Friday, December 27, 2013

With the new year coming, my mind goes to where it always goes around this time:  resolutions.  I never really make any.  This year, though, I think I might, and these are a few of the top ones:

Give 100% in everything I do:  my role as a wife, mom, nurse, daughter, sister, etc.  Just typing that feels exhausting, but I also want to give 100% to myself.  I know in many areas I do not give it my best, and that is a shame.  There are many things I know I need to do (or not do anymore) to make this happen.

Bargain shop!  I have done so well at this this past year.  I still shop TOO much, and that is also an area needing urgent attention, but I definitely want to keep finding those bargains that I have come across.  It's fun!

Continue to lose the weight.  I have lost 30 pounds after my weight plateaued when I gave birth through simple diet changes.  I have put about 5 back on over the holidays but I have a goal weight I want to be at by my 32nd birthday and I want to get serious and get there.  This also ties into giving myself 100%.  I feel so much better when I am eating healthy and exercising.

Drop some of the medications.  I touched on this months ago that the medications I take likely give me unnecessary side effects.  My biggest struggle is chronic headaches (not migraines, just headaches) so I take Excedrin (Migraine and Tension versions) as well as prescription Fioricet.  None of these options help get rid of the headaches and some days they don't do anything at all, but I take one or all on a DAILY basis and that is not healthy or good.  I think I need to figure out the root of what is causing the headaches and start there and work my way up.  First big thing:  drink more water and exercise.  The antidepressants aren't going anywhere any time soon, but who knows.  Maybe if I can get myself in a better physical state of mind, my emotional state of mind will follow suit?

And last:  save, save, save.  We want to take our kids to Disney World SO bad but it is SO expensive.  We really want to do this in the coming year.

I may back away from social media a bit, too.  Eek.  If I say it, does that mean I have to own it?  No guarantees on that one, but for real.  Facebook and blogging is a FUN habit, but a habit that takes me away from giving 100% to my family, which is far more important.  We'll see on this one.  Note I did not include it in my list.  It was more of a little side thought ;)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

So we had a little set back in the homework our counselor gave us due to Miss Allison getting quite ill.  Okay, that's kind of a lie.  We didn't dot he homework because we didn't do the homework.  Allison really was sick this week, but it still should not have prevented us from getting the homework done.  We will get on that.

What I DID do, though, since Ethan is a visual learner, was create a list of rules in a nontraditional way. So what I did was I took a poster board and wrote a message about being nice that I read somewhere and it always stuck with me.  Underneath that, I wrote 4 qualities that I felt were important, followed by another uplifting message under that.  Now my PLAN was to gather my wee ones, have them sit around me, we would discuss the key quality, then make a plan as to how we were going to execute it both in our home and out in the world.  Once we had some thoughts, I'd jot them down and move to the next one until we were all in agreement.  This is how it looks:
Notice the writing.  Some is Ethan's, some is mine.  Now the picture of us all gathering around, brainstorming together didn't quite work out that way.  I had Allison on the couch, pre-occupied with her lemonade stand sign she was making for next summer, and Ethan, curled in a ball on the floor because "this was really dumb and really stupid."  Okay, then!  So I kept my cool and went through each quality and why I felt it was important.  Then I asked the kids to help me come up with ways we can follow these traits in our everyday lives.  Allison's ways were very...4 year old girl. "Give the person a flower if they are sad, Mama!"  Well, yes, but how can we prevent making a person sad in the first place?  Then I had Ethan randomly mumbling that rules were dumb, this project was dumb, and he would not be participating.  As he is mumbling this, he is slowly sliding himself out of the room and Allison has moved on from passing out flowers to me finding out if we had any grapes in the fridge cause she REALLY wanted some grapes.

I ended my attempt at regaining control of my household with a "I know stuff like this isn't necessarily fun and you might not enjoy participating, but the fact is, you WILL participate or there will be consequences and I fear the consequences of not participating might make you very sad."

