Sunday, January 30, 2011

So very, very Po

After having my mind blown a week back, when I realized just how much time I spend on children misbehaving vs. time I spend on children behaving, I have been seeking a new sense of balance.

So when Paloma suggested a Mom and Po Special Day, of course, I happily complied (see below post.)

We went to the mall. I could spend an entire post about how deeply I abhor the mall and the 3,000 reasons why, but instead, I shall post about why I absolutely loved my time there on Saturday.

Po decreed our schedule.

First, we purchased a fabulous Purple Puppy for her Build-a-Bears. Because, they apparently didn't need clothing; they just needed some Puppy Love.
Don't you love how Paloma closes her eyes? Do you know why she does? It is because, when she closes her eyes, "then I look like an angel, Mom!"


After purchasing the Purple Puppy (don't you love how 5 year olds name things? When Hatfield was 5 and received an American Girl doll, she named her "American." We loved it!), we went over to the harness/bouncy ride.

and Down
and Up Again.
Repeat ad nauseum.

You shell out $9.50 for 6 minutes. Gimme an R- an A- a C- K - E - T. . .what's that spell?!? How they figure that rate, who knows!

But, I will share that Paloma's 6 minutes were stretched to 20.

(AND, for the record, I have to state how COMPLETELY OFFENDED I was that the Mister, in his comment to the previous post, alludes to the fact that somehow it was Po and her Po-ness that got her 6 minutes stretched into 20. Of course, it could never be due to the fact that she has a totally smokin' MILF for a Mom. You truly played the wrong card in that hand, my dear husband.)

After we shook up Paloma's stomach, we then went to A&W where I purchased her a Hot Dog Children's Meal. Which is a big deal for Po. Because hot dogs are just about her all-time favorite food, and she got stuck with a kooky health-nut, vegetarian mother who doesn't buy hot dogs. Yeah, God's got a sick sense of humor sometimes, kid. But, at least she has a mom who is cool enough to throw away all sense of good health when outlined in a child's Special Day Edict.

Here's the anticipation:

Wow, look at that big ol' Chamorro muppet mouth!
After mowing down her hotdog, we went and rode the Younker's escalator an inordinate number of times. That is, until Paloma spotted these SUPER AWESOME MANNEQUINS WITH SPIKY HAIR.

So awesome that she requested her picture be taken with them.
Classic Po.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Edict of Paloma

Paloma has declared today:
"Mom and Po's Special Day."

This Special Day shall include, but by no means be limited to:

* A trip to the Build-A-Bear. But not to buy an animal. Just to buy clothes for her pink bear because she's a naked bear and Po is tired of looking at the bear's butt.

* Ice Cream.

* Hot Dogs.

* A ride on that "Bouncy trampoline thing at the mall where you wear the special built like when you do when you climb rock walls."

* Riding on the Up and Down Escalators ("Alligators") at Younkers.

I'm just hoping that our Special Day doesn't end
with a motion-sick Po yakking hot dogs and ice cream
all over Mom.

Hope your Saturday is a Special Day, too!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hell's already on fire, so save your matches. . .

You know who I love even more than Kid Rock (because, seriously, is there a better kickboxing workout song than "Bawitdaba?" No. There isn't. Don't even try to tell me otherwise), but didn't know it yet until last night?

Steven Tyler.

Are any of you watching American Idol? Did you see the Milwaukee auditions last night? Honestly, I have't watched Idol in years, because of the whole Paula/Simon thing was so boringly painful, but I gotta say, I love watching now, just to watch the Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez.

Last night, this adorable and terrifically talented 16-year old boy performed, and Steven Tyler loved his performance so much that he let this slip out:

"Hell's on Fire
Save the Matches
F*ck a Duck and
See What Hatches"

I love this guy!
This is totally my kind of tv.
Thank you, Steven, for bringing some intense laughter into these cold, January prime-time nights.

Monday, January 24, 2011

An eye-opener

I tried to blog throughout the week last week, but I had nothing.

Not nothing to write about. It was a helluva week, and I had a lot that I could have written. But emotionally, mentally, I had nothing.

Miles is having a *difficult* time with the Powerful Voice dialogue. His Inner Need to Be In Control is hearing the P.V. dialogue and is not liking it.

Not one little bit.

That's an understatement. The Inner Need to Be In Control is raising freaking H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks.

The amount of sneaky, stick-poking behaviors have exploded exponentially.

Holy acid reflux hell, Batman.

* * * * * * * *

I've been thinking a lot about the division of the Time and Energy and Attention that I give our five children.

Lately, one child has been receiving the Lion Share of this. The other children, who are behaving, are just kind of left. . . well, behaving. Just maintaining.

