Sunday, July 31, 2011

Summer Stops Here

The children start school on Wednesday.  I will be filling out lesson plans in M1's day planner shortly after finishing this blog post.  M2 and I get to go to orientation night at the school tomorrow.  On Tuesday I'll be running around shopping for school supplies for both kids and trying to make sure everyone gets to bed on time (M1's swim team practice is skipping a week between the end of summer and the start of the fall session, so he won't have that to keep him up late). 

It's frustrating that summer break is over so quickly because despite the daily extreme heat (the highs this week are still supposed to be over 100, and there's no end in the foreseeable future), it's been pretty good!  We got to go swimming a lot more this year and kept pretty busy with activities, crafts, projects, seeing friends, and running all the typical errands that happen when you're maintaining a household. 

M2 read "Charlotte's Web" and now heads to the youth section of the library instead of the kids' section.  She still likes picture books, but only when she wants what she and M1 deem "brain candy." 

M1 built robots and got a self-motivated head start on the chemistry we'll be studying this year. 

They've made fizzy drinks, bouncy balls, batches of slime, dinners, desserts (last night M1 made an Andes mint chocolate sauce to go over ice cream), crystals, genie bottles, Lego creations, pillow and blanket forts, and costumes out of old clothes donated by Oz and I. 

They've helped with the garden, the chickens, the horses, the cats, the dogs, and a friend's rat.

We've stayed up late, watched movies, had our annual July Fourth bash, danced in the rare burst of rain, picked flowers, and wandered down to check the blackberries that never did materialize this year.

When you look at all that, eight weeks really isn't long enough!  I'll be happy to get the kids back into a regular schedule (and they're happy about it, too), but I hate giving up the freedom of summer.

Then again, when fall arrives with cooler temperatures, I'll be here with bells on and a tent waiting!  The kids can't wait till they can camp in the back yard again.

I guess there's always something to look forward to after all :)  Happy Upcoming School Year, everyone!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Watching the Crash

M2 has been 'up' lately.  In general, this is positive.  I deal much better with hypomanic/manic behavior than depressed behavior because having a child with ADHD is more or less the same thing, and I'm used to ADHD!  The only difference between the two is the rages that can accompany a manic episode... ADHD kids don't really 'rage.'  They get mad and throw fits, but the fits don't last three hours and don't involve breaking things, hitting, biting, kicking, etc.

Anyway, as I said, M1 has been 'up.'  We went on a guided tour of the Gilcrease Museum yesterday with some of our friends, and it ROCKED.  The tour guide/docent was an amazing woman with a deep love for kids, and it showed throughout the entire tour.  The kids loved her; I loved her.  Both kids (all the kids who attended) behaved amazingly well, showed off their knowledge, took turns, and were just impressive in their behavior.  If you're local and ever get a chance, GO.

We got home around 12:30 p.m., and M2 promptly launched into a 20-minute crying jag.  She stomped to her room and finished her cry before she came out and got a veggie corn dog for lunch... and then got upset all over again because my lunch wasn't ready when hers was and I was busy getting my lunch and filling the hummingbird feeder rather than sitting down with her. 

After we ate, she spent some quiet time in her room and emerged back on top of the world and bounced around the house like a springloaded 4-foot-tall pixie-faced she-demon.  I made a note in my head that something was bound to happen sooner or later.  What goes up must come down, after all, and her moods have been extremely labile lately.  We took the kids out for Cherry Berry last night, and then they got into a fight on the way home because M2 whacked M1 on the head, so he thought that meant he could grab her nose and twist.  I had to become 'that mom' who's turned around in the car yelling at the children while holding the phone in her other hand because there's a friend having a crisis on the other end of the line and she's not hanging up till the conversation is finished.  (No, really, I did have a friend with a crisis on the phone.  I was even going to go crash her apartment with a bottle of wine till she texted me and said she was going to take some Nyquil and go to bed, and I figured wine and Nyquil really didn't mix.) 

M2 didn't really want to go to bed at all, but we eventually got her nestled in between the sheets, and she stayed there till this morning... when she tiggered down the hall to announce her good-morning self to the world, fully dressed and as chipper as could be.

She stayed 'up' all day, with only one minor meltdown occurring when she realized that the pearl necklace she had made for her flapper costume was lost (no doubt stuffed somewhere... she's so scatterbrained these days that I'm usually amazed she can remember her own name when I yell it). 

Then... then... THEN...

Oz took M1 to swim practice and I tucked M2 into bed.

She waited about 3 minutes, then got up.

I tucked her in again.

