Thursday, October 31, 2013

Too funny not to share!

An email from Noah's teacher last week.
 -------- Original message --------
From: awesome teacher
Date: 10/25/2013 1:31 PM (GMT-05:00)
To: Noah's mom
Subject:! :)

So…I’m literally laughing out loud while typing this.  We talk about some things that Noah does that just are too funny to get mad about.  I have one for you. 

Noah just came in from recess and I thought perhaps he ate something poisonous because he is running around like he is on speed and talking so quickly that its hard to even make out what he is saying right now.  when I asked him if he felt ok he replied, “yes…I feel like I just had a whole roll of gum with red dye in it that I snuck in from home and snuck out to recess with and ate the whole thing”.  He said this as he went into his backpack and then threw the empty package of gum at me (threw in a fun way throw and catch way, not aggressive). 

Any suggestions or should I just let him run on a hamster wheel (or some sensory based activities) for a while?!

As I’m typing this he is dancing and singing…shaking his butt like nothing I’ve ever seen before!!!  I have to admit…he is hilarious right now!   

Obviously I need to check the labels on the Halloween candy better.

I should probably find a new hiding place too.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Stigma is an Asshole

Oh boy do I have some stories I need to tell. Soon. Hopefully, I will have time soon.

Tonight I want to talk about stigma. Last week was Mental Illness Awareness Week. I didn't know about it though until mid-way through the week. Probably because I've been so busy the last two weeks dealing with my sons mental illness.

Is it considered irony, or just coincidence, that tonight I write about stigma, when two weeks ago I was afraid to post what was happening to us on Facebook because of the stigma?

Last week in the midst of Noah's mania and my worry that I wasn't doing enough to get him help, I knew I needed to blog. I gave it quite a bit of thought however. I decided it was okay to blog about it, but I wouldn't post it on Facebook. That way only my regular readers would see it.

I mean, you aren't really supposed to post things that aren't flowers and rainbows and unicorns or links to idiotic conservative sound bites on Facebook, right? I've received crap from family (extended) a few times about what I have shared about Noah. Because I keep it real and I guess that makes them uncomfortable.

So yes, I wasn't going to talk about his mania on Facebook. Even though that's not how I typically share our life.

I like to keep our life real. I'm not comfortable hiding the truth. Life is a balance of good and bad, so why wouldn't I share both parts?

But last week was more truth than I was sure it was socially acceptable to share.

Sure, if you are taking your kid to the ER for a broken arm or stitches, you can share away, and you'll get all kinds of comments offering prayer and healing thoughts, and concern. I mean you can relate to that right? What parent hasn't had to take their child to the ER at least once.

People don't really know what to say when you say you are calling the mental health crisis line or taking your child to the crazy people ER emergency psychiatrist. Most people can't relate to that. (I'm glad that's the case actually, I wouldn't wish this on any child or adult.)

I think I've discussed this before, and I'm not saying it again out of the same bitterness I once spoke of it (I've worked hard to move past that part of my life.),

When a child has cancer, or is born with life threatening physical defect or illness, friends and family tend to rally round. Offers of help come from all directions. Maybe someone organizes a fund raiser, or sets up a schedule to deliver meals, or help with child care. They do this because it is all too easy to imagine the same horrible thing happening to your own child. It's a visceral reaction. You can't help but put yourself in the shoes of that parent. And you give thanks to who or what you believe in, that it isn't your child.

But when mental illness strikes a family, it's uncomfortable. No one really knows what to say. Or you receive the offers of prayer and kind thoughts initially, but the expectation is that you won't bring it up again. It's too uncomfortable. Too messy. If it isn't happening to your child you can't relate. It scares you because you don't understand it. You don't want your children around it, even though you know it isn't contagious.

If only people could understand that mental illness is a disease of the brain in the same way cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease are diseases of the body. The only difference is that in many cases those diseases of the body can be cured, the diseases of the brain can be treated, but you don't necessarily cure bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety. You hope you manage it.

Everything that is going on with Noah is in his brain. Not just the bipolar disorder.

So stigma.

Stigma isolates.
Stigma hides.
Stigma prevents some from getting care.
Stigma is an asshole.

So help remove the asshole.
Remove the stigma!

If your friend has a mental illness, be a shoulder for them. Give them a hug. Acknowledge their illness. Let them talk if they want to, don't belittle their illness. Offer them help in more concrete ways as well, help them catch up with laundry, or pick up their house, take them a meal. When you are fighting to control your own brain it doesn't leave much energy to do the normal day to day activities like house keeping. Take their kids for a couple hours so they can have some quiet time.