I am greatly blessed to have several very close friends in my life who are walking this journey. Who have walked this journey long before I began mine. Who are gracious listeners and unselfish sharers of their experiences and wisdom.

Just the thought of how much their friendship means to me makes my eyes teary.

One of my friends, whose oldest child is a biological daughter, has been sharing just how much this imbalance of time and energy--and the emotional gamut that we Moms go through with our challenging children--has really affected her older daughter over the years.

Listening to the painful parallels was certainly an eye-opening moment for me.

My emotionally balanced children have really been getting the short end of the stick.

My emotional "well" has been pretty dry, so to speak, for the past few months in particular. So often, I'm just tired, empty and depleted after my interactions with Miles.

To quote my friend, the brilliant Essie: "Child, you sucked the nothing out of me six months ago."

And that has to end.

It's not to say that Miles will no longer be getting the time, energy and attention that he needs. But it is to say that I need to set clear limits on what he does receive.

I need to truly guard my time and energy. I need to become hyper-aware of when it is being stolen. Just like Miles needs to work on being a boss of his body, I need to work on being the Boss of My Time and Energy.

Hatfield has been in Maintenance mode for months now. She is a WONDERFUL girl. The best. Kind, loving, patient. But lately I can see her becoming. . .tired. Maybe withdrawing.

Some of this can be attributed to her tween-early teen years. And horror-mones.

But my Mama's instinct tells me that it is So Much More.

Last Monday, after a particularly rough morning with Miles in which he took his breakfast spoon, hucked it across the room, and then screamed that Mommy hurt him by throwing his spoon at him, Hatfield had a complete breakdown.

Curled up in my arms on my bed, she sobbed.
And sobbed.
And sobbed.

I asked questions about how she felt, but the answers were fairly limited. She felt hurt. And betrayed. And worried.

She felt my intense anxiety that, holy shit, this kid is going to go to school and someone's going to believe his bull. She felt furious that he would even do this to our Mom.

Just like Miles needs a lot of TLC, so does my Hattie Lou.

So, on Friday night, I decided that on Saturday, I was going to paint the girls' bedroom. Because they have been living in a Finding Nemo blue-and-orange room for far too long.

Hatfield has bounced about bedrooms since we moved into this house. Mostly, since the boys have come home. She has never complained.

Not once.

So Friday night, I announced (only to the girls) that on Saturday, the girls and I were going to paint the girls' room all together.

As in, I was going to hand Paloma and Hatfield a paintbrush and roller because while for an adult-- painting that bedroom again? Oy voy--but for two girls--fun! Our mom is awesome because she let us help paint the room!

How's that for some deeply-rooted maternal guilt?

Come Saturday morning. . . .good God, Saturday morning. Miles wasn't out of bed for 30 seconds before he created an opportunity to "Sneak & Destroy". . .right behind my back, literally, while I was in the room.

Then another, and another, and another. All before the bathwater had finished draining from their Saturday Morning Bubble Bath.

I tried every single technique I knew to pull Miles out of his Control Freak Funk. Every single one. And just like every experience I've ever had fishing, I put the bait out there, and I couldn't get a nibble. Not even a tiny little bit.

No question about it, it was not going to be a great day for all of us. But the question was: for whom would the day suck?

I could continue to pour everything I had into Miles and hope that maybe by the end of the day, I could work him into some sort of regulation.

But I wouldn't be able to do that and paint. So I would have to put off painting for another day.

And the day would completely suck for the girls.

OR, I could say, "you know what? I have tried EVERYTHING I know, and I'm not a magician. At the moment, he's not open to helping me help him. And from past experience, I know it's probably going to be that way the entire day. So, he can have his sucky attitude while participating in quiet activities so that I can paint with the girls, or he can have his sucky attitude while I do backflips to get him to regulate."

The truth of the matter is, Miles was in for a sucky day because he was aiming for a sucky day (the whole: We had a great day on Friday. . I mean great. We had a family night of fun and enjoyment that left the Mister and I looking at each other, thinking "This is exactly the family we have always dreamed of." Yet, Friday ended and the all-too-common RAD-reaction: I'm not feeling good that I had such an awesome day, so now I need some sabotage.)

At that moment I realized: I can let Miles sabotage Miles own day. OR, I can let Miles sabotage Miles own day, Mom's own day, and the Girls' own day.

I went for the smallest percentage of people in the house having a sucky day.

And you know what?

Miles survived.
He wasn't thrilled.
Actually, he was pretty angry that he couldn't steal Mom's time and energy.
But he survived.
And he went on to have a good day on Sunday.

And you know what else?

