Friday, February 3, 2012

How did we get here?

Well, it happened.  Right when I was busy running around from appointment to gym to kid's schools to swim lessons..  I've been so busy with the kids the last few years I didn't even notice it coming.

I, and all my peers got old. Yes, I'm talking about you.  And you.  It hit me hard this week.  Somewhere between putting violet streaks in my hair and receiving news that my 20th high school reunion was being planned I got old.

And then I made the horrible connection between the violet streaks and the getting old.  OH MY GOD!  Am I having a mid life crisis?  Is this what it looks like?  What's next? Too short skirts and botox?  Maybe I'll suddenly feel the need to ride a motorcycle.  Who knows.

Violet streaks.  I like them.  Muchly.  Didn't so much like that it took two days to accomplish, and I had to walk around for 24 hours with strange tiger striped hair.  But the purple I'm liking.  Of course when my 6 year old daughter had a friend over, and I noticed she had the same color streak in her hair my pride shook just a little.  But I'm liking it.

But quasi-punk rock hair.  It's not so bad, right?  I mean as far as mid life crisis's go.  Lately it seems like everyone has a friend.  The friend who is getting a divorce.  Or the friend of a friend who caught their spouse cheating.  Or the buddy who freaked out and quit his job and is moving to Peru to seek clarity.    We're all doing it.  Some by small actions, others by huge life changing ones.  Some are going about it more positively.  I have a friend who is writing a novel.   Another is making a major, positive career change.  Some are having  their last baby, completing their families.

It's a funny time.  Full of self-evaluation.  Questioning.  How the hell did I get here?  As for me, after 15 years of looking a little more conservative than I am on the inside, I'm embracing my inner punk rock girl.  I missed her.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Air in Here

D2 is spending a few days with her Mimi and Pop Pop.  Getting in some special alone time with her.
Our first night D2-less was Sunday.  Hubby and I enjoyed being able to focus our attentions on D1.  She read her homework book to Hubby then helped me make dinner.  It really was nice.  But oh my, it was so incredibly quiet.  Even with the tv on as background noise.  The air felt so still, so quiet.  Hubby and I discussed how much D2 brings to our family, our home.  She fills up the air for us.  Her constant chatter, the singing of her own special medleys.  And yes, the bickering with her sister.  It's amazing to us how a little 4 year old being could occupy all the air around us.  Hubby and I both agreed that we didn't like it.  Just didn't feel right.  Yesterday, while D1 was at school, and during the time I usually spend alone with D2 I ran errands.  Telling myself I needed to get these things done.  But really?  I just don't think I wanted to be engulfed by the silence.

Next year, D2 will be in school.  If she gets into the charter school I'm hoping she gets into, it will be a full day of kindergarten for her.  9 am till 3 pm.  How am I going to breathe in all that empty air?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What's For Dinner?

A few years back, if you had asked me, I would have told you that I love to cook.  Before budgets, and after school activities and 3 meals a day on the table.  It was fun to cook.

Before kids, when I worked, I did not cook every night.  Several nights a week we got take out, or even better, went out to eat.  And we had nights when both of us ate cereal or just junk food.  But at least a couple of nights out of the week I did cook.  WHEN I FELT LIKE IT.  And I enjoyed preparing those meals.  Soups, casseroles, even Filet Mignon took a frequent turn in my repertoire.

I've always loved ready new recipes.  I would read them, but never follow them to the word.  When hubby asked I would tell him I was "inspired" by a recipe I saw in such and such magazine.  Then we would giggle because we both new I'd probably never be able to re-create it exactly.

But things have changed.  I now make breakfast for 3, lunch for 2 and dinner for 4 nearly every day.  Sure, I have some breaks.  Pizza or chinese for dinner sometimes.  Chic-Fil-A for lunch on occasion.  But money is tight and I prefer healthier made at home options.  So I cook.  And something that once was practiced in moderation and enjoyed, is now another chore.

And lately, my recipe inspired creations have lost their mojo.  The flops have outnumbered the successes.  My hubby has asked for cereal instead.

Like last weekend.  I vaguely remembered reading about pureeing white beans and adding it to kale, tomatoes, garlic and oil.  So I added a little of this and a little of that.  Didn't feel like putting the beans in my blender to puree, so after adding them to the rest of the ingredients I buzzed my immersion blender into the pan a few times.  When my husband asked for salt and refused to look me in the eye, I had to ask "is it not good?" after a long pause, and still no eye contact, his reply was "have I ever asked for salt before?" Gotcha.

