Monday, May 31, 2010

If it weren't for these moments....

Life is challenging right now but to be expected. Corazon hasn't consistently stayed regulated over the past few days suggesting she is keeping some "secret" that I haven't uncovered. She usually has a very hard time these days when she gets away with something she isn't supposed to do and I don't guess what it is. Where are those mind-reading abilities when I really need them. We tried to go swimming with all the kids yesterday but it really felt like I was monitoring the penalty box at an ice hockey game. I finally pulled her out because she was basically stalking strangers. Male strangers. I don't have time to write more about that one but that is becoming my current concern with her.  In her good moments she is actually so much more like a "normal" kid but we have some humps to overcome. We did have a great "girls' night out" on Saturday. C. & I took Corazon and Milagro to an Indigo Girls concert which Corazon missed last year because of this behavior. I was so happy she didn't miss it this year. We were out well past midnight with no behavior or attitude problems. Of course, we did get payback from the boys...

Tortuga was mad that she got to go out and he didn't. On top of his generally difficult reentry from his time with his grandparents it continues to be a difficult time. He is still "showering" me with payback.. e.g. pee in the wrong places. He is "forgetting" his routines. Expectations have gone out the window. New tics have shown up since the earache so he moves like Frank*nstein but "nothing's wrong." He is bullying the other kids, being rude, telling them what to do, tattling on them even when he isn't around them but he just "thinks" they might be doing something "wrong." He is impatient, rude, and downright mean to me these days. I am sure I did something wrong. The other day he decided he was no longer going to say "goodnight" to me. Ok.

Pollito seems to be doing better. He is still engaging in some challenging copycat behavior but most of the time it seems pretty normal for a five year old. We had some one-on-one time today because he wanted to go grocery shopping with me. He is beginning to ask questions about his birth story and adoption. While we have told the stories many times they haven't really seemed to register until recently. So we walked around the supermarket with me telling the stories over and over again and he seemed to get more of it today. I have to put more effort into getting his lifebook finished this summer. He is ready for it now.

Milagro is her usual happy self. Last night she got mad at me because she wanted me to read her a book that she knows by heart (the 6th or 7th book of the night) and I told her she should read it to herself. She plopped herself right next to me and pulled the book onto her lap and said "but I CAN'T READ!" Then she opened it up and flipped through the pages saying "blah, blah, blah, blah. Blah. Blah, blah. .... blah. blah. Blah. Blah, blah, blah. Blah. Blah......." Then she said "See! I can't read!!!!" What a stinker! Normally she can recite the whole story by memory but I guess she had a point to prove.

I am participating in Christine's Attachment Challenge. It has been challenging with some of the kids and easier with the others. Tortuga and I already have a "regular" routine of doing attachment building activities but this has helped me stay more focused and "fresh" and while I am not feeling the love from him right now I know it is a good thing. The little ones have been easy but the two older ones are in fine form (not a good thing) so it makes getting to ten hugs each day a bit more challenging. Today I decided to hug Tortuga every time he made a face at me, was rude, impatient, or just plain mean. I got 16 hugs in!!!!! Of course, a part of me felt like I was reinforcing negative behavior but the confused look on his face was amusing. :P

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This is part of the healing too...

We have had lots of fun over the past two and a half weeks. We took a trip to the beach then Tortuga went camping with his grandpa in PA while the rest of us went to a waterpark. Upon our return we had a great visit with some dear friends from MA and got to meet the newest member of the family who is all of 6 months old (baby HEAVEN!) They have all had a grand time and of course, we all know what happens to some of our children when things go "too" well...