If you have a friend with a child with a mental illness do the same thing. But also consider how it is affecting their other children if they have them. Consider how exhausted that parent might be from fighting to get help for their child while parenting their child who very well could be quite difficult to raise. Take them a meal occasionally, or take the child out for a couple hours. (Noah would be thrilled to have someone take him out to shoot hoops or kick the soccer ball around. He holds it together better with other people, because he feels less safe to fall apart with them.) Or offer to babysit so the parents can go out. Too many marriages of parents with children of special needs fail. (Something like 85%. Rich and I aren't immune to the lousy stats either.)

When you have a child with an illness (physical or mental) it's a rough road. I don't need to tell anyone that. What makes it harder though is feeling like you have to hide one but not the other.

Stop the stigma. 


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

This was last week. It's not over.

Since the incident at soccer Noah has become increasingly fast. Not fast like "wow, watch that kid run" fast, but "wow, this kid is manic" fast. Or in other words, Noah's been riding the wackadoodle express, and frankly, it doesn't look like he's headed for a station any time soon.

Typically, Noah holds himself together at school fairly well. He's able to do that because of his awesome teacher and all of the supports he has in place. He has rough days here and there, but for the most part his behavior is acceptable.

This week he hasn't been able settle at school at all. He's all over the place, talking fast, racing through his work, not able to sit still, and very argumentative.

When Noah's teacher says he had a rough day I believe him. When he says Noah is wild or a mess. I get concerned. Especially when what I'm seeing at home is the same thing.

Monday we had an intake visit with a new therapist. In the past Noah has barely interacted with doctors and therapists. Monday he wouldn't stop talking. He also wouldn't stop moving. In this 8 x 8 office he was all over the place. The couch, me, under the therapists desk, hanging upside down over the couch, jumping on the couch. You name it, if he could do it in that little room he did. He was so happy though, and kind of silly in a fun way. It was exhausting, but I couldn't really get mad at him because it was so different from his typical melt downs.

Tuesday he was like that as well, but he was more irritable and argumentative. He refused to come inside after playing and kept running from the front door to the back door. It was a little like chasing a puppy, except that I don't chase. And pork chops don't work as bait.

Wednesday his teacher emailed me saying he was concerned and that Noah again hadn't settled all day. I knew we had to do something, but I wasn't sure what. I emailed his neurologist and was told to take him to the ER. If I had any concerns that they weren't going to be able to handle Noah's psych needs before, I know it now.

Unfortunately, we are in between psychiatrists right now. We were asked to leave the last one (that's a blog post just waiting to be written) and can't get in with the new one until November. In the meantime we have been seeing a neurologist. I thought we would be OK in this "in between" time, but obviously I was wrong.

I paced my office Wednesday trying to figure out what to do. Do we take him to the ER? Am I ready for him to be hospitalized? NO. I'm not. He's bad right now, but I don't think we are there yet.

So I called our counties child mental health hotline and spoke with a crisis worker. We discussed options. An hour later she was at our house. We sat on our back deck and she talked with Noah. He paced back and forth but he did have a conversation with her. In the end we decided to take him for an emergency psych evaluation the next morning.

That was yesterday. I wasn't sure what to expect. We were seeing a psychiatrist I knew nothing about. I never even Googled the guy.

The doc was great. He really picked up on all of what was going on with Noah. Of course Noah made it pretty easy for him. Again he was all over the office. He was more like a two year old than a ten year old.

We have adjusted his medications and are hopeful. He wasn't manic last night, which is the first time in five days I've seen him settled.

I wrote this last Friday. I didn't get a chance to finish writing it until tonight. A lot has happened since then.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Conversations with Kiel

It's time to lighten things up a bit I think, and I have a handful of funny stories from the last couple weeks that all deserve a blog post. Maybe I'll actually write them.

Snuggling in bed with Kiel the other night and he was telling me about one of the girls in his kindergarten class and how she likes his new hair cut. Apparently she is his girlfriend and he's going to marry her. I asked when he was going to ask her to marry him and he told me that "no, she has to ask me."

It was quiet for a few minutes and then Kiel said "It's good I'm not a girl." And this is the conversation that followed:

Mom: Why?

Kiel: Because I don't want to have to marry a boy.

Mom: Oh. Hmm...but Kiel, sometimes boys do marry boys.

Kiel:(In a high pitched I don't believe you kind of voice.) What?  No way.

Mom: Yes, they do. What's important is that they love each other, and sometimes boys love boys.

Kiel: And they get married? And like kiss?

Mom: Yup.

Kiel: Oh. That is so weird.

Mom: And you know what? Sometimes girls marry girls, and that's ok too.

Kiel: OK. Stop. You are FREAKING.ME.OUT.

(It was all I could do not to laugh at his reaction at this point.)

Mom: Well, mostly boys love girls, but sometimes boys love boys and girls love girls, and that's ok. I'm pretty sure you love girls, but if you don't that's ok.

