Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Feelings

We had a huge blow out with Tortuga about a week ago over nothing. That is usually the case. He gets set off over seemingly nothing. This time it was because he hadn't completed a task before dinner and he thought I was preparing dinner so he got mad that he had to complete it before dinner. The task would have taken about 10 minutes MAXIMUM. Instead, he spent 4 hours getting worked up, shouting he hated me, was going to "kill and destroy" me, write on the light switch plate and wall (in very small writing) that he hated me. Then he announced screamed that he didn't want to live here, we treated him like "trash," we treated Corazon like a "jewel," and we should just call the police to take him away to a better home. We tried to ignore him which made matters worse. We tried to talk him into using his calming strategies. C. finally went upstairs and confronted him which escalated things and he got physically aggressive with her. With a little assistance he finally attempted one of his strategies to calm down but it didn't work for long. Then he started ALL over again.

At his last request demand to leave this house and for us to get someone to get him out of here, I finally got into the discussion and agreed and then I picked up the phone to make the call for him and he fell apart.  He started begging me not to call, cried, apologized and said he changed his mind. We were at the point where we weren't sure we had changed our mind. The younger kids were totally freaked out, Corazon did her best to entertain them and finally Milagro fell asleep in the midst of this so she was spared the last of his blowup. Once we sorted through the debris we fed him dinner and put him to bed with the understanding that he would need to "make it up" to all of us. He didn't want to talk about it at that time and we needed time to figure out appropriate restitution. It is ALWAYS our experience that if he doesn't do appropriate restitution he will spiral downward for days on end. It is also our experience that if he doesn't think the restitution is appropriate (i.e. "harsh" enough in his eyes) then the spiraling continues.  Corazon has usually been the same way. She would always think up a harsher consequence for her misbehavior than we would. She still does it sometimes but it seems to happen only when she does something really awful whereas before it was pretty much on the same level whether she tried to hurt a pet or stole a cookie.

About an hour after Tortuga had gone to bed I heard noises from his room through the monitor. He was crying. Actually he was wailing, moaning, drooling, and crying. I went into his room and asked what was happening and he said he was afraid. He was afraid of leaving our home. He was afraid of going someplace else. He was afraid he had done something really awful that he could not fix. He was afraid to lose us. He was afraid that we "believed" he might hurt us when he "knew" he would "never really do it." I talked him through some of this and had him answer each of his fears with what we have told him--we won't send him away but he may choose to leave us, he had made a huge mistake but mistakes are fixable when we take responsibility and do restitution, he isn't going to lose us, and the biggie, because we don't believe he will actually hurt us intentionally but accidentally or in a rage is another story which is why we have worked so hard to diminish his rage. He calmed down after about 25 minutes and as I said goodnight he said "Goodnight mom. I really love you a lot." I told him I loved him and as an afterthought he added "Thanks mom." I asked him what for and he said "talking to me. It really did make make feel better. I didn't think it would but you were right, it did." I was dumbstruck surprised and I am sure my mouth was hanging open as I walked out his door and set his alarm.

The next morning he was in a great mood even when I told him his restitution would include his not participating in "family time" for the next three nights. (Of course he also dreamed that I was going to die and he was the only one who knew this. But he claimed he was very sad about it.) During family time he would have the choice to lie down or sit under his weighted blanket in his room. His task was to work on not getting angry (although acknowledging other feelings-sad, disappointed, jealous, frustration, etc. would be appropriate) as he heard us play board games and Wii, read stories, make cookies and most significantly miss out on the celebration of Pollito's anniversary. While this may seem harsh we talked about it and decided it was the best decision. In the past we have usually postponed important celebrations or outing until everyone could participate. I have lost count of how many events we have postponed and I had decided that we would not do this again for anyone. He seemed disappointed and upset but held it together as I told him what his consequences were. I should also say that I think he is entering the "Social Needs" level of  Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs/Hierarchy of Motivation. (That is it's own post but I have referenced this before when talking about how we went back to convincing him we were meeting his Physiological Needs.)  He would be giving us back the time he took up with his "tantrum" over the course of these three days and he would be working on managing (and identifying) his feelings.  This is work we started to do more intensely over the past couple of months.