It was such a victorious feeling for me to not let Miles suck me into nothingness with his dysregulation.
It was a victories feeling to see how excited Hatfield and Paloma were.
To see how special they felt.
To feel connected and bonded to them for an entire day.

The day was truly, simply, wonderful for me and my girls. And I never knew just how much we needed it until I made it happen.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jester Holding Court

4 pairs of needles later, Miss Paloma's Jester Hat is finally finished.
Knit in Malabrigo, which is my new favorite yarn. I love it so much that I'd like to make out with it. Which is my new favorite expression. (And which, the Mister would have you know, does not arise out of an emptiness due to his bedroom performance. But golly, Mister, it's not like my readers care, and get your own blog already, would ya?)

Anyways, I digress.

As with any Hobby of Virtue, one should find themselves
learning Life Lessons as one pursues such Virtuous Hobby.

Important Knitting Life Lesson Learned in This Project:

While 'tis wise to be frugal and use the (papillon-chewed) needles that ye own, having the proper needles for the project helps. Tremendously. I could have finished this project (next year) on my first set of jagged needles, but not without a lot of calluses, dropped stitches and glasses of wine.

Seriously though, isn't she absolutely cute in this hat?

The only thing cuter than Paloma in her hat in these pictures was Paloma, while wearing her hat this morning, informing me that for lunch she would like "Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Tornado Soup."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Night Live (Blogging)

* I am pretty sure that I am the only person in Green Bay, Wisconsin who is NOT watching the play-off's.

* I justify this by knowing that when I watch the Packers, they lose. Henceforth, my not watching the Packers (so they can win) proves my level of fanship dedication.

* We just returned home from my mother's birthday party. She is 62. But she doesn't look like she is in her 60's at all. I hope I inherit this gene.

* Angie taught us all about LeMere's. LeMere's are these little hook-like things on the ends of your genes which dictate your aging process. Long LeMere's = Slow Aging. Short LeMere's = rapid aging. Mom's like us who parent "challenging" youngsters tend to have drastically shortened LeMere's.

* BUT, working out, just several time a week, lengthens these hooky things, thereby combating the aging that parenting "challenging" kids creates. So punching and kicking the snot outta of a punching bag is good on more than one level. Score!

* My weekly "challenging" parenting highlight involved URin, the Tween's snow boot, and a snowbank. Can you beat that LeMere-shortening experience for the week?

* I have my 4 youngest kids in bed, the Mister and the Tween at a Packer party, a kick-ass knitting project on the stix and a kick-ass book on my Kindle. What to do, what to do? (once I'm done blogging, that is.)

* Because the Tween has left the building, the Papillon is psychotically barking every time there is a noise in the house. Ugh.

* The fact that there is an unwatched episode of Glee on my DVR has decided this for me. Knitting + Glee first, Kindle + Fresh Clean Bedsheets second.

* I love my Kindle SO MUCH that I would like to make out with it. Except for the fact that I'm married. And the Kindle is a machine. But not that kind of machine. So instead I'll just use the make-out reference only as an illustrative measure of how much I love my Kindle.

* How's this blogging after two glasses of wine and a birthday cake sugar-high working out for me?

* I am probably completely desecrating the word "LeMere." It's probably the wrong word entirely. It was nearly two weeks ago when we discussed this at knitting, and I do recall that it is a last name. So, Angie, my brilliant, scientific friend, my apologies. And my complete begging for you to start your own blog.

* Glee and a knitting project await.

* Have a Great Weekend!

* Go, Pack, Go!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Adding Empowerment into the Healing Cycle

Disclaimer: Please know that I am not a parenting expert, nor do I ever want to give the impression that I am.

We are a mere 18 months into parenting our RAD/PTSD child. Miles, while incredibly challenging to us, falls toward the milder end of the Attachment-challenged spectrum.

Additionally, Miles is only 6 years old. Most of his emotional skills fall below his age skills.

Age, trauma experience, temperament, etc. make every child and situation unique. I fully recognize that much of what we use with Miles, if applied to other children, would likely be the equivalent of using a Picture Pages approach on a Harvard Law School Exam.

So while I share some of our parenting techniques/ concepts that we learn in therapy on my blog, I am by no mean advocating these techniques/concepts as a way for everyone to heal every child.

Yesterday, we added another process into Miles' healing cycle.

As previously mentioned, Miles has been resorting to unsafe behaviors as a way to create situations in which Mommy then envelopes him in safety, as a means to cement those feelings.

We have been working on a Safety dialogue for over 6 months now. Slowly, it is working it's way into Miles' psyche. Sometimes, he needs a LOT of reassurance. And (while it may slowly drive me batty, lol), it's okay that he needs a lot of reassurance.