Kiel: Oh, I know I love girls.

Mom: I just blew your mind didn't I.

Kiel: I don't know what that means, I'm only five.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Update to "And then this happened...(episode two: the asshat parent)"

So after I wrote this post, we received a group email from the faux coach.

Hi Parents, I would like to sincerely apologize to Noah's parents. I should've handled it privately with them. My emotions got the best of me and I feel awful the way I handled it.  

I am VERY sorry. 

I appreciate that he apologized, and I'm sure he does feel bad. I wish I could accept it with more grace than I am.

It's like we tell Noah, words hurt, and sometimes an apology doesn't fix it. No child should have another parent (or worse, a coach) screaming about how horrible he is to everyone around him. 

Today we heard from Noah's real coach. The faux coach was told his actions were unacceptable and that he is no longer needed on the team, effective immediately. Between you and me, I think the coach was relieved to have an excuse to get rid of him. 

More importantly though, Noah's coach also told us that because Noah was aggressive and apparently harmed another player, he was being suspended from the league for two weeks. His coach had to report it to the commissioner of the league and they take it seriously. Noah won't be allowed to practice or play with the team for two weeks. He will be reinstated for the last game of the season and for playoffs

I have very mixed feelings right now.

On one hand I absolutely agree with this decision, and so does Rich. Noah needs to know there are consequences for his actions. I think this consequence coming from someone other than us, will have more impact on Noah than anything we do. 

When I told Noah he was suspended he was upset. I was actually pleased to see him react this way. Sometimes he closes down and refuses to discuss or even react when he is held accountable for his actions. He is still insisting that he didn't punch anyone though. I'm hoping I'll get more information tomorrow when I actually speak to the coach (we were given this information via email today because we weren't home when he tried to call). The more details I have about the incident the better I can discuss it with Noah and try to get him to understand that just because he alters the story, the details of the actual event don't change.

I tried to explain to Noah that the team will suffer too, because of what Noah did. Noah is a good player, and not having him there to play puts more pressure on the rest of the kids.

So the other hand? I'm sad. Incredibly sad. 

This fall I've been the one taking Noah to practice and I've enjoyed it. I've been able to relax on the sidelines with the other moms that stay for practice. I've actually formed friendships with some of the moms and have looked forward to seeing them at practice during the week. I don't make friends easily, and I often find the moms in this area intimidating. It's been so nice finding moms that I feel comfortable with.

Because of Noah's suspension I won't see any of the parents for the next two weeks. Because of the faux coaches little performance Saturday, I imagine they will assume that Noah was kicked off the team. I know I shouldn't care what other parents think, but I do. Some of them will think Noah is a horrible kid, especially because of the faux coaches little tirade. If Noah plays with their kids again, which is very likely between soccer and basketball, their view of Noah is likely to be pretty negative if they think he was throwing punches at the other team.

And to continue the "all about me" pity party - I look forward to the games so much because soccer is the one "normal" thing in Noah's world. The one place he fits in with his peers. The one place where I hear other parents cheering for him and saying "great kick Noah," "way to go Noah." So I'm really sad that we aren't going to have this hour of awesome for the next two weeks. It's been really nice pretending for that hour that we are just normal parents.


And then this happened...(episode two: the asshat parent)

Soccer today. Noah's been playing great this season. Watching him play is always the highlight of my week. Today was no exception while he was on the field.

Off the field however...*sigh*  Turns out when he wasn't playing he was dumping out the other kids water bottles. It wasn't just Noah, but my guess is he started it.

We played a team from a neighboring township. They are undefeated and until today had never allowed another team to score. The game would have ended 2-2 except our team scored their second goal with an extra player on the field. Want to guess who that player was? Yup. It was Noah. Just hanging out on defense.

Two of the dad's from the other team jumped up out of their chairs screaming to the ref that our team had eight players on the field instead of seven. So the goal didn't count and we lost, but our team still played an awesome game!

After the game is when the fun really started. And by fun I mean horror.

The kids on both teams line up and high five each other after each game. Today Noah decided he'd power high five the other team. Fists may or may not have been involved. Kids on the other team say he did. Noah said he only gave really hard high fives. As I explained to Noah though, I tend to believe the other kids since Noah has such a hard time telling the truth in situations like this.

Bad choice on Noah's part!

The absolutely best part of all of this though, and by best I mean most horrifying, was that one of the dad's, who likes to play "assistant" coach  (and yes, I did mean to emphasize ass. He only wants to coach during games, not practices. We call him the faux coach) blew a nut and came running across the field screaming for "Noah's parents."

Looking back it's kind of funny. I remember watching him run and almost turning to Rich and saying "wow, the faux coach is running."

