Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy Christmas

We had such a happy Christmas this year, though it didn't come without its trials.  

As any parent knows, Christmas really starts the night before, when all the presents are set out.  If you look closely, you'll notice that the stockings on the right are set on the floor.  They were so stuffed with goodies that they were causing the holders to tumble off the mantel, so we had to set the stockings down.  Sometime around 1 a.m., I heard rustling among the packages.  Given the vast quantity of cats that we own, I assumed that one of them was pulling tissue paper out of the sacks around the tree.  When I went to check, however, Speed Bump was the culprit.  The naughty dog had gotten into Oz's stocking and devoured an entire package of black licorice bullets.

For the record, black licorice doesn't harm dogs but does give them horrendous diarrhea.  And when the dog goes outside the next morning, leaves a mess on the porch, and then manages to get some on his back paws that he tracks back into the house... well, THAT is a memorable odor.  It was a heck of a way to wake up!

Still, we finally got the dog imprisoned in the garage and sat down to open gifts.

When I was a little girl, I had a Pogo Ball.  Now my girl has one, too.
Her favorite gift - a small radio and purple headphones
A step-by-step baking book - the kids have already made apple streusel bars!
Happy Christmas boy who just opened his metal detector
Oz brought out a new, properly-sized bike while we were opening other gifts
The Epic Perplexus had been on his list for months
A 'butterfly' chair to replace the papasan chair she broke last year.
This one's much sturdier and much more... well, FLASHY.
Oz enjoyed his Christmas, too.  The kids gave him a new lamp for his office.
Oz and I never get to play Santa at our house.  The kids insist on doing it all themselves!
My girl instantly wanted to try out her Pogo Ball.  This makes me proud.
Lots of smiles wreathed faces this Christmas.  After the presents, we ate our traditional Christmas cinnamon rolls before bundling up and heading over to my dad's for the rest of the day.  We were supposed to get snow on Christmas, but it all headed south and tormented others for the day.  We could use the moisture, and I can't say that I wasn't hoping for a white Christmas, but it was nice not to have to worry about ice on the roads.

Tomorrow - the kids and their projects!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Big Day Cometh

Ever notice how things sound so much more classy if you add 'eth' to the end of it?  Except it reminds me of the movie "10 Things I Hate About You" where the nerdy male leads are at the prom and announce that things "hath hitteth the fan... eth."  And then the ending loses all sense of classiness whatsoever.

I'm digressing and haven't even started the post yet!

Tomorrow is Christmas.  We visited my mom over the weekend and dropped by my sister's cute new house on the way home so we could finally say we've seen it.  We visited Oz's grandmother yesterday and exchanged gifts with two of his brothers, his mom/stepdad, and his grandmother/stepgrandfather.  The only people we haven't seen yet are my dad and stepmom.  We're supposed to see them tomorrow.

HOWEVER... and this is a really excited however... it's supposed to SNOW tomorrow.  There's still some debate as to the quantity of snow, but the general consensus seems to be about 3" where we live.  That's enough to keep us firmly at home, since we won't be able to get out of our driveway, let alone our neighborhood, because the entrance to our neighborhood is a fairly steep hill and our driveway is equally steep.  So we'll see how the day pans out.  My dad may be bringing dinner to us since they have a four-wheel drive truck, but even that's up in the air right now.  I'm not worried.  I'm just excited to see snow.  Last year all we had was the most meager of dustings at one point, so I would love it if there was enough on the ground for the kids to go out front and make a snowman.

Today we're just relaxing at home.  I'm doing a few mundane chores like laundry and making detergent, and later I'll put together some cinnamon rolls for tomorrow's breakfast, but mostly we're sitting on our backsides and just chilling.  It's lovely.

I hope everyone gets to have a great, safe day tomorrow, no matter what your plans!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, my little boy would snuggle up on my lap and fall asleep.

Now?  Well, he doesn't fit.

But he still falls asleep.  And when he wakes up?

Well... he was a little groggy.

Groggy boys are a tad grumpy.

But they're always adorable.

Monday, December 17, 2012

M1 and Writing

M1 has always been a reluctant writer.  He doesn't like putting words to a page, though he's magnificent at telling stories.  I vividly remember a little 5-year-old boy coming home from preschool and telling me a story about a boy in an apple tree.  It was such a beautiful story that I mentioned it to his teacher the next day and asked which book she had read.  Turned out that there was no such book and my son had invented the story on the spot.  It shocked me (in a good way).  Still, if I ask him to put pen or pencil to paper - or fingers to keyboard - I get a lot of resistance and a lot of stilted words and formulaic sentences.