We'll see.  For now, I have this GORGEOUS poster on my living room wall.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I can't bake to save my life.  I see all these delicious treats people are baking and I get a tiny bit envious.  Let me rehash some baking mishaps:

I tried making an angel food cake.  But I didn't have the right pan.  A pan is a pan, though, right?  NO!  If you use the wrong pan, the batter will spillith over and cause a large, balloon food cake that will promptly deflate when you attempt to cut it or smoosh down to the thickness of a saltine cracker because it's so "light and airy" ...or something.

The cake I made for Jay for his birthday a couple years ago.  I was in a bit of a hurry and attempted to frost it before it was completely cooled.  Okay, it was still scorching hot.  Whatev.  I frosted... it melted off.  I frosted more ... more melted off. I ended up with a double layer cake with NO frosting on top, and TWO CANS WORTH of frosting heaped around the edges.  So I decorated said heaps with sprinkles and called it a day.

Fast forward a few years and I decide to make a cake for my sister only this time I let it cool.  Completely.  Unfortunately, even though I used the same pan, one layer was more rounded, and when I stacked them, the top layer wanted to form to the dome shaped bottom layer.  Nothing a little extra frosting can't fix, right?  WRONG!   It didn't happen right away so I thought I was in the clear.  I frosted it and started to outline a heart using red M&M's.  Then I noticed gaps where I thought I placed an M&M only now there apparently wasn't one.  So I'd add another one.  Then a gap would form.  Then I realized my heart was getting very, very wide.  VERY wide.  GAPING wide.  Literally.  We had grand canyon going on.  I figured I could fix said gape guessed it...more frosting.  So I did.  But the frosting make the gape bigger and it was a lost cake.  I named it my volcano cake.

My most recent incident involved boxed brownies.  How do you screw up boxed brownies?  Just ask me.  I was invited to a fancy schmancy book club so I thought I'd take regular old box brownies and spruce 'em up by adding white chocolate chips, cause white chocolate is fancy, ya'll!  I mixed the batter and stirred in some chips.  Some meaning the whole bag.  It just looked so fancy!  Put it in the pan and set the timer.  Timer goes off, and as I grab the pan, the entire middle jiggles.  Totally raw.  I add 10 more minutes.  Check it again.  Pretty gooey! Five more minutes and I take them out and let them cool.  When I go to cut them to put on a fancy plate (fancy meaning one of our regular dinner plants.  We don't do fancy here) the knife didn't cut a dang thing.  It smeared my brownies.  Smeared 'em all over.  We tried to save them by mooshing them into a square like figure, and they looked decent, but if you tried to pick it up, it was a lost cause. 

I can't really think of other baking woes but they ALWAYS happen.  I can follow a recipe to the T and somehow screw it up.  My cooking is no better, so I don't even try.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Today my mom made a confession:  She sometimes dislikes how open I am with mental illness and other issues (my own and Ethan's).  She's not embarrassed by it, but crinches, because we all know there is a stigma attached to it, and she doesn't want it all "out there."  Initially it stung a little.  I have so much respect for my mom and I'd never want to say or do something to disappoint her.  But then I remembered:  my openness has helped a lot of people.  I have had people reach out to me and thank me for making it seem not quite so taboo.  I've had people seek treatment because they had the same issues I had or people who listen to Ethan's "quirks" and say, "my son/daughter does/is the same way!" 

I have a firm, firm belief:  It takes a village to raise a child.  I know that as a parent, it falls mostly on my shoulders.  I take that responsibility so seriously and I try with everything I've got to do the best job I can.  However, the harsh reality is our kids are not with us 24/7.  For my kids, the place they are the most when not with me is school.  I do not feel it is unfair to build a relationship with a school system to make sure the child is happy and successful while there, which is why I got on top of Ethan's struggles as fast as I could and did whatever I could to help him.  In my ideal, controlling mind, I'd love to just quit my job, follow him around his entire life, and keep him on the right track.  That's ridiculous, though, and we all know that.  Since I know him best, though, I am the best person to go to if someone who has to work with him to turn to for advice and suggestions.  The village, in this case, is the school.