He has started to recognize his feelings of disappointment, sadness, frustration, and anger as distinguishable from one another on a more regular basis. His response to them however is usually the same anger response we have gotten in the past. I have been working with him to understand how those feelings are different and when they are appropriate so we all try to label our feelings. In other words, "I was so sad when P. left yesterday and I wanted to cry." Or we might say "Corazon is very disappointed because she didn't get to play on the computer. She is acting mad at me because I won't let her use it but she knows the only person she should be mad at herself for losing that privilege. When Corazon is disappointed she pouts and acts mad but she no longer tantrums like she used to." Right now his facial expressions rarely match his feelings and actions so we have been probing those as well.

When our friend was here he wanted to play the guitar for her to show her what he has learned. When I finally told him he could do it (after asking a dozen times at the wrong time) he frowned, smiled and then started laughing and frowned again. That was a good opportunity for him to practice identifying his feelings and for me to tick him off.   He was able to tell me that he smiled because he was happy, laughed because he was nervous and frowned because he was afraid to make mistakes because he hadn't been practicing as much as he wanted to be sure he was ready to show off his skills. I noted that the frown came first and he denied it at first. He also almost lost his temper as we tried to work through this exchange but he didn't and that is huge progress. This past week we introduced a new exercise. He (and Corazon) are keeping a feeling journal. I create them on a regular basis (I want to say daily but I am not that together) and they take the form of mad libs (but they aren't really funny). I script out the journal entry with fill in the blanks for feelings, thoughts, reasons, examples, etc. They fill them in and then rewrite the whole thing into their own journals.  So far they each have about 6 or 7 and while they did them under duress while whining and complaining just yesterday Tortuga said to me as he CHEERFULLY got his assignment "you know mom, I think I actually like doing this!" Fancy that.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Big Day...

Yesterday was a big day for all the kids.

Pollito lost his second tooth. I mean literally LOST it. It's been wiggly for awhile and sometime between toothbrushing and breakfast we noticed it was missing. His sister, Corazon, helped him write a letter to the Magic Mouse (we don't have a tooth fairy...) explaining the issue.

Pollito also rode his 2 wheel bike for the first time today WITHOUT TRAINING WHEELS!!!! He has been TERRIFIED about this for so long and today he was ready. He rode and rode to cheers from everyone in the family plus two of our elderly neighbors who he adores. He was in heaven!

Milagro has a two-wheeler with training wheels. Inspired by her brother she asked for her training wheels to be removed then quickly changed her mind. C. compromised and put them back "off balance" and it took her only a few minutes to figure out how to balance. After 40 minutes she was rarely relying on them. It won't be long before she asks that they be removed. She also is determined to stop wearing pull ups at night. She asked last week if she could start wearing undies to bed and I told her she had to have 5 dry nights in a row. Then she got sick with a fever and that slowed her down. Well yesterday was her third dry night...she even woke me to take her to the potty. That child has an incredible will. We may just get out I
Of those pull ups by next weekend...

Corazon has had three incredible days of staying regulated with very few redirections. I credit part of this to our return to rubbing and tapping AND to starting shaking (see lisa's blog here for the particulars...) She has also been helping our neighbor who is in her mid-70s by going walking with her each day to help lift her spirits and keep her healthy. It's inspiring Corazon to workout more and she even asked about returning to gymnastics. that is huge for her because she never asks for something she has lost (out of sight...thinking). We would have to sacrifice a lot to get her back to that but we know it is good for her and she misses it terribly.

Tortuga needs his own post but he spent the last three days doing some really tough emotional work. He hit a new low last weekend and physically assaulted C. She was ready to call the police and told him so. It scared him (in a good way I think.) One of his consequences involved being away from family activities over the next three evenings because he held us hostage for three to four hours and terrified the younger children. During that time he could choose to do nothing or write about his thoughts and feelings. He chose to write each time and did a good job. He also did not let himself get angry which is HUGE for him.He finished his "missing out" last night and had a really good evening.