Miles didn't live with us until he was nearly 5. I didn't get to feed him a bottle every time he was a baby and he was hungry. I didn't get to change his wet diapers. Or rock him to sleep. Or treat his earaches. I didn't get to engage in all of those wonderful, beautiful cycles that mothers use to lovingly care for their newborns.

But, I am here now.
I can reassure him that he is safe.
However many times he needs that reassurance, I can give that to him.
That can be our cycle.
I can find love and beauty in that cycle (no matter how crazy it is.)
(Do you see how I am using a rote monologue on myself now? ;) But reframing it in this context really, truly helps.)

While knowing that he is Safe is slowly taking root inside Miles' spirit, we now have another step to make in this journey to Healing.

Lately, Miles has resorted to employing "Sneaky Behavioral Devices" as a way of expressing himself. (A completely inadequate and frustratingly exhausting means of expression.)

We need to empower Miles. Miles needs to know that he has a Powerful Voice which he can use to express his needs and wants. And, Miles needs to know that he has a Right to be Heard.

For every day of his short little life, Miles has felt that he has No Voice.

He feels Small and Powerless.

And news flash to his less-than-stealth mom (moi):
He can feel that way even when he feels safe.

That was a light bulb moment for me, yesterday, in therapy.

Just as we need him to intrinsically know that he is safe, we also need Miles to fully believe that:

Miles has a POWERFUL voice.

Miles can SOAR higher than anyone,
just like Baby Owl (from our puppet story.)

Miles can use his POWERFUL voice to let Mommy knows how he feels.

Miles can use his POWERFUL voice to let Mommy knows what he needs.

If Miles engages in sneaky behavior, I can ask Miles: "Please use your POWERFUL voice to let Mom know how you are feeling, or what you need."

If Miles engages in sneaky behavior and doesn't want to share his feelings or needs, I can have him practice using his POWERFUL voice. (Note: The practice here is neither punishment nor a form of discipline. If Miles is in a snit or in a low mood or unreachable, we hold off on practice until he is more approachable.)

Practice is a fun and safe activity for Mommy and Miles to share. Miles practices by saying:

"I can use my POWERFUL voice."
"I can use my POWERFUL voice when I need something."
I can use my POWERFUL voice when I want something."
"I can use my POWERFUL voice when I have a feeling to share."

Mommy says: "Miles! I hear your wonderful POWERFUL voice. I am here to LISTEN to your POWERFUL voice. How can I help you/What do you need?"

Mommy continues to affirm with Miles: "This is a SAFE house. Part of a SAFE house is that when we need something or have something to share, we can use our POWERFUL voice and people will LISTEN to your POWERFUL voice. Your POWERFUL voice is important."

Like our many other dialogues, I expect that our POWERFUL voice dialogue will take some time before we see its effects. But like the other dialogues, I do believe that we will see some changes.

Just the fact that here we are, adding yet another step in Miles' growth and healing, is amazing to me. This little guy has come SO far. Baby step, baby step, baby step= they all add up in time. And that, my friends, is some POWERFUL stuff, indeed.

Sunday, January 09, 2011


* The Mister turned 38 yesterday. Happy Birthday, Mister C.! We celebrated with the usual Birthday Cake for Breakfast (YUM!)

Po informed us that Cliff wanted a t-shirt with fake bird poop on it for his birthday. "Seriously, he does!" she solemnly told us. "Text him at work and ask him!"

Fortunately for us (and the Mister), Target does not carry such a t-shirt. Instead, the children settled on a green Kermit the Frog Shirt that reads "Awesome Meter", which registers as "Totally Awesome."

For dinner, we took our entourage, plus Jimmy and Boppa, to a hibachi restaurant. This was a HUGE treat as 1) we rarely dine out and 2) the kids had never been to a hibachi before. They loved it. Watching their eyes nearly pop out of their heads at the site of our chef tossing knives, creating flaming onion volcanoes and catching shrimp tails in the top of his hat was one of those awesome parenting moments for us.

We tipped the chef really well, because he told the kids about a billion times: "Don't try this at home!"

Nonetheless, I found a new "secret spot" in the kitchen to house all my knives upon our return home last night.

* My Baby Boy, aka Keenan, aka Ti-Blan, lost his first tooth this afternoon. He looks adorable with a big ol' gaping hole in his bottom row of teeth. He hasn't figured out how to talk without the missing tooth. I don't recall if this is a problem most children have (the top teeth, sure--but one bottom tooth?), of if the problem is specific to Keenan. Either way, he is stinking cute and I'll be sure to get a photo up soon.

