Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Family time

These post-Christmas days have been busy and festive. We are so blessed. C's birthday was on the 27th and a friend of ours from D.C. came to visit. We celebrated with dinner out and bowling. I used to be a good bowler in my youth but I managed to bowl a 68 (and 3 of those were strikes!) My 2 year old almost did as well as I did with a 64 (but to my credit she had bumpers!) We delayed celebrating with birthday cake until the arrival on the 28th by our dear friend P. and her 89 year old mother and on the 29th by my 20 year old second cousin. Add my mom to the mix and we pretty much have every decade covered. 11 people ages 2-89 have made for precious moments. Pollito and our eldest guest have had bedtime story reading time together and today they put a lego airplane/boat together. My almost 80 year old mom and Milagro taught each other some new dance moves yesterday and haven't stopped practicing. My cousin went skateboarding with Tortuga and Corazon and then the whole crew (minus me and P's mom) went for a hike in the woods and got just a little lost today. Add in teaching folks to play Blokus, Sorry and Clue and overall it has been fun and relaxing. Of course I am spending too much time in the laundry room and kitchen but I cannot complain too much.

So far the RAD behaviors have been semi-contained although Corazon is having a difficult time with too much adult attention and my giving attention to too many other people. She seems quite attached to me but sometimes I think it is a most anxious form of attachment with lots of separation anxiety. This morning I had to run to the grocery store (not enough eggs for breakfast) and she was almost in tears that I was leaving without her. I gave her permission to have a full blown meltdown while I was gone although I reassured her that she should be able to handle my absence for 20 minutes or so. Normally I can anticipae quite a bit of acting out whenever I leave her behind so I was prepared for just about anything. She actually did fine. She decided that it is supposed to take her 10 minutes to do her morning writing prompt so she set a goal for herself to do 2 prompts and then I would be back. It worked for her. She got today's and yesterday's done and she didn't get into any trouble that we know of. I was quite proud of her. It seemed to give her confidence for the rest of the day and she did wonderfully.

Tonight we will have birthday cake and watch "Up" and hopefully we will continue to relax and enjoy our family and friends.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays to everyone who is celebrating!

Took the kids on a 12 hour drive yesterday and they were great! My mom changed her mind about visiting for the holidays, then refused to fly. She lives 5 1/2 hours away so we loaded all the kids, the DVD player, Xmas movies and CDs, and lots of snacks and off to get her we went. Just call me a dutiful daughter. I hadn't planned on losing a day of holiday prep so I was on the verge of stressing but since I so do hate stress I just baked cookies instead. :-)

The kids have relaxed all day long--making cards and snowflakes, decorating cookies, playing, watching Christmas movies again and again. I made a traditional Mexican holiday dinner--Chicken mole, rice & beans and my sister and her daughter came out and hung with us. Right now the kids are watching Polar Express and tracking Santa on Santa Tracker. As soon as they finish, they will put out the Santa treats--Nachos and diet coke, in case you are wondering--and go to bed.  The gifts are wrapped and ready so C. & I will bring out the Santa gifts and set things up and I plan on being in bed by 11. Early for me.

Good night all....

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It goes on...

Friday was C's first day back and it was one for the record books. We had a crew here to tear down about 50% of our amazing 100 year old oak tree. So sad but it was the tree or the house. We have been assured that it will survive and grow in quickly but it was hard to see it go. The good news is we will have firewood for a very long time to come. Milagro had her 2 year old check-up and got 4 shots. She had lots to tell me about the experience since I didn't take her. She is such a sweet child. Apparently she endeared herself to all the nurses because she asked for 4 stickers. ("One for each shot?" the nurse asked? She said "no. 1 for my sister, 1 for my big brover, 1 for my little brover and one for me!")

The older kids are still wrapping up December assignments (they are both a bit behind so will likely "do school" into early next week.) While I think vacations are good for them, right now I also think that it gives Tortuga much needed structure plus he actually enjoys it so he may only get a couple of days off. I took advantage of C. being back to take care of projects I cannot do while supervising all 4 kids so I spent the bulk of the day making our Christmas fudge. The kids will help me later in the weekend with packaging and labelling and delivering.

