Thursday, June 28, 2012

Shhhh. Don't tell the universe.

Tonight, I blog in bed. It's been a long day. Usually I'd still be twitching after days as long as this one. The kids have been getting up at 6:30 in the morning, rendering me exhausted by 2:00 in the afternoon with at least four more hours till the relief pitcher returns.

I'm reluctant to put in writing just why I'm not still twitching. I tend to think the universe punishes me for daring to acknowledge when things seem to be maybe sort of turning a corner. For years, whenever I mentioned that one of my babies was sleeping through the night, they'd stop, sometimes for weeks at a time. And don't get me started on potty training "success" stories. One optimistic story and suddenly we're back in diapers. I've been burned. A lot. 

Danny's behavioral turnaround has been nothing short of miraculous. We don't know if it's the diet, the therapy, the supplements, the different strategies or just a sudden surge of maturity that has transformed his behavior from utterly intractable to increasingly malleable.

I find myself seized by anxiety, though, when I see a familiar pattern of behavior starting: the clenched teeth, the raised voice, the menacing look, the chin. He's getting ready to go Incredible Hulk on us or his siblings or some inanimate object and I feel panic. It's like I'm shell shocked. 

Today we had an all too familiar scene. Danny fell and caught his chin on the edge of a kids' table in the play area. He howled, he flipped the table and a few of the chairs, he insisted that we get rid of the table, just throw it in the garbage. I think he even kicked it.

Now usually I ask him what he was doing before he got hurt and try to make him see how his actions caused his fall. Naturally, he doesn't respond well to that. I end up sending him away to calm down because I just don't know how to deal with that level of intensity. I avoid that kind of prolonged intensity at all costs. But today was different. He's given us enough of a break from that intensity that I can now respond more calmly.

So I brought him in for a hug and just let him vent about that naughty table that made him fall and hurt his chin.

When he was done, I asked him if, instead of getting rid of the table, we could just put it in time out.

He agreed and we left the table to sit alone and think about it's hideous, irresponsible behavior. We then left to do errands. 

When we returned, the table and chairs were as we left them. I asked Danny if the table could come out of time out. He agreed that it could. And then ...

He put the table and chairs back the way they were.

Who is this child? And can he please stay for a while?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Just keep moving forward

The kids are finally asleep after being dosed with Melatonin. The water in the upstairs bathroom is turned off so no one can claim to be "getting a cup of water." The husband has gone up. Only the dog and I and the crickets are awake.

Earlier today I thought that if I typed quickly, maybe, just maybe I could do some blogging.The younger two were playing nicely in the backyard and the 5 year old's stream of consciousness had slowed to a trickle. It didn't last, though. They found me as soon as I sat down.

I miss blogging. I miss getting my thoughts out there. For some reason, I can only write when there's an audience, even a small one. I'm not good at talking to myself; there are too many voices in my head and I often have to tell them to just sit down and be quiet. I have a habit of hiding my struggles until I've reached an acceptable level of crazy. Because if you knew what I was really thinking a few weeks ago, you'd either back up very slowly or put me in a straight jacket. Then I remember that writing is how I process things. And lately, I've had all kinds of excuses for not writing.

Let's see ... the kids keep me busy.  In fact, I devote a lot of energy lately to creative work arounds to keep Owen from peeing on every sheet, blanket and item of clothing he owns. And we're not even potty training yet. You see, he likes his penis. A lot. He rearranges it until it is no longer safely pointed down in his diaper. My final solution is just to put him to bed buck naked because I figure unfettered access might lessen the appeal. I spend the rest of the time doing laundry and feeding Owen, who now hangs on the refrigerator door and whines "Huuuuuuunnnnnnngggggggrrrrrryyyyy." And listening to Danny's stream of consciousness and keeping Fiona from annoying the boys and the dog.

Pinterest keeps me busy and not because I'm doing all the cool projects posted by moms on uppers who likely have kids on downers because, seriously, the only way I could get my kids to do any of those creative homeschool "lessons" or do any projects myself is if the little buggers were drugged. (Mostly, I just browse and pin and sometimes do a recipe or craft that takes little to no effort.) I collapse on the couch around 9 each night and get lost in all the projects I could do if I had more energy or children who don't destroy every nice thing we own.

The weather has been gorgeous. It's been like a New York summer here; in the 80s with low humidity. We've gone blueberry picking at least once a week, biking, swimming and romping in parks. Of course, tomorrow, the gates of hell will open and by this weekend, it'll be dangerously, triple digit hot.

And then there's the growing sense that my 5 year old deserves some privacy in our current struggles. He deserves to struggle and grow in privacy and have his mother show the world his best side. He's also at an age where he senses what's going on, he hears things that we whisper or even signal, he knows what our eyes say. There's a fine line, though, between respecting his privacy and pretending that everything is just fine.

It's not. And it is. And it will be. I believe all these things, usually at the same time. 

This morning, I read a post on Momastery that reminded me of why I need to write, even if it seems I have nothing new or inspiring or original to say. She writes:

We gotta show ourselves when we’re all beat up and scarred, too. That’s what people need to see, much more than our shiny selves.

Exactly. I need to write because someone needs to hear what I have to say. That's not narcissistic; it's humbly placing my problems and fears before the world in the hopes of helping someone else who is struggling. Because we're all struggling somehow and seeing moms on uppers parading their shiny lives in front of us doesn't inspire us but tends to deepen our suffering and further our isolation. 

