Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Taking back my blog - part Noah (chapter two)

Well, actually a redirect to a Philly Moms Blog post I wrote a few days ago. As I finished writing the post originally I realized that it might translate well to the Philly Moms Blog. Since I only have a couple weeks left to go down in SVMG and PMB history, I figured I'd post it there.

So for "part Noah (chapter two)" in a somewhat more generalized form, you can read it here.

When SVMG officially closes its doors I'll put it back up here in its original form.

In other Noah news, we are doing some intense attachment therapy with him this week, and it is amazing! As soon as I have a few minutes (between other obligations) to sit down and write about it I will.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Girl In Translation - a SVMG book club inspired post

When we adopted Noah we had to go to Russia twice. First to meet him and start the court process, and then two months later we we went to finalize the paperwork, go to court, do more paperwork, and then bring him home. 

Being in Russia, especially the first time, was more out of my "comfort zone" than I have ever been. Despite months of preparation and reading, having a fair understanding of how to read the Cyrillic alphabet, and knowing some basic phrases, I felt like I had landed on the moon.

It wasn't that I had never traveled before. I was incredibly lucky to have my grandmother take me to Europe on a tour when I was 16. Because of that experience I saved every penny I could so I could spend a semester abroad in college. After attending school in Scotland I was able to backpack through Great Britain and Europe for two months. So while traveling to Russia was new, being in a new country where I didn't know the language wasn't. I thought I was adventurous.

Part of my fear, discomfort, etc. was knowing my husband and I were doing the biggest, most serious thing, we had ever done in our lives. Bigger even then marrying each other. We were landing in a foreign country with the plan of changing our lives forever. We were finding our child.

There we were in the Moscow airport feeling overwhelmed. Trying to find our driver and hoping we could trust someone that we could barely communicate with. Once we were at our hotel we were exhausted and found something as simple as finding the dining room and ordering dinner was overwhelming. I chuckle now, because of course we had Chicken Kiev as that was the only thing we could understand on the menu. 

While the reason we were there was huge, and life changing, and we were completely overwhelmed, we actually were very well taken care of. We had a driver that was there any time we needed. We had an adorable 16 year old that spoke English and took us site-seeing and overall took care of us. And our adoption coordinators there guided us through the entire process. 

And that is the closest I can come to understanding what it must be like for someone to immigrate to the United States, knowing almost no one and very little about the language or culture. Add into that having to work in a sweat shop and live in a condemned apartment with no heat, but plenty of rats and cockroaches. That part? That part about living? I can't even begin to understand the reality of living like that.

So reading a book like Girl in Translation* by Jean Kwok is fascinating in a very uncomfortable way. Because while the story itself has a happy ending, the journey it describes is so far beyond the reality of my arguably spoiled life, it is almost embarrassing how lucky I am. 

The book itself was a wonderful read. Inspiring and moving. And a look into the reality of the life of many immigrants who come to the US for a "better" life.

This post was inspired by Girl in Translation, the latest book in the Silicon Valley Mom's Blog book club

*You can read a synopsis of Girl in Translation here.


Monday, June 21, 2010

A day out at the Please Touch Museum!

A couple weeks ago I was invited to a blogger event at the Please Touch Museum for the opening ceremonies of the ABC Games exhibit, part of the museum’s Get Up and Grow™ healthy lifestyles initiative.  

We so rarely get a chance to do things with just Kiel, so it seemed like the perfect excuse for Rich and me to take a day off work and go have some fun with him.
We walked into the museum and I swear Kiel almost exploded with excitement. He's usually a bit reserved in new situations, but he practically took off running as soon as he saw the first exhibit. 
He climbed rock walls.
He rode exercise bikes. 
He walked on the treadmill.
Then we went downstairs and he took a walk through Alice in Wonderland, where he served us tea.
And more tea.

Then he drove the dump truck,

honked the horn,

and moved some bricks.

Then he rode the motorcycle to the grocery store,

where he did our weekly shopping.

He likes cookies, even if they are low-cal.

There wasn't much left at the meat counter,

but he found lots of things he liked at the bakery.

Unfortunately for us he's a bigger fan of plastic melons than he is of the real thing.

