Sunday, March 31, 2013

Family Photos

Thanks Louise

Thank You

There is a light, it burns brighter than the sun
He steals the night and casts no shadow
There is hope, should oceans rise and mountains fall
He never fails

So take heart
Let His love lead us through the night
Hold on to hope
And take courage again

In death by love the fallen world was overcome
He wears the scars of our freedom
In his name all our fears are swept away
He never fails

So take heart
Let His love lead us through the night
Hold on to hope
And take courage again

All our troubles and all our tears
God, our hope, has overcome
All our failure and all our fear
God, our love, has overcome

All our heartache and all our pain
God, our healer, He has overcome
All our burdens and all our shame
God, our freedom, He has overcome

God, our justice, God, our grace
God, our freedom, He has overcome
God, our refuge, God our strength
God is with us, for He has overcome

Joel Houston

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mini Update

Sorry I'm lagging in my blogging =) You are awesome, especially Tamie who comes back to nag me when I don't post in awhile!  Well, you're all equally awesome but Tamie's reminders prompt me to post.

I have several posts up my sleeve but for now a few bullets

-Amarys puked all night.  Stomach flu, with a fever.  Pray hard it doesn't spread like wildfire in our family like it did at Christmas, that was a disgustingness I never want to repeat.

-Spring break is looking way up.  After the first day, in which 4 hours of March Break was 4 hours of parental torture, trapped in our house by the weather, and containing 3 small boys with energy to BURN, also trying to work, and solo parenting?  It's fortunate nobody died.

[disclaimer: I am not one of those parents who bemoans breaks from school.  I like to spend time with my kids and having them around is one of my favourite things.  But certain circumstances set me up for poking out my own eyeballs in frustration and one of them is being trapped in the house with excessive boy energy]

-Yesterday was WARM and SUNNY!  We went to the park midday and all took off our sweaters because it was too HOT for sweaters!  The upside to living in a rainforest is that spring comes early.  Our tulips are erupting as we speak.  *dancing*

-My friend Louise took some family photos of us, so excited to share.  She's awesome pants and does all our pro photos.  I will share as soon as I can.

-Our house is almost ready to put on the market.  Brent and I are bagged.  And stressed out.  Repainting, purging, organizing, cleaning, 1800 square feet seems so much larger when you're selling than when you're buying, that's for certain.

-My friend Rob has been posting videos of his baby on FB (he lives in Korea) and OHMYGOSH is he ever CUUUUUUUTE!!  Babies are awesome.

-Speaking of, I'm having serious baby cravings.  I DON'T want one and it would be impossible for us if we did, because we're sterile (surgically).  But Amarys is now two and really can't be considered a baby anymore, and man do I looooove me some squishy baby love.  I can't understand people who don't like babies.  Seriously.  Tiny, fragile, hosts of pure holiness and receptacles for love, is what I think.  Amazingpants.  So.  Somebody have a baby so I can snuggle it.

-Also, people have been commenting who have not commented before, all of a sudden!  Also amazingpants.

-I gotta go work.  More to come soon!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I have PMS so bad, I can't talk to anyone. I don't even want to talk to mySELF.
“But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It's a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright.”
  -Bob Goff, Love Does


So, I got hired at a new job!  I know, this is crazy.  I won't be able to blog about it which is a national tragedy, but I did, in fact, get hired at a new job that works with the public in a phone answering way.  Ha!  I don't have to be that vague. I'm joking.  I'm a police dispatcher.  Fun times, people.  FUN TIMES.  I can't wait to start.  Not blogging about it is going to give me hemorrhoids, but we all make sacrifices for the things we love.  It's going to be work but it's going to be FUN.  =)  Considering my previous career that sentence actually makes sense.  I start next month.  I need childcare.  LIKE HOW.  Shiiiiiite.

Thanks to all of you who commented on my two previous posts.  I ♥ you, thanks for rooting so hard for my Matthew and for me as his figuring-it-out-as-I-go mom.  I have to make a small correction since report cards came home on Friday: Matthew isn't reading at grade level yet like I thought, but he's drastically improved.  We're shooting for grade level by the end of the year.

I went snowboarding two Mondays in a row (night skiing on Seymour) the past two weeks.  The ski season is essentially over so I had to get in a few nights before it ended, despite it being on the same night as my al-anon group.  Who doesn't love skipping out on your own mental health to go SNOWBOARDING??!!  My whole life I've been responsible.  So I'm learning to be a little bad sometimes.  Go ahead and laugh, because I'm irreverent, but it doesn't mean I'm BAD.  It just means I have a potty mouth.  I still GO TO CHURCH for godsakes.  That is a metaphor for a lot of really hilarious parts about me that don't fit together.

