Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Diagnosis . . .

When Dustin came to us, he had a veritable alphabet behind his name. He had every possible diagnosis I could think of, except schizophrenia which oddly enough is one of only two now. Those letters dropped off as we changed psychiatrists (several times until we got our golden p-doc) and others dropped off with therapists, and if the wind blew just right they would change then too.

Did he remarkably get "healed" from Early On-Set BiPolar or did he suddenly stop having Sensory Integration Disorder? No, it just seemed that everyone had different opinions on "what was driving his bus".

When we first started seeing our wonderful p-doc he wiped everything clean. The only thing he labeled Dustin was Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Did this change any of his behaviors? No. Dr. R simply said (in his wonderful Pakistani accent) "It does not matter what we call it. We still have to deal with it just the same." I held to that. I liked that perspective.

Those letters behind his name did nothing to help me deal with the behavior. Those letters did nothing to change the behavior. Now, don't get me wrong, I think labeling a child's issues can be important in helping others understand what they are dealing with. They can help us find resources and they can help us tell others find information. But the child is the same regardless of the diagnosis and we have to deal with what is presenting itself.

I wrote this several years ago:

I have always struggled with diagnosing kids with psychiatric disorders. It has nothing to do with labeling. I know some people freak out about slapping a label on their kids, but who the heck cares. Who has to know? It's not like they are required to wear a Tshirt that says, "I have been diagnosed BiPolar" to the local community pool. The only reason it should be brought up is in school and then only if their are issues or if services are needed. Then, it's obvious there's a need for that label. You don't have to place an ad in the newspaper to make the town aware of a diagnosis.

The reason I struggle is "how do we really know"? I mean, okay, when Dustin came to us in foster care he had every label imaginable. A few I can name off the top of my head are: Sensory Integration Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Shaken Baby Syndrome, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Early On-set Bi-Polar Disorder, Aspergers Syndrome, blah blah blah. Basically the only label we never had was Reactive Attachment Disorder, even though this was mentioned more than once and I think it is absolutely ACCURATE. Now we simply have a Fetal Alcohol Disorder and a BiPolar label ONLY, with a Moderately Mentally Handicapped status thrown in for good measure. That's what's "driving the bus" in Dustin's brain and everything else is "sitting in the back seats along for the ride". Basically my child is psychotic due to prenatal alcohol exposure. Period.

Do those labels help me deal with him better. Nope. What they do is help others see his weaknesses and celebrate his differences. They don't give excuses for his behaviors but they do give reasons. Our psychiatrist once said to me, I don't really care what you call it, we still have to learn to deal with it whatever it is. Amen brother! Sometimes it helps to tell people he has traits of Aspergers Syndrome because that is what they are familiar with and it gives them something to work with. Does he have Aspergers? Who knows, he definitely exhibits some form of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and it is definitely sitting in one of those back seats on Dustin's Brain Bus.

Okay, here's where it gets tricky for me. . . hold on to your panties. How dare people who don't know me or haven't seen my kid or spent time with them say he couldn't possibly have that. It does seem that there is a trend toward a specific diagnosis in the child's psychiatric community from time to time. A few years ago, everyone was ADD, then it seemed to be Autism, and now it seems to the leaning toward RAD. Now it may be one thing to say that a particular diagnosis is overused, it is quite another thing to say it doesn't exist. Excuse me? Are you a doctor? Just because you have adopted successfully and haven't had to deal with it doesn't mean other's don't. I am pleased that you are so wonderful that your child seems to love you at first sight, but seriously you don't know every child. And perhaps you don't know everything. *gasp*

My whole problem with sayng RAD isn't real, is that these children are damaged. Just as my child's brain is "broken" due to prenatal alcohol exposure these children are "broken" due to abuse, neglect, multiple placements etc. Who am I to say that doesn't happen? Who am I to say that can't happen? I guess my take on it is that we as a country and as a people are moving toward a mentality that says "me me me" all the time. "Screw my kids, screw their needs I need a drink, a fix, a night out. Who cares how it affects them!" It's obvious that these kids who have been taken from their homes are damaged by this trauma and "broken". How can they trust another adult just because you say you are safe? Especially when some of the trauma came from supposed "safe" foster families. Maybe as the trend continues children are becoming more and more traumatized and now we are seeing more and more and more RAD. Whether a child gets FAS depends on the strength of the baby, how much the mother drinks and how often as well as the time frame in which she drank during pregnancy. Couldn't this be a similar situation for RAD, some kids are simply tougher than others. You, missy, got lucky, and so did your kids! Saying that because you haven't dealt with it so it doesn't exist is like saying I've never had a broken arm so I don't believe bones can break. Ignorant.