She got up bawling her head off.  The sad cry, not the mad cry.  Not the I'm-crying-to-see-if-it-gets-me-attention cry.  Not even the I've-got-something-to-tell-you cry or the I-don't-wanna-sleep-in-my-room cry.  The sad cry.

This was at 7:30.  If I tried to put her back to bed, she flipped out and grabbed me like a hoarder losing a doll collection.  Then she'd cry some more.  If I did manage to leave, she followed me out, wailing, and the process would start all over again.  Staying with her didn't help matters, because she wouldn't close her eyes or loosen her grip enough to where she would fall asleep and I could extract myself.

She had no idea why she was crying.  She had no idea why she felt sad, and yes, she really truly had been happy all day but was really truly sad now.  She was scared, too, but didn't know why.  She felt like nobody cared about her and that she should just go live somewhere else - she didn't know where, but she knew she'd have to walk there.  Mostly she didn't want to talk, though.  She just wanted to hang onto me for dear life.

By the time Oz and M1 got back home around 9:15, I'd given up trying to keep her in her room and had let her lay on the floor at my feet (not that I told her to be there... I just told her she wasn't allowed on my lap because I was trying to catch up on e-mails that I hadn't read in, oh, about 36 hours, and she decided my feet were an acceptable alternative).  Oz told her that he was tucking her in, and she willingly got up and followed him to the bedroom, where - 45 minutes later - she's dead to the world and completely oblivious to the cricket that just scared the poo out of M1 because he thought it was "something mechanical" trying to drill into his room.

It's gonna be a long night, and my guess is that 'up' won't be here tomorrow.  I think we're due for a day of 'down.'

Bleh.  Mood swings.  Who needs 'em anyway?!?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's Official

The garden is giving up its ghost.  It's been too stinkin' dry and too bloody hot for too dang long.  The cucumbers are turning yellow.  The tomato leaves are curling.  The green bean plants are being devoured by grasshoppers who think the shade of the cucumber and squash leaves are a safe haven, except they're wrong because the squash and cucumber leaves are being devoured by the squash beetles.  The herbs are drying where they sit.  The watermelon plants are the only things still truly alive, and even that's subject to some debate.

In other words, the war is over.  The heat has won.  The brown flag of botanical surrender is waving.


Monday, July 25, 2011

I Shouldn't, But...

I'm gonna tell you what my kids have decided to be for Halloween.

I'll give you a few hints first.

They don't want to be zombies or devils or cheerleaders or video game characters. 

No animals. 

No movie characters.

No singers or mythical characters or anything inanimated (like a crayon or pumpkin).

No.  None of that.  None of this scary/cutesy business for my duo.

M1 wants to be a gangsta:

since he already has a silver hat and suit pants and a vest and tie and shirt and shoes.  All we'll have to get him is a jacket.  And maybe I'll even let him carry his fake gun.

M2 saw his costume idea and was inspired to be:

A flapper.

Darn skippy.  She wants the boa and cute shoes to go with it, too.

My Halloween just got a lot more interesting.

Friday, July 22, 2011

School of Hard Knocks

I picked M1 up from camp today.  M2 and I have had a quiet couple of days at home (I say 'quiet' what I mean is that she hasn't thrown anything, fits or otherwise, in the past couple days, not that we haven't been busy... we've definitely been busy), and she was ready to go pick him up.  Just as I was telling her to get her shoes on so we could head out the door, the phone rang.

It was the camp.

M1 had been punched in the face by another kid and was in the office with an ice pack.

Now... the gut reaction of any parent when faced with this scenario is to defend your child, declare war, and start gathering resources for a counter-attack, right?  Of course!  But the thing about having a child with a psychiatric issue of any kind is that you learn early to take a deep breath and get both sides of a story before going ballistic.  So I listened.  The woman on the other end of the line very calmly told me what had happened.  She explained that the other child had been punished and told me she was more than happy to talk when I came to pick M1 up; she just didn't want the "huge shiner" to come as a surprise when I arrived.

However, I didn't need to talk.  I knew from her words exactly what had happened - both sides of the story. 

Here's what went down, as cobbled together from my experience, M1's version, and the information given to me by the camp supervisor:  The kids were in the pool.  M1 is a loner (comes with the Asperger's territory), so he was playing by himself.  He was likely either imagining himself in a scenario and it somehow involved splashing or he was trying to play with these older kids and it didn't compute that splashing does not equal playing.  Either way, in the process of his play, he was splashing some of the bigger kids.  They told him to quit.  He claims he never heard them, and I believe that.  When he's in his fantasy land, particularly after a full day of activity, he doesn't hear things... or, if he thought he was playing with them, then he thought they were just playing back.  So he kept splashing.  They told him - again - to stop.  No dice.  They moved.  M1 moved with them.  They told him to quit a third time, and when M1 didn't respond, one of them got seriously upset and decked him.

