did not get to the Oprah show. My life's purpose is now unclear. Also, what I should do about my hair is unclear since I never got that fabulous makeover and now it is really super long. I love long hair, however it is a lot to take care of and in the summer, ugh. Too hot. What do I do now every day at 4:00 with Ope gone?

Just in case, I am going to start growing my chin hair long so if Rosie O'Donnell starts a show in Ope's Chicago studio I will be ready.

We went to a local festival on Saturday. Surrounded by those who are unfettered by concerns of dental hygiene. We fit right in because after we got there and parked and walked I noticed Genea had pee'd herself. Great! The Husband wanted to take her home but I don't like her crazy to take over and ruin things for everyone, so I wrapped her jacket around her butt and we went on. Nice natural consequence was that she couldn't go on anything that involved sitting. There was fry bread. I would give my husbands electronic collection for a lump of fry bread any day. I think it is unfair though, that something that tastes so very glorious can make a person feel so terribly sick later.

There were a lot of teenagers at this festival. The kind that make me go unnghGUH. Listen, I know I was cool when I was a teenager so it was different, but sucking the spit out of some icky boys mouth in public is just gross.  It was sad to see all the teenage girls walking around in Uggs. So sorry, that trend was waaaaay over five years ago, for good reason.  Not that I am Michael Kors or anything but I do like to pay attention to the decade a trend occurs in.

My girls are going to the convent when they turn 10 years old. One of those remote and in the mountains convents with concrete walls.

Am I the only person who gets scared on the Ferris Wheel? This one had to have just scratched through the inspection with duct tape and glue to hold the rust together. It screeched and shuddered every time around and Teena thought it was just hilarious that I was freaking out. Thanks kid. Hope you don't have any nightmares planned. (not really).

Kids are out of school in a week and a half or so. Last year I deliberately ignored the whole end of school thing and wound up caught a little off guard on the last day. Denial- sometimes it works!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Agreed to...... What?

I'm all for education. Seriously. I think all people should be educated and I think it is one of the few things in life that you cannot have to much of. Unlike liquor, the more education you take in the more you know and the better your life can be. So when Genea and Teena came home with these packets of permission forms from school to participate in a grant funded study, I signed away my permission. Educatin'! So important!

That was a few months ago. I think. I don't really remember. Fact is, I glanced at the bundle of paper and thought it seemed like a nice idea. Some extra thing they would do at school to contribute to society by allowing research results to be documented. I am also all about the research if you had not noticed from my last two posts.

Late last week, the bundle of chaos that is my daughter Teena exploded off her afternoon bus and announced at the top of her volumous lungs that I GOT MY THERBOMITER AND MAMA YOU HAFTA READ ALL THIS YOU SIGNED THE AMISSION SLIP AND ITS ALL RIGHT HERE AND I WANT TO PUT IT ON RIGHT NOW! And my eyes bugged out and my brain siezed up a little as I saw her pull some huge yellow envelope out of her backpack and dump a pile of papers all over the driveway.

Sweet mother of bloody mary, what did I do?

Inspecting the papers as Teena buzzed in circles around me, it appears I agreed to participate in a grant funded study about...... fitness? ........... ME? As Teena is still shrieking about the "therbomiter..... eggameter..... aglometer.... just read it Mama what does it say" I read on. Skipping over the extensive boring parts I realized I had agreed to allow my children to wear a pedometer for the next 4 days. I agreed to document their steps and fill out some other forms about what they eat. Shit. This is supposed to start the next day and oh by the way, this itty bitty thing the size of my thumb is the pedometer. To put on my 6 year old. Really. Um, is it going to measure every time she kicks and squirms because that is all day every day. Um, also, I hope it is not delicate because while I was reading all the stupid information, Teena swiped the pedometer and was twirling it by the string. Then, she lost hold of the string and the thing went skidding down the driveway.

As Teena insisted- INSISTED- that she was supposed to put it on right away, here comes Genea from her bus stop. And oh- bloody- hell what is that yellow envelope in her hand? And what is it she is shrieking about? A pedometer. And she is wearing hers. Argh. I have not even looked at these pedometers yet to figure them out and so I convince Genea to take hers off and give it to me. By convince, I mean she huffed and puffed and whipped out the Wango Tango right there on the driveway over the stupid thing. Got that? We are not supposed to even start until the next day and already we have issues.