I wrote a week or so ago about M2's writing project.  At the same time, M1 was doing one.  Because it's harder for him and I ask for longer paragraphs, it took him longer.  Besides anything else, we spent a lot of time finding his voice.  When he first whipped out an outline/rough draft, it read like this:  First, we did then.  Then, we did this.  Next, this happened.  Finally, this.  It was great.  Well, yes, it was, but you'd never have known by reading that paper.  I finally videotaped him telling me about Christmas and then transcribed what he said.  Then I told him, more or less, that he was putting the cart before the horse when it came to structure in his paper.  He was working so hard to make sure the bones of the paper were decent that he forgot that the depth and skin are what people notice the most.  I had to remind him that he can always add structure but he can't always add details and the fun bits of information that make something worth reading.

I don't know if it'll stick, but we did make some progress, and I'm glad. 

M1's story:

               I had a lot of presents on Christmas morning 2011. My favorite parts were the presents and stockings. My sister and I had a blast that morning.

               We were awakened by a cat falling out of the Christmas tree. It sounded like Santa had fallen out of the chimney onto our tree. For a while we talked about what we would do that morning and investigated our presents. Maggie discovered that she had a pink papasan chair. I figured out that I had a lot of small presents but no big presents.

I decided to wake up Mom and Dad. We pounced on Dad to wake him up and then shook the bed to wake up Doom. They grunted, “Oof,” and said, “Get off and wait by the tree!” We waited by the tree until they came in. It seemed like hours.

Finally they came into the living room. As soon as they sat down we launched into our presents. I found a Kindle Fire in one of mine; in another I found a box of Horrible Histories. Under a blanket, my sister found a pink papasan chair. I was so excited that I couldn’t remember anything (of anyone else’s) other than that papasan chair. I was happy that I could have Plants vs. Zombies on the Kindle Fire and turn brains into balls with limewater using a recipe from Horrible Histories. After we opened our presents we opened our stockings and found good things of all kinds. We found thick glow sticks, Tim Tams, Violet Crumbles, Twistz and a type of chocolate with a cup and a half of milk. It was an absolutely wonderful Christmas.

               There was so much delight on Christmas morning I could explode. It was the best day of my life.


On an unrelated note, I have things to say about recent events, but I'm waiting until the media and investigators are done with what they do.  Then I'll be able to talk.  Right now I'm still processing.  As many of us are.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just Keep Swimming

I have to tell myself to just keep swimming a lot this week.  Between M2's Christmas concert, M1's ongoing swim practices and class, various appointments (dentist, doctor, etc.), and Christmas itself, I'm about fried.

I'm not complaining too much.  After all, I know it could be worse.  But the thing that made me the happiest today was finding out that M2 doesn't have a violin lesson next week because that week is reserved for make-up lessons and we haven't missed any this semester.  It felt so good to delete that from my calendar!

I will survive.  I know this.  But if you don't hear much out of me between now and, say, January, you'll have to forgive me.  Time is of the essence, and the kids won't stay little and excited about Christmas forever!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


So the DSM-V (which apparently is now called the DSM-5) reportedly has been finalized.  It is projected to be published in May 2013.  In some ways, I've been wondering what's been going to be in this new book for a long time; in other ways, I couldn't care less.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure how much it will affect us.  M1's current diagnoses were made when he was 5, and I haven't felt a compelling need to get him reevaluated since.  Technically his diagnoses are PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) combined type, and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).  However, I'm almost 100% sure the anxiety was simply due to the fact that he was in kindergarten at the time and was basically running on 'high' 24/7, and I'm quite sure that if I had him retested now, the PDD-NOS would be a full diagnosis of Asperger's.  Under the new DSM-5, however, it won't matter which of those he has.  They're all lumped together under Autism Spectrum Disorder.  OK, so theoretically this should make it easier for us to get treatment, since insurance companies and clinics will have to plan treatment for all cases equally.  I've heard that some parents are upset that their child who was formerly 'high-functioning autistic' will now be under the same umbrella as a severely autistic child, but honestly, if they're all on the same spectrum, I hardly see that it matters.  The treatment for both is similar and has to be tailored to the individual child regardless of the 'type' of autism.