Too often, though, I feel chastised for seeming to dwell on the negative when I write about the utter chaos of three children so close in age, the daily grind, the worries, the heartache, the sleepless, messy existence. I feel pressure to be positive. Being positive is such a complicated concept. I don't believe being positive means seeing the good in everything. What it really means, at least to me, is that we acknowledge the imperfect, believe in a resolution even if we don't know what it is yet and just keep moving forward.

So here's what's really going on:

My son is seeing a shrink. At the age of 5. He's an angry boy with an impulsive nature. Well, he was. Things are getting better now with just a few months of therapy, which has probably helped me more than him, and some dietary adjustments.

There is the possibility that his problems are related to environment. Really, there's nothing more annoying than 3 and 2 year old siblings; in fact, if I wasn't an adult, I might just react to the frustration the same way he does.

Diet definitely is a factor for him. We've taken him off wheat and gluten, the main protein found in wheat, barley and rye. There is research to suggest a link between ADHD and celiac disease and/or gluten sensitivity. We've noticed that if he has gluten, he has trouble with self-control and focus and hyperactivity. It takes about three or four days for the effects of gluten to wear off with him. We've tested the theory off and on since late February.

We've also added a fish oil supplement to his diet; we call it his kindergarten vitamins. Fish oil has been shown to improve behavioral control and focus in children with attention issues and was suggested to me by a neighbor.

Over the past few months, though, I have felt the most incompetent and stuck that I've ever felt as a parent. Every day was a frustrating and exhausting exercise in behavior management. Every interaction was an argument, every word I spoke to him was scolding, every fun activity turned to tears and fighting within minutes, every privilege extended turned to an argument over more privileges, every argument escalated into some threatening gesture on his part or mine. I would offer choices, he would "choose" something not offered. We would tell him to stop making noises at the table and he literally could not stop himself.

In fact, one incident started with him screaming at me to get him a bandage "RIGHT NOW" after he fell from his bike and when I refused until he spoke politely to me, he threw a rock at me.

He has been diagnosed with ADHD, but I've been skeptical since we don't know how he will behave in school. However, a few weeks ago, I decided that it didn't matter whether I think he has ADHD. One morning I described a scenario to the doctor and asked my perennial "Why does he do that?"

She replied, "Because your little boy doesn't have those extra seconds other kids have before reacting."

And my heart just sank. Maybe it was because she referred to him as "your little boy" when I had been seeing him as the 3 1/2 foot freckled monster terrorizing our house. Maybe it was because she cast him as someone who is sick and needs help, not someone who is wrong and needs correcting.

Suddenly, I had that sympathy I'd been lacking. It's a start.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


It's been an entire month since I've written anything on this blog. I'm in a rut. Things aren't as funny as they used to be. After an entire month of the stomach virus ripping through our house and, um, intensive behavior modification, my brain is just numb. And I've had near constant back pain for about two weeks. Life is a bit more stressful here lately.

My oldest is about to start kindergarten. It feels like we're in a race against the calendar to get him to a point where his behavior won't mortally embarrass us or get him kicked out of school. A dozen times a day, his behavior gives me visions of forced homeschooling.  I know, I know, it seems totally unreasonable. Who says that about their own child? When you're living three inches from your face, though, it's hard to see him whack his sister without believing that he'll do the same to random schoolmates. 

The middle child is actually responsible for instigating most of the drama around here. Every time I turn around she is intentionally needling someone.

The baby, who is actually a toddler going on NFL offensive lineman, whines constantly for food, randomly shouts, growls and roars at us, and tackles me, usually when I'm making dinner.    

The decibel level around here is unbearable. I may lose my hearing soon. Please, God, let me lose my hearing soon.

Mom, does Daddy drive too fast?
No, honey.
Why do you drive too fast?
I don't. Anymore.

Is the man dying in there? Danny asks as we pass the funeral home.
No, honey, he's already dead.
Where is his body?
It's in a casket; that's a box that they put the body in.
Oh, so he's a treasure now.

Want fries? Owen asks me as he drives up on his big wheel.

Want boobyjuice, Owen tells me. When he starts using a first person pronoun, then I need to wean him.

Aaaahhhh. Boobyjuice good, he says. Yeah, I know it's creepy, but at least I'm getting some feedback.

What do you guys do after mommy and daddy go downstairs? I ask the kids during "cuddle time."
Play with my penis, Fiona cackles.

Look, mom, my boo boo doesn't hurt. See? You can touch and squish it, Fiona says.

This is curious up here, Danny says. We were at a restaurant sitting on the upper level.

Speaking of restaurants ...

We don't have to pay at Nana's restaustrant, Danny exclaims. (No, I did not misspell restaurant. That's how he says it.)

Danny, is your pull up wet? Jim asks when he finds Danny still awake and playing in his room.
Yeah, I'm a heavy sleeper, he replies. It may be time to yank the pull ups.

I don't like daddy, but I like you, Fiona tells me.
Oh, really? Why?
Well, I like daddy outside, but I like you inside. Well, that makes sense. I play with them more inside and daddy plays more with them outside.

The monsters up [in the vent] might get scissors and cut down my sign, Danny says. I made him a Do Not Enter sign to hang from his vent. Are there scissors up there, mom? I assured him there weren't.

When I'm big and jump off a chair, it will shake the whole house and the house will explode, Danny informs me. A lot of his thoughts these days end in explosions.

Fi and Danny don't wear diapers anymore, I tell Owen while changing his diaper one day.
Big boy, he replies.
Are you a big boy? 
Do you want to use the potty?
No. Oh, well. I tried.