His favorite part though was riding the carousel, which we did three different times. I haven't been on one in years and I loved it too.
We had a great time, and it was an absolute treat for all three of us to have a day off to just play. It still fascinates me watching Kiel play, in part because it is such a different experience from when Noah was this age. Kiel actually plays, where Noah just ran from one thing to the next usually leaving destruction behind him. 

So a big thanks to the Please Touch Museum for inviting us! 

**I'd like to blame the somewhat crappy pictures on my camera, (because I really, really would like a new one that takes decent pictures without me feeling like I just got lucky,) but in this case I realized after I looked at the pictures I took that there was a big smudge on the lens.**


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Taking back my blog - part Noah (chapter 1)

The other night I wrote a, dare I say eloquent, post about Noah and why I blogged and where we are with him now, and then I saved it in draft mode (I thought) so I could read it again the next day before I posted it. Somehow it disappeared on me. 

That post was flavored by a week or so of seeing some positive behaviors in him, although I've learned to be cautiously optimistic, as this journey is most definitely a roller coaster with more excitement than you'd find in any amusement park. Now that's an idea, perhaps I could sell Six Flags or Cedar Point on "The Wild Ride of Noah" for their next "the best roller coaster ever!" ride.

Anyway...this post is less colored by optimism today than it is by finding Noah had covered his toilet in poop this morning while I was making Rich breakfast for Father's Day. I have a "zero shit tolerance" policy. He's seven. The fact that he still needs help with the "paper work" is one thing, purposely spreading the poop around the toilet is an entirely different thing. And I swear, if one well-meaning person tells me that that it is "normal" for a seven year old to smear poop around, well, I'm just going to loose my own shit. 

So yeah, shit and stuff. Noah still struggles with encopresis. And we still aren't quite sure how much of the poop in his underwear is a physiologic problem and how much is a behavioral problem. He says he doesn't know when he "leaks," but considering after it has happened he doesn't seem to care that he has shit in his underwear and he stinks, it's pretty hard to believe he doesn't know. 

I started instituting butt checks in the morning before school, since he had two incidents at school where he said he pooped himself before getting on the bus in the morning. So, ten minutes before the bus comes I supervise tooth brushing, wash his face, and do the butt check. It's a great way to start the morning! Doin' the butt check, oh yeah, I'm doin' the butt check. I think I'm going to incorporate that into my next rap album.

So...more on the positive side, we have seen some improvements over the last couple weeks. While the melt downs are still occurring daily, and usually multiple times daily, they aren't always lasting as long. Sometimes he even pulls himself out of them and apologizes and we are able to talk about what happened. We have even had a few days that were actually entirely enjoyable except for one or two short incidents.

The good days tend to be followed by especially bad days, almost as if he can't let himself have too much good at one time. 

We are still struggling to figure out what his primary diagnosis is. Right now he's kind of an alphabet soup of ADHD, PDD-NOS, ODD, and mood disorder (he's too young for any of us to feel comfortable formally applying a bipolar disorder to him). We are also considering that attachment issues may still be a problem, although he is clearly not a RAD child. And, he's been showing more OCD behaviors over the last several months, like obsessive toilet flushing, nose picking, and hand clapping, to name a few.

His teacher sees the autism spectrum issues as being the most problematic, and although she hasn't said it outright to us, I know she thinks medication is making him worse. The psychiatrist thinks the mood disorder is primary, (actually that almost simplifies it to much, but I'll save that for a different post). Rich and I see pieces of all of it at different times, and while we see pieces improve, over all it feels like he is getting worse. 

When Noah was around two and we first started working with "professionals" we were told that with year or two of therapy he'd probably be fine; that his chances of starting kindergarten as a "typical" kid were good. We believed them. Or perhaps we heard the parts that we wanted to hear and told ourselves that on our own. It's hard to remember.

Hell, even as recently as last summer I let myself believe that a woman in Texas and her behavior program could change our world. I wrote about it at the beginning of the post here. It was pretty much a big fat fail, and in a nut shell not a program I would recommend. 

We are going to be doing some work with our attachment therapist next week. Hopefully it will help all three of us (Rich, Noah and me) with coping skills and give us an answer if attachment is indeed still an issue with Noah, or those attachment issue type behaviors are more a result of his other disorders. Either way hopefully we'll be able to dig a little deeper into his brain.


Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm taking back my blog!