Obviously I'm not happy about the fact that some kid hit mine.  It ain't cool, it ain't what's supposed to happen, and if I'd been there, it wouldn't have been pretty.  But the reality - as much as it pains me to admit it - is that I've told M1 time and time and time again that this precise thing was going to happen to him someday if he didn't quit bugging people when they ask/tell/order him to.  My friends have heard me.  My family has heard me.  Heck, my mother-in-law called this afternoon to check on M1 when she heard about his battle wound and told me she's told him the same thing a couple times.  A couple weeks ago when we were at a pool with a few other families, M1 was wrestling with some other boys and knocked one of the younger kids in the face.  It was an accident, but after that happened, the other boys decided to play something different, something that wouldn't end with injury.  However, I had to force M1 to stay away from them because he didn't want to play the 'new' game... all he wanted to do was go back and start wrestling all over again!  So I knew.  I knew that as much as I didn't like it, this may have been just the ticket to get M1 to realize that respecting boundaries is not optional.

I gave M1 a hug, put him in the car, and took him home.  I gave him ibuprofen, an ice pack, and some topical anesthesia, and we talked.  I think he realizes now that he needs to work a little more on social skills, which he's never been keen to do because he truly believes he's just fine.  He definitely understands that Mama does know what she's talking about when she warns him what might happen.

It sucks.  It really sucks.  I hate seeing my baby hurt, and I did suggest that next year he might consider just going to science- or other academic-oriented camps rather than a regular day camp, but we'll see.

For now, I just gotta love him.  He's my baby, after all.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mom Never Gets the Whole Story

M1 headed to camp this morning.  I love this camp.  It's been around for decades, the staff is amazing, and best of all, it's close to the house!  M1 went for the first time last year, and he's been impatient to go again.  He goes to a camp called Camp 1/2 & 1/2, because they spend two days at a day camp and three days (two nights) at a camp about an hour away. 

Last year, M1 ran into a slight bully problem.  I never got a phone call about it, though I'm sure I would have if things had gotten out of hand, and I never even saw the other kid involved.  (Honestly, I don't even know his name and I'm not sure M1 does, either.)  However, I can assume that M1 antagonized him in some way and then the other kid retaliated to an extent that M1 couldn't handle.  And kept retaliating.  In any case, by the end of the week, M1 had had enough and was ready to escape.

When M1 got in the van at the end of the day today, I asked him about his group.

"It's good," he said.

"Good... did you get along with everyone?"

"Well, I mostly played by myself."

Not unexpected.  "But you liked the people in your group."

"Yeah, I do.  This year is better than last year.  I saw that guy from last year, though."


"Yeah, and my conscience told me that I should go after him and get revenge, but I didn't listen to it and I walked away."

"Good choice."

And that was that... until M1 was telling Oz all about his day on the phone later, via FaceTime.  I was holding the phone while M1 talked, so it wasn't like I was eavesdropping. 

"So no bullies this year, huh?"  Oz asked.

"No.  Well, I saw the guy from last year.  At least, I think it must have been him because he looked almost exactly like him and he came up to me and said that he remembered a guy from 1/2 & 1/2 last year who looked like me and attacked him."


"Yeah, and I said that I remembered a guy from last year, but he attacked me... and then we started the fights again until I realized that it wasn't a smart idea, and then I found a way to get away and I avoided him for the rest of the day.  [slight pause] And I think I'll avoid him the rest of the week, too."

*facepalm*  I love the half-truths that moms get before the rest of the story comes out.  Bottom line, though, is that he made the right choice, and for that, I give him credit.  I'll keep my mouth shut about the rest!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

More Light Reading

Well, it's not "tomorrow," but I'm finally getting around to this.  It's been a long week.  Let me start with some of the books that I started reading for M1 when I first learned he had Asperger's.  Ironically, I never worried about his ADHD and don't have a single book relating to that.  For some reason, I've never doubted my ability to raise a child with ADHD... it's the Asperger's that gets me.

This is to Asperger's syndrome what "The Bipolar Child" is to bipolar disorder.  It's an amazing resource, and it's as useful for adults with Asperger's as it is to parents of children with the disorder.  However, it wasn't very helpful for M1.  So I got a couple books for him:  First this one
 and more recently,

The first one is written by a boy with Asperger's.  M1 really enjoyed it and was thrilled to learn that there really are other kids out there who understand what he feels and what it's like to live with the way he thinks.  The second book is a workbook that he and I are working through together.  It helps both of us.  He gains insight into the way he reacts to the world, and I gain insight into ways to help him.  He can't wait to finish it and show it to all his relatives so they can help him when he gets frustrated.