Now as a mother and as a person who battles daily on her own with anxiety and depression, I know I can't do it alone.  For myself, I turn to my mom.  She gets me, just like I get Ethan.  Everyone needs someone they can trust to turn to when the road gets a little extra bumpy.  Everyone also needs a good, reliable doctor they can trust.  I am fortunate to have both.  As a mother, it is very easy to put the blame entirely on yourself when your child starts to struggle.  Why can't I just FIX it for him?  Why, if his home is so loving, is he so sad?  Where did I go wrong?  Social media makes it easy to reach out to your friends, family, and community and say in a roundabout way:  I need some help.  I did, and I received incredible help.  I had so many loving, encouraging, and even "been there, done that" message POUR in.  I had 50+ responses on those threads and when I am out in my community, it never fails I run into someone that reminds us they have us lifted in prayer and they will help us.  The village here, is the people that love and care for us.

Sure, it's nothing to be proud of, per se.  It's a flaw.  A yucky flaw.  A flaw that shouts, "I am weak!  I can't do this alone!"  But you know what?  We are working through it.  Neither Ethan, nor myself, have succumbed to a diagnosis.  "Hey, I get depressed!  I'll just spend the next 3 days laying on the couch in my pajamas."  Or even, "Hey!  I'm anxious!  I think I will kill you today because you are making me FREAKING insane!"  No, we work through it.  We admit it's there and it likely will never go away, but there are ways to make it SO much better.  And if we can find ways to make OUR situation better, how awful would it be to keep it a secret from others who feel the same way?  And I can guarantee others struggle just the same.  They might not want to talk about it, but they can read it and do what they want with it.

So yes.  It's something that is tough to be open with, but it's me.  And it's Ethan.  We are who we are, and honestly?  I think we are coming out on top.  I have no idea who reads my blog anymore, if anyone, and what people think about my openness, but please know I will do anything for anyone.  If you want to reach out to me 24/7 (and yes, I mean that with my whole heart, as my anxiety peaks at night) I will be here for you.  I will listen, and more than likely, I will understand at least to SOME degree.  It takes a village.  You do not have to do this alone.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Been a while since I posted.  My apologies!  Last week was super busy.  Work was crazy, as usual.

Thursday night we had conferences.  I waited WEEKS for this moment.  More specifically, after the desk dumping incident (Oh, you don't know about that?  I will enlighten you later, surly).  I have been counting down the minutes until conferences.  I just wanted to know what her plan was.  Was their progress or more issues?  I wanted to know.

Unfortunately, I missed conferences because I was with Ethan at a counseling session.  After I ready his little messages about "needing a break" and "wishing I wasn't here", I got moving and got him help.  Our session went WAY over and I missed it.  Jay was there, though, and it didn't go how conferences typically go.  Ethan's report card indicated he was right on track with the exception of the areas she complains the most about:  organization, independence, finishing a task, etc.  Then she acted like she had nothing more to say, so she asked Jay what he wanted to talk about.  Uhhh...Ethan?  So Jay laid it all out.  He told her what we do at home for him.  The structure, the expectations, the pediatric specialist as well as the counselor, the different diagnoses floating around and the medication, etc.  Then he put the ball back in her court:  What are you doing for him at school to help?  First she said she didn't understand what he meant.  He rephrased it (ie. repeated himself) which must have given her time to come up with something, because she shot out, "your wife enables him."  Jay cut her off.  He never asked her opinion on our parenting.  He wants to know... our child is in your care 7 hours per day, 5 days per week.  It's clear he is a handful for you.  What are you doing to help the situation?  She had nothing again, and said "maybe we better meet again another time."

I've already done my crying and ranting over how this went down, because from my perspective, I am doing everything I can think of to help my son.  EVERYTHING.

I just think about it like this:  I remember being in third grade.  Ethan is in 4th, but it goes to show how far back you remember details.  I had a HARD teacher and I was a GOOD kid.  One day she absolutely humiliated me.  We were going around the room reading out loud numbers in the 1,000's.  When it got to my turn, I froze.  She threw her chalk on the ground and went crazy.  I was mortified.  I'm 31 now and that still sticks with me.  How humiliating!  How about show me how to read the number rather than make me feel so stupid.