I heard some sad and definitely unwelcome news today. The Silicon Valley Moms Group, of which the Philly Moms Blog is part, is closing their doors July 1. I know this news came as a shock to many of us who write for them.

I've only been writing for PMB since the beginning of the year, but it has been an amazing experience. It was a leap for me at the time. While I have been writing on MNT for almost five years, I wasn't sure I was ready to write somewhere else, especially for something as big as SVMG. The opportunity came at a time though when I wasn't feeling particularly safe writing what I was really feeling here, on MNT. So even though I knew my voice was going to be different writing for PMB, it offered me a place to continue to write and to stretch a bit beyond my comfort zone. Obviously I didn't stretch too far on a few posts, since I still managed to write about boogers and my crazy kids. However, I also managed to get one of my posts published/syndicated (I'm still not sure of the actual term), which just fed my bug to write. Because while I write for many reasons, one of reasons is that I like knowing that people read me!

I have no doubts that I'll find another place to continue to learn and grow with my writing, outside of MNT, but I think right now this is a good time to refocus on my own blog and why I started writing here in the first place.

Almost five years ago I started Mama Sparklykatt (my first blog) to have a place to document Noah's childhood and to give myself a safe place to vent. For months it was just me. And then I received my first comment. And gradually I gained an audience. Readers that connected with me over adoption, parenting, special needs, infertility, etc.. Readers that I have become friends with.

Over the last five years I've learned a lot; about myself, about parenting, about how I want to live my life. I've written many things I'm proud of. I've written a few things that frankly stunk. Only once have I removed a post (that I later decided was not my story to tell). I have written many things that I never posted and that still sit in my drafts box. I am incredibly proud of what I have created here on MNT, and have no plans to stop it. 

Some of you have contacted me and asked me what is going on. Some of you have noticed that my writing has changed. And it has. And to those of you who noticed, I say THANK YOU! Because wow, knowing that people read me that closely, to notice something is different, well, all I can say is WOW. And again, THANK YOU!

Several months ago a couple members of my family started reading my blog. While anyone is welcome to read here, as I am in the public domain after all, knowing my family was reading was, well, strange. And made me feel very vulnerable. Especially since at the time those members of my family were not communicating with me. And whether they were or not, I felt that I was being judged. Since I was already very sensitive to family criticism, especially about my parenting, I stopped putting myself out there in my writing in the same way as I had before. And I stopped documenting what is going on with Noah in the same way. 

And for seven months I have not enjoyed writing on my own blog as I did before. I have censored myself. And I stopped using my writing to help me work through my feelings. And by doing that I haven't been fair to myself, and I haven't been fair to my readers who come here (at least I hope) because of my honesty and not just because I talk about sex and my frankenvulva.

So I'm going to work on getting back to the MNT I was once proud of. The MNT that wrote honestly and connected. I ask you to reconnect with me, and call me out if I act scared again.

If you don't like what I write, don't read it. It's as simple as that. I'm taking back my blog!


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Working through my social anxiety

For those of you who have been with me for a while, you won't be surprised to hear me admit to a bit of social anxiety. Or that it has held me back at times from doing things I wanted to do.
Well, those of you that know that part of me, can be proud of me, because in the last week I have attended two blogger events that required me to actually talk to people!

OK, I did take Rich and Kiel to the first one since it was at the Please Touch Museum, but that was kind of the point. I need to write about that later so I can include pictures. That was the first time it was kind of in my face that yes, I am now considered a member of the media/press. The visit to Please Touch was free and included some extra perks as well.

Tonight I went to an event hosted by Best Buy to introduce some of the Philly Social Media Moms to their corporate philosophy and tell us about some of the things they do for the community. We were also all invited to an event happening at the King of Prussia Best Buy on June 19, which I will tell you about later when I have more details.

Rich was so excited that I was going to a Best Buy sponsored blogging event (because Best Buy is one of his favorite stores) he actually programmed my GPS for me and called the restaurant to find out exactly where they were. When I got home to drop Noah off after karate and fluff my hair before I left, he met me at the door with the programmed GPS and the information about the restaurant.  It was so cute! And totally made my entire day! Little things like that make me feel cherished.

Tonight's event was at Seasons 52. They had some yummy appetizers and deserts for us. And of course wine or any other cocktails we would like. 