While most of our Christmas shopping is finished we had a few items (from Santa for the family) to pick up at a sporting goods store. The nearest one is off the same road as Corazon's gym so we decided to all go after dropping her off for her last practice before vacation. It was a big deal because she was also finding out if she was moving up a level in gymnastics. We already knew but the girls were being told as a group because of the 10 girls on her level only 3 were ready to move up and she was one of them. We are very proud of her and her accomplishments in gymnastics this year but we are even more excited because the coaches for her new level are AMAZING. One used to train the Chinese national team and she takes no prisoners! Corazon will work hard with 3 1/2 hours of practice 4 days/week and her new coach will keep her on track which is what she thrives on. Gymnastics has really been a significant part of her healing and in all areas she's come so far in this past year!
While Corazon was at the gym we we ran our errand then went to dinner. Tortuga was doing very well and was quite relaxed and happy. We picked Corazon up then went driving around the area to look at Christmas lights. We saw some wonderful decorations and the kids were having a great time. Then it started. Tortuga began muttering under his breath. Every time Pollito or Corazon commented on something they saw we heard him. I tried ignoring it for as long as possible but that usually just makes it worse. He escalated until C. & I realized we needed to head home. The younger kids were in a great mood but Tortuga was over the top and wanted to make sure everyone knew it. He wasn't interested in anything except making sure everyone was miserable. That led to an incredible rage unlike we have seen in almost a year. Nothing that usually regulates him worked to help him. After 2 hours he seemed to be calming/slowing down and I make the critical mistake of going to deal with the other kids while C. stayed with him. It was only about 3 minutes but enough time for him to bolt. It was after 9 p.m. and he ran out the door. C. went after him and was gone for over an hour. I was so mad at him because I knew part of what was going on is that he wanted to keep the attention on himself and my going to check on the other 3 was what led to this running. When they returned I had the other 3 propped in front of the tv watching a christmas movie eating reindeer cupcakes. If looks could have killed...we would not be here. C. led him upstairs to his room. Reminded him of the consequences of destroying things (I had already run up there and removed anything removable as a part of a premptive strike.) He screamed and yelled for about 40 minutes but eventually calmed down.

Great start to the weekend!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hanging in

I accidently started a holiday tradition of getting the kids matching pajamas in 2007 when the boys came and Milagro was born.  Someone gave us matching pjs for Milagro and Tortuga and then coincidentally Pollito and Corazon got matching pjs. All of the pjs were from the same company and it looked like they were matching intentionally so a tradition was born. Here's that first set of pjs.

After that the kids began to expect it every year. So last year, 2008, I got these pajamas for them.


We used the picture above on last year's holiday card. This year, they have matching pajamas again.


We are hanging in pretty well. C. is out of town for work which always adds a little more crazy to our mix. Milagro just hit two important milestones. First, she is able to recall her dreams (but she doesn't know they are dreams yet.) Yesterday morning she woke up and she was crying (unusual since she is a happy morning kid!). She wanted her baby doll which she claimed C. had thrown outside. She was "scared" for her baby doll. I tried to show her that all her baby dolls were fine and she kept asking for the "other one." Her insistence that it was outside persisted so I asked her to show me where. We went out to the spot she claimed the doll was at and she was genuinely perplexed that she couldn't find her. She said C. was "mad" and threw the doll outside (something that would never happen in real life.) It stuck with her all day long. With C. being out of town, she is also missing her. Usually she notices C. isn't around and gets a little clingy with me. Last night she came and in a little whiny voice told me she "missed" her "other mom." She hasn't used that word "miss" before but she was using it appropriately. I tried to reassure her and she just sat in my lap and cried quietly. It was so sweet and so heartbreaking at the same time.