* Atticus is my little guy who really holds on to hurt and anger, letting things eat away at him. Being tired or mildly upset triggers him to think about all of these other small upsets, which then pile into a large mountain of grievances that he choses to dwell upon. Getting him to let go and move on has been a huge challenge.

Three weeks ago, the Children Church program (I think we may have found a church to attend, but more on that later) suggested that parents create a "Worry Jar" for children. Because God promises to take our problems (ashes) and give us joy (beauty), children can write out their grievances, put them in a jar, and pray for God to take on their problems and give them peace in return.

I mentioned the idea to Atticus, and he loved it. So, I took a large canning jar, created a label that reads "Atticus' Problem Jar" and placed a stack of paper strips and a pen next to it.

The first time he became upset (easily discernible since he paces and cries while he vents and rambles about the house), I steered him to his jar. A half hour later, he told me he was done and ready to pray.

I thought I'd find two or three slips of paper in that jar. Nope. Nine slips. NINE. Some of the grievances were true grievances, but honestly, I was absolutely amazed by the small events that happened about 4 months ago which were still eating away at my Atticus.

Nonetheless, we began to pray aloud. We read each slip, asked God to take on the problem like he requests of us in the Bible, and that in return, Atticus would like to receive peace and joy.

After we prayed, we burned the paper slips in the jar. Which to me, eh, whatever. Recycling would have worked the same. But to an 8-year old boy: COOL. Now his problems really were ashes.

And oh my, is the difference is noticeable. We went from having trigged "problem attacks" every day or two to only having 3 total in the past 2 weeks. The last attack he didn't cry, pace or vent; he just went straight to his jar and started writing.

Oh by gosh, by golly, I think we're onto something there!

* Hatfield played in her 7th piano recital this afternoon. She played a complicated piece by Bach (from memory), and she was grouped with the teens, some 5 years older than her (yes, this is a total, shameless Mommy brag. Sue me!) Watching my baby girl up on stage, so poised and serious, brings tears to my eyes every time.

* Paloma attended the piano recital (probably the 4th one she's attended) and she sat quietly through the entire thing. Scoff if you'd like, but if you know Po, you know that this indeed is a Milestone worth recording on the blog.

Okay, I realize that I'm in error here. She sat quietly except for one brief moment when she loudly announced that the girl playing "is wearing the exact outfit you have on, Hattie!"

Still, it's a milestone, nonetheless, because for me, life is all about taking what you can get, and celebrating it.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Men Without Hats

Corey got me thinking today after I read this great post. Good stuff.

How can I put this succinctly? Christmas break was a complete Hell-i-day with Miles. Actually, it was a Hell-a-day (Ha ha ha ha ha!), because with the exception of 4 hours of Christmas Eve and all of Christmas day, it sucked.

Just as Corey described in her post, Miles has been poking me with a big, pointy stick. A Lot. And he's been poking me with a teeny-tiny but razor sharp acupuncture sort of needle. A Lot.

When he's utilizing those sticks, big or small, I know that he's not feeling okay. Not good. Not safe. And his body is telling him that he better be boss or else.

Sometimes, his "Distress Actions" are over-the-top apparent. Like when he kicked me while I was putting his urine-covered body in the bathtub. Or when he tried to push me down the stairs while I was carrying a huge basket of laundry and running upstairs because Po got soap in her eye. Clearly, trying to injure Mama is a sign that things are not all that well with Miles. Because, you know, kids who are feeling safe and in control generally try not to inflict injuries upon their mothers.

But sometimes, it is SO sneaky. So under the radar, but yet, not quite there.

I loudly say a huge AMEN to Ms. Waters when she boldly states: "Our Kids WANT to Get Caught."

At therapy, the Mama puppet (moi) is always an Eagle. Not because I have a huge German beak (although I do.) But because I the Mama has an Eagle Eye and my Eagle Eye is ALWAYS on Miles because I LOVE HIM and my Eagle Mama job is to KEEP MILES SAFE. (Re-reading this, I don't mean "always" like in a threatening or Big Brother sort of way. In therapy, we use it as a loving, 'I'm-always-here-with-you-to-help-you' supportive role.)

Why does Miles--day in, day out, every bless-ed day during Christmas Helladay--poke me with that stick?

Because he wants the reassurance that Mommy will KEEP HIM SAFE. And he's not at the stage where he intuitively knows this.

Safety is the new rote monologue theme in our house. All day long, I say, "Mommy does this to keep you safe. Mommy loves you and keeps her kids safe." Ya-dee-da-dee-da.

Sometimes Miles tests this by being unsafe to others. He might target another child (always Keenan) and I tell Miles: No way! Mommy's job is to keep EVERYONE safe.