That's all we have for his Asperger's, but since he's been struggling with his allergies this summer, I purchased the Kindle version of this book:

I'm not done reading it yet (I'm only reading it during swim sessions), but so far, it's been quite enlightening.  It's breaking down the biological aspects of allergies and asthma, what the short- and long-term effects are, and - once I get there - will discuss treatment.  I know there are a million different books on these subjects, but I chose this one because I wanted to start at the beginning... the hows and whys and understand what a treatment needs to do to get rid of the cause rather than just the symptoms. 

Oh, and just for good measure, one last book:

Because all kids need to have fun.  And some days, so do their mamas.

Enjoy your weekend... and stay cool!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Little Light Reading: Bipolar Edition

I lost some hair off the right side of my head today.  I received a 6-inch scratch down my left calf.  Tomorrow the bruises on my hips and right foot will probably make themselves visible.

I'm not complaining.  They are what happens when you have a child with a mood disorder.  Battle wounds, if you will.  Today was a bad day, to be fair, but still.  Battle wounds.

When I decided to blog tonight, I considered a few topics.  I thought about writing an extremely lengthy and involved post about seeing both M2's psychiatrist and therapist on Tuesday, but I don't really want to rehash it all.  I'd rather focus on the positive.  I thought about describing the beautiful humidity-giving rain that we received yesterday and today and ignoring the mood issue altogether, but I couldn't simply brush off everything that's happened this week... today, particularly.  It was when I looked over at my end table and saw the books I'd hauled off my bookshelf that inspiration struck. 




The following list contains books I've read while trying to figure out what's going on with M2.  This is definitely not a comprehensive list of books on stubborn children or those with mood disorders; in fact, I'd love more suggestions.  But it's a start.  If you're struggling with a child and begin to suspect bipolar disorder, these are some suggestions.

This was the first book I read when M2 started having her fits.  I really like Dobson's take on parenting... most of the time.  I own a couple of his other books as well.  But this one, while it might be useful for most children, didn't encompass what I deal with.  It's helpful with M1 on occasion, but in general... no.  Still, it's a good book, and I'm glad I have it.

After that, someone suggested this book:

"The Explosive Child" is, I have discovered, one of the most popular books for parents of children with mood disorders, ODD, etc.  When I first read it, I thought it was sheer bunk.  It's extremely simplistic, basically breaking all potential solutions into three categories, and after I read it, I thought, "What a piece of crap!"  I thought about tossing the book and even laid it in the pile to go to Goodwill.  However... and this is a big however... I found myself mentally referring to it on a regular basis.  After a couple of weeks, I put it back on my bookshelf, where it's lived ever since.  I have an inkling that the book will become even more useful as the kids' teen hormones kick in... I'm already using some of the methods with M1 when he gets angry and disrespectful.  It may be simplistic, but the methods do work.  Mostly.  There are days when nothing's going to work, and I'm going to have to understand that, too.

This book came into my home when someone first mentioned bipolar being a diagnostic possibility.  It is largely considered the 'bible' for many kids with bipolar disorder.  It's extensive, exhaustive, and covers everything from the diagnostic process to how bipolar works biologically to medication options to inpatient treatment to... well, everything.  It's an amazing book, but sometimes it's just a little too much.  So when M2's psychiatrist suggested this book,

I got it.  It covers a lot of the same topics as "The Bipolar Child," but it takes a lighter approach and talks more about comorbid conditions, such as the anxiety that M2 also has.

So that's that.  I hope this helps someone.  If anyone has suggestions, I'm always happy to hear them, because heaven only knows I'm going to need all the resources and help I can get.

Tomorrow... books I own regarding Asperger's disorder, sensory issues, and even allergies.  In other words, books I've read for M1.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Making Dreams Come True

Last week, I posted about M1 getting a surprise invitation from the swim coach to join the swim team.  I talked it over with Oz, M1 talked it over with Oz, we worked out a couple of potential kinks, and in the end, M1 weighed the pros and cons and decided that he'd give it a try.  After all, he said, the worst that could happen would be that he had to wait another year before joining.  I couldn't argue with that logic.

