Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Meltdowns Continue

So, did you read my post about Christmas and the Chernobyl relationship? Well, we are in full meltdown crisis control over here! I admit, I have been praying for a smooth and 'happy' Christmas but realized after last night that I need to pray mightily for the strength and calm to just get through it without having one of my reactors meltdown itself.

Last night we went to a Sing-Along downtown and of course Preston was bored and anxious and he 'hated it.' Afterward, he started sobbing and moaning because the radio in the car was too loud and his ears hurt. This isn't the first time he has had this reaction to the radio but it was still surprising for me. After sharing with others some issues that he has had with food (its generally a terrible thing - unless it is sugary beyond all reason), people started suggesting a Sensory Processing Disorder of sorts. This seemed like an adequate fit for his food issues with aversions to colors, textures, smells; it doesn't seem to fit quite as well regarding the issue with his ears as it is not an ongoing problem. This is my big, non-medical conclusion to this - his anxiety manifests itself in various forms.

I KNOW he is very anxious about Christmas, his step-sister coming to visit and the Christmas break.  He was complaining of a side ache/stomach cramp on Sunday that seemed to dissipate once coming home from church, rubbing some Serenity essential oil on his wrists and simply relaxing. I think the ear 'tenderness' is also associated with his anxiety and is amplified from stress and lacking the ability to appropriately channel and manage that stress. I personally experience severe abdominal cramping when overly stressed so I can relate on some level to this. As for his "everything is boring and dumb and stupid and I hate it" sentiment, apparently I was the same way growing up and I guess I'm now on the receiving end of every parents wish (include my own parents): "I hope you have a kid just like you when you are grown-up with a family of your own." Yikes. I know I've already wished it upon my kids and I cringe as I think that because really, I wouldn't wish the hardship of raising a child with ADHD, ODD or whatever on anyone else - it, like Christmas, is like getting kicked in the head with an iron boot or like being the floor of a taxi cab.

What I really wanted to do today though is share something Preston's teacher shared with me and it was very validating for me and for my little Preston who deep down doesn't know why he does alot of the things he does and knows he should have more control. From his teacher:

"Update for this week. His grades are up as you can see;  I am hovering to make it happen though.
I want it to get to the point I don't have to check him every few minutes. His behavior was not as good. He can not sit still and blurts from his seat so he got a 'think time.' He was upset, but it is what it is. It is as if his brain does not produce the chemical to help him calm down and he struggles between the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do. Sometimes I swear I see the battle raging in his brain. I wish there was some help he could get so he doesn't have to struggle so hard. We will keep trying here at school. He loves it when he does well and knows there will be consequences when he makes mistakes. I love his perky attitude and don't want to squash it. We will continue on."
She is exactly right, his brain DOESN'T make enough of the right chemicals and his frontal lobe is underdeveloped which is where the ability to focus and determine right and wrong and consequences of both actions occurs. It breaks my heart and I wish there was something magical that could change all of that. I do have an appointment with his psychologist to see what else we can try to help him along. The REALLY good news is that there has been major progress from last year to this year - fewer think times, no missing assignments, greater effort and I was thrilled the other day when walking outside the school with the principal she asked Preston how he was and then said to me, "Well, he's got to be doing good since I haven't seen him this year." That is miraculous!
There is no such thing as perfection only progression. I know there will be set backs (like right now for example with all this Christmas business going down) and he will ebb and flow but if the general direction is that of moving forward and progression, I'm good with that. And so grateful. Mared to all you parents during this last week before Christmas. It's a mother. Peace out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Money Tree

I wish I could claim credit for this darling idea but I can't - I got it from my good friend and I have high hopes for it! Let me introduce to you, the Money Tree...

She originally had this light-bulb moment in attempting to motivate her kids to make their beds and have their rooms picked up before heading off to school. Each Sunday, seven one dollar bills get put on the money tree. If the bedrooms pass inspection for that day, the dollar stays on; if it does not pass inspection that day, a dollar is permanently removed. At the end of the week, the bills that remain get to be taken off and kept by the kiddos. Preston has been motivated to make his bed, brush his teeth and get dressed (the 1-2-3's) with the opportunity for getting a packet of Bunny Gummies in his lunch (in addition to his regular lunch treat) and that has worked for getting him into a morning routine. The money tree for us comes in to play with his work and behavior at school that has been slowly slipping (in part due to the Chernobyl Christmas Effect I'm sure - see last post). 