M2's diagnoses have the potential to change as well.  Right now she has the working diagnoses of mood disorder NOS, GAD, and separation anxiety. The first one has the most potential for change; that, however, was a given when we got the diagnosis.  She has been stable now - more or less - for nearly a year, and sometimes I wonder if perhaps all her depression and manic actions were just a phase that she was going through.  Still, it's entirely likely that they will recur at some point, because I can also be stable for years before again flinging myself off the deep end.  I hope she isn't like me, but if she is, then I suspect any new diagnoses would fall under the new DSM category of 'disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.'  That fits her manic/depressive phases to a T.  But we shall see.  Again, I suspect treatment for that would be similar to that of her current diagnosis, so what does it matter?  What's in a name, anyway?

The one new thing that really caught my eye, though, is something I haven't touched on here, largely because it has only been a recurrent issue, not a constant one.  Lately, though, it's reared its ugly head again, and I want to share it with you, not to embarrass my son (though no doubt it would) but simply to raise awareness of an issue that I find many families struggle with, especially families with socially impaired or ADHD children (primarily boys).  It's to be called Internet use gaming disorder.  In short, electronics addiction.  M1 struggles with this and always has.  It's hard to use the word 'addiction' when talking about a 10-year-old boy, but what else does one have to consider when catching your son with stolen electronics under his sheets at 12:30 a.m.?  I struggle with whether this is really a diagnosis or simply another symptom of his Asperger's or ADHD, but I suspect that if I brought it to the attention of doctors after the DSM-5 is published, it's a diagnosis that would be added to his list.

Some people would say that I simply haven't parented him right.  Either I've been too strict with electronics and he's begging for more freedom, or I've been too lax and just need to make more rules.  Before we go further, let me tell you how electronics time works in our house. (I'm aware that these folks just need to go take a long walk off a short pier into a bayou full of hungry alligators, but I'm laying it all on the table today, so bear with me.)

Rule #1:  No more than an hour or two of screen time per day.  Some days we have no screen time; other days he gets the full complement.  It varies. 
Rule #2:  All chores must be completed before screen time occurs.  'Nuff said there, I think.
Rule #3:  When screen time is up, you must turn off the device within 5 minutes.  I had to implement this rule when 'I have to save/get back home/finish this episode' turned into another 30 minutes of screen time.

On the computers, we have passwords, and the content is more or less controlled.  On the TV upstairs, we have parental controls locked down for content and time.  When they're borrowing an iPad, they have to stay where we can see or hear what they're playing.  In other words, we're hardly lax parents, but usually when they ask for screen time, if chores are done, they get it.  And yet, if you ask M1, we're tyrants.  We never let him have as much screen time as he wants.  When he does get screen time, he begs for more.  He gets angry when you make him turn things off.  He gets very upset if you don't say yes to his demands right away.  If he's been promised electronics 'later,' you won't hear anything else until he gets that time... and if we're out somewhere, the instant we hit the door, it's, "Can I have my electronics time now??"  If the electronics are in his room, he will be found on them at 12, 1, and 2 a.m. with great regularity.  If I take them away, he steals them back - or, once and very memorably - steals his sister's electronics just to get his 'fix.'  In many ways, his electronics obsession sounds like an addiction.

Unlike an addiction, however, I can't take away all electronics.  I can keep them out of his room, yes, but he's going to need computers to do school work, to send e-mails, and to do research.  He's going to have a phone to make phone calls and send texts - and probably play games - when he gets older.  He will no doubt use computers daily in whatever job he has as an adult.  This isn't like alcohol or drugs, which one can avoid simply by avoiding the atmosphere and/or the product itself.  It isn't like gambling, which can be avoided with more difficulty but with a large degree of success.  This is why I suspect that this diagnosis in the DSM-5 is simply a symptom of an underlying disorder, not a disorder in its own right.  But I'm not the powers that be, and I don't get to make that decision.  I can, however, keep an eye on him and decide if he needs special treatment for it.  For now, like I said, I keep electronics out of his room and make sure he uses them under special circumstances only.  If he gets older and the usage gets more disruptive and I'm no longer able to help (as teens rarely want to listen to their parents), there may be external help available for him, and maybe some books will be written on the topic in the next few years.  I might not approve of the diagnosis as such, but it's kind of nice to know that it'll be there to fall back on if we have to.