So with that story, that makes me believe that Ethan will remember his 4th grade year and what happened.

Let's play devils advocate.  Instead of two loving, doting parents, he now has 1 parent.  The other is absent  The one parent does not have an education and has to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.  Money is tight and tension is high.  The one parent is gone all the time.  Maybe even starts resorting to drug use to help ease the stress and tension.  Drug use could mean shady characters are entering said childs house.  People a child should not be around.  Dealers.  And now single parent is parenting high or under the influence.  Child might not directly see or understand, but child knows: this isn't normal.  Child struggles in school.  Parent makes zero effort to help.  Child feels all alone at school, then comes home to an empty house.  No food on the table and strangers meandering in and out.  Child has no structure.  No meal time, bed time, family time.  Child feel alone at school.  Comes home, and feels alone.  No one cares.  Who knows what will happen to that now teen.  But there were clear as day signs and no one read them.  No one intervened.

I know I can be seen as overly dramatic with Ethan and that is not my intention.  Everything I do for him, every decision I make is because I love him SO MUCH and want him to be happy.  My child showed the signs.  He KNOWS I care.  I will fight until my last breath for that child or any of my children, and they know it.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Today, like most days when you are a full-time working mother of 3, was busy.  Tonight was an annual Christmas gathering that I have been participating in since before Jay and I got married, but weeks ago when the discussion started about where to have it and what time, I respectfully bowed out this year.  For one, it's a busy time.  And two, it involves a gift exchange.  Money is tight being that I was on a 10 week maternity leave this year and added a third child to my crew.  I just felt it best to sit out this year.

After this weeks events and the degree of stress, my husband urged me to go.  I was reminded by the other ladies that go that it was not about gifts, so regardless of if I brought something, I was welcome and wanted.  I still didn't feel up to it.

Later this afternoon, my husband reminded me how infrequently we get chances nowadays to go places without at least ONE child.  I decided to just go.  I rushed out to buy gifts (I just couldn't go empty handed, and shopping is one of my very favorite things to do anyways...) and headed on my way.  Go figure, my low fuel light turned on.  Typical Laura.  I hate stopping to get gas.  I REALLY hate it when it's cold and I have somewhere to be.  Thankfully, there was a gas station right on the way so I wouldn't have to deviate from my route at all.  This was better than nothing.

As I pull in to the empty station, I glance down at the fuel gauge to be reminded what side the gas thing-a-ma-jig was on.  What I did not notice was the man rummaging through the garbage can for cans RIGHT next to the pump I planned to use.  Crap.  I was alone and no other cars were around.  Awkward!  But I had places to be, so I figured I'd just get gas and get out of there.

As I stepped out, the man looked up at me and said, "Ma'am?  Do you have any money you can spare?  I need bus fare."  I gave him the line he likely hears often:  "I don't have any cash on me.  So sorry!"  ...such a lie.  Sure, I didn't have wads of bills in my purse.  But I had cash.  And a credit card.  When I fed him my fib, he smiled, said, "Okay, no problem!" and went back to rummaging.  I went back to pumping gas.  Roughly $50 worth.  Inside my warm car, I had gifts aplenty.  Gifts for the party I was headed to and gifts for my children.  MORE gifts, I should say, as I had plenty more stashed at home.

I watched the man.  He was disheveled.  He had a warm coat on, but had wounds to his face.  Nothing severe, but indications that something had happened to him.  As my car filled with gas, my mind kept wandering to the $10 I KNEW I had in my purse.  Give it to him, Laura.  No!  He was probably some alcoholic or drug addict.  He'd take my hard earned cash and blow it on his addiction.  It's $10.  You can easily go to the ATM and get out more, if you need it.  And you DON'T need it right now.  Why would I feed this mans addiction?  Look at him:  rummaging through the garbage.  Get a job. I have one.  I work HARD for my money.  Ten dollars or $100, I make my money.  Go make your own! GIVE. IT. TO. HIM. LAURA.  I think back to just today:  I woke up in my own home.  Took a hot shower.  Got dressed.  Went to two holiday parties already and was already overly full on delicious food.  I spent well over $100 on gifts.  Things my children don't even NEED, but they WANT.  Picked up a snack for myself somewhere in there.  Here I was, putting gasoline, a full tank, mind you, into my reliable vehicle to go to yet another party with delicious food and presents that I don't NEED, but I enjoy.  After the party, I would head back home to my home and go to bed.