I woke up to a very dysregulated Corazon. She has been on the edge for the last few days but held it together until this morning. She had a trumpet lesson scheduled and decided it would be fun to jam her mouthpiece into the trumpet. So now it is stuck and will likely need to go to the repair shop. This was only the beginning. She forgot how to brush her teeth, get dressed, shower, deodorant ("what is that?" she asked as I reminded her to put it on), drink from a glass, eat at the table, etc.  Not to be outdone the boys managed to keep up nicely. Even though I took Pollito to the bathroom twice during the night he managed to pee all over himself and his bed. Then he screamed the whole time he was showering. Breakfast went right to the floor along with his milk. He then went outside to play (I needed a break) and he managed to "break" Milagro's tricycle. I dragged him kicking and screaming gently put him down for his nap (at 11 a.m.!) The best part was Tortuga.

Apparently last night he had an ear ache. It was so "bad" that he couldn't get out of bed to use the bathroom. Instead he screamed and screamed until he woke up the entire household saying he had to pee. When I went in he couldn't get out of bed because his ear hurt and wanted me to help him pee! Ummm... No. There were no tears and no real indicators that he had done more than sleep on his ear but he wouldn't let me touch him to check because "everything" hurt especially his ear. All this was said in signs (pointing to wrong ear and making small circles with his finger while grimacing.) I asked what he wanted me to do to help him pee and suggested diapers. He screamed at me so I left. It didn't end there. This morning his room was flooded. I am not kidding. Of course, it was my fault for not helping him use the bathroom. Now he is mad at me but like a good mom I have tucked him into bed with a little bit of ibuprofen and ben*dryl until he feels better.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

He came home...

He came home a different kid! Tortuga got off the plane and genuinely hugged every single one of his siblings! He was so happy to see us that he couldn't stop telling us that he missed us or hugging us! He even brought us presents. Each of us got candy that his grandma let him buy. What's the big deal? He THOUGHT about us. He WANTED to bring gifts. He chose candy that was absolutely PERFECT for EACH person-- orange Tic Tacs for C., sour gummy worms for Milagro, cute little "cans of bugs" for Corazon and Pollito and for me ... a HUGE box of "red" St*rbursts because "I know you don't eat much candy but I couldn't remember what kind of gum you like to chew and I didn't want to get the wrong one so I remembered that when you buy us St*rbursts and we offer you some you only want the pink or red ones...."!!!! Amazing. Who would have thought he was actually paying attention to our likes and dislikes?

Everyone was happy to see one another. Tortuga has a wonderful time camping with his grandpa and grand uncle and then hanging out with grandma for a couple of days. Surprisingly, even though the rest of the kids shared their stories of time at the water park we haven't seen any signs of anger or jealousy from Tortuga. The reports we got from the grandparents was that he was excellent (we kinda expected good behavior) and that he talked about how much he missed us and that he was dilligent about doing his homeschool work. So far he has been home 4 days and we are seeing a more mature, more appreciative and more caring child. I will probably jinx all this by saying that this trip was a "success" and a win for all of us.

The rest of us had a grand time at the waterpark. Not usually my kind of thing but I genuinely enjoyed myself just watching the kids have so much fun and was truly touched by how many times they remembered their absent brother. I let them pick one small souvenir for themselves and they insisted on one for him that was identical to their but way bigger than theirs "so he would know we missed him." Oh how I love these kids!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Getting a little space.

When I went off in March to a K*ther*ne Leslie workshop Tortuga has a visceral response to my leaving him.  It was the first time he seemed genuinely fazed by being away from me. Since that day we noticed he was more affectionate without prompting. At night when I tuck the kids in I have a different "ritual" with each kid. With Corazon I usually say something like "I love you more than beans and rice" and she says "I love you to the moon and back." Both of these are from favorite bedtime books of ours. With Tortuga just wrestling him into bed and keeping him there has always had its own challenges so in our case I will usually say "Good night" and wait until he says "good night" back. Then I say "Duerme con los angelitos" (Sleep with the angels) and "dulces suenos" (sweet dreams) to which he replies "you too." Then I say "I love you." He usually doesn't respond unless it is to say "I love you too and tomorrow can I get ______." I stopped saying the "I love you" part back when we started this new intensive work with him and replaced it with "you did really well today and should be proud of yourself" or "hopefully tomorrow you will have a better day." I wanted to take the "I love you" pressure off of him and honestly he didn't seem to notice. Something quite interesting happened when I got back from that workshop. That very first night he said "I am so happy you are back mom I can't stand it." and as we said goodnight he said "I love you." No prompting or anything. Well ever since then he has said "I love you" as we say goodnight. He has only had 1 or 2 nights in the last 2 months when he hasn't done it and on both occasions it was because he was really mad about something. My response has been to say that I love him too and that I hope his anger lets him sleep soundly. I have let him initiate it each time at night and that seems to work for him.