Pollito is edgy. Too much "week before xmas vacation" activity at school wreaks havoc for him. The week has been full of too many sweets and treats, parties (theirs was on Tuesday!), movies every single day, and today was pajama day. Like the rest of the kids he doesn't do so well without the usual structures so we are seeing more acting up from him. He copies so much of the older kids' RAD behaviors that I sometimes wonder if I am missing something with him!

Corazon is having a hard time staying regulated. Won't do schoolwork correctly or at all. Yesterday she "forgot" how to multiply, divide, add money, and couldn't figure out what a noun or verb was to save her life. It made her schoolwork, which should have taken about 45-60 minutes, take all day to not finish. She just played "dumb." She has generally done so much better around holidays, etc. but right now she is still struggling. Tortuga is sliding downhill fast. We have had alot more rudeness, meanness, belligerance, and "forgetting" of routines and expectations.  It's to be expected but it is wearing thin. I am not handling it as well as I should/could so I am feeling like a "bad parent."

On another note though we are having fun with the advent calendar my mom, Corazon and I made last year.

Corazon helped me finish it this year and we put in all kinds of "fun" and simple activities for the family to enjoy. In the past it has been hard because all the kids haven't been able to participate in the fun activities we do throughout the holiday season. I decided this was a way to give them a fresh start every day. So far, both Corazon and Tortuga have had to sit out some of the activities but overall they have been able to participate in a good number of them. We have done things like watch Christmas movies, had hot chocolate with candy canes, done nice things for one another (anonymously), shared good things about each other, had dinner by candlelight on the floor in front of the Christmas tree, made cupcake "snow people", read the Christmas Story from the bible, had dessert for breakfast, etc. It has kept things fun and exciting but also low-key. I still get sad when they can't all participate but it doesn't feel as bad as in the past when I felt like they missed out on something more major when we did only a few "special" Christmas activities.

Here are the kids' snow people cupcakes:

This little reindeer was not holding it together well so she missed out on the snow people cupcakes.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Finally better!

Me that is. Except for my throat being pretty raw I am back to my usual self. I think it is terrible that sometimes the only way we get a break is to get sick (and then it doesn't feel like much of a break.) It's the only time I get to ignore the daily kid drama and can generally trust that they are being kept safe. Milagro continued to be my lovely care-taker throughout my stint on the couch. She brought me popsicles, toys, books (which she "read" to me), tucked me in and seemed to take it upon herself to escort me to the bathroom anytime she caught me getting up. A few times I snuck past her but then was subjected to her banging on the door with a "you ok mom?" or a "need help?" It was absolutely priceless. We tried to keep her away since she had just gotten over her own bout with some bug and she complained that she "missed" me from the next room. So nice to be loved unconditionally.

Pollito was "worried" which was the first time I have noticed this from him. He asked each time he saw me if I was better and he announced that he wanted me to BE better NOW. He also was my self appointed "sleep-watcher" which meant he waited for me to fall asleep and then he would go and whisper loudly (he can't whisper to save his life!) to each person that I was sleeping and of course, wake me up in the process. Corazon wanted to be next to me the entire time (she is clearly my anxiously attached child) and acted up significantly the entire time. Tortuga (because we told him NOT to) wanted to give me a big hug and kiss each time he saw me. Gotta love ODD! He is testing and being tested mightily by all this holiday stuff but it is still better than last year.

Yesterday I was well enough to meet with Corazon's coaches at the gym. They want to move her up a level--more competitive, more practice time, more money--which is great. They don't want us to tell her because most of the girls on her level are NOT ready to move up and they want to announce the moves in another two weeks. She will be so very proud of herself and she has earned this. Her maturity and discipline is so clear. I continue to believe this saved our lives. For a kid so focused on control and controlling her body's functions gymnastics proved to be a very good way for her to channel her energy. I notice when she is most dysregulated she starts to practice beam and floor routines and it seems to calm her down. Anyone with an athletic RAD kid should look into some of these sports that require lots of physical and mental control/energy (ice skating, ballet and gymnastics for her.) We plan on getting a special dessert to celebrate this with her as soon as we know when it will be announced.