It seems the other parents read through the permission packet more thoroughly than I, because both girls report just a few kids in their class "got to" have this deal. Smart parents. Also, even though they make a point of saying my children were chosen as part of a random sample, I have my suspicions. Particularly that the "randomness" is based on my well known aversion to the half day and my personal conviction that school holidays are designed to minimize parental bitching and complaining. And that it's all a conspiracy. Against me.

Now, I am not really a fitness- interested person. I am more of a couch- interested person. Donut- interested, fast food- interested, TV - interested. I tried yoga a couple of years back and it kicked my ass. That yoga shit is way harder than it looks. I might be more interested in fitness if I got a new handbag at the end of it, and my part was to sit on a bar stool and coach Brad Pitt (Thelma and Louise Brad, not Brangelina Brad).

Further on in the packet is a quiz about our eating habits. We are supposed to respond in regards to one days intake if we had yellow or green or orange vegetables and they specify that potato's count but french fries do not. It asks about soda (we don't give it) and junk foods (we do not share our junk with the kids). I wonder if that red gluey sludge on a frozen pizza will count as a vegetable. Ketchup seems to be okay too. I think, if I make an effort on one day of this study to throw a bunch of colored veggies at them we should be okay. After all, the kids names are on the reports and quizzes. It could all go in their permanent record. My kids are actually pretty good about vegetables despite the fact that I refuse to drown them in liquefied- fat- cheese- product or put ice cream sprinkles on them. It's the compliance of their mother I am worried about.

Really? I agreed to this?

Now I have to calibrate TWO pedometers in the morning by having the kids test- walk 10 steps. Sensitive little buggers those pedometers are and though I finally get them placed where they will be accurate I wonder how on earth they will stay there on a 6 and 7 year old. I also wonder, if Genea has a tantrum and does her thing where she wildly jumps up and down, will that register steps? When Teena lays on the floor and kicks her legs around, is that going to skew the numbers? I decide it doesn't matter. Exercise is being had when the Wango Tango is going down. Maybe that should be my permenant perspective. Hmmm. I will have to consider that later because I was way out of time what with all the testing and walking.

So Day 1 goes well for Teena. She has a kindergarten event and we walk home from there and her step number is around 8000 after school. The goal for both girls is 9100 steps a day. That may sound like a lot and it's because that really is a LOT. Genea comes home with close to 6000 on hers but we have until bedtime to rack up more steps. Fortunately it is a nice day out and I set up the girls kiddie pool which they take turns running and jumping into. Then, they go to their friends house on their slip and slide and race back and forth on that for hours. Obviously they cannot wear their delicate step measuring instruments in water so I give them credits and they both make the 9100 cut.

Days 2 and 3 it rains and the kids cannot go outside. Low numbers. This will reflect poorly on me somehow, I am sure of it. Coincidentally days 2 and 3 are the weekend where I am in charge. But I make sure to feed several healthy meals on Sunday so we can honestly check off the quiz saying we ate healthy stuff. It may have been cheating a bit when I threw a few bits of lettuce from my take-out salad over their chicken nuggets but I could still report with honor and maintain my integrity. Really.

So we wrapped it up tonite and I think we made it to our 9100 steps a day for both girls if you take an average. Woo hoo, rock on. I will sleep well tonite knowing that my family has so generously made this contribution to society.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Behavior and Cortisol in Children Part 2 (what to do)

Back in February I wrote a post about the effects of cortisol on the behavior of children (part one). A research study by Concordia University linked stress in children to increased levels of cortisol, simultaneous to behavior we would consider negative. They also found that over time, childrens levels of cortisol decreased to below normal levels although the behavior problems continued. The findings show that over time their reactions became blunted to the things a 'typical' child would experience as stressful. For example, a typical child might worry about a test or a difficult homework assignment but the child who experienced long term stress will not.

The study results are fascinating to me because my daughter had already experienced this effect by the time she was two and a half years old. Her little body had already burned out its ability to produce cortisol to an extent that was life threatening. The physiological damage did reverse, and after she had been with us for a year we were able to take her off all the medications and throw out her medic- alert bracelet. (Actually, I hucked it into a corner behind the TV where it probably still is).