Anyways: SNOWBOARDING.  The first week I went and it was fabulous and especially so because I brought Ayden and we went with my best friend and her 9 year old, so I was carving down the hill beside my kid and I thought It doesn't get much better than this.  And it doesn't.

We did four runs on the short hill at Seymour and then the kids were game to try the longer hill which has a quad chair and longer runs.  So we get off at the top and three of us have snowboards so we have to stop, sit down, fasten our boots back to our boards, and then go.  Ayden is doing the ski equivalent of pacing: YOU GUYS TAKE SOOOOO LONG!  With a snarky smile on his face, and the second we're ready he takes off in front.  We went down the hill and lo and behold Ayden wasn't there.  Weird.  We waited and paced and went back to the first hill and checked out the magic carpet... No Ayden.  After about 10 minutes I flagged down a liftie and he alerted the other lifties and called me a ski patroller.  We waited and paced and filled out forms, etc, for another 45 minutes until finally a couple showed up with Ayden in their wake: he had gotten only partway down the hill, came to a divergence and didn't know which way to go.  He figured he'd wait for us; we must have flown past him and not noticed (thinking he's ahead of us), and he waited and waited!!!  Poor kid.  He didn't know that every path on a ski mountain leads to the bottom of the chairlift, and that runs will close at night if they're unsafe.  So he didn't really know what to do.

I was trying not to panic.  The hill has only two runs down from the quad at night so I knew he couldn't be TOO lost, but what if he got caught in a tree well, or smacked his head on the ice?  Gah.  I was pacing.  He had the entire ski patrol out in full force, lifties with his description on the look out, and a panicked mother.  He knew we'd be looking for him too.  You know what he said when we found him?  We wasted so much ski time!  Stinker.  He loves to ski.  He cried when I said we'd have to go home soon because the mountain closes at 10.

The nice couple that found him told him about all runs winding up at the bottom of the chair, and about closed runs being blocked off, so that was great.  We talked about what to do next time if we get separated again, and mostly I just didn't want him to get turned off skiing from that bad experience.  NO DANGER THERE.  Sheesh.  I earn my grey hairs, peeps.

The following week I went snowboarding again because I'm a rebel like that, and the snow was deep and fun, but hard work to carve in.  I almost fell once, put my hand down to stop myself, and jammed my thumb into a mogul at high speed, hyperextending it backwards pretty far.  RIP! Yowch.  I was pretty sure it was broken but it turns out it's just a bad sprain.  I went to the doctor and got an x-ray and everything, which is what I should have done last year when I injured my knee (which still hurts and swells and now my doc says I probably tore my miniscus and that my ACL is unsteady so it was probably slightly torn too.  I need an MRI which takes a year in Canada so yippee, two years of pain before I know anything.  Anyways I learned my lesson; I should have gone to the doctor the day after that injury but I didn't and that's probably part of why my doctor held off on the MRI at that time, because she didn't see how bad it was when it happened.  She saw it nine weeks later when I sheepishly went in with, I injured it nine weeks ago, left it to swell to twice its size and limited mobility to heal on its own for seven weeks, then I went snowboarding on it again and it looks like I have a fluid tumor on the side of my kneecap now.  Oops.

It hurts to type.  That's why I've been quiet.  Sorry  =)

Also I've been busy.  I do work for an internet company that does SEO marketing, website improvements, and social media management and suddenly I had more hours in Feb/March so I've been busy with that, too.  I've been doing that work a few hours here and there since last year but only had consistent work since Feb. Which is amazing because I actually made enough money to buy paint to paint the interior of our house so we can put it on the market.  Whew.  Three boys and one small girl make a lot of marks on the walls in two short years.

Aside from working and doing all the majillions of tasks that come with having four small kids, I've been going to Bible study weekly, Al-anon meetings sort of weekly, and counselling weekly.  I also have book club once a month and some friends stuff, and zumba classes... Last week I looked around and realized that for the first time since Amarys was born I feel like I have my life back.  Ayden it took a year for me to feel that way.  Matthew, it took about 8 months.  Riley, 6 months.  Amarys?  2 years.
LET THIS BE A LESSON TO YOU.  Three is a nice number of children.  (JOKING. I love my high needs princess).

Spring break is upon us, and I would like to say that if you have no money and it is raining, spring break sucks eggs.  Saturday I'd been up for only four hours and I was all I'M GOING TO KILL SOMEONE IF I HAVE TO LIVE THROUGH ONE MORE MINUTE OF SPRING BREAK.  There's something about rain and being trapped in 900 square feet of upstairs with massive amounts of pumped up boy energy and nowhere to expend it that just makes me INSANE.  Call me crazy, but that's not fun.  And all my effing facebook friends are in stupid places like Disney or Hawaii or Turkey.  The radio station had this fabulous contest sending people to Europe to see my favourite band and we tried so hard for tickets but failed and I was all EVERYONE ELSE SUCKS BECAUSE HOW ELSE WILL I EVER GET TO EUROPE EXCEPT WINNING A TRIP THERE and traveling is my #1 favourite thing to do in the entire world besides be with my family.

