Friday, January 29, 2016

Shining like a Star


It's been a much better week. In an attempt to break the cycle of negativity and complaining about school, I offered Aquaman a prize for not complaining about it for a week. We talked about Philippians 2:14 "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky."
Our code for when he started complaining was: "shine like a star!"
He was happy and agreeable about this plan on a Sunday but Monday morning was a different story...
Luckily, 2 days in, my friend S recommended giving him a certain number of complaints per day.
He loved that. Since then, every time he complains I listen and validate his complaint and then remind him how many more complaints he has left. I've given him 10 per day so far (which is a far cry from the hundreds I was hearing...), and he rarely gets past 5. He likes to leave himself a lot of wiggle room for an emergency I think. Haha. So mornings are tons better. I also stopped letting him have breakfast until he was dressed, including socks. I'm mean.
Homework was also much better this week. For one thing, he did half of it at school sitting at the same table as his teacher. Not sure why, but I was not complaining.
For another thing, I started telling him he only had to do 20 minutes of consistent working each night, and it didn't matter how much he got done as long as he was consistently working. We broke it up into 2 10 minute sessions, and he asked me to "help him stay on task" the whole 10 minutes. I tried to do 30 minutes the first night, but that crossed the drama barrier and he lost it. So 20 minutes seemed to be the magic number.
And he finished his homework this week. And it actually looks pretty good.
So wow, things are definitely better and I am not feeling quite as desperate to have something done about school.
The only problem that has remained consistently is his freak outs after school (or after I pick him up after work). Usually before we can get out of the school parking lot he has become very aggressive with The Dude, He pretty much ends up screaming and crying and pounding on things in his room for about 15 minutes before finally emerging, worn out and calmed down.
He's just so sensitive, and so intense, and he has so much energy, and that's a lot to contain all day.
I often think that someday when we get to heaven, we will be surprised at the people who are honored for overcoming, because we have no idea the battles that are waged within themselves. Even though Aquaman often looks as if he has no self control whatsoever, he obviously has an uncanny ability to hold it together just long enough in school or at his grandparents to where he doesn't cause any major trouble. I mean, sometimes, watching him explode around the house with his force of emotion I am in awe of this. At school I know he can get a little grabby with other kids, and is often too emotional socially, but he doesn't get into trouble. And even though sometimes I wish he would show some of his stress at school so his teacher could understand, I am also very glad that he is not a behavior problem there.
We met with the psychologist on Wednesday and it was pretty much a waste of time. He offered to counsel Aquaman at a very discounted rate since our employee assistance plan benefits have run out and our insurance has a high deductible, but I am not convinced it will be that helpful for him at this point. Aquaman knows the right answers for how to cope when he is calm...but when he's upset, his logic flies right out the window. I really think that is a big part of his self esteem issues. He knows the right things to do most of the time, but he is so impulsive and full of emotion that he often can't do them.
He again didn't have much hope or help for how to handle the school. He explained that the teachers and administrators who care have no power. Which, working for the government myself I understand to some extent. But I also know from working in the government that on the front lines you do still have a little power, if you care enough. And I can see that Aquaman's teacher and even the principal do care, even if they doesn't fully understand Aquaman, And even if the teacher's personality is such that we are mostly just going to have to get through this year and hope for a more laid back and warm teacher to encourage him next year.
The main gyst of the meeting with the psychologist was for him to push us to try ADHD medications with Aquaman. Which I guess I wasn't really expecting, even though he mentioned it last time. It's not that I am entirely opposed to trying it. I really do want to help Aquaman. I have pretty much always known he had ADHD just like his father, and I pretty much figured it was going to come up at some point in school. But from what I have seen....like 1 out of 3 boys are identified as having "ADHD" in the school system and that really really bothers me. Because it seems more like a diagnosis based on what society values these days than an actual mental illness. I mean, 100-200 years ago, JT and Aquaman's energy and drive would have been highly valued in the world. But now, because they are expected to sit in chairs and read and write all day, they are considered to have a disorder.
But at the same time, Aquaman does live in this world, in today. And it almost seems cruel not to give him a chance at fitting in more comfortably in his environment. As much as I think I would really love to home school, to drag him around to co ops and sports and to let him learn the way he learns best, that is not an option for us right now, and so he will have to find a way to adapt to the ways of our education system, even if flawed in its approach to dealing with boys like him.
When I told him there was a pill that could help him sit in his chair, he laughed hysterically.