Or a few weeks ago when I started to make an Asian stir fry but realized I had no soy sauce, I put a little of this and a little of that in.  Then the kids were fighting so I forgot about it as it cooked on the stove.  What resulted was mushy and flavorless.  When my husband came home late that night and asked what I cooked, I told him "dinner".  When he pulled out the cereal, I dumped the left overs into the trash.

The last example also pinpoints another issue.  I suffer from poor pantry inventory control.  I often THINK I have the ingredients for a particular dish, but find out too late that I do not.

At 6 pm, after making sauce and boiling the water, I will realize I don't actually have any noodles.  That's when I start wondering if the kids will like sauce over rice or maybe beans.  Or I'll cook and season the meat for taco's only to realize that D2 has snacked away all the shells.  Taco casserole it is!  Crap... no rice either....  lettuce wraps!

So what is the solution? I honestly don't have one. D1 has shown a lot of interest in cooking.  I'm hoping by 8 or 9 she can take over.  Until then, it's sauce and rice for dinner!

Crap... the dog just ate the sauce.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The "A" Word: Part 2

The topper came in the Fall of 2009, I had joined a Mom's book club. Children came along and were expected to play independently while the Moms discussed the book. After an especially trying meeting, where the kids weren't being especially kind to my girls, and D1 reacted in her aggressive ways, I left early. That evening I was called by one of the Mom's and asked that I do not bring my girls to future meetings. With two years perspective this doesn't sound so terrible. But it was. I was hurt and angry. No, I was all out pissed. But also so incredibly sad. Being rejected by myself was one thing.  But to have my child rejected was a whole new, horrible feeling.  How could they not see how wonderful and special my little girl was?

I was devastated.  I began to withdrawal both myself and my girls from many social opportunities.  I was even hesitant to spend time with close friends who seemed to understand the challenges I faced with my D1.  I was so afraid of another rejection, or another incident of D1 behaving badly or hurting another child.  I believed it would drive me straight over the edge.

I honestly didn't know what to do. So I took a step that was so incredibly scary to me. I called an Autism resource and requested an evaluation. My heart was in my stomach. As I spoke with the receptionist I began to cry. She reassured me that it would be ok. That she had a son with autism, and really it was manageable. That made me cry even more.

It just brought me too far back. Back to my own childhood, my own difficulties. Too shy, too awkward. Which made making friends very hard, and made me a huge target for teasing and bullying. One of my number one wishes for my kids was not that they would be straight A students or star athletes. I simply wanted them to have it a little easier than I did. I wanted them to be outgoing, to have lots of friends and make great childhood memories. I wanted them to never have to play alone during recess, to never  not know who they could sit with at lunchtime. All the terrible lonely memories of my childhood, the ones that left me sad still, so many years later. I could not handle my baby girl going through the same thing.  D1 was creative, funny, and so incredibly smart.  The thought of others not valuing these attributes as much as I did was heart breaking.

Of course the appointment we made was not immediate.  As I now know, most  autism providers have  notoriously long wait lists.  And while a month seemed a long time to wait, it was actually incredibly short compared to other providers wait lists.  Once the appointment rolled around I was scared.  Questioning myself once again.  Maybe I was over-reacting.  She just had some quirks and was a little behind her age socially.  All kids have areas they struggle with.  Was I dragging her to some evaluation unneccessarily?  Wasting everyone's time?

But I was so incredibly glad I went.  The therapist who conducted the evaluation was kind, non-judgemental and understanding.  After talking with her for an extensive amount of time and giving her the evaluations I had filled out ahead of time, we were told to return in a week.  While I went to the initial evaluation alone, hubby came with me for the results meeting.  At this point, hubby was even more skeptic than I.  He seemed to lean more on her issues being more of a result of our parenting.  Bringing him along to this appointment was very important to me to get us on the same page.

The therapist began referring to D1 as a "fence sitter".  She was borderline.  Definitely had attributes of ADHD.  But also many attributes of aspergers.  She explained to us that the evaluations were hard to do on a young girl.  That the tests were tilted towards the more typical aspie - a boy of age 7 or 8.   She told us that very often girls do not get diagnosed with Aspergers till about fourth grade - when the social structure of school becomes much more complicated.

I know many people are relieved when they finally get their child's diagnosis.  The years of wondering and not knowing what to do are done.  But I did not feel that way.  I was grieving and scared.  What kind of difficulties would she have to over come in the future?  What kind of family life would we have if we were constantly taking D1 to all the therapies that were suggested for her?

As that winter began, I went fully into myself and kept my girls close.  Looking back, I remember it as a very dark and lonely winter.  A winter full of waiting.  At the evaluators suggestions, I tried to find social skill groups, speech and behavioral therapies.  But all of these required more waiting lists, initial evaluations and placements with the right therapists and groups.  Waiting.