This week however the sun has been shining and two of my kids are in a free (YES FREE) soccer camp put on by the township so things are looking up from Saturday.

I went to the Annual Breastfeeding Education Day at Douglas College on March 9th.  I love lactation.  I'm so passionate about it, I think it's what I want to "do" with my life. I've applied to become a La Leche League Leader so I can start a group in our new town when we move, and I'd like to apply it towards maybe a lactation consultant certification, or a Masters degree in something to do with maternal/infant health, and especially infant nutrition.  I love all things birth and breastfeeding but these days I feel the MOST passionate about the latter.  I know I've gotten jump started in different directions before (ie, midwifery) so who knows where this will take me.  But for now, I'm starting the leadership process and taking it from there.  So fun!  And I'm still a doula.  So I still get my birth high from time to time.  This year's Breastfeeding Education Day was about anthropology and breastfeeding, specifically breastfeeding and culture, the biological norms for lactation in higher primates which affect our understanding of how long we would breastfeed our kids if culture had no influence on duration of lactation (between 2.5 and 7 years, but most likely 5-6 years, based on a number of factors including maturity at birth, age of first menstruation in females, life expectancy, length of infancy, length of gestation, etc), babywearing and cosleeping, and infants and crying.  VERY INTERESTING.

I met one online friend there, Amber Strocel from (she interviewed me for Mothers of Change last month sometime), and one of my other online friends her her photo in the presentation itself.  I facebooked her: Dionna, I saw your boobs in action today.  She was all, ARE YOU OUTSIDE MY WINDOW?  She lives in the Eastern U.S.  Ha ha.  No, she was involved in that photo shoot for Time Magazine on attachment parenting/extended breastfeeding (not so extended, it turns out, according to anthropology, but whatever.  Culture is weird) and my presenter was talking about that Time fiasco.

Remember when I blogged about how my picture of tandem nursing Amarys and Riley was involved in a Facebook protest?  And how it got deleted and banned and the Feminist Breeder had her account suspended for several days, then they apologized and put it back, and then it got deleted again?  The Feminist Breeder went subscription only recently.  It was really sudden and I kinda felt bummed.  I don't really believe in subscription blogs (although I'm not totally against them, whatever floats your boat), I'm not about to take my hard earned cash and not buy my kid shoes so I can read the TFB's admittedly fascinating posts, even at only a dollar a month.  I felt left out.  I still do.  Like I was a part of a community that went all exclusive and didn't include me, which is weird and only based on the fact that I offered that photo, got thanked, it went up, and down, and up, and down, and TFB never responded to me again after that.  I felt kind of a little bit used.  Like my photo was provocative enough for her to use and she knew it would be the most controversial one in the entire campaign, but then when she went private I was out of the loop.  I could be in the loop if I wanted?  But I'm not big on paying to read blogs so I didn't opt for looping.

It's fine.  I don't have enough time to keep up with my friend blogs let alone feminist breeder blogs anyways. I just feel kind of sad, I really liked Gina and felt like a part of her following and whatnot.  I didn't often participate in discussion or leave many comments but I'd been reading for years.  Suddenly left out in the cold.  Meh.

Also: my baby turned two.  I know you guys know that because i posted about it but I'm a bit traumatized.  She's so amazing.  They're all amazing and smart and sweet and OMG SO ANNOYING.  One of my tweeps posted today:

My kids are being such assholes today. I'm thinking of letting them play Hunger games. I hope the little one wins, he's my favourite.

And this is why I love twitter.  Where else can you get away with shit like that?  So funny.  She also said:

We'll never divorce. Neither one of us wants to get stuck with the kids. This message brought to you by March Break.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAAA!  Shit gets real on Twitter.  Because if you can't get real in 140 characters why even be alive?  Why even try.

I gotta go to bed lovelies.  Exes and ohs.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When All You Want for Them is Love: Adoption, Abandonment, and Honoring the Truth

Welcome to the March 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Tough Conversations
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have spoken up about how they discuss complex topics with their children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I wish my Matthew's adoption story went like this:

Love, love, blabbity blah, love, love, meadows of flowers, buckets of candy, handfuls of Johnny Test watches and Hex Bug habitats.  And love.

Instead, it goes like this:

Your mom was poor.
Your dad fled.
I wish I could fix that.
I can't.

We talk about Matthew's adoption very openly, as though it were a normal part of our family history.  Which it is.  His story is doled out in pieces~

You lived in a house with Mama Lisa and seven other babies....

You were born in a city by the sea...

Kuhn-Mae loved you with all her heart, but didn't have enough money for food and a house and clothes...