I guess my entire frustration with this is that we are all in this together. Does your child mad pee? Let's talk about options and what you've tried. Does your child bang their head on walls? Hey, what works for you to get them to stop? That's why I blog. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Knock off . . .

My brother moved into a new apartment yesterday and my mom and I helped. It is a cute apartment and made me long for being single again . . . not really hubs! *wink* He mentioned needing some art for the living room and I told him I would make something.
I love this canvas from World Market. I like the color and the vertical lines in it. I also love polka dots so this fill that bill too. With a price tag of $129 I figured it would be fairly simple to recreate for much, much cheaper. I like the progression in this one of the colors, but I decided to make mine consistent colors across the whole painting.

I started with 2 16x 20 canvases that I bought at the Mart of Wallls for only $7.97. I bought some acrylic paint because I wasn't quite sure what I had at home and I didn't want to make another trip to the store. The paints were $1.27 a piece. I also used some circular pouncers that cost $3.97. I already had a brown paint pen at home, but you could easily do them stems with brown paint and a brush.

Obviously the first thing I did was draw the stems. I simply drew them with the paint pen. When I was done I went back and added some bulk to the stems and added a bit of a triangle at the tips. You can see the original lines on the right and the finished stems on the left in the picture below.

I did not want the colors pristine. I wanted the colors to be combinations and have some depth, so I simply worked them together while I was working. You will see the original colors squirted out in the first picture below and then the mess after I was finished painting. I didn't even wash my pouncer out between colors, I just added and added and got a mixed effect for the spots.

Here is the finished project as it is drying. I am pretty sure I an going to add a bit of an antiquing effect to the canvas so it is not sao white, but that frightens me! I am afraid I am going to ruin it so who knows. It depends on how brave I feel later.

Okay, so I went for it and tried to tame it down a bit. I used a tan paint I had and dipped a paper towel in it. I ran the papertowel through the water and squeezed it out into a container then I just wiped the papertowel on the canvas. I then took a dry towel and wiped over it all adding a bit more paint on the corners and edges.

Here she is. I am not sure you can see the antiquing, but it helped a lot! Not bad for under $20!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Standing up for yourself . . .

My daughter is exposed to a couple kids who aren't always kind. It is difficult to teach her how to be assertive yet kind at the same time. I don't want my child being made fun of or mocked, but I also don't want her being one to do the same to another child. I don't think 2 wrongs make a right. I also don't want my child being the one who always runs to the adult without attempting to solve the problem herself.

I hope to teach my child to be out spoken. I want her to feel free to say things like, "You know, the way you are acting is not very nice." I want her to be able to tell people that it's okay if you don't like what I am wearing, I do. I want her to know it is okay to be different. I want her to feel good about herself and confident in her decisions no matter what others may say. I want her to be kind and considerate, but able to stand up for herself. If not, she will end up being a doormat who has no idea how to handle herself when she is wronged.

When I was a PreK teacher I had a philosophy about kids who did not play well together. It would be easy to say, "Just stay away from him" but that solves nothing. I made certain those children were in a small group together. I made sure those kids were on the same team in a cooperative game. I made sure that they learned how to work together. Now, I always made sure it was times when I could be right there, near them, guiding them and helping work through anything that came up because I am not totally stupid. Those kids may have never been the best of friends, but they learned that when they had to work together they could. It not only gave them skills to do this, but confidence that even if you don't like someone, you can work together. That is a particularly important skill as a adult.

My daughter was not very fond of her teacher this past year. To be honest, I was not either. She was very good at imparting skills to the class and did have a knack for teaching, but she did not let kids be kids. She seemed to squelch fun in the classroom. She did not seem to value kids for kids. My son had her a few years back. It would've been really easy for me to go in and request a change before school started, but I knew that it would be a good learning experience for my child to learn to behave and thrive in an environment that she would exactly care for. It is good a good life skill to learn. We may not always like our boss or our co-workers, but graciousness and kindness get us far in this world. And who knows maybe we can even make a difference in the way they view the world.

Those are the skills I hope to impart to my kiddos. I want them to be assertive and stand up for themselves, but I want the to do it in such a way that honors other people. I want them to know that most conflicts can be resolved peacefully. I want them to know that you don't have to agree with someone to respect them and their opinion. I don't want to think that they can come crying to mommy and I will rip them out of the situation without trying to make it work first just because I can.

I want them to know that we are all in this together . . . and that takes work.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Blessed . . .