Amazingly, he has not had any missing assignments this year as he has been completing work in class (which is truly wondrous compared to the two-page long list of missing assignments he would bring home last year). His behavior has been starting to slip as well (that lovely impulsive factor characteristic of ADHD) and he has been struggling to stay focused and do his work (which with ADHD, I'm not totally sure how to get over that one period). But we're going to shoot for some improvement and we're going about it by means of the Money Tree - a real good motivator! I'm rigging his Money Tree as follows:

1. Sunday night of each week he will get seven one dollar bills put on his tree (I went to Michael's and got a bag full of baby clothes pins - the uber tiny ones - to pin the bills to the leaves).
2. He will keep the dollar for homework scoring 70% or better.
3. He will keep the dollar for appropriate behavior at home and in class (moderation in mind considering that he does not have complete control of his impulsive nature).
4. Weekends require that he remains time-out free to keep his dollar (one and two counts do count against him, only getting to three which means a time-out).
5. He gets to collect the remaining dollars on his tree Sunday night as new ones get put on the tree for the following week.
6. He has the choice to save up his money or we will go on a Mommy/Son date and he can choose where he gets to spend his money on Monday afternoon.

I know, I know - this sounds like a bribe and in a way I guess you could call it that. However, sometimes you have to find something that will really motivate your kiddo toward some positive change (no pun intended) and money, with the opportunity to spend it (we'll have to work on that as he gets older) is hugely motivating for him. He was very distraught when we first reviewed how the money tree worked as he was sure he couldn't get always get above 70% (I intentionally started low because he needs something realistic to start with and we will eventually increase to a 80% or B grade for dollar maintenance). I pulled out a stash of homework and spelling tests he brought home that had 100% grades on them and reassured him that he could get good grades on all of his work. I believe in him and he needs to know that.

I'll keep you posted on the success of this endeavor, but I think the money tree is a great idea all the way around as a daily reward/incentive system. If you end up using this for something you need to curb in your kiddo, please email me or post a comment so we can all benefit! Employ and enjoy!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What Christmas and Chernobyl Have In Common

Meltdowns - that's what they have in common. And you just wouldn't imagine it looking at that darling little boy! But yes indeed, Christmas time does in fact equal CRAZY time my friends! And I don't mean race-around-the-malls or spend-hours-on-amazon shopping crazy. Nor do I mean multiple-family-holiday-parties (where kids are jumping off coffee tables and barfing around the buffet line) and demands-on-time-crazy. I mean my kids go crazy - literally. And per Preston's psychologist, kids with ADHD or other mental disorders struggle with Christmas; count on the month of December exacerbating all of your child's worst nuances, tics, characteristics. Imagine how overwhelmed - as an adult - you feel during the holidays, but that as an adult you have the capabilities to deal with it. We all know our kids are not privy to our years of wisdom and refined coping skills, which paves the way for possibly putting us at the threshold of hell for this most wonderful time of year! It brings to mind Robert Stack (Captain Rex Kramer) in Airplane talking to Ted once the plane has landed and he's just rambling into the radio... "Christmas Ted. What's that mean to you? It's like being kicked in the head with an iron boot." Yep. That says it all.

Okay okay, it isn't totally terrible (just mostly) and I'm seeing the fruits of this tree ripen quickly this year. I honestly don't know what else to attribute Preston's outbursts to. Darling little Preston has once again become extraordinarily volatile. The smallest things are setting him off and his outbursts and meltdowns are lasting upwards of thirty minutes with thrashing, weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I don't dare go near the dragon's den while he is blustering flames and smoke; the potential to get burned (or turn into Mama Dragon) is too high. I have started thinking (lovingly) of him as my own little Chernobyl. I would guess that he would rate an 8 or 9 on the International Nuclear Event Scale these days and mandatory evacuations or 30 km radius' to prevent fallout and sickness to neighboring family members is necessary. Sometimes I warn the family with my best computer voice: "Ten seconds to reach minimum safe distance."

Despite my jokes, these are the meltdowns and attitudes and instances that really try my patience and that of the family's. None of us truly understand what is going on in this little fellas mind when his boiler plate explodes and we just have to do our best to not be in his way when it does. I simply escort him to his room to 'work it out' and remind him I love him and I'm there for him when he is able to simmer down. I checked the calendar today and we aren't anywhere near a full moon so I really am thinking that the cogs are being overburdened and there is too much excitement. However, life still goes on and this is what I am going to do to ensure a happier Christmas:

Stay calm.

That's it. I actually think that is the best thing I can do for my family and the only element I have control of. One of my goals this week is to label my actions with the following pre-thought: I CHOOSE. I choose to be calm. I choose to not over-react. I choose to forgive. I choose to be happy. I choose to not let Preston's tantrum throw me. The other thought I have been having is that I am an extraordinarily imperfect person and I need to allow others to be imperfect as well (this has been very helpful when it comes to disagreements with my husband). In being the master of my destiny, I am making a conscious choice in how I act and react and by labeling my thoughts as such, I am more aware of what I need to do better at (say if it ends up that I am choosing to be offended - and most of the time that is so unnecessary and not worth my time and energy). And as far as the rest of my family goes, if I can keep calm I am creating a safer place for them. If I can stay calm, they can feel safe, there is more love.