And if he asks questions, we give as many details as we know.  He has a scrapbook photo album from his first year, which his foster mom made for him.  It has pictures of his first haircut, bubble baths, playing in the sandbox, and eating sand.  We go through the album periodically, talking about what life was like in Thailand, before we arrived to bring him home, and all the people in his life who love him.  How lucky he is to have so many mommas: tummy mommy, foster mommy, and forever mommy.

We try to be positive, frame his first mommy and siblings in love and kindness, and give Matthew as much information about them as we know.  We write letters to his birth family and have discussed visiting at some point.  But mostly?  We avoid the topic of his First Dad.  One day, Matthew said,

When we go to Thailand can I visit Kuhn-Mae and my brother and sister?

Yes, love.

And my Thailand daddy?  Can we visit my Thailand daddy?

The look in his eyes was pure and hopeful and so beautiful.  So open, and full of certainty that his Thailand daddy would welcome him with open arms.  It broke me in two.  See, Matthew's birth father abandoned his family when his mother became pregnant, claiming that Matthew was not his child and cutting off contact and financial support for the whole family as a result.  Matthew is his child.  There is no doubt when you look at photos that his birth mother is telling the truth, and that some deeper sense of anger, selfishness, overwhelmedness, or divided loyalty caused Matthew's birth father to walk away.
He rejects Matthew's existence as his child, and his abandonment is the reason for the family's poverty and ultimately for Matthew's relinquishment for adoption.

No, sweetheart.  I'm sorry, but we can't visit your Thailand daddy.

Why not?

I weighed my words carefully.  I was torn between the need to be honest and the need to protect my little boy's heart.  How do you say, not all parents are responsible?  Not all parents accept their children?  Not all parents put their children before themselves?  Not all parents can handle the responsibility of a new, small, wiggly baby in their lives?  The only dad Matthew has ever known is full of love and playfulness and is one hundred percent present, every day.  Dependable.  Loving.  Kind.  I also needed to talk to Matthew in words he could understand.  All I could come up with was

He... He is... Well, he's not a nice man.

And immediately Matthew replied, with vehemence, Then I don't want to see him.

You don't have to.

And we moved on.
I know this conversation isn't over.  The thing about adoption stories is that they grow as the child grows, and adopted children constantly reprocess their story at every developmental stage, emotionally and intellectually.  So he will have more questions in the future, and he will want more details.  We will have to face his hopeful eyes again and deliver information that will change the look in his eyes, and hurt him, when he asks about his First Dad.  My hope is to balance honesty with generosity.  To frame his birth parents in the best possible terms and find love in as many corners of the story as possible, without glossing over the truth.  Because it is true that Matthew's birth father abandoned him.  Abandoned the entire family.  But it is NOT true that Matthew is unlovable, or unworthy, or responsible for the abandonment.  If he is told the abandonment part of his story too soon, or in the wrong way, he could internalize a sense of responsibility.

I don't have any profound insight into how to bring my child a fullness and a firm sense of being loved, as well as giving him an honest account of his personal history.  I just know it matters.  It matters how we tell it, when we tell it, and how much information we give him every year, based on how mature he is.  We stumble around, and hopefully respond well when it arrives.