~ part 3 of this series will be out next week ~

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The "A" Word : Part 1

When she was just under 2 years old, someone mentioned it, in response to my lamenting over her hitting others so much. It nagged at me. But I brushed it aside. Not my girl. She looked us in the eye, she showed us affection. She was learning to talk.

But still, the hitting continued. It didn't appear to be something she was going to grow out of. As members of the local MOM's club, we became playgroup drop outs. The crying children and judgemental Mommy eyes were just too much. I carefully selected the places we would go. Outdoor venues seemed to be o.k. for her. Playgrounds with lots of space and not too much noise were usually good experiences. Closed in loud places like Chuck E. Cheese were just plain horrible. Even close friends disappointed me - suggesting playdates should be avoided till D1 grew out of this stage. It was frustrating and lonely. I wanted everyone to love my little D1 like I did. I wanted everyone to see how amazing she was - smart,creative and sweet. Yes, sweet. She loved her Mama and her DaDa.

And at this time we had our little D2. My D1 tolerated her at best. Terrorized her at the worst of times. I would take out my beautiful baby and keep my fingers crossed that no one would notice the scratch marks across her face and ask how they happened. I lived in constant stress. Setting the baby down on the floor and walking into the adjoining room for just a second was never an option. I never knew what my D1 might do. D2 was carried around with me nearly every second.

I made extra phone calls to our pediatrician, explaining the latest event and being told it was all in the normal range of developmentally normal. But it just didn't seem right to me. No matter how much I hoped and prayed, she wasn't growing out of it.

I felt lonely, scared and confused. I would vassilate between wondering if something was wrong with my girl and brushing it off as over-worry of a Momma with her first born.

When my D1 was about 2 1/2 we added another big transition to her little life. We joined the exodus from over-priced New Jersey to PA. And it was a bumpy transition. While looking for a permanent home to buy we lived in a horrible rental with fleas, scary, unstable trees and electrical issues. I was able to explain away my D1's behavior on the wacky transitions.

But her behaviors, our living quarters and my post-pardum hormones put a toll on me. I was exhausted, weepy and full of mood swings. With support from Hubby, my Mom, Sister and one very close friend I made it through a very lonely confusing time.

Once we found our permanent home and settled in I prayed she would make the adjustment and her behaviors would improve. But as she grew a little older and the hitting continued and was joined with a few other quirky behaviors I wondered some more. The over the top fear of loud noises, the non-existent impulse control (I mean, a lake in our kitchen? Really?, the strange sensory seeking behaviors (paint smeared all over your body, really? we just cleaned up the lotion you smeared) the seemingly literal translation of everything we said to her. I read up on Sensory Processing Disorder. I read about how ADHD can effect girls differently. I would see some similarities, but others that seemed not quite right.

Feeling so alone in a new town I bravely set out to make some new friends. Despite the experiences I had in my NJ Mom's Club, I decided to join the local chapter again. Just shy of D1's third birthday I bravely attended a playgroup at another Mom's house. It went well. The Mom's in the group seemed to have more children, appeared to be more laid back and less hoverish about their kids.

We went through a nice time where the hitting and other behaviors seemed to only happen at home. While still frustrated, I was relieved that she was learning to play well with others.

But at home she began biting me, her Daddy and her sister. My cute little D2 walking around with cuts and bruises the shape of a mouth on her arms and legs. It was heart breaking. I talked to our new pediatrician. His response was that it was outside of his scope of knowledge. He referred us to a therapist. I made an appointment and nervously met with her first, without D1. After explaining D1's behaviors, the therapist suggested I try biting her back. Really? Where did she get her degree? Redneck U? I was frustrated and feeling more alone than ever.

Hubby and I were so confused. Could anyone help us? Were we just inadequate parents who didn't know how to handle a spirited child?

Then in the Spring of '09 my then 13 year old nephew was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. It sent me into a tailspin. Could my little girl also have this? I compared articles on girls with ADHD and girls with Aspergers. It all just left me so very confused. I could see a little of her in both. But it just didn't seem totally like her. The confusion and uncertainty continued.

She continued with the strange,although hilarious, impulsive behaviors. No bottle of lotion, paint, glue or shampoo was safe when left out. I would enter into a friends home and quickly scan the area for possible future messes. She once again began hitting others outside our home. We received reports from school of hitting, and once again I had to break up fights at play dates and other social situations.