I am pretty blessed. I need to remind myself of that today. How you ask? Let me tell you (and more importantly remind myself) . . .
Harrison has a fabulous sense of humor. I love that he can find just about anything funny. He loves to see people laugh and he likes to be the one to put a smile on your face. He is brilliant and never ceases to amaze me with his intuitiveness. He is my snuggly child and I love the way he melts into me in the mornings as he struggles to wake up.
McCartney is very loving and loves me tons. (and reminds me several thousand times a day) She is kind and thoughtful, thinking of other people most of the time. She loves to shop and loves to find a bargain just like her mommy and Nonnie. She loves to write letters to people she loves and she makes sure that people feel special to her. She is my velcro child and I don't know what I would do without her stuck to me the vast majority of the day.
Dustin is very helpful around the house. He will do anything he is asked to do if he feels like he is being helpful. He likes to feel necessary. He is kind hearted and loving. He wants people to like him and he is polite and has really good manners. He has developed a sense of humor and uses sarcasm well. He loves to please and will do so as long as his impulses don't get the best of him (or thinks you are not looking).
Robert is a wonderful daddy. He is kind to the children and very forgiving of their faults. He is patient and listens to them no matter how long the story. He "gets" Dustin and his issues and doesn't let it get to him (or if he does he knows when to "tag" me). He is well aware of his own limitations and makes certain he is not in over his head. He puts up with all my OCD issues and will help with all my crazy projects when he is needed. He has learned that when something gets in my head, much like a freight train, there is no stopping it and has come to embrace it. (for the most part *wink*) He revels in his children and their desire for knowledge and fun.

Nonnie (my mom) is my best friend. No matter how much we butt heads, she loves me no matter what. She understands that I am a MICROWAVE and she is a CROCKPOT and humors my need for fast resolution when she can and helps me work through it when there is no quick fix. She loves me no matter how crazy I can get and she understands that sometimes I just get nuts and need have a good cry or a crazy vent and then it is better. I love to watch her with my kids and see the pure joy on her face as she loves on them. She is giving and kind and I hope that I make her proud in everything I do.
My Step-dad is an amazing man. He understands my kids and all their various issues. He is the kind of man who sticks by family til the end. He has welcomed my brother and I (and my family) into his own family as if we were his own. He loves us and prays for us and I know he will always be there for us. He is kind and gentle and loving. He is an amazing man and a wonderful husband to my mother (no matter how crazy she is at times, she is my mother after all *wink*)

I have a job that I love. I have a bit of flexibility which is important in a family like mine and I am blessed to work in an environment that celebrates the importance of family. I get to touch the lives of children and their families every day. They put their trust in us to care for their children when they are away and that is pretty important. The fact that we get to share the gospel with them and be an example of Jesus' love is icing on the cake.

Sometimes it helps to remember how very blessed you are. I have a rotten headache and am in a really bad mood today. . . this helps more than ibuprofen. Give it a try, I bet you will smile.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cycling . . .

We are cycling around these parts. Dustin had 4 FANTASTIC days of really great behavior and now he is on a cycle of sleeping about 16 hours a day. He is tired and moody. I said something to my mom and she reminded me that he does this in summer. I think the change in routine makes him cycle more frequently and I am pretty sure he was manic last week so now we are onto the depressive side of his mood disorder.
He is pretty compliant once I get him awake enough to function so all is well. I suppose when he is super sleepy we have less of a a chance of him running out!

In other news, I am in an air cast for a month! I have a really stubborn case of plantar's fascitis in my right foot. The doc wants me to constantly keep my foot flexed for a month to give it a change to heal. He thinks there may be a tear of the tendon. If this does not work I have to have surgery. I have 78 field trips this summer for my job! 78! Lugging around this boot is not going to be fun. He did say that I can take it off to swim which is a blessing since I do 4 swim trips a week at work. The bad news is that this means no Couch to 5K while I get this resolved . . . boo!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gymnastics . . .

McCartney has started her first gymnastics class. She is thrilled and she did a really nice job. My kids have never done any sort of lessons so this is all new territory for us. They are doing really well. I hope they continue to enjoy it and maybe feel a little more "normal". We have spent so many years just trying to hold the family together with all of Dustin's issues we have not done too many typical things. Hopefully this is just the beginning.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tennis and ice cream . . .

Harrison is taking tennis lessons this summer. Tonight was his first lesson so the whole family went to cheer him on. He did great! One of his instructors said he was a natural. I am happy he enjoyed himself. He looked awfully cute.


McCartney hung around in some trees . . .

Then we all went for some ice cream. . .

We had loads of fun!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rules . . .