"Sir?  This is all I have on me, but I want you to have it."  He looked up, with a measly two cans he had found in amongst all the garbage cans at that particular station.  "Oh, ma'am!  Thank you, thank you so much!"  I smiled at him, wished him a happy holidays, and drove away.

I don't know where my $10 went tonight.  Maybe it went to drugs.  Maybe it bought some alcohol.  Maybe it DID buy bus fare or maybe it went towards a gallon of milk and bread.  But really...does it matter?  I am not rich.  I am FAR from rich.  Money is a daily stress in my life and yes, my husband and I do work very hard for what we have, and what we have isn't anything fancy by any means.  But the point is... we have.  We have a home.  We have cars.  We have food in our bellies and while you can never be 100% certain, the chances that we will always have these essentials are pretty darn good.  I have never rummaged through a garbage can looking for cans to turn in, nor have I asked a complete stranger for money.  It doesn't matter what that man did with my money.  What matters is that he knows for ONE second, a moment of gratitude to receive it when he was initially turned away.  For ONE second he knew a little bit of happiness to receive what he was looking for.  For ONE second, he got a smile and well wishes from a stranger rather than some form of "go away".

I wanted my $10.  I did.  I'm selfish and I like money and I like to spend money.  But I am SO THANKFUL that I listened to that voice inside that said give it to him, Laura.  I have so much to be thankful for.  So many blessings in my life.  I pray, whoever he is, that by giving him a measly $10, he felt a little bit blessed as well.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Today was simply exhausting. 

I got to Ethan's school a little early, and on a whim, decided to go in and mention to the principal about Ethan's latest writing in his planner.  My intention of mentioning it was to bring up the possibility of switching his classroom.  We never got that far.  His principal said that her son is similar and what Ethan is going through it "probably hormones, as he is getting to that age."  He's 9.  He's not at that age.  I still help him bathe occasionally, for pete's sake.  Girls still have cooties and are "gross" and he still runs around the house in his underwear without a care in the world.  Puberty is not upon us, folks, and there are no other excuses other than my son is struggling with depression. 

I left that discussion pretty disheartened.  It was certainly NOT what I expected to hear. 

Later in the day, he had his appointment with a counselor.  It was his first appointment.  He was angry that I didn't warn him about it, but I know him, and I know regardless of when I told him, he would be upset and not want to go.  It made no difference.  I apologized, but still told him we were going.  When we got there at 2:30, we learned that the scheduler made a mistake and the counselor he was assigned to didn't see people under the age of 12.  They said he could still be seen, but it would be by someone else, and it would be at 4.  Not good.  My son doesn't handle changes in plans well.  I gave him the option of hanging out there, or going to the book store.  He excitedly said he wanted to go to the bookstore, so off we headed.

It ended up being a GREAT time.  We discussed how book stores are becoming obsolete.  This particular one was closing and everything was 50% off.  We talked about how now everyone downloaded their books rather than purchase them off the shelves.  He is an avid reader, and he agreed that nothing beats the actual book itself.  When we got inside, we parted ways: he headed towards the children's books and myself towards the adult books.  We met in the middle.  He found 5 books for himself and I found 3 books for myself.  As we were paying, he asked if our purchases would help save the bookstore.  Bless his heart. 