Because all I want for him is love.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon March 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • A Difficult Conversation — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is keeping her mouth shut about a difficult topic.
  • Discussing Sexuality and Objectification With Your Child — At Authentic Parenting, Laura is puzzled at how to discuss sexuality and objectification with her 4-year-old.
  • Tough Conversations — Kadiera at Our Little Acorn knows there are difficult topics to work through with her children in the future, but right now, every conversation is a challenge with a nonverbal child.
  • Real Talk — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama explains why there are no conversation topics that are off limits with her daughter, and how she ensures that tough conversations are approached in a developmentally appropriate manner.
  • From blow jobs to boob jobs and lots of sex inbetweenMrs Green talks candidly about boob jobs and blow jobs…
  • When Together Doesn't Work — Ashley at Domestic Chaos discusses the various conversations her family has had in the early stages of separation.
  • Talking To Children About Death — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is currently dealing with the terminal illness of her mother. In this post she shares how she's explained it to her toddler, and some of the things she's learned along the way.
  • Teaching 9-1-1 To Kids — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling talks about the importance of using practical, age-appropriate emergency scenarios as a springboard for 9-1-1 conversations.
  • Preschool Peer PressureLactating Girl struggles to explain to her preschooler why friends sometimes aren't so friendly.
  • Frank Talk — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis unpacks a few conversations about sexuality that she's had with her 2-year-old daughter, and her motivation for having so many frank discussions.
  • When simple becomes tough — A natural mum manages oppositional defiance in a toddler at Ursula Ciller's Blog.
  • How Babies are Born: a conversation with my daughter — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger tries to expand her daughter's horizons while treading lightly through the waters of pre-K social order.
  • Difficult Questions & Lies: 4 Reasons to Tell The Truth — Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection shares the potential impact that telling lies instead of taking the time to answer difficult questions can have on the parent-child relationship.
  • Parenting Challenges--when someone dies — Survivor at Surviving Mexico writes about talking to her child about death and the cultural challenges involved in living in a predominantly Catholic nation.
  • Daddy Died — Breaking the news to your children that their father passed away is tough. Erica at ChildOrganics shares her story.
  • Opennesssustainablemum prepares herself for the day when she has to tell her children that a close relative has died.
  • Embracing Individuality — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy addressed a difficult question in public with directness and honesty.
  • Making the scary or different okay — Although she tries to listen more than she talks about tough topics, Jessica Claire of Crunchy-Chewy Mama also values discussing them with her children to soften the blow they might cause when they hit closer to home.
  • Talking to My Child About Going Gluten Free — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama concluded that her family would benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet, she came up with a plan to persuade her gluten-loving son to find peace with the change. This is how they turned the transition to a gluten-free lifestyle into an adventure rather than a hardship.
  • How Does Your Family Explain Differences and Approach Diversity? — How do you and your family approach diversity? Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen shares her thoughts at Natural Parents Network and would like to hear from readers.
  • Discussing Difficult Topics with Kids: What’s Worked for Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares parenting practices that enabled discussions of difficult topics with her (now-adult) children to be positive experiences.
  • Tough Conversations — Get some pointers from Jorje of Momma Jorje on important factors to keep in mind when broaching tough topics with kids.
  • Protect your kids from sneaky people — Lauren at Hobo Mama has cautioned her son against trusting people who'd want to hurt him — and hopes the lessons have sunk in.
  • Mommy, What Does the Bible Say? — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work works through how to answer a question from her 4-year-old that doesn't have a simple answer.
  • When All You Want for Them is Love: Adoption, Abandonment, and Honoring the Truth — Melissa at White Noise talks about balancing truth and love when telling her son his adoption story.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Matthew and ADHD

Ah, my Crazy Eights child.  Where can I start?  Matthew has always been a busy little boy.  From the minute we first met him in the Chiang Mai airport, he was always his own man.  Marching to his own band.  A few of the characteristics that come to mind especially in retrospect are hands on, busy, wild, climb the walls, constant, impulsive, hyper, over stimulated, self stimulating, repetitive, noisy, high energy, 'naughty,' emotional, cute, hilarious, precocious, distractible, frustrating, scattered, and just plain MORE.  His energy was more, his activity was more, his emotions were stronger, his noise was wilder, his personality was just BIG.

Big is awesome and beautiful.  But big can become cumbersome and interfere with normal functioning and  daily life and learning and relationships and even just plain old safety to a degree that tips the scales into worrisome.  My relatives and close friends who saw us in action frequently commented that we had our hands full.  They would smile at him, knowingly glance at us, and say something to the effect of Good luck with that one!

At first I figured he was a 'spirited' child.  He is, but he's actually more than that.  Then I figured he was spirited but also had communication problems, which were holding him back and making him frustrated and overtly physical.  He was, but it was more than that, too.  His teachers identified him early as needing extra help with academics.  Without being pushy, they gave him tons of support.  Reading Recovery, learning assistance, speech therapy, one on one with the teachers, multiple learning styles, multiple sensory tools, adapted lesson plans; the kid had every intervention.  And at the beginning of grade three?  He still struggled with the alphabet.

Living with Matthew's energy and the overwhelming constantcy of his MORE was normal to us, and so we didn't see him as hyper.  We saw him as distractible, smart, funny, and scattered, but not hyper.  I think this was because we were so busy managing him, we didn't have time to objectively evaluate him.  Keeping him ALIVE was two full time jobs back to back.  Darting into traffic was a big one.  You can repeat and repeat  and repeat and keep a hawk eye all you want, but an eight year old with ADHD is gonna impulsively leap into the street, you just pray all the time that the other cars see him in time.  Or that there are no other cars.

We worried about his sense of self.  We worried he would internalize a feeling of inadequacy for being significantly behind his peers academically.  We worried about his self esteem because we spent so much of our day managing his behavior that we had precious little time to simply enjoy him.  Have positive interactions that made him feel loved.  In fact, by the time we went to the doctor for a diagnosis, he was spending a good portion of each day separated from the rest of us (in his room, or in the playroom) just to keep him from bullying his little brother and to give me a break from constantly correcting his behavior.

The thought of homeschooling him to avoid the academic comparison issue made me nauseous.  I knew I didn't have the skill it would take to teach this boy anything academic since it was all I could do to give him basic life skills surrounding kindness, toileting, and self care.  And not darting out in traffic.