The best part was getting to reconnect with women that I've met a few times and that I'm starting to feel comfortable with. The gift card Best Buy gave each of us was an awesome bonus too!

I gave it to Rich when I got home as a "happy husband day" gift, just because I love him!


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Adventures in Apartment Cleaning - the toilet story (updated)

I wouldn't say I'm quite out of the writers funk yet, but I do believe in the "fake it until you make it" theory, so I'm going to share one of todays adventures with you.

Rich and his brother moved their mother into a nursing home a few weeks ago. I wrote about it here for the Philly Moms Blog. So go, read, comment! No really, comment!

She is actually adjusting well to the move, which is a huge weight off of us. She is enjoying having people around her now, instead of being stuck in her apartment by herself. I was very concerned that she would hate it, but I was wrong! I am so happy I was wrong!

I've spent a couple afternoons over at her old apartment trying to get things sorted, cleaned, and boxed up. Her apartment always looked so neat, but ho'boy did she have shit stashed everywhere! I think she saved every take out container she ever took home. Two full cupboards of them, plus 100's of those little dip sauce cups laying around.

In one way it has been interesting doing this, as I've had a chance to learn a little more about her, just from what I'm finding in drawers, etc. Pictures of her and Rich's dad from well before I ever met them. Pictures of extended family that I've never heard of.

It's also been interesting because I've had to take the boys with me. We capped out our baby sitting budget for the month already with our nephews wedding Sunday (which is another story I should tell) so I've been taking the boys with me to "help."

Today Noah helped by having one of his elephant size poops in her toilet, then didn't tell me it didn't all flesh down. Then he encouraged Kiel to go in there and flush the toilet over and over.

I realized I was hearing running water after I heard Noah tell Kiel to run. That got me suspicious, so I ran to the bathroom to find water flowing from the base of the tank. There was probably a good inch on the bathroom floor by then.

I first tried to turn off the water to the toilet, but the valve wouldn't move at all. So then I messed with the innards of the tank, with no luck. At that point I just shoved my hand into the toilet up to my elbow and grabbed the wad of paper and elephant turd until it was unplugged. My right arm stills feels dirty.

So then I was trying to find something to clean up the water and I couldn't find any of her towels. I don't know if my brother in law packed them away for Salvation Army or took them himself, but they were no where to be found. So I grabbed a pile of bed sheets from her closet and started throwing them on the puddle of water. Soak the sheet, toss it in the tub, then soak up the next one.

I was moving as fast as I could because I was concerned the water would leak down into the apartment below hers. As soon as I had the majority of the water up I was going to run down and knock on the door and let them know what happened. Well, they beat me to it with a phone call. That Kiel answered. The first time he has answered the phone as far as I know - and yes, adorable! But oh so not the time.

Bea lived in an apartment building full of old women. Who ever the woman was that called screeched into my ear as soon as I said hello and asked "what is going on up there, there is water pouring down from my ceiling" in a not so nice tone of voice I might ad. So I told her the toilet overflowed and she responded with "what? the toilet?". I wasn't sure if I needed to explain what a toilet was or that she just didn't believe me.

I told her I was doing everything I could to clean it up but the more time I talked to her the longer it was going to take. To that I heard the "hmmmphh/well" noise. And then she hung up.

I was afraid for my safety for a few minutes there. I thought she was going to come up and kick my ass!

I was pretty pissed at the boys. Mad, very mad. I do believe I muttered "those miserable, miserable children" a few times. Noah was smart enough to stay quiet and out of my way. Kiel on the other hand thought it was all a big game.

Fun stuff, I tell you. I just really hope I didn't screw her out of any of her security deposit because of our little stunt. Oy...

Update: Rich's brother emailed him this morning to tell him he had to go over to the apartment right away and deal with things because the woman below her was complaining. (His emails are always so pleasant, almost as nice as his voice mails.)

I assured them both that there was no water when I left yesterday so the woman had to be complaining about the actual overflow incident, not something new. Well, then the maintenance office called Rich at work to say that there was still water coming down, but they didn't have a key to get in her apartment to check it out.

I still had her keys, so I raced out of work and met Rich at the apartment. The entire ride thinking how could I have possibly missed that water was still leaking from the toilet, and feeling like absolute shit that I was responsible for some major incident. And knowing that Rich's brother was not going to handle any of this very well.