So, what to do. If you know your child has a history of trauma, and he/she does a lot of acting out, there is a good chance their cortisol levels are imbalanced. Trauma is many things, and what an adult might consider to be an ordinary event may significantly effect a child. Consider that if your child is adopted, you will not know everything that occurred prior to their coming to you, and that the very act of bringing the child into your home could have been traumatic for your child. Also consider if you know your child has experienced trauma but does not act out. Genea was extremely withdrawn when her cortisol production burned out. Her stress at the time was carried inside.

As the parent, you will need to ask your child's doctor to test for cortisol levels. It is not something that is typically done and would usually only be done if there are signs of an adrenal disease. You want the test done because your child has the signs of a stress related disorder. It can be tested from saliva, blood or urine. Follow up testing might include suppressing the adrenal system and introducing synthetic cortisol to assess the effects. Presumably then the physician would have recommendations, or send your child on to an endocrinologist.

There is a good chance you will have to push, and push hard, to get the testing done and then to convince them that the cause is emotional stress due to a past trauma. My daughter saw several pediatric endocrinologists and not once was emotional stress even hinted at as a cause. Despite the obvious traumas that I explained over and over. The research showing a connection is new and there is not much of it. Not one physician, not one adoption professional, not one psychologist suggested there could be an emotional connection. Because I was living it, I could see it and link it all together. Her constant extreme emotional distress was driving her cortisol levels. We had medication to regulate her cortisol levels but that did nothing to change her emotional state. Her rage and grief were impenetrable and I could see, it was visible, that the slightest provocation early on each day sent her careening into fight- or- flight mode that she could not recover from. I realized we had to approach the emotional aspect with a psychiatrist and psychiatric medications. I had to do a lot of convincing. I dragged in books and research studies that I printed off. It was intimidating to be bringing information to the people who spent their lives studying and treating this but it worked.

There are a few other ways to "feed" cortisol. Omega 3-6 -9 is the most commonly recommended and I will have a post coming soon that describes our startling experience with that. One expert strongly recommends flax oil, another strongly recommends fish oil. Both are available as supplements just about anywhere that sells vitamins and such. They are also of course produced naturally from eating certain food. Lists of good sources are here.
Omega 3
Omega 6 
Omega 9

I do not know what amount of food a person needs to eat to attain good levels, and the recommendations are generally in terms of what a person with heart disease might need. As per the Wikipedia entry on Cortisol, there are ways to reduce cortisol levels without ingesting pills. Music therapy, massage, laughing and even crying can help the levels self correct. Additionally, vitamin C and black tea can help.

It seems the best way to address stress related cortisol problems is to reduce stress. Obvious, right? It is an issue if your child is like mine, where the loop of stress hiking up her cortisol led to an exaggerated stress response which further elevated her cortisol, which caused her body to stop producing the cortisol it needed and became life threatening. It can take a long time to break the cycle and balance out mood and behavior. We are still working on it. Diligently, daily. You may have to step far out of your comfort zone to find out if this is an issue affecting your child. Always remember, you are the parent and you know your child the best. You are the expert.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Harsh Life of Romanian Orphans"

I read this article late last night on MSNBC. Research done on the children living in Romanian orphanages found that the neglectful conditions has actually damaged their DNA.

Harsh Life of Romanian Orphans

It's horrifying, isn't it? I guess it's something I would have assumed, but to see it verified in print is chilling. The level of neglect in the orphanages of Romania is notorious, well documented, and appalling. While life in other orphanages around the world has not been as thoroughly studied, I believe we can apply the results taking into consideration that the conditions in Romania were extreme. Life for orphans in other countries may not have been "as bad", and some institutions are well- regarded. However conditions are rarely, if ever, ideal. Some may be worse.

My question is, is that lost life span and health recoverable? Or has the child's suffering caused permanent damage. Once those telomeres have been altered will they grow back under better conditions?

I hope so.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I got cocky y'all, cocky.

As a follow up to my daughters questions about the danglie pea finger that boys have, I attempted in my awkward little way to provoke some more discussion on the topic of you- know- what in general. My sister is pregnant, and since she was also pregnant a year ago, I thought this would be a good time to check in and find out where my daughters head was on the subject. As you probably know, Oprah says we should be well- versed on these subjects and keep the lines of communication open.

Actually, I had a lengthy post all written up on an entirely different topic and Blogger ate it. I am too disgusted to re-write it right now so this is what I have to say instead.