Another ADHD mom I met said to me, "If I could just put my eleven year old in a stroller when we're out walking, THEN I could keep him safe..."  EXACTLY.  And we're not even exaggerating.

The school approached US about testing Matthew for a disability or issue or problem, and it was based on all the intervention he'd received and yet still where he floundered academically.  All of us felt strongly that his IQ was high, his potential was huge, but that it was locked away in his brain somehow, and couldn't get out.  His teacher mentioned dyslexia.  I wondered about Sensory Processing issues.  But the school psychologist pegged him within five minutes as "likely ADHD."  She should know.  She has it.  And so does her kid.  She doesn't diagnose, she tests and observes, and forwards her findings to a pediatrician: her testing was incredibly thorough and detailed, her report was twenty pages long, and her findings remarkably insightful.  She loved him.  (He's charismatic like that).  And she agreed that some of his non verbal processing tests were in the superior range, but this intelligence was locked away by a high degree of distractibility, impulsivity, compulsion to move nearly constantly, and difficulties with short term memory.  All of his weak spots were consistent with ADHD.  All of his teacher evaluations, parent evaluations, and verbal, written, and non verbal tests/puzzles/activities pointed towards ADHD.  So we took him to a pediatrician for a diagnosis.

She was very thorough as well, taking almost 2 hours with us to review his personality, strengths, weaknesses, characteristics, academic history, health history, mental health history, family history (as far as we knew it), and test results.  She ordered blood work.  She did a head to toe exam.  And she took the stack of papers, reports, and test results that we brought from the school, and held off diagnosing him until she had read them all.

In late August she diagnosed him with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  She said in very high likelihood he would also have a learning disability (I thought ADHD WAS a learning disability but in actual fact it is a mental illness) which would become evident and clear with treatment of ADHD.  Further testing would probably be needed, but treatment of the known disorder was where to start.  We discussed at length the different treatment options, his nutritional status, all the proposed, proven, unproven, or unstudied methods, including diet changes, supplements, biofeedback, behavior modification techniques, parenting classes, the gamut.  Our pedi is awesome.  Amazing.  She takes the time, effort, stays current, is open to any and every treatment option, does not push medication, but is frank and honest about what has been proven to work and what has not, or what has not been adequately researched.  High doses of good quality omega 3 fish oils are proven with randomized controlled trials to improve ADHD symptoms and academic performance.  But overwhelmingly what works for most ADHD patients?  Is medication.

We talked circles around the issue and decided to give it a trial run on one medication, to see how he responded.  We were open to medication but also fully open to stopping any medication that didn't work or had unworkable side effects.  Of major concern is his growth: he was 8 years old, 37 pounds, and very short.  Not even on the WHO growth chart short.  Like, off the graph.  BEFORE medication.  The number one side effect of ALL the ADHD medications is weight loss and decreased appetite.  The medications are stimulants and increase the metabolism and suppress appetite.  We were worried, to say the least.

Here's the kicker for us, when it came to medication.  ADHD has no clearly defined cause, but there is a strong genetic link, and CT scans show pretty consistently that subjects with ADHD have smaller prefrontal cortexes than non ADHD subjects, and that their frontal lobes have less blood flow.  No one knows why, and if it is cause or effect, but in ADHD kids, their brain is negatively affected by their condition.  Physiologically.  Less blood flow.  Smaller.  Only slightly, but the difference is there.  The prefrontal cortex is involved in impulse control, memory, decision making, judgment of consequences, and myriad other things that Matthew characteristically struggled with.  A stimulant medication increases blood flow, waking up those prefrontal connecting nerves to allow them to better do their job.

The first day, it was like we shocked him with a lightning bolt.  He was WIRED.  He went to bed that night at nine, slept two hours, and spent the rest of the night pacing the house, getting into toys, stealing change, building legos, and jumping on the bed.  I phoned the pediatrician's office and left a desperate message MY KID SLEPT TWO HOURS AND I'M ABOUT TO EXPLODE WITH ANXIETY WHAT DO I DO but she encouraged us to try another three days.  That day, he was much better.  Calmer.  And that night although he stayed up til eleven?  He stayed asleep all night.  The next day, within three hours of waking, I had tears in my eyes.  We were playing a board game and eating a snack and NOT ONCE in those three hours did I reprimand, separate, modify, or redirect Matthew's behaviour.  We were enjoying each other's company.  All of us.  Peacefully.  And laughing!  I looked at his face and his eyes, frequently glazed over and seemingly far off in a busy dreamworld, were present and full of sparkle.  I had never seen him so fully present to the people around him.  I'd never seen him so gentle with his siblings.  I'd never seen him focus on and enjoy a board game.  He had never looked me in the eye and maintained eye contact for longer than 2.4 seconds at a time, and here he was, joking, bantering, waiting his turn....  It is hard to describe.