~to be continued in a few days

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Very Loud Noise

My D1 is not much for the mornings. The whole idea of getting up, getting dressed and quickly eating so she can start school just doesn't appeal to her. So each morning is a struggle. It involves a lot of yelling prompting on my part, and a whole lot of rushing. Toss in a crazed, dumb doodle and the mornings are absolute chaos. Most days, it requires me to drive D1 to school, since the bus is almost always missed. Usually she is still on time for the start of school, but on extra crazy days I have to walk her into the school and sign her in late.

In late October we had one of those extra crazy days. After over an hour of a whole lot of yelling prompting, the morning was topped off with a run through the neighbors yards to retrieve our dumb doodle who had gotten loose.

After my morning run, to say I was stressed out was an understatement. We parked in the front of the school and I had to usher both girls into the school to sign D1 in. Feeling a little guilty for all the yelling prompting I did that morning, I paused to give D1 an extra hug before I shoved her out into the world alone. And in those 2.5 seconds I lost track of D2. But as I heard the deafening sound of a fire alarm, I quickly found her. With a very guilty and upset look on her face.

Oh. My. God.

She pulled the fire alarm.

My first instinct was to run. To grab both girls, shove them into the van, and speed off. No one needed to know!

But I took a deep breath, remembered I was wearing my big girl panties, and did the right thing.

I stopped one of the secretaries as she rushed around, knowing it wasn't a planned drill and worried over what may be happening, and told her, it was my little one. She stopped and stared for a moment then went to work.

We walked outside and watched as all the children began filing out of the school. D1 told me she thought she may throw up. D2 held on to me, her face buried into my shoulder. I wished I had someone to hide my face into, too.

A teacher came by and offered to usher D1 to her teacher and classmates. So D2 and I sat on a bench and watched as all 455 students and 67 faculty members filed out into the parking lot. D2 straddled my lap and pressed her face into my chest. She lifted her head only once, to whisper that she wished she could go back into my belly.

As the principal went by I stopped him and apologized. He said it wasn't exactly the way he wanted to start his day, but he assured me it was ok, and that it wasn't the first time.

Then, as the fire truck pulled up, I cringed just a little more. Was this really happening to me?

Oh. My. God. A fire truck. My daughter's doing.

The firemen quickly cut off the deafening alarm. I heard the Principal announce to the students that a "visitor" had accidentally pulled the alarm and they were to now quietly return to their classrooms. D2 and I sat there quietly, as the 455 children and 67 faculty members filed past us, staring and now knowing who the "visitor" in question was.

I waited and once again spoke to the Principal. I asked him if I needed to do anything else. He nicely replied get the hell out of my school no, that we could go home.

My D2. Known by 455 students and 67 faculty members before she has even been enrolled in the school.

I went home and spent the rest of the day coiled into the fetal position.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dumb, Dumb Doodle

While he's been mentioned, I haven't formally introduced you to the latest member of our crazy cast of characters.

Bailey is our puppy dog. We have had him for a year. He is a a Golden Doodle. Which is fancy for mutt. No, he's a combination of a Golden Retriever and a Standard Poodle. Because our life was feeling so dull, what with the two insane children and all, we decided it was time to add a puppy. Cause you know, we didn't have enough to do.

Bailey makes our children look passive and well behaved.

Not too long ago, I listed for my friends on facebook all that he had done by 9 am:

ate my breakfast
licked half a tub of organic butter
chewed up a candle stick, mesh bath pouf, ball of yarn and a pair of underwear
ate the ear off a pillow pet and half a cardboard box

One other night, Hubby came home late one night to the following doodle debris gathered on the floor:

To improve his behavior, I signed us up for doggy obedience class. They gave me a can full of rocks to shake when he was misbehaving. It totally freaked him out! Worked like a charm for two days. Till he ate the can.

To top it off, he's not the smartest. My hubby will throw him a treat, expecting him to catch it in his mouth. Every single time it hits his head and drops on the floor. He runs into walls. He constantly barks at his own reflection. He still doesn't understand the command "sit!". He prefers the plastic bag over the cookies inside.

We've renamed him. He is now referred to as The Dumb Doodle. I'm not sure D2 even knows that his real name is Bailey.

Like my kids, he drives me crazy. As if my mornings aren't crazy enough, they haven't ended till I've chased him around my bedroom at least once to retrieve my eye glasses or a pair of socks. The afternoons aren't complete till I've yelled at him for stealing D2's snack.

But, just like my kids, I love him. The big, dumb doodle waits for my husband to get out of bed each morning so he can jump up to snuggle with me.(Bet my ultra-chic flannel bear paw print sheets in the picture above are impressing the hell out of you.) In the afternoon, D2 and the doodle snuggle together to watch cartoons. He follows me from room to room. When I get out of the shower, he is leaning against the bathroom door, waiting for me.

Yeah, he's a keeper.