Teena and I were sitting on what I will now refer to as "The Couch of Dreaded Subjects". Again, Genea had gone to bed and it was just her and I. Teena was worried about her Auntie and girl- cousin, because her Auntie is pregnant with her 3rd boy. Teena felt there should be more balance in their house and there could be trouble with all those boys. We are very much about Girl Power around here. I assured her that her Auntie and girl- cousin would be okay, and isn't it cool that Auntie is having another baby! She has a baby in her belly, growing in there!

I got cocky y'all, cocky. With the success of our last discussion about pee fingers, wherein I did not explode into tiny pieces of shrapnel  piercing The Husbands girlfriend, also known as The Big Screen TV, I decided to do some follow up. Since we had established some basic anatomy.

I asked Teena what would turn out to be a super- dumb question. You know they say there are no stupid questions, it's only stupid to sit there and not ask your question, I've never believed that. There are plenty of stupid questions and plenty of people who should either have paid attention the first time, or kept quiet and looked for the information later, because they were going to drag the rest of us down for an hour.

It was sort of intended to see where her thought process was. What direction I should be taking conversations in the future. What should I be studying up on. You may wonder why it is I am harassing Teena with this, and not Genea. Quite frankly, I don't think Genea will believe me about anything to do with you- know- what. Teena may giggle and try to look mostly disinterested and sophisticated, but secretly will be curious. Genea will think I am playing a trick on her and there is nothing she hates more than being "tricked". Plus with their Auntie being pregnant I am anticipating someone will start having real questions soon.

So I asked Teena the question I thought was obvious. What she had to be wondering. To prompt our communication lines.

"Teena, how did that baby get in there?"

It was my attempt to provoke some conversation which I am starting to strongly believe I should leave to the professionals. She looked at me, and the expression on her face clearly showed she was praying. Dear Lord, she was asking in her mind, why hast thou forsaken me with this ridiculous dimwitted woman as a mother?

She said, "Mama, you should really ask someone. 
Ask a teacher. 
Or a doctor. 
Or another mama. Another mama would know". 

*snort*----- *giggle* Mmmmm, okay Teena, that's a good idea.  Somehow, and I am not surprised, our lines of communication have come to resemble Teena's hair in the morning- tangled and twisted with knots all over.

The question then becomes, why am I still trying to do this when I have a dear friend who has a doctorate in neurobiology, is a college professor, and teaches THAT STUFF. She is so good at it, her kids have asked her to stop! That's right, she taught them so well they no longer have an interest in any of it! They don't want to hear about it anymore! Perfect!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pop Quiz

A Monday morning pop quiz. How rude is that? Sheesh. Here is your task, should you choose to participate. Identify the song Teena is singing here:

"Cut-ah cut-ah cut-ah cut- ah cut-ah cu- Million"

Cracks me up, I got Teena and Genea these cheap CD players with headphones recently and they have been glued to their little heads since. Our library loans out CD's for like, a month, so they have their pick of hundreds for free.  Of course they sing out loud, which is so cute. Even more cute, Genea will sing out loud with her headphones on and I can hear the tinny sounds of whatever song is playing but Genea, she is singing something else. Listening to one song and singing another. Ah, if I only knew how that child's brain worked!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dead Thumb

I don't know what causes Dead Thumb. I Bing'd it, and got a bunch of great information about those little computer sticks that hold your extra stuff and guitar lessons. Also something about nose picking which I ignored because, really, if you have to pick your nose with your thumb your life is seriously off track. And your nostrils have to be the circumference of Lambeau Field.

Regardless, I suffer from Dead Thumb. It has been a life- long affliction and though I have tried and tried to overcome, nothing has changed. Many people have a Green Thumb. A lot of folks say they have a Brown Thumb. Mind is just dead. 

I bought flower seeds recently, columbine and coneflowers (I think). I thought it would be fun to plant with the girls. Actually I was going to do it myself but they were being shrieking wingnuts one day and I had to do something to bring them back to earth. I had purchased a cheap plastic greenhouse and some of those little round pellets that poof up when you put water on them. We took the whole mess outside and had fun with it. It went like this.