Since that time we had also decided that we needed to provide more opportunities for him to be away from us (me especially) and the family if possible so that he might learn to recognize and appreciate what he has when we aren't there. So, in the last several months we have increased our "family time" activities that he participates in AND when he behaves in highly inappropriate ways we create "family time" activities that he misses out on. That means we have used a babysitter a few more times and each time he has been quick to tell me how much he missed me. Even when I go on errands and don't take him he bombards C. with questions about where I am and when I am returning. He also tells me that I was gone "a long time" even when I was back in little more than an hour. I think all of these things are signs of growing attachment. To be  honest we are also doing this to give the other kids a greater sense of "normalcy" because it is clear that they are so much more relaxed when he isn't around. Even Pollito is a different child. We notice that he has picked up many of Tortuga's (mis)behaviors and attention-getting strategies so I have had to step up the therapeutic parenting with him.

Last weekend we took that mini-vacation to the beach because we wanted everyone to participate in a fun family activity before we did a family activity without Tortuga. C.'s work had presented an opportunity for us to spend a few days at an indoor water park. We wanted to do it but knew it would be too much for Tortuga (lots of high stimulus activities, lots of other kids to play with, me supervising all 4 kids, etc.) so we had declined. In the meantime we had spoken with C.'s dad about possible taking Tortuga camping for a few days as an 11th birthday present if we could work out the logistics. Come to find out the timing for the camping trip worked out so that we could accept that offer to go to the water park! So yesterday, we put Tortuga on a plane to Pennsylvania to visit with his grandparents and go camping and this weekend we head off to the waterpark!

We didn't tell Tortuga until the night before he left and his response was absolutely appropriate. His initial excitement was tempered by fear when he realized he would be flying alone. He is generally afraid of almost everything so flying is no exception. After I talked him through the help he would get and how the flight attendants would help him he seemed better. (He also had to recount a dozen or so scenarios on how the plane could go down and crash...) Then he said "but mom, I don't think I can stand to be away from you!" and he started to cry. I went over and put my hands on his shoulder and told him I would miss him too but that he was going to have a whole lot of fun. He got off ok with only a few tears and should be off camping as I write this.

I have to admit that it has been so nice for all of us to have a little space from him and hopefully it will help him too.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fun Family Time

This past weekend we got a chance to go on a short vacation together. C. was working and invited us all to come along so we could have a chance to play. I was a little worried about managing all 4 kids by myself for the bulk of the day  especially given how unpredictable the two oldest can be away from home. Overall, the kids did really well. We spent one whole afternoon frolicking in the swimming!

Even Tortuga managed to hold it together for much of the time. We had one difficult day when he had trouble listening and doing what was expected but otherwise he did ok. He still struggles mightily with getting overexcited which leads to loss of control, giddiness, excessive chatter, and ultimately fly off the handle behavior and anger. He had to sit out quite a few times on the first day but the other 3 days were pretty good. Of course, as soon as we returned the payback began and he ended up spending the bulk of the first day "resting" in his room.

We spent two full days at the beach and they had such a great time. I couldn’t even get them to stop playing long enough to eat!