So back to our story - the faux coach runs across the field screaming for Noah's parents.

If I'd been thinking on my feet better I would have turned around pretending to look for them and then told him I think they left. But I wasn't. Instead I stood up and said "we are, what happened."

Still screaming, the faux coach told us (and all the parents on both teams) that Noah "punched the other team" and he wants him "kicked off the team for unsportsmanlike behavior."

Rich and I of course immediately went over to Noah to deal with him; both of us thinking from what he said that Noah was actually fighting kids on the other team. (Noah, to his credit was sitting on the ground away from the rest of the team, well aware he was in trouble.) I know the faux coach was still screaming but I guess I'll have to wait to hear from the other parents at practice this week what he was saying.

We talked with the real coach, and Noah knows he made some pretty poor choices today. The coach assured us Noah isn't going to be kicked off the team and he apologized for the faux coach. In the future Rich may hang out on the team side to make sure Noah is behaving. We made him clean up all the trash on the field since we were the last game. Then he came home and spent some time "thinking" in his room before he wrote an apology letter to his coach. He also lost electronic privileges for the day.

It's taken a few hours for the tight feeling in my chest to loosen up, which is much more about the faux coach making this a public spectacle than anything else. I'm half tempted to ask him if he was at McDonald's approximately seven years ago and yelled at a mom in sweat pants because her son pushed his son in the play area.

The good news is that like earlier in the week, I think Noah really does get why what he did is wrong. That's new for him. It gives me hope. Now we need to work on thinking before acting. I'm not as hopeful about that.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Well this happened...(episode one: the gracious parent)

I kind of, maybe, hope anyway, that we kind of might have had a bit of a breakthrough with Noah this week. Or maybe not. It's hard to say.

The not so short version is that Noah and the boys next door (the ones we share a driveway and backyard with) got into it the other night. Noah's version includes the other boys threatening to kill him with a plastic baseball bat. (Now, to his credit I did see them with the bat and they are very mouthy at times, and definitely provoke Noah.) Noah's response was to throw a rock at them, which hit one of them in the head and cut his scalp. Much screaming and crying ensued, along with some blood. The other boys is fine, it wasn't a big cut despite the blood. However, the mom came over and told me that her kids would no longer be allowed to play with my kids. And you know what? I totally get it, and agree.

We agreed that none of our kids are angels and that right now the best thing we can do is keep them apart since all they do is provoke each other. That is going to be interesting considering the shared driveway and yard. I guess it will be first come first served and if they are in front we will stay in back. Like I said, it will be interesting.

It sucks though. I think mostly this is just stupid boy stuff but because Noah is Noah he gets more of the blame. I think the other boys did threaten him and since his brain goes into fight or flight so quickly (do not pass Go, do not collect $200) he reacted. He said he thought the only way he could get away was by scaring them with the rock. However, in the end, he was the one that threw the rock that hit someone. The other kids didn't actually hit him with the bat.

Our neighbors are really being pretty awesome about it, considering. (Especially since they are the neighbors whose window Noah broke in the spring. Did I tell you that story yet?) I don't think everyone would have been so gracious about it.

Noah and I had a long talk about what happened and he was unusually attentive and involved in the discussion. I know he was upset that he hurt the boy and when he threw the rock he never considered it could actually hurt someone. Typical thinking for him. I was very honest with him about what could have happened and that we are lucky no one called the police. We talked about what would happen if the police did come, and that because of things he has done in the past there was a good chance he would be taken to the hospital to see a psychiatrist and probably would have had to spend the night without Rich or me. Scare tactics on my part? Maybe a little. Did it work? I think so. Will he remember in the future? Hard to say. Probably not in the moment.

After all that I totally lost it and sobbed for a good hour. At one part I was crying so bad I started to hyperventilate. I don't think I've ever done that before. I know my reaction was way over the top, but at the time I felt like our world was ending.

That was Thursday evening. Today we dealt with another parent. Stay tuned for episode 2: the asshat parent.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

The ladies live to sag another day!!


Such a relief. While I was working very hard at not being worried, underneath it all I was scared. Obviously.

Thank you for everyone's prayers and good wishes!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

A long and rambling post about needles, boobs, titanium and puppies.

A cool little factoid about my husband is that he works at a cancer center and has been there forever 20+ years, so he knows just about everyone else that works there. It's really handy when you need your annual mammogram because not only do they offer it to spouses for free, but he just has to call over to one of the many women that work there that think he's the greatest to schedule it for me. Even better is that after they take cool pictures of my breasts, he takes me to lunch at my favorite Thai restaurant!

It's also awesome that he is able to get the results of that mammogram before they even send the results to my own doctor.