A lot of times, Miles will be unsafe to himself. This is the conversation which follows these situations:

Miles, do you know why good Mommies ALWAYS keep their babies and real little kids by them each and every day? To keep them safe! Why do Mommies have to do that? Because very small children do not know how to keep themselves safe. So we Mommies love to do that.

Do you know why Hatfield is playing in the play room, and Mommy is out here in the kitchen or office? Because Hatfield knows how to be safe. She knows the safety rules of our house. She doesn't break those safety rules.

Hatfield knows that if she were to break safety rules, Mommy would step in and keep her safe.

Miles, when you do not keep yourself safe, and you choose not to follow the safety rules, Mommy is going to keep you safe. Because I love you. Because it's my job to keep you safe. This does not upset Mommy to have to keep you safe. I do get upset when you are unsafe, onlybecause I do not want you or any other kid to get hurt! I want you healthy and safe!

So I'm not mad. I love you and I'M HAPPY TO KEEP YOU SAFE!"

Call me a slow learner, but it occurred to me, several day into our Helliday, that Miles was not feeling safe. No more school for a week, so the security of our daily schedule was no longer there for him. Christmas Eve and Day, while fun and awesome, were chaotic and 'unscheduled.' The next day, the Mister was ripping out carpet, putting in flooring, our bedroom belongings (I had no idea that we had such a huge amount of cwap in our bedroom--ay!) were dispersed through the other 3 bedrooms, creating a large amount of material disturbance.

Indeed, he was feeling rather up-rooted. And for an attachment disordered, PTSD child who had more than enough 'up-rooting' in his young life, I'm sure that every single nerve in his body was screaming I'M NOT SAFE!!!

So he did what makes sense in its own twisted way: He created situations for Mom to swoop in and keep him safe. Each and every day. Several times a day. It didn't bother him one little bit that he was hanging out at the table with mom, coloring, or sitting on a blanket in the living room while I was taking the tree down, and everyone else but us were watching Toy 3. Even though Mom nearly went for her own vacation at County Mental because seriously, is this my life?!?!, MOMMY DID NOT FAIL HIM. MOMMY KEPT HIM SAFE.

I am eternally grateful for bloggers like Corey who write posts like the one she did. In the midst of crazy behaviors (because, seriously, do you know any healthy, attached child who would Groundhogs Day every day of their Christmas vacation with completely crazy and dangerous behaviors?), it is hard to logically see and remember that these actions are SO MUCH MORE than what they seem to be. Getting by with a little help from our friends is, indeed, a wonderful thing.

I do believe that a new Theme Song of the Day is in order (hence the title of the post. 5 BIG SPARKLY GOLD STARS to you if you figured it out before reaching this paragraph!). Because I find the original video to be vaguely disturbing, here is a new version courtesy of one of the funniest shows that has ever been on the boob tube.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

IEP Results

Midway through December, I had to go in to meet with the school district social worker as a part of this IEP. The social worker interviews the parent regarding the child's background and the parent's perception on their child's struggles. The social worker report is then entered into the IEP as well.

The social worker was nice enough and while I don't give out all of our family's information or the details of Keenan's personal story, I knew I could add enough to support our assertion that there are 'processing delays.'

What caught me off-guard, as I was answering questions, was the realization that I know nothing about this child.

Favorite foods? Well, he either likes the food, or he doesn't. And what he likes and doesn't like is inconsistent from one week to the next.
Favorite color? He cannot consistently label colors.
Favorite game? He flutters throughout the house, never committing to any one particular activity. He likes to just kind of check everything out.
Favorite book? Well, he likes them all. But if you ask what book he wants, he never knows. He just likes to look and ask questions about the pictures.
Favorite anything? Hmmmmm . . .

I felt horrible. Awful. What kind of person am I to bring a child into the home and then, 16 months later, have NO idea who the child really is?

Keenan is a happy, smiley kid. He has his meltdowns, although we're not always sure what triggers them. The triggers are inconsistent at best. But they are few and far in between. He never asks to go and do anything; he just kind of goes with the flow. The only need he ever expresses is to use the bathroom.

As I walked out of school, I thought about how much I know about Miles. I have a rather full understanding of who Miles is. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and always expresses himself (whether he means of doing that is appropriate or not is an entirely different post.) I can tell you Miles favorite and least favorite everything. Miles is Big and Loud and Full of Life, and many of his issues demand a lot of time and attention.

But Keenan. Beyond his happy face and silly antics, I guess Keenan is just here. I felt myself sinking into a pit of sadness and guilt. How could be a mom for over a year and still not know this boy?

This entire realization troubled me terribly. As soon as I got home, I plunked down on the floor next to Keenan and began to ask him what he wanted to play. Or read. Or color.