I was also well enough to run to my favorite (not) big store for essentials--cat litter, cat food, paper towels, etc--. I had to take all 4 kid and it did not go well for Tortuga in terms of his ability to control he hyperfocus and targetting of Corazon. We almost had a big scene right there in the store BUT he held it together. I was furious and proud at the same time which I didn't know was possible! I got us out of there before we finished our trip and waited until we got home to deal with it. I told him how well he did and how far he had come and he took responsibility. It was great. He was pretty down the rest of the evening and didn't eat much for dinner and a part of me thinks he was sad and just sitting with it. We have been trying to work on teaching him about "sitting" with anger, sadness, and loneliness without needing to lash out. I will try to find out what was going on when we talk more today.

So this is life right now. Holding steady with escalating craziness but it's to be expected. This is our life.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

World's Best Toddler-Seriously

Yesterday morning I woke up with a very high fever (103.6) and no other symptoms. We had planned to go out to get our Christmas tree but combined with the cold and my not feeling well that was not to be. My timing couldn't have been lousier since C. is working to complete a paper due this coming week. Anyway, I propped myself on the couch in the family room with a nice fire in the fireplace, a few pillows and a mound of blankets. Milagro noticed I was lying down and asked C. what I was doing. C. told her I wasn't feeling well. Milagro went upstairs to her room, got her favorite stuffed animal, and brought it to me saying "Mom, Penny will make you feel better." Then she went to her bookshelf and brought me 3 of her books to read. I was in the middle of getting up to use the bathroom but she wanted me to sit down. I told her where I was going and she ran to the bathroom and started calling me: "Mommm! Mommm! I open the door for you!" I get there and she tells me she will stay with me in case I "need help." Then she takes my hand, walks me back to the couch and tucks me in with a "feel better, Mom."

A minute or two later she shows up with a popsicle from the standup freezer and says "This my favorite Mom. It make you feel better. ... [pause] Love you mom. I no like it when you sick." (Which is what I say to her when she is sick.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tortuga continues his progress

Tortuga did remarkably well over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I gave him more wiggle room throughout this time with continuous reminders of what was expected, etc. One thing that I think helped is we had stepped up the "interruptions" to his day and introduced lots of little "tests" to see if he could behave/hold things together and transition back to being on task. Except for a little bit of attitude and a well averted meltdown on Thanksgiving he did really well. I want to focus a little bit on Thanksgiving Day for him because I think this exemplifies some of the areas where I make my mistakes in serving him and his current needs. It also shows where his trouble spots are without them being overshadowed by meltdowns and rages. By themselves, none of these (mis)behaviors are big deals but the feelings and attitudes behind them are HUGE and I think when I miss them in day to day life or don't address them they just grow for him. He hasn't developed the capacity to monitor himself or be grateful that I let "little things" slide and for him it seems that each little thing that slides quickly become a big thing.

Thanksgiving morning I was busy cooking away after feeding the multitudes (10 adults 6 kids under one roof). Both Corazon and Tortuga had a little bit of schoolwork they had not completed so they were involved with that. C.'s family is really into walking, hiking, outdoor-anything so they had decided to go for a long walk and offered to take any of the kids with them. I sent Milagro and Tortuga along because Tortuga had missed out on all the walks with his grandparents this visit and that is a big part of life with grandpa. With  instructions that he was not to push Milagro's stroller, and that he had to be watched on sidewalks because he will dart out into the street if anything catches his eye or he is playing around and gets excited so he doesn't notice he is stepping into the street. I also reminded everyone including him that he was not to eat anything (I know I have talked about his issues with sugar and starchy foods, bread and pasta in particular) and reminders that if he ate and it caused his behavior to change he would spend time away from the family throughout the day including our Thanksgiving meal. That was said more for the benefit of the grandparents and uncles because they don't really get it and I wanted them to be sure I was serious. Off they went.