That also means that before he has to come home and tell me that there is something there that wasn't there the last time, he has already talked to one of his doctor buddies and has a promise to schedule me in asap for more scans and a biopsy if needed.

But, that also means that he is the one that has to come home and tell me that there is something there that wasn't there the last time. And that he's had several more hours to worry about it before he tells me.

So when he tells me "they found something," and I say "that's not funny, don't mess with me, Noah's been an ass this afternoon and I'm not in the mood," and he gives me the no, I'm serious look and then says "but it's small and there is a very good chance it is nothing at all" and I cry, he can make me cry harder because he says, "even if it is something we are a team and we will deal with it together."

(And then we, and by we I mean me, make really bad jokes about it for the next two days until I go in for the next level of mammogram, ultrasound and possible biopsy.)

See, it really is small! (The spot, not my boob!)
By the next night I had him promising to get me pot if I needed chemo, even though he insists that if it is something it's so small I probably wouldn't need chemo.

And then he ignored me listened to me opine about losing my hair because my scalp is in all likelihood horribly disfigured and scarred under my gorgeous and perfectly groomed locks (and no, I couldn't type that with a straight face) because I'm a picker and I wouldn't look good bald even if it wasn't disfigured, because my face is too round and fat to not have hair.  To which he responded "can we just get through Friday before you jump five steps ahead."

No. I can't. Because I'm a planner and a picker obviously and I need to think through all the possibilities so I can get the most impact out of my horribly morbid and inappropriate jokes for the next week be a well informed patient.

Anyway...I had the mammogram Tuesday, and Friday I had a focused mammogram, where they still saw the "irregular density." So then I had an ultrasound, where they couldn't find it (the "irregular density," not my boob. Those are hard to miss). I'm actually not sure if that was good or bad, but I think it maybe confirmed it wasn't a cyst.

So then the doctor said "well, let's do a needle biopsy," and I said, "yes, lets, it's already scheduled" and she looked at me and said "no, I don't think so" and I said "yes, my husband said it was" and she said "well..." and then "we'll fit you in. Go wait in the waiting room."

I sent Rich back to his office in another part of the building (down the hall, turn left, then right at the lobby - in case he forgets some day) and we had this conversation via text.

And then I told the technician and the doctor both that Rich had promised me a puppy. Because clearly that text implied that he was DEFINITELY getting me a puppy. Right?

Anyway...within five minutes they had me in a room setting up for the biopsy. They left me in the room by myself for a couple minutes so I started taking pictures. They totally caught me at it and laughed when I said I had to blog about the cool boob table.

(Remember when I was fascinated by this chair when I saw the doc before my frankenvulva surgery? Obviously I am oddly fascinated by BD/SM inspired medical equipment.)

Before I got on the table I asked the doctor if I could talk to her during the procedure and she said no, which really cut down on my ability to make stupid jokes. Way to kill my anti-stress buzz doc. :(

So... about the table - you lay face down on the table and your boob goes in the round hole and hangs down into that plastic-ish sling looking thing. I assume that is why they call it the "boob hole table."* Then they take more scans, do something on the computer, stereo something-or-other to line the needle up, shoot you up with lidocaine to numb your tit a bit, and wam bam thank you mam you have this huge ass needle in your breast (totally did not see the needle but am assuming "huge ass" is an accurate description considering they were not only taking things out of me but also putting a titanium marker in me and they had to go in almost 3 inches to get to it). 

After the needle was in the right place the doctor told me there was going to be a loud popping sound of air, like uncorking a bottle of champagne. And there was and because I couldn't TALK I could only think loudly in my head that "OMFG, she just totally popped my boob."

After that the needle did some rotating kind of thing and took part of the "irregular density" out to send to the lab. Then they shoved in a piece of titanium to act as a marker to make sure they were in the correct place. Then wam bam thank you mam the needle came out and they cleaned me up and put a totally not fancy bandage on it. Then I had another mammogram to make sure they yanked the tissue from the right place. I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of the scan of my titanium marked boob for all y'alls!

And that was it. I find out the results on Tuesday. I assume Rich will stalk the computer until they are available and then call me. Then I'll call the doctor and tell her what the results are.

In all seriousness though (for everyone that reads this blog post after searching for "what a breast biopsy is like," which I predict will be second only to "boob hole" in the ways people find this) the biopsy bit was not bad at all. The pain was minimal and I was probably only on the table about ten minutes, less than five of that involved the actual needle bit. Way less painful than a root canal! Actually, less painful than most of the dental work I've had period.

I'm still waiting for that puppy btw.

*I have no idea if that is what they call it.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Make the peace be with you.

One of the wonderful things Noah does is periodically give me letters/cards that he has written himself. They let me know that he really does think I'm the "pridyest mom in histery." Or that he loves me "so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so" much. It's some of the stuff that keeps me going.