Smile. Eyes looking up and to the left. "Ummmmmmmm. . . . " no answer. Then Hatfield comes in with large posterboards and markers. "That!"

About 15 minutes into the coloring, Atticus walks by with his DSi. Keenan gets up and stands over his shoulder, watching.

I go into the kitchen to make dinner. Keenan wanders in, asks what I am making. I tell him. Big smile. "Smells GOOD, Mommy." he says.

I ask him if it is his favorite food. Eyes up to the left. Smile. "Ummmmmm. . . " I say, "What food do you like the very very most in the entire world. That is SO delicious you'd want to eat it everyday. "Ummmmm. . . " 3 minutes later, no answer.

I wanted to cry.

The next day I went in to see the Therapist. Who now jokes that I should move into the office next to his since I pretty much live in there (it's okay that he jokes about it; we're on good terms and he knows that we're very dedicated to helping our boys (and ourselves) get through this journey).

"Sarah, you don't feel this way because you're not investing yourself or time into this little boy. You have a little boy with impaired cognitive and emotional development, who was institutionalized from toddlerhood, and who has trauma issues. Those factors added all up, and it's understandable why you feel that you. You can't beat yourself up for it as though it's a sort of neglect on your part."

Truthfully, I should have known all of that. But hearing someone else tells you adds a sense of validation that sometimes we can't give ourselves.

A few days later, the BIG IEP meeting had FINALLY arrived. Going into it, I was suddenly fearful that maybe everything I thought about Keenan was wrong. Maybe I was neglectful. Maybe I was just too busy to notice or understand what he needs.

The IEP meeting, which was my first ever, was a full house. A social worker, kindy teacher, ESL teacher (and not just ESL! She holds four degrees, two of which are advanced!), speech/language pathologist, special ed teacher and a school pysch (but not my racial-profiling, doobie-smoking, isn't Haitian and Asian the same thing? school psych).

One by one, each specialist gave their reports. One by one, pieces of the puzzle were turned right side up and put together. One by one, a growing list of delays and concerns were identified. One by one, the long list of concerns that I had listed in my initial letter to the IEP team were validated.

While it sounds twisted to say it, my biggest feeling was RELIEF. While I may feel like I don't know this little boy, clearly my motherly intuition/connection was strong enough to know that something wasn't right. Something just wasn't clicking.

The good news is, Keenan's receptive language skills, while delayed, are considerably stronger than his expressive skills, which are grossly delayed (Since Keenan is a relatively new ESL student, he was mostly tested with nonverbal.) Our little guy has no skill set and system to get his needs across.

To walk out of that room, with a better understanding of what his delays are, was empowering. To walk out of that room with a plan, with a group of people who were taken by his adorable smile, deep dimple, willing spirit and sweet nature and who want to help him succeed, was humbling.

We have a long road ahead of us. Keenan will likely repeat kindy, which is fine by me. To move onto 1st grade, the school likes to see children has Level C Reading, Writing and Math Skills (the system begins with Level A, and as the levels progress the difficulty progresses.) Currently, even with a full year of 4-K and half a year of 5K, Keenan is a pre-pre-A.

After the IEP meeting, I took the report to the Therapist. We reviewed it and developed a plan to help Keenan with his expressive language skills at home.

Already I'm feeling the change in our house. Even though the news was not great--some wonderful and positive things are rising from it.

The Mister and Keenan got off to a rocky start from the get-go. There hasn't been a connection or bond between those two.

Yet, with the IEP results, I see a softening in Cliff's feelings towards Keenan. I see a huge growth in the Mister's "Daddy Lion" protective tendencies of his little boy. I cannot begin to describe what joy that brings to my heart.

Knowing Keenan's weaknesses, Keenan's strengths and weaknesses, has really helped Cliff remove the "box" of expectations he had previously placed Keenan in.

Right or wrong, I think as parents we all do it. Armed with this new knowledge, we are both able to better meet Keenan where he is.

That's one of the hardest parts of therapeutic parenting. To meet your child where he is, and not where you want him to be.

Because Keenan is who he is. I want to help him become the best Keenan he can be. And meeting him where he is right now is a good place to start.

And so that is what we'll do.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Melt My Heart

Oh, how I LOVE that kid.
Say it with me now:

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Happy 2011!

I'm a resolutions sorta gal.

I'm not about the "I'm going to do this by this date" quantification-sort of resolutions. If I did those things, I would probably be setting myself up for failure. But I am about evaluating the status quo of my everyday life, and taking the opportunity to look for ways to grow and, hopefully, improve my daily living.

This year, I have three things that I'm making my primary focus.

1) Take Better Care of Myself.