JT tried medications briefly when he was a child and hated that they made him feel like he was not himself.
But what's funny is, the psychologist also advised us at the first meeting that we should try melatonin to help Aquaman get sleep to help control his anxiety. He has been out by 8:15 which is an hour earlier than he used to fall asleep, and when we read our book at night he lies peacefully in his bed instead of doing handstands. For whatever reason, that makes me feel guilty. But he is the one who asks for it every night, He says he loves not having to lay in bed thinking all night.
For now, we're just going to keep taking things a day at a time. I would love it if they could give him some accomodations for ADHD (like sitting away from other kids or getting extra time or homework modifications) without having to medicate, which the psychologist said was unlikely. He said the schools don't like to work with parents who don't want to medicate their kids. Which, to me, is really really sad.
What I want, most of all, is for him to enjoy learning, so I have been trying to think of ways we can do that at home since it's not happening at school. Science is his favorite subject, but this year his teacher has managed to sap all the fun out of it by focusing on rigorous documentation instead of the actual experiments. Last year, 4th graders came in and helped his class with science and he loved it.
I feel sort of inadequate in this regard though because science is not my best subject. For a month in a row he brought home a book from the school library about technical science projects. He refused to turn it in, saying he wanted me to help him "build a printer". Ummm...I looked at it to see if it was in any way possible for me to help him do this and concluded no it was not.
But he is fascinated with electronics, so I think I am going to buy snap circuits and see if I am smart enough to help him with that. Stinks when your kid is smarter than you are. On a lot of levels. Half of parenting is outsmarting your kid and I am having trouble doing that lately.
But regardless, things are much better around here. Actually, I think I figured out that the reason I was totally freaking out last week is because my twin sister was having an embryo transfer at the same moment as my meeting with the principal. Pretty crazy and exciting and awful. In 4 days we will hear whether it worked. It's so hard to be so far away during this time, and so helpless to help. She seems to be doing great, and I have felt pretty at peace with it logically too, but I think on the inside I have been more anxious than I realized.
I want it to be twins so much. I mean, one would be awesome. But my twin sister having twins. Wow.
I want to see them running across the beach like this in a few years.
In other news, Greystoke is growing up. He spends a lot of time reading books and drawing pictures. A couple weeks ago he said "uhoh, where's the book?" as clear as could be.
Yesterday, he drew a scribbly picture in blue crayon and then brought it to me saying "Daddy, pool." He was drawing a picture!
He makes me smile so much. He is running around the house chasing a little bouncy ball right now. His feet slapping on the floor.
He will probably love school someday.
The Dude is growing up so much too. He'll be 5 in just a little over a month, and he is suddenly blossoming into it. He is getting a lot more self control. I confided to my sister K yesterday...if they say Aquaman has ADHD, I am terrified what they will say about The Dude. She joked: "He puts the H in ADHD!"
But really, he is starting to grow into his emotions. His tantrums are becoming less violent and there is the actual occasion when he can be reasoned with without flying off the deep end.
He is such a lover too. Almost every day, he spontaneously bursts forth with: "I love you more than candy!" or "You are the BEST mommy ever!"
The other day when I lashed out at him for kicking me in the stomach accidentally, and then immediately felt bad and hugged him, he said through his tears: "love your enemies, mommy!"
He is scared of alligators, but only at night.
He lays in bed (or stands on his head) listening to the stories that I am reading to Aquaman that seem to be way over his head, and asks legitimate questions. Sometimes. Other times he starts asking questions about tornadoes. There are no tornadoes in our books.

I love these boys so much.
They're skipping school today. Well, actually The Dude's school is closed due to an electrical fire a couple days ago, and I let Aquaman skip because my car is in the shop and didn't feel like walking.
Plus, I mean, he's in the first grade and he's doing awesome, and he did a great job shining like a star this week.
But right now The Dude is in the sink and he just broke a glass. He is singing "Augustus Gloop" over and over because we just finished reading Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and Aquaman is playing Legos like he always does, and there is cereal on the floor, and JT is swimming in the frozen ocean because whoever is in charge and gets to sit on the jet ski decided that it would be a good idea to do a code X drill today. JT worked last night at the hotel restaurant too so he wasn't in bed long.
So we've got all day without a car, and hopefully we'll get something done today because it finally stopped raining, but hopefully mostly we'll just climb some trees and be a family.
I  have been listening to the Psalms on audio Bible and drinking in the poetry and the Love and the promises there.
It helps me look at the chaos with a little more perspective,
"Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.
By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life."
-Psalm 42:7-8