This is what he gave me for Valentines Day this year.

I never doubt how much he loves me and how important I am to him. I save them all and often have at least one in my purse with me and one hanging in my office at work. I can't read them without feeling myself softening inside.

Today is my birthday, and Noah wrote me this "letter."
Do you know how much he loves me? He loves me infinity percent much!

He also drew me a picture. The picture is drawn over five pages that are liberally stapled together. He is a knight rescuing me (the princess) from a very tall tower.

There is so much I love about this picture. I love that he is rescuing me, but in doing so has armed me with my own swords because he knows I am badass. I also love his attention to detail by giving me purple hair. 

What I love the most however, is what he has written at the bottom. "Make the peace be with you Mom." I'd love to think he has written an incredibly profound statement, but in all truth I think he's just confused the message of peace I've been trying to share with him this week with the well known line from Star Wars.

What a gift he has given me!

Make the peace be with you Mom.

How much better as a person, a mother, a wife, could I be if I "make the peace be with me?"

I wonder where we would be as a nation, as a world, if we all followed this.

Make the peace be with You!



Friday, April 12, 2013

The stories I get to listen to at baseball

I sat at Kiel's baseball game the other night listening to the conversations of the other moms around me. Rich had just arrived and dropped a mini bomb about Noah's behavior at his psych appointment that day and that the pdoc was asking again if we had found someone else to see. Because of that my stomach was in a bit of a knot, and I wasn't feeling all that social, so I just sat back and listened.

The conversations took the usual turn to gossip and criticism. I zoned out for a while until I heard one of the women (a teacher) start telling stories about the kids in her class and how she wishes she could take some of them home with her because the parents are so awful. Then she talked about the families that are homeless and two of the moms audibly gasped with surprise. Homeless? Here? In Bucks county?

She started talking about a mom with five kids that lives in a two bedroom house. The kids have subsidized (free) lunch and they complain that they don't get enough food. This teacher has the only girl of the five kids. She said the family couldn't afford to send her on a field trip.

Then the other moms all gasp and say how horrible that is. How could they not pay the $50 for the bus. It's not like it was that much.

So then she starts talking again about how the girl always seems hungry, and she said that her older brothers, who she shares a room with, eat all the food in the house so her mom doesn't buy snack food. And that she doesn't sleep well at night because her brothers sneak out of the house at night and wake her up when they come home.

Again, more gasping and sighing, and horror that the mother allows this. That she doesn't buy them more food. That she isn't home enough to parent her children.

Now, I don't know a damn thing about this family, and perhaps this mom is truly the worst mom ever. But all I could think was what the fuck ladies, is it possible this mom is doing the absolute best she can with what she has? Perhaps we (in which I mean those moms) should get off our fancy camp chairs, tie back our bleached and highlighted blond hair, and consider how we can help these families as we walk to our SUV's and our Escalades and our Beemers.

I kept my mouth shut for once. It's been bothering me since though. No wonder I don't feel comfortable with these sports moms.


Saturday, April 06, 2013

A red marker, a white napkin, and a brown paper sack

Noah's class went on a field trip Friday. He has been excited about it for months!

On field trip days the kids take a packed lunch. Every other school day Noah buys his lunch.

Rich packs Noah's lunch, but I always slip in a note, usually written on a napkin or paper towel.

Have an awesome day. 
I love you! 

Red marker on a white napkin. Thirty seconds to write and slide in the brown paper sack between an apple and a bag of chips.


Noah jumped off the bus steps when he came home and ran into the house. Full of  stories about the day.
Nate threw up when he got off the bus this morning.
They only let us go through the tunnel once this time, but it was still cool.
We didn't get to go to the gift shop, but I bought a snack from the vending machine.
Oh, I didn't want to throw this away (pulling a white napkin with red writing on it out of his pocket), so I kept it in my pocket.
Do you like it when I put notes in your lunch?
Yes. Because I know you are thinking about me and want me to have an awesome day. But I already know you always love me.  

Maybe, just maybe, I'm doing something right after all.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pulling back and reconnecting

I wrote this post several weeks ago. I needed it to sit for a while to make sure I was ready to post it. I think it's ready now.

Parenting is hard. It just is, and there is no way to really prepare for it. You jump in and hope you swim. Fortunately, Rich and I have managed to keep our heads above water, despite some very deep water and long periods of doggy paddling. Occasionally we have needed some help and managed to grab on to some floaty devices at just the right time.

I've learned from every wave we have managed to navigate ourselves through. I've learned to float when I can, but always have lungs full of air just in case.

And I think maybe I got a little over confident.

Amidst juggling Noah's medical needs, his academic needs, and his physical needs, I think I forgot about his emotional needs.