So M1 and I hopped into the van tonight and headed to the pool.  We got there, and I found the coach.  He grinned delightedly when he saw M1 and gave him instructions on where to go.  I went to the observation room and was mentally grateful that I wasn't a nailbiter, because my fingertips would have been bloody and raw.  I watched as the kids set the lane dividers up.  The coach ordered everyone else to warm up while he pulled M1 aside for his tryout - one lap, down and back, freestyle, and one lap, down and back, any other stroke (backstroke is M1's best).  Other rules:  No stopping, no touching the bottom.

He passed.  The look on his face when he ducked under the lane divider and shot me a thumbs-up was priceless. 

I watched for a minute as he tried to work out what everyone else was doing and then ducked out to get the official paperwork done.  By the time I came back, the coach was giving orders and getting the practice formally underway.  M1 was confused at first, and he had a hard time keeping up with everyone else, but he never quit!  Down and back, down and back, he kept going. 

After the practice was over, I caught up with the coach and asked him how M1 had done. 

"He did more than I expected he'd do," was the initial response.  "He'll probably be hungry and tired and really sore tomorrow."

I got instructions on things to work on with him, and then M1 and I headed home.

"Mom?" he said as we walked across the parking lot.


"I honestly didn't think I'd do it.  I had confidence but not that much confidence."

I had to hug him.  I was (am!) so proud.

"You hungry?"  I asked.

"Starving," he said, confused, "but I just ate dinner!"

"Three hours ago, boy, and you've been swimming for an hour!"

"Oh.  [pause]  Can I have food, then?"

I agreed to make him a turkey and Swiss sandwich, "toasted, please."

M1 was silent for a few minutes after that, and I began to wonder if he'd sacked out in the back seat when he spoke.

"I remember when you first told me at level 3 that I had to wait until level 5 to join the swim team," he began.  "And then when [the swim coach] told me I could try out, it was like I was in a maze and had found a shortcut."  He paused.  "Lifting up that divider to join the team was like opening the door to heaven."

I smiled in the dark.  My son, the swimmer.  His dream come true.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I has a flavor!

No, really.  The letter I has a flavor.  I learned this at lunch today.  Here's how it all went down:

M1:  Mom, I know what Y would taste like.

Me:  You know what 'why' would taste like??

M1:  Yes.  It's a letter that's not used very often, so it gets stale.  So it would taste like a box of stale air.

Me:  Oh.  Well... right, then.

M1:  And Z would taste like a box of sawdust, because it gets used the least out of all the letters.  And C would be crisp, like lettuce.

M2:  What about A?

M1:  Applesauce, I think.  Sort of sweet and sort of sour.

M2:  And I know what I would taste like!

M1:  Irresistible?


And now I know... I has a flavor after all.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Things I Do Differently: A List

The following is a list of things that I have now done with/for my children that my parents did not.  This is not a judgment list, because I really, really try hard not to judge other parents, including my own.  I am not walking in their shoes.  This list is merely some observations that my children have made when comparing their childhood lifestyle to my stories of my own. 

Things Oz and I have done that my parents did not:

1.  Earned - and paid - fines at the library. 

2.  Fed my children foods from different cultures.  My dad is a meat-and-potatoes sort, and since both my folks grew up (and I lived until I was nine) in a small farming town, ingredients for something like bibimbap weren't exactly available.  It is delicious stuff, though, and I love hearing my kids ask for it.  Or colcannon.  Or spanikopita.

3.  Held some sort of annual party that wasn't for a birthday.  We enjoy our July 4th get-together.

4.  Sent a child to a private school/homeschooled.  My sister and I did attend good public schools, though.

5.  Seen friends on a regular basis.  Summers were seriously boring when I was young!  There was only so much I could take of my sister before snapping.  That's why I used to take off on my bike for hours on end.

6.  Hidden in a tornado shelter.  Yup... I'm a chicken.

7.  And speaking of chickens... I've owned them... along with many, many other animals.  We always had an animal growing up but not lots.  At one point I owned a hamster and my sister had a cat; when the hamster died, I got a dog.  So we had two animals.  That was the max.

8.  Let my kids cook - actually cook, not just lick the beaters.  They also do laundry and help clean the house.  It amazes my son that I didn't learn how to wield a kitchen knife until I was well into my teens.

9.  Taken the children to see a movie in the theater.  I think my family went to see a movie together twice... once when Oliver & Company first came out in 1988 (my mother seriously does not remember this and honestly thought the re-release was the premiere... only when my sister and I started singing the songs and discussing the toys we owned did she even acknowledge that we might have memories she doesn't) and once to see The Matrix.  To be fair, Oz and I don't take the kids to the theater often, but we have done it!

10.  Owned video games.

It will be interesting to see what my own kids' lists look like someday. :)