I am a very rule oriented person. I think it is partially related to my OCD, and partially because my dad was a stickler for rules. I was raised to respect rules and follow them always. I was the kid that was no fun. I was the kid who said, "You aren't supposed to be doing that!"

We have a situation in our town that has got some people up in arms. A local high school graduate finished school early and went into the Marines. She recently finished boot camp and came back for graduation. The school district's policy is that all students must wear a cap and gown to take part in their graduation ceremony. She wanted to wear her dress blues. They said no. She decided to wear her dress blues and sit in the stands.

Military protocol says that her dress blues are fit for this type of ceremony. The district has rules.

I think the rule is that you wear a cap and gown to graduation. If you want to participate, you wear the cap and gown. If we let her wear dress blues everyone would want to wear something different. I agree that what she is doing is honorable. I don't think that a high school rule is more important than military protocol, I just think that rules of the event she is partaking in should be followed.

I don't mean to sound argumentative at all, my husband is a veteran and I am proud of his service, but I guess that my question is that if it is a rule, why should it be allowed to be broken? I get that she was proud, I'm sure her school was proud of her. I know her fellow students were proud of her, but why does that entitle her to any different treatment. It is not that I am against her or her wearing her uniform, I am just saying a rule is a rule. If they begin to add exceptions, then it just snowballs.

This same situation happened in Pennsylvania last week.
Congressman Jason Altmire says that the Marines have told Starr not to wear her uniform. Marine higher-ups told Starr to follow orders and wear the cap and gown, enjoy herself and prepare to serve her country. The school said Tuesday that she could wear the uniform and she chose to wear the cap and gown.

What do you think?

I may be on to something . . .

Dustin is constantly messing with our animals. He is particularly obsessed with the dogs. Yesterday, I was upstairs doing a project in the bathroom and I sent him downstairs for something. The dogs were in the hall because they prefer to be by me when he is around since he torments them. When he came back up the steps, my back was turned. My quiet dog, who never barks and is particularly mellow let out a very alarming couple of barks. It was the kind of barking you expect when someone is breaking into your house. I whipped around to see Dustin cowering at the door to the bathroom.

I asked him if that shocked him. He said yes. I asked why Cayenne was barking like that and he said he was coming up the stairs making an angry face. when I asked him to make it for me I realized why she was barking. He was bearing his teeth to her and looking pretty menacing. The bark alarmed me because I could hear the fear in her "voice". While I don't think she would ever hurt him, I know she felt threatened and was telling me about it.

We have talked a lot of times about the dogs and why we don't mess with them. We have explained that dogs cannot tell you to leave them alone, so they bite. We have tried and tried to get through to Dustin. It has not worked. He is constantly calling them to him and holding them even when they are done. He hits and swats at them as they walk by. He swings his feet under the table and kicks them. He grabs their tails. I don't think he is trying to hurt them, I just think he likes the sense of control he gets. He has to be constantly watched around the dogs as well as the cat and the birds. Yesterday I had an idea.

I took him downstairs and googled images of dog bites. I showed him what could happen if he is bitten by a dog who is provoked. He was visibly shaken. Later he did try to grab the smaller dog, Wiki. I asked him if he wanted to see pictures and he said, "That's only for big dogs" so I googled small dog bites and he learned that even small dogs can do quite a bit of damage.

He did not touch an animals the rest of the day. He did not even call one over to him in his chair. That my friends is PROGRESS!

Will it hold through to today? Who knows? Perhaps the visual will last for awhile and he will remember there are consequences to his actions.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The lawn . . .

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is Underwear Boy mowing the lawn for the first time. Now, I have to tell you that I LOVE to mow the lawn! I love looking back and seeing the finished product and feeling a sense of accomplishment. It is a true love. I also think I like it so much because I do not have to hear whining, crying and arguing while I am mowing.

Today, Dustin asked if he could mow. He had been having a wonderful day so I agreed. While I understand he looks perfectly "normal" to most people, allowing a child who has no impulse control and an IQ under 50 to wield a piece of equipment that could cut his toes off if not careful was a bit daunting. (And don't look too carefully as he does not have shoes on! My dad would have a fit!) I stood right with him and held the cord. When I backed up to take this picture he ran over the cord! D'oh! He got lucky and it did not cut through. He did finish (and even do the abandoned house next door) with me next to him and he did a great job!

It's funny how the things that so many families take for granted are such an accomplishment for us! He was very proud of himself. And so was I.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

I have overtime this week so far. I don't usually put Dustin on the bus, his dad does. Today I am because Robert is dropping the littles off for me. This has been what I have been hearing for about 20 minutes. This is just the last 4 minutes or so.