We had a pretty good summer, and his transition into fourth grade and a new school overall went smoothly (on the Noah scale of smoothness anyway). Soccer was great in the fall and although it took lots of encouragement he's loving playing basketball this winter. We've seen improvement with his reading, and he's keeping up in math. He even received an A in science last marking period and a B in social studies.

He has an amazing emotional support teacher and overall the school is very supportive of him. There were bumps to be sure, but overall we have been so proud of him.

While I am always thinking about what is coming up next and what more we should be doing for him, I let us float the last few months. We received the results of his neuropsych testing from the FASD clinic the end of October. It included several recommendations, medical and academic, that I was very slowly chipping away at, but not with any urgency. Mostly I was enjoying not feeling like we were always being chased by the shark.

Looking back, I think things started to change in November. Perhaps it was Kiel's birthday. Or the month of disrupted school attendance due to super storm Sandy and then school holidays around Thanksgiving. Or maybe it wasn't any of that.

What I do know is that Noah started to struggle a little more, both at school and at home. He created more chaos at home, got into more things around the house we thought he knew he shouldn't. He was plugging up the toilet again, the encopresis was back and I felt like poop was everywhere. He was taking longer to do homework and was almost impossible to keep focused.

He started picking his nose again and washing his hands obsessively. And new motor tics started in his arms and neck. 

It was getting to the point where I didn't trust him out of my site. Too many times he created chaos in minutes. Some of it dangerous. I questioned if I could keep him safe.

He was mouthier and brattier and ruder than ever. And so incredibly oppositional.

Words were said that should never been spoken. 

I was frustrated. Rich was frustrated. The things we used to handle OK started to drive us crazy.

And then we have Kiel. He turned five. He's sleeping in his own room (finally). I'm able to spend more time alone with him and LOVE our Mommy-Kiel days. He's a sweet, funny kid that loves to cuddle. He tells me a hundred times a day (if not more) that he loves me and that I'm his best mom ever. He's the best of everything a five year old little boy can be.

I love both my boys intensely, fiercely, with a depth I never imagined was possible. But the truth is that I like Kiel far more than I like Noah the last couple months.

Looking back, I realize it's an insidious, horrible pattern. The more frustrated we became, the more Noah acted out. The more he acted out, the more frustrated we became. More frustration, more yelling, more rudeness, more acting out.

He was in trouble all the time. And while I was saying we can't let this continue, I was handling it more like a a strict no-nonsense parent, than the therapeutic parent he needed. The parent that understood why he struggled.

He had several rough days at school this week, and on Wednesday he hit a new low. On Tuesday he was in trouble for rhyming "stick" and "dick" (except he didn't know what "dick" meant so didn't understand why he was in trouble) and because he ate like a dog at lunch (except it was like a pig and he can't believe they didn't know that). Wednesday at recess he jumped the property line fence (because they were playing chase and he was running away from the kid that was "it."), he was removed from art class, and screamed at his aid, his general ed teacher, and his ES teacher; all before 1pm.

When he walked in the door that afternoon his first words were "I had the worst day ever."

Those words changed something in me.

Instead of consequences, I gave him a big hug and told him I loved him and it was OK.

We sat on the couch together and I held him.  I asked him if he knew how much I loved him.

He told me "no."

Those words broke my heart. How had I let it come to this? How did I let him get to the point that he questioned my love for him?

You can't fix everything with love, but you are going to find it much harder to fix anything without it.

We talked and cuddled. We reconnected physically. I'm not sure the last time I sat with him like that was.

Before bed we sat on the couch together again. The hour between dinner and bed had been rocky. I could see a physical difference in him. He was more settled when we were together on the couch. Now he looked angry, and sad.

We sat together, although he wouldn't cuddle then, and I asked him why he was so sad. I wouldn't let it go. He covered himself, including his face, with a blanket. He didn't want to talk. He said he didn't know how to say it. He didn't know the words. I pushed a little more.

Finally he said "it's you and Dad." He didn't say much more than that, but I didn't need to hear more. The pieces were coming together.

I know I had pulled back from him. I know things were said that made him question the stability of his life here. I know he felt misunderstood.

He was in trouble all the time and more often than not he didn't understand why what he did was wrong, or couldn't understand why it was such a big deal. It wasn't like he planned on doing those things.

While I could tell other people that he had brain damage and it affected his impulse control and ability to connect actions with consequences, I wasn't using that knowledge as I parented him.

We talked. I made it very clear how much we love him. I apologized for my poor behavior. We talked about how we could both make it better. I reminded him that my job as his mother was to keep him safe, to raise him to be a good adult, to teach him how to be a good person, a good husband, a good father in the future. We talked about how the older I get the more I learn, and that when you are only almost ten you know a lot less than your parents, and that is why sometimes you just have to accept that mom and dad are in charge and even if you don't always like it you have to do what you are told. I'm sure I said far more than he could absorb. It seemed to work though.