Afterwards, we headed back to the office.  Our first appointment was okay.  It was an hour long and mostly just assessments.  Ethan spent the time curled up in the chair, playing with a toy that was out while the counselor asked me questions about him, from my pregnancy through now.  So many things to discuss and so little time.  How do you summarize some one's life in an hour?  One part that made my heart swell was when the counselor asked Ethan, "On a scale of 1-10, 10 being that you love her and you could hug her all the time to 1, where you hate her and never want to see her again, how do you rate your relationship with your teacher?"  Ethan thought for a few moments, then said, "Could you please tell me what the rest of the numbers mean?"

At 5:10, we were scheduled for parent/teacher conferences.  Thankfully, Ethan's dad was already there.  I tried SO hard to be there, but unfortunately missed it because we didn't get out in time.  Jay's report on it made me see red.  To summarize, the teacher said we were "enabling" Ethan.  Enabling him?  Really?  I was livid.  This is not the end.  I have already sent an e-mail to meet again with more time allotted.  If I don't get a response tomorrow, I will personally go there.

Since I missed conferences and Jay relayed how unproductive it was, I met with the principal yet again, and stressed to her how important I felt it was to sit down with Jay and I, along with his teacher and the principal.  Her response this time was that I already had a meeting with the social worker, so let's start there, first.

I just can't help but feel like I am not being taken seriously.  This is MY child.  I have been extremely patient and kind.  But when it comes to my child, especially when it is so clear to me that he is in distress, it doesn't take much for me to lose my patience.  If tomorrow doesn't go well with some sort of plan, I will be contacting the Board of Education.  If THAT doesn't help, well, I don't know.  I just don't know.  I never, EVER anticipated this would be such a struggle.  I think I had this sugar-coated impression that schools would do whatever they could to help a child succeed.  I am seeing first hand that is certainly NOT the case, and instead they are turning a blind eye and more or less hoping if we pretend it doesn't exist, then it doesn't exist.

I don't have all the answers.  I don't know what the best plan is for my son.  I don't know if I am handling all of this in the right manner.  Am I being to passive or too aggressive?  Am I being unrealistic or am I doing exactly what I should be doing?  I just don't know, but I do know that in the end, my child will come out on top.  I can promise you that.  I can promise HIM that. He deserves it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Oh, my heart.

Ethan's school gives the kids planners.  They are responsible for keeping track of what they did that day and highlighting any homework.  I think it's a fantastic idea. 

Today Ethan's planner came home and in the sidebar he wrote, "I need to get out of here."  Then beneath that, "I need a break."  The first he dated 12/1/13, the second he dated 12/4/13.  Under both of those he drew a stick figure of a boy crying, tear and all.

I called him out to the living room and casually said, "What does this mean?"  He responded with, "I'm just so tired of being yelled at."

My heart just broke.  HE looked broken.  He looked sad and his eyes were vacant.  And what blows my mind is I have offered to switch his class and he will quietly say, "No, I am fine."  I have repeatedly assured him that if we switch classes, there would be no repercussions.  No one would be angry with him and he would not get in trouble or hurt anyone's feelings if we did.  He still kept saying he was okay.

We received the assessment tool from his teacher for evaluating ADD.  I have zero idea how they score it, as it's based on her assessment, mine, and Ethan's father.  They combine them and somehow figure out if a child has the diagnosis or not.  All of ours are negative on the questions pertaining to overly active or impulsive but they are all completely positive for everything else, including the inability to focus, lack of organization, inability to complete a task and stay on task, etc.  I just feel deep down I know where this is going, and it is very uncertain territory.

Tomorrow is parent/teacher conferences.  The planner is coming with me so I can bring it up.  He also starts his counseling sessions tomorrow, and the planner will come with me there as well, along with all the documentation from his pediatric specialist.

I don't know what the "right" answer is.  Some might say the answer is blatantly clear:  get him into a better environment and see what happens.  Others say that you can't pick and chose the different people you encounter in life, and this is one of thousands of challenging situations he will encounter and he needs to learn to cope.  I am somewhere in the middle.   I get angry, then I get sad.  I get frustrated, then I get motivated.  I get annoyed, then I get sympathetic.  It fluctuates nonstop and I just don't know what is "right."

Parenting handbook, you out there?