You made me miss my bus.
It's never going to come.
I have to go to school!
Can you call the bus place and tell them to come back.
Oh my gosh! The bus is never cooooming.
Mooooooooom, the bus isn't here.
Mom, is it almost time?
I told you we were going to miss the buuuuuuuuuus.
I haffffffffffffff to go to schoooooooooooool.
Come on buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuus. Commmmmmme get me.
Mom, I am mad at you the bus isn't coming.
Where is the buuuuuus?
Will you drop me off at school?
Mom, Mom, MOM, I hate you!
Mom, I love you will you take me to school?
Oh my goooooodnesss! Where is my BUS!
Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhh, I want my bus!
Holy Cow! My bus is late.
Mom, you made me miss my bus. My teachers are going to be mad at you.
I'm telling on you! Do you hear me?
Mom, Mom, Mom, you're ignoring me!
I hate you! I missssssed my buuuuuuuuuuuuus!
Mom, I hafto go to school today. My friend's will miss me.
Ohhhhhhhhhhh Busssssssssssssssss! Where are you? Come get meeeeeeeeee!
Mom, I am mad at you. you are going to jail.
Mom, Mom, Mom, are you listening. I'm telling my teacher on you!

Oh there it is! Nevermind, I love you have a good day mom!

The entire time I was just sitting here typing. If I said anything at all he would get more agitated. Lord, I could barely control myself. Help me.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Random Monday . . .

I am doing the Couch to 5K progam. I started week one over this week because my mom is doing it with me. We look ridiculous, but we are moving!

I went to see a friend's band perform Saturday. I took McCartney because it was in a restarurant. She started getting all starry eyed and said the words every mother dreads . . . "Mommy, I like boys with guitars". Ack!! (like mother like daughter!)

I went the same night to see another band from Nashville. Their front man is a local guy. IT was a fun time. I love me some rock-a-billy on a Saturday night! Of course I took my camera and I had a fun night out.

We had another power outaga in my area last night. No storm, so it must have been a fluke. We are on one of the city's oldest grids. A few yeas back we had an awful summer where we were without power quite a bit. I cannot handle it! I hope this summer is not bad, I may have to runaway (definitely not in my underwear)

Friday, June 03, 2011

Perspective . . .

It's all about perspective. I have a friend who is going through some mighty difficult things right now. It puts all the running that "underwear boy" does in perspective. It's rough, life altering stuff. I just have to phone the police, be embarrassed and do some chasing. It's all about perspective.

I read a blog post today from a momma who has a medically fragile child who is on a ventilator. They were getting ice cream yesterday and someone asked her "What's wrong with her?". She was angry that someone could be that rude. Of course there is nothing "wrong" with her child, but this lady was asking about her difficulties and why she is in a wheelchair hooked up to tubes and wires. There should've been a better way to ask without being so blunt. It might be easy for me to tell this mom to CHILL and get over it she will likely get this more than once, but I am not in her position. It is all about perspective.

In the same frame, it would be easy for her to tell me to CHILL about the running out that "underwear boy" does because at least my child can run and play and breath on his own. It's all about perspective.

Funny thing is, I always thought I would prefer my child to have a visible disability so people would know something is "wrong" with him or different about him, but perhaps that would change my perspective and I would like a hidden one.

Who knows? We have to live with what we are dealt with. It does make it easier to read about other people perspectives and take a look at our own positives and negatives and how they fit into the world around us. This makes us better people, more compassionate and willing to help others. This is what blogging and reading other blogs does for me.

For that I am thankful.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

New blog . . .

When the last Orlando retreat was over and Christine made that map of all of us trauma mommas, Kathleen Benckendorf decided to create some closed groups on facebook for people in our same states to connect. Fabulous idea!

I met an awesome momma named Becky who lives in the southern part of my state. She has started a new blog and you really should go on over and visit. Head on over to The Radical Life and give her some love. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Orrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrlando . . .

I am here to announce that I am going to Orlando 2012.

Yep, that's right, I will be attending the Third Annual Early Trauma and Attachment Annual Meeting.

I did not think this was something I would ever do. This past month has been extremely difficult and I have received some very kind and encouraging words from some momma's around the blogosphere. I really NEED to see these women. I NEED to spend time with women who have read my malarky, cried tears with me, thought of us in difficult times, prayed for my family, and given so very much to their own families each and every day.

I spoke to the hubby last week and he told me to go.

He told me to run.

He told me to enjoy.

And I plan to.

I am staying in Enchanted Suites with the incomparable GB's Mom as our house mom. I can't hardly wait.

Are you going?