Rich put him to bed with a quick whisper from me that he needed to reconnect and I would explain later.

I shared with Rich and made it very clear that we both needed to rethink how we were parenting because what we were doing was breaking Noah.

Noah went to school Thursday morning with a smile on his face. He told me he was going to have a great day. I emailed his teacher to tell him what I thought was going on, especially that I thought he was feeling misunderstood.

His teacher sent me this picture in the morning and said "This is the Noah I know!"

He had a perfect behavior day on Thursday. He also participated in his first after-school basketball program and did great. He was SO EXCITED when he came out of the gym to tell me he received a 100 points (perfect day). He was a different kid than the one we had been living with the last two months.

Sometimes I forget just how easy it is to screw up as a parent. Sometimes I lose sight of why this gig is so important. Sometimes I need reminders, like the sweet, silly face of this boy.


Saturday, January 05, 2013

The day I (almost) blew the tooth fairy.

Noah lost two teeth on the same day last week. He lost one a couple weeks ago at school too. They sent it home in a little plastic treasure box. 

Noah decided that day he was going to save the rest of his baby teeth and put them under his pillow all at once. He says he wants a lot of dollars at one time, not just one at a time. I'm not sure if he's holding his teeth hostage to exploit more money from her, or he's using her as a magical piggy bank. (Either way I think it's cute and just hope I manage to remember where I put all those teeth. Although, he already lost the third of the three in his bedroom the night it fell out.)

Wednesday we were at the dentist for a cleaning. We have a great pediatric dentist with an awesome staff. The dental hygienist (DH) has a parent with bipolar disorder, so she gets Noah and his meds a little bit more than some of the non-psych medical professionals we have dealt with. 

Although, for the first part of the visit I think she forgot who she had in her chair.

I don't remember what led to the conversation, but at some point Noah mentioned something about his dreams. The DH asked him about it and Noah told her about the vacuum cleaner that scares him and how it attacks him and Kiel in his dreams. He also told her that he and Kiel have the same dreams. It was a little bit ramble-y and a lot of confusing, even for me to listen to.

Then DH tried to rationalize the vacuum with him and get him to understand the vacuum really wasn't scary. Noah was not having any of it. 

I was sitting in the corner of the room laughing to myself. It's kind of like trying to convince a four year old that monsters don't live in your closet at night. No amount of rational explanation is going to push aside the real fear when you think you see the monster's eyes glowing in the dark, even if it is a reflection from the street light outside your window.

After I had my silent chuckle I decided to rescue both of them and changed the subject. I asked her how his new teeth were growing in and mentioned that he lost two of them within four hours of each other last week. 

And that's when I opened my mouth and (almost) blew the tooth fairy. 

I asked her how many teeth he had left to lose so I would know how many dollars I had to save up.

Noah looked at me and said "what? You don't pay me for the teeth, the tooth fairy does!" Then he rolled his eyes because obviously his mother is crazy, and he's absolutely correct.

The DH was sitting on her stool behind Noah, trying not to laugh and not saying a word. She saw my expression when I realized what I had said and frankly, I think she was enjoying my pain. Paybacks, yo!

Of course I'm back peddling like crazy at that point. In my head I'm telling myself to shut up, or at least slow down. Don't make it worse by over-explaining it. Take a breath. Think damn it, thank. Think think think!

So out of my mouth comes "Oh, duh, what was I thinking. I guess I'm not as plugged in with the tooth fairy as I am with Santa." 

Noah looked at me, even more confused and said "plugged in? I don't get it. What are you talking about?" 

Tears were rolling down the DH's face at that point, she was trying so hard not to laugh out loud.

Thankfully, the dentist saved me when he came in to do his check, so we both had time to compose ourselves. The DH saved me as well, because she told the dentist I was wondering if he thought braces were going to be in Noah's future, thus changing the conversation completely.

When the dentist was done I sent Noah to the waiting room.

The DH and I both started laughing. You know the kind of laugh. The half-hysterical, I'm either going to hyperventilate or pee my pants kind of laugh.

And that's when I turned to the dentist and told him I blew the tooth fairy. 

Well, actually I said "oh my god, I can't believe I did that, I just blew the tooth fairy."

He blushed, but at the time I had no idea why. The DH laughed even harder. Since she wasn't hyperventilating I'll just have to assume she peed herself.

And I'm thinking to myself "why is he looking at me so strangely?"

I didn't realize what I had said until I was walking out to the car with Noah.

It's good I don't have to go back for another four months when it's Kiel's turn.