So Rich and I get there and we nervously open the door to her apartment, expecting to find a total mess.

Open the door...and everything is fine. We slowly walk towards the bathroom, testing out the carpet expecting it be wet. And nothing.

Enter the bathroom and check out the floor. Nothing.

Get down on my hands and knees and feel around the toilet and still nothing. Not even condensation. Dry as an f'ing bone.

I have no idea what is going on, but maintenance is supposed to go over later to check it out. I suppose Noah's elephant poop could have exploded a pipe further down. They are pretty big.

And the entire time I was there today? I had to pee so bad I actually considered peeing in one of the damn Chinese soup containers that was filling her cupboards. There was no way I was going to use that damn toilet!


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A book, a co-worker, and some perspective.

One of the benefits of being part of the Silicon Valley Moms Group besides writing for the Philly Moms Blog is that I have the opportunity to participate in their book club. We don't review the book per se, but write a blog post inspired by the book.

This month we read I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced (you can read a synopsis here). And I have been flat out struggling to write about it for the last two weeks. Because I can't even begin to relate to a life like Nujood and so many other girls and women live in countries like Yemen. 

And then I had several talks with Hala*, a woman from Saudi Arabia that is spending a year doing a fellowship with the organization I work for. She is this intelligent, strong woman that is just thriving during her experience here. Unfortunately, I haven't taken enough time to talk with her about her life and what it is like for her living in a Muslim country.

The fact is I am ashamedly ignorant about the Middle East and Islamic life in general. 

So reading I am Nujood and the brief talks I have had with Hala have been eye opening. And confirmed that I am damn lucky to have the life I have.

One day Hala overheard me talking about how not only was my eye twitching but so was my upper lip. She expressed concern and I told her it was probably just stress. So she asked me what was going on. I told her about Noah and how the day before he had climbed out on to the roof outside his bedroom window and thought he would jump off to get outside (thankfully the neighbors saw him and urged him back inside). She asked me more questions and I told her about Noah's history and our adoption of him and what he is struggling with now. And how hard we fight to get him the right doctors and therapies and all the other services he needs.

And she sighed and said "you are so lucky." Which admittedly took me by surprise, because I don't think anyone has ever told me I was lucky; they always say Noah was lucky. To which I usually respond, "no, we were the lucky ones." So yes, to have something that I have heard over and over for seven years turned around like that caught me by surprise.

Hala went on to tell me that in her country there really isn't such a thing as adoption due to their religious laws. If you want a child and can't have one yourself adopting from another country like we did really isn't an option. 

I asked her what a couple would do if they couldn't have children and she kind of shrugged and said you enjoy your nieces and nephews.

A couple days later Hala asked me how things were going and I told her about the struggles we were having with our insurance company to get Noah wraparound services for the summer. And she told me again that we were lucky, because in her country they are only starting to acknowledge autism. And forget mental health treatment, that is a huge stigma. 

I asked her what parents did when their child was autistic or bipolar or had some other type of emotional problem. And she told me they usually end up locked in a room, cared for, but an embarassment.

And then just the other day she saw that I had a new picture up on my wall that Noah had painted. I mentioned that I was hoping to get him some therapeutic art classes this summer if I could swing it in our budget. She told me that her niece is quite artistic, but because of their religion she can't take formal art classes and it isn't encouraged. 

Talk about giving me a dose of perspective!

I needed to hear those things from Hala, and read I am Nujood. And I needed it right when it happened, as I was struggling and frustrated and eye-twitchingly stressed about Noah and summer camp and his teacher not agreeing with his doctor and insurance companies, etc. etc..

I needed a reminder that as much as it sucks that Noah has to live with a wonkily-wired brain, and that I have to fight for almost every step along the path of treatment for him, I am lucky that I live HERE, in the US, in a country where I can get him help.

It doesn't make it less stressful. It doesn't stop me from worrying about the next step, or next year, or how life will be for him as a teenager. But, at least I know I have something to fight for for him. That no matter what I have to do to get it for him, I will find a way to get it, because I can.

And no one is ever going to make either of my boys marry someone they don't choose.

I want to learn more about Islam and life, the real life not the politics, of the Middle East. I can thank Nujood and Hala for inspiring me to do that.

This post was inspired by the book I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced and is part of the Silicon Valley Moms Group book club.

* Not her real name.