Friday, January 22, 2016

Walking in the Unknown

"And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them." Isaiah 42:16
I just got home from a meeting with Aquaman's principal. Greystoke is sleeping. I have not made any progress in my spring cleaning this week. I haven't even tried. It's raining outside, a cold front coming in. There is tea brewing. And I've been reading verses over and over about dealing with discouragement.
The meeting with the principal was scheduled because the school still hadn't contacted me about scheduling a meeting with the intervention team, which they say has to be done before any testing can be done on Aquaman. So I got in contact with the principal yesterday, telling her I was still very concerned, and she asked me to have a meeting with her. I was hoping she'd have some ideas for ways we can help Aquaman in the meantime while we wait for the meeting, as she suggested she did.
She did finally at the end of the meeting halfheartedly come up with only doing 30 minutes of homework per night, and then sending a note to the teacher that this was all we could accomplish, done or not. That will hopefully be helpful.
She suggested that we get a private occupational therapy evaluation. Which will cost an arm and a leg.
But those seemed to be only meagre attempts to appease me at the end of the meeting. Her main suggestions: drop Aquaman off through the car loop so he won't "manipulate" me emotionally in the mornings.
He is never a problem walking in to school, so that one made no sense.
Her other one: She pull him out of class, sit him down and explain to him that he has to go to school, it's the law, and make him sign a contract! Ummm...seriously?! That will help a child who is already having emotional issues? Frankly, I am a little terrified to send him there tomorrow now.
I suppose this may be helpful to me at work. I have always heard parents tell me their woes about dealing with the schools with their special needs children at work, and though I believed them, I never grasped the way it makes you feel. The way it changes you. Quite honestly, I am struggling so much to keep myself together emotionally that it is hard to logically sift through the facts and not overreact.
I feel like this entire process has so far only been teachers and faculty patiently explaining to me that I am just not parenting correctly. Because they know so much about children, they must know more about what my child needs than I do. And I'm not going to say that I know everything, which is what makes it so hard. I just want real and personal advice, not blanket "with all children, A+B=C" answers. I know that in my heart and my head is not right.
I feel like he's an infant all over again. Crying for hours in his crib, and everyone is trying to tell me that he is manipulating me when I know that what he is really doing is asking for something that he needs. Maybe not physically, but on a different level. In hindsight now, I never would have done anything different, except maybe I would have held him even more like I do with Greystoke.

I want to be teachable, I really do. But it is so important to me that I am taught by God and not by man.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." James 1:5
I believe, I really and truly do, that wisdom is not something God hides from us forever. I believe that sometimes we can't see it because we are blinded by our own minds, or by the world's ideas. I also believe that sometimes he hides it from us temporarily so that we will seek Him more deeply. So that we will become more desperate, and so that we will be willing to follow Him no matter the cost.
But I know He has wisdom for us. I know he can soften the hearts of those whom he places in Aquaman's life to influence him.
Above all, it has become more and more clear to me that viewing Aquaman through the lens of his being manipulative, or his having a choice about the way he has been acting, only makes things worse. He blossoms under my believing in him. He flowers beautifully when I see him for who he could be and not who he is behaving like today. I know he has a beautiful heart in there. I know that, for whatever reason, he has a lot of deception growing inside of it right now, and that breaks my heart.
"But I know the plans that I have for Aquaman" declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper him and not to harm him. Plans to give him a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11.
I know He has good plans for my boy. I know there are so many wonderful possibilities, and I can't wait to look back on this post someday with some of them in view.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