"Teena, you put water here on these 12 pellets and Genea these pellets are yours to water. Just a few drops of water. No Teena, I just told you those are Genea's. Genea, come on, just a little water we are not trying to make a pond. Now here are your seeds. Put 3 seeds each on these 6 pellets. No, 3. Just 3. Not 4 or 5 or 7. I said 3, are you listening? Right here, these pellets. These, not the other 6, just these. If you put the seeds all over we won't know what is supposed to come up. ACK, Genea, we don't need more water. I said no. I know you want to pour more water but they will never grow if you do that. TEENA, I said 3 seeds! I know you can count to 3 I have heard you. Now, put the seeds from this other packet on your other pellets. 2. The directions say 2 seeds per pellet on this side. Dangit Teena, not on the same pellets, the other 6. Would you please just do what I am telling you. No I don't care that you thought it would be cool to put them all together. It is not. Genea I told you no more water!"

So much fun! That was me enjoying the moment and letting the fun flow. Seriously.

I put the greenhouse lid over the whole thing and we brought it all back inside like the instructions said. It was going to take a couple of weeks before we would see any action so we waited.

Surprise! They all started to grow! Mostly they did, we had at least one sprout show up on probably 20 of the 24 pellet poofs. I had disposed of the instructions by then but I remember I am supposed to uncover them a bit at first, then take the cover off and park them where they will get sun. Done. We had a warm, sunny day and I took them outside for some fresh air and real sun. Theeeeeeeeeen, I forgot they were out there until I was already in bed. I checked the weather real quick and saw that it was not going to dip below freezing so I knew it would be safe to leave them out. Plus, these were perennials, which meant they were going to live for years, season after season, and since three of our seasons involve snow and temperatures below freezing I concluded that they would all be just fine. Good thing because I really did not want to get back up.

They were not just fine.

When I got up and checked on them the next day, one half of the sprouts had literally fallen over dead. They were brown and limp and dead. The other half were still green and though looked wobbly, at least they were still alive. Phew! I brought the whole mess back inside and put them back on their little shelf in the sun with their little greenhouse lid back on.

Today, they are dead as well. Dead, dead, dead. Just like my thumb.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cute for a Reason

Have you ever heard this phrase....... "God makes 'em cute for a reason"? Meaning if babies were not so cute no one would ever have any. Babies are a lot of work. Doesn't seem like something so little could be, but for sure having one in your house will hold you hostage. Your freedom, your free will, your ability to sleep and pursue happiness as guaranteed in the Constitution of these United States, all gone as The Hairless Howler takes over. You think as they get older you will get some of your life back. You do not. (sorry if that is a surprise to someone, but I try to be honest).

But darn they are cute sometimes. It's my opinion that cuteness ensures survival of our species. I have a nice little story about my girls. I don't usually do cute stories, quite frankly because our ratio of cute- to- wtf  is so skewed. Plus, I get bored reading about other people's cute kid stories. The kind usually told by Supermom, you know, Honeysweetiedarling just poo'd!!! In her diaper!!! we're so proud we are bursting at the seams with joy!!! We had to share the results of our fabulous parenting with the world!!! We are great and our kid is perfect!!!

Ugh. Anyway.

Here, look at how cute they are.

I admit to being obsessed with these hair bows. They are just so cute, and unique. They are from PrettySkyeinBows and arrived last week. I KNOW, I am bordering on SAHM Stereotype here. Alarmingly close to things Supermom would do. I can't help it. My free will is gone. I'm even stalking the scrapbooking aisles at our craft stores. Two soccer players short of The Total Suburban Supermom Package. Yikes.

A few weeks ago when it was nice and sunny out for about 5 minutes, the girls made up this thing about rocks and wishes. You paint your rock and then you leave it with your wishes somewhere outside.

This is Genea's rock.

This is Genea's wish, tucked into the pine needles of the tree.

It says, are you ready for this, it says "I wish I were a mermaid".

Here is Teena's rock.

 (I put a solar light with the stem broken off over the chimney part of our chiminea thinking it would produce a cool looking glow from the inside. It did not.)

 Here are Teena's wishes, and I think Genea stuck some of hers in there as well.

Whole bunches of them! Teena's main wish says "I wish I could have some ice cream" and there is another that says she wishes she could play with her friend all the time.

I should clarify that I asked Genea how she was going to feel being a mermaid all by herself in the ocean. I didn't realize that our entire family was going to be mermaids too. Probably that should have been obvious.


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