We fed him as much as we could, and increased his snacks.  We carefully restricted his pre bed sugar intake and started him on low dose melatonin to help him fall asleep at night, just like Ayden.  And a few weeks later?  We sent him to school.  It was like NIGHT AND DAY.  His teacher, new to the school and to Matthew's classroom (a montessori style, multi aged, play and art based classroom), said the kid I see in my classroom is NOT the child described for me in his records from last year.

He's a whole new kid.  He shot forward four reading levels in EIGHT WEEKS.  Alphabet?  In my sleep.  Spelling?  95-100% scores every single week.  His IEP was left in the dust: he can do timed tests, multi task, keep up with his peers, master new topics even in a distractible environment, sit still at his desk, control his impulses, refrain from bullying (remember My Kid the Bully?  No more, no more), speak kindly, act empathetically, be gentle, include others, and keep his hands off their stuff.  No more stealing, no more lying, no more fighting.  It was all gone, instantly.

Between the sparkle in his eye and his high speed acceleration academically, we know we made the right decision.  Matthew takes one small, time released pill in the morning with his omega 3 fish oil supplement, and all day it delivers a constant, low level of stimulation to that part of his brain that was subdued before.  And he has caught up to grade level.  In half a year he went from struggling with late kindergarten concepts, to mastering grade 3 literacy, math, science, social studies, self control, social behaviour, and writing.  He routinely writes six or seven pages in his journal during their daily 15 minute writing exercises.  He's fascinated with everything.  His speech improved.  His bladder issues improved.  He is SO proud of himself for his accomplishments this year, and so are we.  He always worked hard, he always was intelligent and capable, but it was locked away.

He's still highly energetic.  He still needs tons of outlet for his fidgets, lots of gross motor movement, bike riding, playing soccer, jumping on the trampoline, and wrestling.  He still climbs the walls, shoves his brothers when it's uncalled for, and comes up with the most hair brained ideas known to mankind.  He interrupts, tosses his laundry in the proximity of the laundry hamper without ever ONCE getting it INSIDE, knocks on the table or snaps his fingers to self regulate, and negotiates for as much screen time (mental stimulation!!! ADHD kids LOVE media/screens) as he can get out of us.  He's still MORE.  But he's a happier, less impulsive, more present, sparklier more.

But his weight stayed the same.  He didn't grow any taller.  We kept going back every three months, after trying and trying to get him to eat more and he would be exactly the same.  Finally in January our pediatrician said, this isn't working.  He can't stay on this medication unless he gains weight, and soon.  It is detrimental to his growth and we cannot tolerate that side effect.  My heart stopped.  She went over his diet with us, made some suggestions, and referred us to a dietician for further help.  I did NOT want to give him those stupid pediasure shakes with all that processed and sweetened crap but the smoothies I was making were not doing the trick.  The pedi said, focus on fat intake, not carbohydrate.  Good fats: avacado, coconut oil, flax oil, olive oil.  We brainstormed how to beef up his calorie intake by focusing on breakfast and lunch, rather than adding any more after school or at dinnertime, and by adding fat to everything.  She helped me come up with ideas for school lunches, which are tricky: you can't send any nuts or nut oil or nut butter, he's allergic to soy, and he doesn't like meat on sandwiches (she said anyways that meat is a not good fat, and to shoot for healthier fats as much as possible).  The highest fat yogurt I can find.  Cheese.  Bread with butter.  Pasta with olive oil.  No juice.  No sugar.  No candy.
She also said, weigh him at home once a week.  Don't obsess over it, but do it once a week for immediate feedback on what works and what doesn't.

The dietician was also extremely helpful.  She said add dried whole milk powder to everything, as well as the oils, to bulk up calorie intake without increasing the actual bulk of the food.  Feed him constantly.  Use whole milk and full fat cheese and yogurt, and add good fats to everything too.  She had recipies for power snacks with the calorie intake laid out in different columns depending on whether you added whole milk powder, coconut oil, peanut butter, etc.  She said we could avoid pediasure by using a good quality multi vitamin, giving him vitamin D, and giving him homemade smoothies with lots of good healthy stuff added.  (Whew).

We work hard to get calories into this kid.  HARD.  And it worked.  He gained four pounds since January!  He's 41 pounds now, and 8.5 years old and suddenly his pants are too short so I think he probably even grew a bit.  I can't wait to see the pedi in April, she's going to clap her hands with joy, I think; she wants this as much as we do, which is part of why we love her.  She's rooting for our kid, so hard.  She wants more than anything to preserve his self esteem.  That makes me know that she gets it.  She gets what matters.  She gets why we're in her office.  She gets why we work so hard.