January Days

This is the best in the world. These are two of my favorite things and they love each other.
My sister K took these pictures when she was here last month. I wanted to give them a post of their own, because they deserve it. So I was waiting until the craziness of Christmas was over. These are the first set of real family pictures we have had since....well...our wedding pictures, which is pretty crazy because we have literally multiplied since then. But better late than never, and these did not disappoint. Thanks, K!
He has HAIR. Haha. And it's not at all red....yet. And also, it was a very windy day. And also, I love him.
I was going to post about New Years Resolutions, since this is my first post in the new year, and since I have tried to make that a tradition ever since 4 years ago when starting this blog was my resolution.
Yes you will, Dude
Justin was as bad as the children about talking instead of smiling. The apples do not fall far from the tree. :)
I do have some resolutions this year, and I am even making headway on some. Like spring cleaning. I'm going a little crazy, really. It took me a few false starts, but even though I really hate the process, I love having things organized, and I hate clutter so I am throwing everything away. I also broke the kitchen drawer I organized yesterday, so not everything is going smoothly.
At the debriefing with Aquaman's psychologist a few days ago, he advised us that the reason Aquaman demands order and routine and no deviations from plans is because he has no order or routine inside of his own overloaded head, and so he needs to have it outside of himself in order to feel in some control. I can totally relate to that! My head is a mess. I start cleaning one thing then I get distracted by something else and I flit off to the next thing. I have trouble even starting anywhere sometimes because there are so many things to do that sometimes I am paralyzed. But I so badly need that structure in order to relax. And the answer to that, most of the time, because I cannot manage a lot in my head is to get rid of stuff. It is much easier to manage a few things, and know where they are and be able to use them than to have a lot of junk thrown around willy nilly. And it is amazing how much junk you can accumulate in a small amount of time. And it is literally just junk, because we are not shoppers.
Anyway, so I'm getting rid of it, and it feels good. I found a spring cleaning app for my phone and it's fun to check things off, because I am nerdy like that.
I also found a chores app for Aquaman's new tablet and gave him 3 chores and am starting a very small allowance that he can keep track of in the app and he is thrilled. Along with some small financial incentives for doing extra reading and math.
My next resolutions centers back around prayer, and JT's mom gave me a book about praying for boys for Christmas, so it's working perfectly. I still don't get enough time to myself. It is extremely rare that I can beat all 3 boys out of bed in the mornings and still get adequate rest so that I can be a good mother to them, because that matters too. So I am back to journaling. The book is awesome because it actually writes out verses with places to insert names, because that is my favorite way to pray, because it is a way to pray Truth and Promises and to align my will with God's.
So every morning I insert JT's, Aquaman's. The Dude's. and Greystoke's name into one verse each and I pray it for them. And then I pray some more. I love talking to God about the 4 most important people in my life, and hearing His promises for them.
I don't really know if I am done making resolutions yet this year. I should probably exercise more, and I thought I was going to make that one, but I don't think it can be one of my top priorities this year. Maybe next year. Spring cleaning is pretty good exercise anyway.
And given the choice between tending my soul and my body, I must choose my soul every time. It is the only part of me that is eternal.
But as I sat in church this morning, listening to the best sermon I have ever heard in church about depression, I knew this post couldn't be all about resolutions. Because January is about more to me than that.
On January 13th, many years ago, my oldest brother took his own life.
I don't know what year it was, because I was too young for years to matter much to me then. I don't even remember how old I was. And I only have small snippets of memories of him. But his life and his death are a big part of who I have become.
Today, pastor J said that the 2nd week of January has the largest incidence of suicides than any other week. Then he preached from a passage in 1 Samuel about David. About joy. About how sometimes we can't find that joy.
David was my brother's name. He got lost, and he forgot there was a way out.
January is a dreary time, even sometimes in Florida. As I drove home from church this morning, grateful for pastor J's honesty, for his addressing depression as a mental illness and not just a spiritual issue, listening to my youngest son chatter happily in his carseat, I looked out at the foggy overcast morning and allowed myself to feel....January.
I've had my days of it too. I've had years of it. No one can tell me that depression does not have some genetic component. Though, I think if we're going to be real, there are very few who are spared going through it at some point in their lives.
Life is so, so good right now. And some of that is certainly circumstances. I mean, look at these pictures. I am married to a perfectly imperfect man who loves God and me with all of his heart. A man who, just 2.5 years ago when I was going through one of those bouts of depression (which I was finally able to attribute to the birth control I was taking, and thus the miracle of Greystoke was conceived), fought for my heart in a way that I will never forget
I have 3 amazing and unique boys that fill my life with laughter and fun and purpose. I am living my dream of motherhood. All those years of playing with dolls long after other girls had moved on to makeup, and imagination has become my reality, and even though it is much messier and there is way less sleep involved than I thought, it is everything I have dreamed of.
But circumstances are always changing. I know that as well as anybody. I know that sometimes you can be hitting your stride, you can be walking out there leaving beautiful footprints and then suddenly everything can go wrong.