2010, particularly the last half of 2010, I kind of let myself go. Physically, I felt lethargic. Spiritually, I felt a major disconnect. Parenting trauma kids had me spent. Maritally, a lot of stuff has kind of caught up with us and we need to push up our sleeves and do some hard work. And in everything else? I felt a day late and a dollar short.

Dec. 2010 kind of was a breaking point for me where I knew I needed to make some major changes. I joined a gym around the corner from my house. I LOVE it. I go 5-6 times per week. It includes kickboxing (on bags. No swinging at the air here like they do at the Y. I can't believe how good it feels to punch and kick the snot outta that bag!!!), interval and circuit workouts; boot camp; and strength/resistance training. It is kicking my butt and I LOVE IT. I have been truly sore the past two weeks (in fact, I nearly wrote a post entitled, I can't blog because my glutes are killing me!, but in fact, I was too sore to even write that.) It is an awesome feeling.

In addition to the working out, I'm taking more time for myself each day to knit or read or connect with a friend. I'm working on finding a church for spiritual feeding. I'm going to therapy to better deal with all the "stuff" I'm dealing with.

I want my girls to grow up into women who take care of themselves. The best way to do that is to---gasp---set the example by taking care of myself. And since I'm sidetracked so often when I don't truly intentionally do this, I'm now making it Priority #1.

2) Make Time Every Day for Creativity.

Isn't that SO type A of me? To schedule time for creativity, which, in theory, seems like it should happen spontaneously?

But if I don't schedule it, it likely will never become a happen. Not likely. It just plain won't become a habit.

When I think about the most interesting people I know, and the most interesting children I know, they tend to be those least immersed in world of gaming/texting/video technology. They are those who take the time to read, who love to learn new things, explore new worlds, discover new joys.

I have to Unplug myself and my children (and truly, we're not even a super plugged-in family), but I need to purposefully set aside time each and every day to explore.

That means getting out the paints. Iif we use them up, we can buy more. If we make a mess, well, who gives a crap because the house is trashed by the end of every homeschool day anyways, right? Encouraging journaling, knitting, yarn arts, fabric arts, drawing, sketching, etc. Giving my children the tools, the time, the distraction-free environment where they can just explore, discover, create.

So within our homeschooling day, I'm carving out a set amount of time each and every day after lunch to do this.

Type A of me? Oh, yes. But at least I'll be the Creative-Artsy Type A mom in the bunch ;)

3) Reclaim my love of cooking/feeding my family.

9 years ago, when I was pregnant with Atticus, we were very, very poor. Our grocery budget was very meager, and I had to find a way to feed us well on what we had. Through the internet and many trips to the library, I discovered that cooking from scratch is the best way to accomplish those means.

Truthfully, at first, I felt a bit bothered by it and I wished we had a bigger grocery budget. I remember one time making a chicken, broccoli and potato casserole and giving the Mister leftovers for his lunch at work. His boss at the time went into the breakroom and made a HUGE stink over how much that meal stunk and looked disgusting. I think he even offered to buy him Taco Bell if he would only through that garbage away. I was so offended and hurt.

Later that week, I was outside talking to my neighbor. She had two beautiful girls, one Hattie's age and one a bit older, and she was the kindest, most gentle, most sincere person I have ever met. I looked up to her hugely (still do.) I remember lamenting a bit over our grocery budget and learning how to make all this stuff from scratch.

"But isn't that wonderful? Feeding your family whole foods that you labor over, it nourishes both their bodies and souls. Homemade meals are such a wonderful, loving way to take care of your family."

At that moment, my entire paradigm shifted. Her entire person emitted such warmth and radiance, and the way she said "nourishes," I can still hear that in my head and remember how it all suddenly "clicked" for me.

Feeding your family, well, homemade foods is important. It is an act of love. It does nourish. And it can be accomplished on a meager budget.

After learning that, I LOVED being in my kitchen. Hattie was always my helper. Some of my most wonderful mothering memories were the times after dinner when I was cleaning the kitchen, Atticus on my chest in a Baby Bjorn, with music on and laughing and dancing.

I want to reclaim those moments. Feel that way again. So I'm going to refocus on mealtimes. Not only as a means of connecting, but also as a means of educating.

I love Rachael Ray's philosophy that in 30 minutes you can make meals that are far healthier and taste better than anything you can get in a restaurant. I have become really, truly boring in the meal department. I'm aiming to start shaking up the menu, trying new things out.

2010 wasn't the best year on the books by any means. But, we lasted through it. We jumped over obstacles and crossed the finish line into 2011. I love the start of the New Year and this season of reflecting and aims for improving. And I'm going to go into it, one kickboxing punch/ knitting hour/and new recipe at a time.

Happy New Year!