Upon their return, Tortuga was drenched in sweat. They had a "short" two mile walk and he was very happy. He had collected flowers for a homeschool poetry assignment and was very animated in his talking. Except for the fact that he couldn't stop to listen to my questions he was doing ok. However, once I set him to put his flowers away and return for instructions he got "mad" and came back with a bit of an attitude and proceeded to interrupt me as I checked in with others. I redirected him 4 or 5 times and finally stopped him and put my hands on his shoulders, pulled him close and told him he was too excited and making poor choices. He started to argue with me and pulled himself away but I held him close so that others would not hear us. I whispered his instructions--go upstairs, take a longgggg shower, calm yourself, read in room with door closed, get dressed for the meal and NOT interrupt or call down for any reason except death or dying.

He called down to me 7 different times before getting himself into the shower. Except for 1 of those times, each question/topic was something he knew the answer to. Unlike our daily experiences where he has a consequence for these, I did not offer consequences until the last time he interrupted. He was still off a bit and I knew it was partly the excitement of Thanksgiving and the walk. I later learned that one of the uncles had been trying to be helpful by giving him a chance to "run off some of his energy" on the walk back home. I written before about how that doesn't seem to work for him and usually deregulates him even more. Just to add insight on how Tortuga processes information I want to add that on Friday and Saturday he had two "attitude episodes" because I denied his requests to let him "run off some of his energy." Despite months of discussing and addressing what happens when he runs without focus and his recognition that it didn't help him in the past, he negated all this and convinced himself that he was entitled to get to run around because it had happened on Thanksgiving.

During the meal he was at the kids table and he monitored every bit of food Corazon had on her plate. He came over and interrupted me in the midst of serving something onto my sister's plate, grabbed my arm, and said in a too-loud voice that I "forgot" to give him enough cranberry sauce. (He did have some but I guess not as much as she did and he had more food than her including 2 items she didn't have.) He does this constant comparison with her all.the.time. I sent him back to the table without more and he was fuming and glaring at Corazon BUT he did manage to control himself.  I did catch him glaring at her and had to stop him from trying to one-up her in every interaction she had with Milagro. He was relatively easy to redirect each time but I lost count of how many times this happened. On a normal day he would not have been allowed to remain at the table.

The kids had written and prepared a Thanksgiving play and were very excited to present it. (We do them regularly for school and for holidays and they love them.) Milagro was very tired and a bit whiny so she was having a hard time holding it together. The play went really well and we were able to include my niece and Pollito at the last minute. However, during the play, he corrected/interrupted Corazon at least 3 times when she hesitated or missed a word. He had not done these during any of their rehearsals and admitted later that he was mad at her (for no reason) and was enjoying her "mess-ups" so he wanted others to notice she was messing up. For the record he only messed up about a dozen times and once missed his line completely so I tried to cue him and he snapped at me! Overall minor issues with the play but they were pleased with themselves and that was what mattered.

After the play I sent him upstair for quiet time. I had turned on his music to help him calm down. The adults were watching football and he wanted to join in. I told him that game was almost over (had about 30 minutes left) and if he watched that he couldn't watch the Texas Longhorns game which was starting at 8.  I gave him a choice and he chose the Longhorn game. I reminded him he could watch it if he could stay calm while he was upstairs. He was still really mad about being sent upstairs and C. quietly reminded him this was part of the plan to keep him regulated. He was quickly escalating and I told him he had about an hour and a half (it was actually 2 hours) before the game started to calm himself down. If he could stay calm I would let him down in an hour so he could have dessert before the game. He almost lost it--tone, mean eyes, eye rolling, body posture, gritted teeth, etc. C. reminded him again and he started shouting that it wasn't fair. I had said 30 minutes and now I was saying an hour! It took a while for him to recognize he misunderstood the choices--only 30 minutes of football now or a whole game a hour from now. He was still mad and trying to get us to change our minds about him going upstairs so for the next HOUR he interrupted with seemingly important things --someone left the water running in the bathroom sink, he needed a different book, etc. I had also sent him to change into sweats or jeans and a tshirt. He came downstairs in his football shorts (not allowed for home use-long story) and a long sleeve polo shirt. Basically he spent the hour interrupting us and finding ways to be defiant. I didn't say anything but kept him upstairs until after the game started.

