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.

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!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


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!


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 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


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!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Meds Like Candy

I contacted Genea's psychiatrists office and let the nurse know we were having some issues.

This is not a seamless process. Her psychiatrist used to have a local office but moved across the state. Now we do "tele-med" with him, and our visits are a live video consult.  I requested an increase in our Awesome Med. Then the nurse calls me back to tell me what he prescribes. Here's how it goes:

1. I call and leave a message for the nurse stating clear details
2. She calls back to verify everything I just said
3. Nurse calls the doctor and leaves a message
4. Doctor calls nurse back
5. Nurse calls me back to tell me everything the doctor said.

(a side note, they asked me to fill out an opinion survey and I was all like, HELL YEAH this is great! I'd rather tele-med than go on a vacation to see the castles of Ireland! Its SO GREAT! I want to do all our appointments like this!  Actually, I don't care for it. However I am not about to lose access to another child psych!).

Anyway, I would love to know where are all those doctors who hand out pills like candy because I have never met one. Seems I'm forever reading crap about that as news. Nobody wants to "throw a bunch of pills" at my kid. We have a hundred hoops to jump through and that's okay.

He recommends a small increase, as I thought he would, then wants to see her in a week.

At that appointment, he asked me for an example of the explosiveness. The other day, Genea was sitting at the kitchen table taking her medications. She stopped in the middle to ask me if she could try on her summer clothes to see what still fit. I could have told her "yes, after you finish" in a therapeutic parenting way but really, she had screwed around so much already,  I told her instead to focus on her medicine. Besides, I put out the girls summer clothes a week earlier.

At any rate, the explosion came. Screaming, stomping, banging, throwing, crying and general hysteria, so I sent her to her room to calm down. When she returned to the table, within mere seconds she had another shrieking fit when I told her to finish up instead of refilling the cats water dish.

So, he increased her anti-anxiety medication too, and wants to see her in another week. So far, no significant changes for bad or for good.

It's a good thing I'm not working right now. I don't know how parents with paying jobs do it. She has had 4 medical appointments in the past 2 weeks, but she is not alone! Her sister has had 2 as well. Not to mention my contact lenses have turned to crust so I had an eye doctor appointment today.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bipolar Every Day

There is never a day where we can predict, upon waking, what mood will strike. It could be fun and silly, or wails and shrieking. The only way to find out is to get up.

It would be great if Genea could submit a scaled number prior to going to bed. (1) being awesome and (10) being the hardest, she could give us a slip of paper saying tomorrow will be an (8).  Surely someone could invent an app for that. Along with the alarm in the morning, a number would flash on the screen. Grit your teeth, today is going to suck! Or, get your giggles ready, tomorrow is scheduled to be a (3)!

Bipolar Disorder is never something we can forget about. No relaxing with a day off. Even when Genea seems stable we have to watch, try to anticipate, and wrap our daily choices around predictable triggers.

She's had a rough few months and I'm struggling with what to do. She takes a medication that she started about 2 years ago. This one medication has made an immense difference. While other meds have helped, they typically fade after about 3 months and lose all "power" after about six. This has been the  one that has helped and kept going.

The recommended top dose is 6 milligrams and she is currently on 2 mg.  If I call her psychiatrist and ask for  an increase in dosage, he'll probably go to 2.5. Being as this is the one and only thing that has worked long term I feel like I should be hoarding the increases. 7 more years until she turns 18 and can legally make these decisions for herself, for whatever that's worth. If I'm crawling across the desert with one big sip of water left, should I wait until I am almost dead to drink it? Or should I use the last of it to push me on a little further than I could have gone otherwise, even if that means I might run out too soon?

Of course a medication increase is not up to me. However when I describe recent changes, that is most likely what her psychiatrist will do. I'm not interested in, god forbid, adding another medication. It's a tremendous gift that Genea's psychiatric team considers me a deciding part of the package. I read so often about parents who are rigidly told, instead of consulted.

The nature of Bipolar Disorder is how it cycles. The current low that we're in has been going a little over four  months- and 3 months is typical for her.  She should have pulled out of it by now. I thought she was on the upturn for a week or so until the violence returned just recently. But sometimes the lows ebb away on their own. Well, not often. Ok, maybe once. And it's possible I miscounted. Somehow though, despite 7 years of this, I hold on to hoping. Probably stupid.

Am I letting her brain damage itself? Marinating in neurological chemicals equivalent to pouring gasoline on a burning building? Is it better to increase an outside chemical with potential side effects that may or may not have long term effects?

I find myself glad I stalled signing her up for extra performance lessons in May. When her control cannot be relied on inside the house, I do not let her participate in extra things outside the house. That's always been my criteria anyway. We might do short term, inexpensive activities where if she has to miss or if she blares symptoms over a metaphorical loudspeaker, we can back out, social damage minimized.

Between the ups and downs are periods of reasonably expressed emotion. Its hard, almost as hard as the severe parts, to see balance. Because if it's in there, where does it go? Where the fuck does it go?

Then of course there is "the line" conversation I have with myself constantly. What line is this crossing? Is this a RAD thing? A  puberty thing? Is is Bipolar or that she's 11 or that she's sick or tired or what?

And the other line of my own making. Who am I to sit here with the luxury of my (presumably) logical brain thinking up all this shit to worry about? The child needs help. Get her the goddam help.


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