We bribed them off the beach with the promise of a trip to “Rain F*rest C*fe” which is one of their favorite places. Lots of memories since it is the first place we took each of the older kids to eat before they moved into our homes. They had a wonderful time wandering around the near empty restaurant which gave C. & I a chance to visit with one of her friends and colleagues.

The best part of our trip was that it became clear that there’s no going back for Milagro in her potty training! Two days after she announced that she “really should wear panties" she asked to wear a pair and has had one “accident” but otherwise seems perfectly ready for no daytime diapers! I do believe she has been the easiest (and earliest) of the four to potty train!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Maybe he really is a dog....

Our oldest son has some errrr....qualities that... uhmmmmm.... remind me of a dog.

He growls.

Literally.

Sometimes it is a low rumble in the back of his throat and other times it is a bare-teeth, snarling, growl. One warns he is getting mad, the other signals he is over the top. It can happen at the dinner table, in the car, while playing outside at the park, or just about anywhere else. I have been ignoring it lately because we have seen less of this behavior recently. He has reduced his growling and started licking my hand (when I am not watching), rolling over and playing dead (literally), and begging with his hands tucked up in front of his chest as he asks for something he isn't going to get. When I call attention to this he plays dumb and pretends he has no idea what I am talking about.

Does he have other canine qualities? Well, he used to pee on things in his room as if marking his territory, especially if they were new. When that stopped and he learned to write he started marking everything he perceived as belonging to him. Sometimes he writes his name but other times it is just his initials. He does it on his clothes, his furniture, his toys, his crayons (each individual one), his school supplies, notebooks, books, etc. He recently tried to do this on the bathroom toilet (not telling you with what!). He even does it in his food. I used to think he really like his name but recently he asked to change it to Melvin... so I don't think that's it.

Today he bit a hole in his weighted blanket. A big hole and all the stuff inside is now all over his room. When I asked him why he bit his blanket he said he was mad about having to sleep in his bed. When I asked him why he was mad about that he said he preferred sleeping on the floor in his sleeping bag like he had in our hotel room this weekend. I need to stop him before he starts chasing the cats around the house. Anyone know of a good obedience school that will take him?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The joys of toddlerhood!

Milagro is such a joy these days! She is growing up so very fast! Because she is so verbal it makes it easy to know what she is thinking of. Potty training is clearly on her mind. She talks about it all the time. The other day after I changed her diaper she went to put it in the trashcan and as she walked over to it she muttered "I really need to wear panties." Then two minutes later when I asked her if she was ready to wear panties she said "Nope! I'm just a baby. When I'm a big girl I will pee in the potty. Not now!"

The other day when our friends were visiting I was running around trying to get everyone ready and out the door for an exciting day trip. That morning C. has a meeting but was meeting us back at the house so we could all head out together. When she sent me a message that she was almost home I hustled everyone into the van. We had a full load and I got into the passenger seat leaving the driver's seat empty because C. was going to drive. All the kids and my friend knew we were just waiting for C. to pull in so they busied themselves with their books and conversations including Milagro. A couple of minute passed and Milagro suddenly called out, to no one in particular, "Is someone going to drive?" She had the most puzzled look on her face. I burst out laughing and she said "what's so funny mom?" Which, of course, got me laughing again as I explained that we were waiting for C. When I finished she said "That's funny mom. I thought you was being silly and you forgot to drive!" Nothing gets past her!

She has been enjoying Spring as I marvel at all that she is becoming and learning. A couple of weeks ago we woke up to an incredible downpour. She announced she "needed" to go play in the rain and wouldn't wait for me to change her clothes. She had a blast and wouldn't come back into the house until she was drenched!

She is such an independent kid. Each day when she plays outside she manages to bring me something that has caught her attention or calls me to show me something. The other day she spotted this and insisted I take a picture of it!

Here is what she has brought in lately.

To the untrained eye...that looks like a bunch of sticks and a leaf and a shell. However those aren't just any sticks...

Those are "Y" sticks. Collecting "Y" sticks has become an obsession! As is climbing trees....



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