I was going to get that 1 hour of calm if it meant he missed the entire game!

During the game he got to hang out with all his uncles and grandpa. The excitement (and testosterone) were a bit much. By the middle of the game he was throwing his slippers in the air and when checked would say "I was just...." By halftime I should have sent him to bed. I didn't. It got a bit worse and we had an almost meltdown by bedtime.All in all lots of bumps but I guess my point is two-fold. He showed the progress he has made AND he showed how much he still desperately needs our limits, structure, and less wiggle-room.

We had a couple of hard days over the weekend after everyone left but he is back on track so far. I will do another 'errands test" over the weekend and into next week and see how that goes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I am still failing Kindergarten...

For a while there I thought I was staying on top of my Kindergarten game. Reading folder sent in daily. Class t-shirt cleaned and ready to go for field trips. Permission slips for T*rget field trip (don't ask) sent on time. Can of frosting. Delivered. Early. But then I started slacking. I totally missed the leaf cut-out that was supposed to be decorated for their Thanksgiving hall decor and I missed the "things I am thankful for" turkey and we didn't get to the "family" potluck. I think I have a good excuse reason for missing those--holiday preparations, sick kids, home repairs, C. travelling for work, etc. But then I really blew it. Pollito missed a couple of days of school and I missed downloading one of the class newsletters. Of course it would be one of the most important ones and now I am playing catch-up. Edited to clarify/add about T*rget: They are learning about stores and money and they will be "shopping" for gifts for kids at a local shelter. They were supposed to be earning money at home over the past two weeks to buy the stuff. Of course, that info about earning money was in the newsletter I forgot to download.

This morning I rushed poor Pollito into completing his math "homework" because I didn't realize it was due (truthfully I hadn't even glanced at the growing pile of papers from school). In 6 minutes I tried to get him to count all the bedrooms, lamps, windows, chairs, doors, phones, and 2 or 3 other things. We did fine with phones once he decided cell phones didn't count and bedrooms but after that it was a disaster. He has just recently learned to count and can manage counting up to 11 but it gets dicey after that. He also has to start from 1 each time so we had many false starts. 1, 2, 3, 4, then to the next room where he couldn't pick up with 5 but needed to run back to the first room and start again. It was almost comical except that he was working so hard...bless his heart. I was trying hard to be supportive but rush him out the door at the same time. Bad mom.

I was hell-bent on getting that in because right now I am behind on a few other things. I haven't sent in a book order all year (I am sure she thinks we have no books in our educator household) so she kindly sent me all the order forms for previous months along with the December one. We haven't participated in any of the recent community "giving" events (coins for charity (monthly thing), coats for kids, canned foods for food pantry, or sponsor a family) and we haven't returned his last two library books (I am sure there is a late notice in that pile.)

Most importantly I have, sitting in that pile I furtively glanced through this morning when he mentioned math homework, a (Christmas) tree that needs to be "traced on felt, posterboard, wood, fabric, cardstock, or other such item" and decorated "by the ENTIRE family as a fun family event." Deja vu anyone? We are told it doesn't have to be a "Christmas tree" but can "use this attached evergreen pattern to design a festive creation!...It can simply be a type of tree (pine, maple, oak, etc) with no decorations if you wish OR..." This is followed by two FULL paragraphs on suggestions of how to decorate a Christmas tree. Someone help me out. How do I turn this evergreen tree pattern into a maple tree? oak tree? And who out there seriously believes they don't expect a Christmas tree? Should I really make my kid be even more of a freak (two moms thing again) by being the only kid who DOESN'T take in a decorated Christmas tree. As tempted as I am to have a family event to decorate a maple tree I just don't have the skills required. Or the time. The darn thing was due November 30th!

I am still failing Kindergarten.

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