"People learn best what they are taught with love."
Don Staheli, The Principle of the Thing

Best of luck to you all. I'm choosing to have a peaceful Christmas, whatever that means.


Monday, December 3, 2012

What I Was Most Grateful For This Thanksgiving

I've always loved thanksgiving because I love to eat and my family makes amazing Thanksgiving food! Oh my mother's brined turkey and homemade gravy, my sister-in-law's green bean casserole and pecan pie. It's making my mouth water all over again! I also love the simplicity of it - you gather your loved ones together and enjoy just being with them and EATING! Oftentimes we go around the table and talk about what we are most grateful for. My darling little nephew said how grateful he was for his toys. My sister-in-law talked about how grateful she was for a good brain. SO TRUE! At my family's go-around, something happened that halted the conversation so I never got to say what I was grateful for. More than anything this year, I feel so much gratitude for the people in my life, especially my family. Honestly, I have really lucked out in the people department - my parents are amazing, I adore my brother (and boy did I get lucky with the gal he married - we are cut from the same mold! I love the Heidi!!), my husband and his family and I was blessed to graduate from high school with the most amazing friends.

In particular this year, I have been having regular gratitude moments for my father. My Dad, who has always been Superman to me, had a stroke in September. I was at home getting ready to head out of town when I returned a call to my brother who was expecting his wife to go in to labor at any moment - I thought for sure that the moment had come. Instead, he asked me if anyone had called me yet. Confused, I said no. He said that he just got a call from our neighbor saying that our Dad was in an ambulance on his way to the hospital, possibly having had a stroke. It was a very odd moment because I thought, "What? He can't have a stroke. He's Superman and Superman doesn't have strokes. And who in the world would I go to for some clear, sound advice when I need it?" He has always been my go-to guy, even when he didn't know it (and even when I didn't know it for that matter). My brother was just leaving to go meet him at the hospital, my husband was mid-flight and unavailable and my mom was at a movie with her girlfriends and unreachable. The first and pretty much only thing I could think of to do was pray. I knelt down in my living room and just started to pray.

Pray for this amazing man that I am so blessed to have for my father. We didn't really quite understand each other (well, I was probably the confusing one growing-up) while I was young but became close after I went to college and got married. He always makes me laugh and always helps me to find light in dark situations. He knows all the answers and there’s nothing he can’t do. When I’m not quite sure how to handle a problem or if I need advice about life, a tricky situation or parenting, he's the person I beseech for wisdom.

Life has a funny way of turning around on you in that I grew up trying so hard to be different from my parents (which is so dumb, but I guess its part of being a kid and figuring things out) in every aspect and any time they did try to get me to do things their way I pushed back. I hated to bike because they loved it. I hated the outdoors because they loved it (at least I pretended to hate it). I would try to side on the democratic side of things because they were conservatives and I was a major pill when I would have to do things their way (family pictures, vacations). Amazingly, they just left me to my sulky self and didn’t let me rain on their parade – they always had fun and somehow they were still glad I was around. And the funny thing was that even though I was putting on this big show, I was always secretly watching and taking in everything they said and did.

He would put his foot down when he needed to, but the consequences always fell in line with the crime. He would always end his rebukes with a joke like, “If you do what I say I won’t have to send you to military school.” When I sought help as divorce looked my in the eyes, he never once told me what to do but would pose questions for me, and  then he would always say something totally ridiculous to make me laugh and I’d be able to handle a little bit more. He insisted that I learn to laugh at myself and not take things to seriously. I kept all the notes he would leave in my room when I’d crossed the line; I was always mad reading them but mostly because I knew he was right. You can't argue with sound logic. And he would always find funny ways to just let me know that I wasn't on the right path - such as extension cords, ladles and dumbbells under my sheets and pillow when I got home passed my curfew.

So, in my living room, I just prayed that Superman would be okay. And I shot for the moon praying that he would have no lasting effects and that it would be like this stroke never happened. It was amazing that the day after the stroke, he could talk like nothing had happened. His vision was blurry in one eye and he didn't score so hot on the zoo animal test, but otherwise, he seemed fine. We laughed about ridiculous memories from family vacations and the day after he got home when friends came to visit, he stuffed a pillow up his back and came out to greet them dragging one leg; he was still up to his usual tricks and jokes.

Two months later, I'm sure he has some struggles, but you really wouldn't know he had a stroke. I went on a mountain bike ride with him before we had our Thanksgiving feast - what a tremendous blessing. And as we all went around the table that day I felt so much gratitude for the people in my life. Relationships are what make life fun. They also make it survivable when it gets rough. I am so grateful for my parents - they did an amazing job raising my brother and I; more than anything being great examples. I have a good head on my shoulders which I attribute to a blessing from heaven and from teachings from my parents. I am so grateful to have truly wonderful people in my life and that we still laugh, watch action movies, ski, mountain bike, hike, camp and play pranks on each other. I'm one lucky gal.