I love my kid hard.  I'm so amped when I see his eyes so full of life, and when he tries to act nonchalant about a 100% spelling test score.  It's AWESOME.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Those Five Things

You guys are all kinds of awesome, your answers are hilarious to the five things questions!  Yes, I believe Texas hair is blond, big, and kind of doesn't move when the head was shaken.  Fascinating and gross.  =)

Here is my take on the five...

  1. Greek yogurt. Yes or no?
  2. What’s one book you liked that you’re at least a little embarrassed you read?
  3. Tuesdays. 3 o’clock. Explain.
  4. How do you feel about Texas hair? 
  5. Fill in the blank: The last time I had to clean up something wet but not mine was? __________________________.

1. YES. And no.  Yes it is yummy and awesome and I sincerely believe in fat in yogurt and other food.  When we were camping in Oregon last summer I noticed that it is virtually impossible to buy yogurt, cream, and many other dairy products in the U.S. with a substantial amount of fat in them.  Us Canadians love our fat.  But we are skinnier.  Hm.
Anyways, the no part?  I've developed lactose intolerance since Amarys was born.  So eating Greek yogurt gives me so much pain and toilet visiting that it is not worth it.  Goodbye, yummy Greek yogurt with all that fat.  Goodbye also cheese.  Ice cream.  So sad.

2. I'm a big John Grisham fan.  I mostly don't feel embarrassed about this, although I do feel the need to justify the presence of his books on my bookshelf.

3. Simultaneously feeding four little people an after school snack, cleaning the kitchen, helping with homework, and planning dinner.  Worrying about when I will have time to work (technical writing and social media management for an online company, which is helping pay the bills in the meantime while I wait for 911 dispatching to materialize).  

4. Texas hair makes me impatient with humanity.

5. The last time I had to clean up something wet that was not mine was cat diarrhea in my dining room.  This question is awesome.

FIVE MORE THINGS, if you liked the first five or you feel like jumping in with some answers on this one (visit 5 Kids is a Lot of Kids if you want to participate on a larger scale or just read something really funny)

5 Quick Questionsa fill-in-the-blank exercise
  1. My fridge is the place where _______________ goes to die.
  2. Once, in the dark, I stepped on ________________.
  3. I’m from ____________. We’re known for ______________. This makes me feel ____________.
  4. My number one, go-to, family-friendly meal is ________________. (Links and/or recipe-sharing encouraged.)
  5. Ben & Jerry’s best ice cream flavor of all time is ___________________. (If you don’t have Ben & Jerry’s where you live, please share what you eat that’s frozen, sweet and should make us all jealous.)

Friday, March 1, 2013

2 Years Old

Today our sweetheart is two years old.  Wow, what a whirlwind couple of years it has been!  Amarys lights up our lives and fills our days with exuberance and fire.  Her personality is a force to be reckoned with, and we wouldn't change a single part of it.

Amarys is active, vibrant, opinionated, loud, expressive, and stubborn.  She's sweet, nurturing, funny, wildly independent, and full of love.  She climbs, jumps, sings at the top of her lungs, dances, kicks, flails, and yells all day long.  Her favourite song is "EE-I-EE-I-OOOOOOO" and she has a habit of plugging her ears in order to sing even louder, especially when we're all trapped together in the car, but she will also make up her own songs in nonsensical jibberish. Her speech is astounding (especially in a family of late talkers): she's clear, articulate, has a massive vocabulary, and if we don't understand her the first time she says a word, she will use different words to explain what she means.  She counts "one, doo, twee!" gives high fives, kisses, hugs, and tickles, and loves her babies.

She also loves Toopy and Binu, The Wiggles, animals, cats, rabbits, duplo lego, her doll house, any and all food, her bike, her helmet, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, her tutu, shoes, all of her family (keeping tabs on where we are all day: "Were's daddy?  Where's Riley?  Where's Matthew? Etc."  Storytime, "helping" in the kitchen, bubble baths, stuffies, tea parties, eating with tiny spoons and forks, using tiny plates from play kitchen, getting in on whatever her brothers are up to, wearing the hood on her sweater, talking about the rain, and breastfeeding.

She hates being left out, being separated from family, bedtime without "bedmilk," sitting still, being restrained, and (often) being photographed.

Amarys is magic.  She's sparkle and frustration and intensity and colour and love.  She's the strongest incense you've ever encountered, carried by the wildest wind through the largest temple on a mountainside in rural Thailand.  She's one of the most difficult challenges and the greatest joys in our life.  Teaching her kindness, sharing, compassion, and self control is hard work, but teaching her autonomy and self assurance and any gross motor skill is easy as pie.  Nobody, ever, will take advantage of this girl.

Her hugs are fierce, her love is all consuming, and her skin smells delicious.  She's amazing.

Thanks for all your sparkle, you yummy girl.
Stay fierce.