We're only one "accident" away from despair, and I say that not in an anxious way, not in a hopeless way, but in a sober way. It's what keeps me on my knees. Not asking to be spared that pain, because pain will always come in this world, but to be ready in my heart for it.
My sister K is doing IVF this month. It is an awful thing that no one should have to go through. She should be walking on the beach with all of her kids lined up in a row, but instead she is walking through a dark time of headaches and hormones and uncertainty and literally putting all of her eggs in one basket.
Come, Lord Jesus.
But it is those dark times that give days of endless joy real meaning. I am so grateful for the days when I felt absolutely nothing. Numbness to the core of my soul. When I could hear the waves crash and there was just silence in my heart. When the warmest of hugs and words of solace felt only cold.
I am thankful for nights when I literally tore my clothes in anguish and sorrow. Because when hearts break, they can fill again if you let them. If you get help. If you just keep going. Or if you can't keep going if you just stop for a while and let others go on for you. I am lucky to have been so loved all my life. I am all too aware that not everyone is.
I'm not really sure exactly where I am going with all of this except to say that it matters, wherever we are. And that we shouldn't be afraid of it, because we are all human. And also to say that just because I am such a happy and thankful person today doesn't mean I always was, or that I won't have hard days again,
The past couple of months, I have experienced really for the first time in motherhood a situation I can't fix with Aquaman. I have been watching him struggle, lash out in an anger that is not typical of him. I have watched him bravely swipe his hands across the tears in his eyes before he squares his shoulders and walks in his classroom door in the mornings. And I know he doesn't believe me, but I think it hurts me as much as it hurts him.
I don't know the answers yet, but I've made a promise to him that I won't stop looking until I find them. I won't give up. I won't pretend it is all just a phase, or that it is just some little kid problem that means nothing, or that he is not feeling some pretty intense and terrifying feelings. Because I know my boy, and I know he is.
As I mentioned earlier, we had a debriefing with the psychologist who has been evaluating him over the past few weeks this week, and it was a really great meeting. I am so glad we consulted him, and really I think it would be an awesome thing for almost every parent of every child to do because it helped me understand him so much more.
He has an IQ of 142, which the psychologist said means he is cognitively a 10 year old. His processing level is only average, likely, as the psychologist explained, due to ADHD. His impulsive and scattered brain makes it almost impossible to sort through the way too much information flying rapidly through it at all times and that makes actual performance at school very difficult even though he is so intelligent.
He is performing in reading comprehension, spelling, and math at the level of a mid third grader. He is actually in 1st grade. And emotionally he is in kindergarten. And his writing is on grade level, but certainly not at the level it should be compared to his cognitive age.
Which all adds up to a very good reason for feeling so frustrated and having such a low self esteem.
He is happy at home, which is always good to hear. He felt that the biggest problem in our family was that we need a minivan. If he was stranded on a desert island and could only bring one thing, he did not choose Legos. He chose his whole family.
But school is a different story. It is good to feel validated, in some ways. I have finally found accurate descriptions of him in the "twice exceptional" child. I always knew he was smart but felt there was no way he could be gifted, because all the gifted kids I knew loved to learn, learned to read when they were 4, and loved school. He definitely didn't fit that profile.
Instead, he is an "at risk" gifted child, with higher stakes. The psychologist warned that he is already teetering dangerously on "amotivational" syndrome in regards to school, and that steps need to be taken to ensure that he is challenged and encouraged properly.
Thankfully one of my best friends is a special education specialist, and she is helping me in navigating the school system with this. I would be so lost without her. Google searches aren't nearly as helpful as a real live person who loves you pointing you in the right direction.
So the next step is officially requesting a full psychoeducational test through the school system. And help for him will not come without a fight, I know. I know because I took The Dude for an evaluation last year, and came away with a very bad taste in my mouth about how little anyone actually wants to help your kid. If they pass the tests it doesn't matter to them whether they're coming home in knots every day and not getting the education they need. Because their resources will go to the kid who isn't passing the test. Because that's where the money is. And that's the sad state of things these days.
But we'll fight.
Because Aquaman deserves it. Because I know God has great plans for his life. And some of that is going to mean a lot of tears.
I can remember crying every day on my way to school in upper elementary. Mine wasn't from academic problems. I was lucky in being above average intelligence with little learning trouble, so school was relatively easy for me (though I can say beyond a doubt, I wouldn't have finished nursing school without ritalin because, as mentioned before, I am very scattered too). I also had and have terrible handwriting.
I cried because of my brother. Because my mom had cancer. Because of a particular bully who targeted my sensitive nature.
I know that little kids can have big feelings. I've been there.
Aquaman is going to spend some time talking to Mr. N about all those big feelings. He is going to talk to him about grace, because Mr. N is a pastor, and he said Aquaman desperately needs to understand grace.
We all do.
I am thankful for the Januarys in my life. Thankful for all those who helped me in those January days.
Thankful that if you keep going, if you remember the promises of God, if you get some help, and if you understand grace, those January days don't last forever.
You should be here, David.
You should see all of this.
I know you'd be freaking out.