He has also started to have bad dreams (that he recalls in the mornings) in which I die. Not sure what to make of that since he threatens to kill me often but I actually think it is a good sign. He seems to view them as "bad" and "sad" dreams and claims they scare him. We are having him keep track of these in his journal.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Has it really been 4 years?

I cannot believe that it's been 4 years already since Pollito came home! He had the biggest head on the tiniest body of any child I had ever seen! We still joke about that today although thankfully his body has grown to match his beautiful head! He was tiny and had a head full of curly hair, constantly runny nose, boundless energy and some serious asthma. At 6 1/2 years old he is still small for his age(size 5T is a stretch) and has boundless energy but the asthma and constantly runny nose are things of the past. He had almost no words/sounds except for "mine," "baba" (bottle), "nana" (banana), "ma" (any female) and "wawa" for water. Other than that he could tag on "dat's" (that's) to each of those words to articulate his needs. These days we cannot get him to be quiet! He still struggles with vocabulary, pronunciation and enunciation (in fact we seem to be in a regression) but he is our most silly, chatty, funny, and clever child.


So many things about him have not changed over the past few years. He still loves many of the things he loved when he first came balloons, bubble baths and bananas along with trains, planes, cars, dinosaurs, purses and accessories. That has not changed since Day 1.  He is still a ham who loves to lip sync to every kind of music and who dances even when he is trying not to. His current favorite activity is dance and he is taking a ballet/tap/jazz class and a hip hop class. We see some serious hip action from that kid no matter what he is doing! I think he still loves his tricycle and "bubble" car and will choose them over his "big boy" bike any day. He is still madly in love with his former Pre-K teacher Mrs. W. It's been two years and this love doesn't seem to diminish one bit. As we prepped for our Christmas cookies and fudge Christmas deliveries he was quick to point out that we couldn't forget her. We have even managed to get her teenage daughter as our babysitter which gives him a chance to send love notes, pictures and messages to her. I won't get worried about this for a few more years I think!


He still seems much younger than his chronological age but I can also see he is growing and testing and maturing. Last year he started many of those "annoying" behaviors that show just how comfortable he is. He has learned to push his brother's and sister's buttons quite well so he most definitely has earned the "annoying little brother" label! 


One of his passions is still cooking. For years he has loved to play "pretend" restaurant, mommy, cook, and chef. We got the two little ones a play kitchen two years ago and I can honestly say it was a great investment. This child plays with it pretty much EVERY SINGLE DAY for hours on end. We have had to replenish the food and the dishes and added pots, pans, and aprons. In the real kitchen he is equally at home. If I let him he would attempt to do all the cooking and cleaning. Each of the kids gets to pick their meal on their birthdays. He chooses the meal he wants to COOK and insists on doing every phase of it. It is wonderful to see just how passionate he can be especially since when he first came there was such little affect about him. 


His nightmares and night terrors have FINALLY (dare I dare say it) ended. It has been about 6 months since he let go of the NIGHTLY night terrors and nightmares that plagued him since he first came. He is firmly attached to us but still has some attachment and PTSD issues. He wants to hear his story often and doesn't yet understand that he wasn't born to me. He knows the truth and has seen his mother several times but insists that there was another time and another life when he was born to me that he remembers. I think this is part of his attaching process. If he had his druthers I think he would choose to be a baby again so we still give him plenty of  baby time.  


School and learning to read are a still a big challenge for him. He is much happier now that he is homeschooling although I think he missed playing with all the different children in his class since he was the favorite kid in the class with both the boys and the girls! He loves books and having stories read to him but he has absolutely no interest in learning to read. I think part of this is that he is intimidated by this and he just isn't ready. In general he  tends to lapse about a year or so "behind" what is typical for kids his age but he has continued to make steady progress so we try not to pressure him. 


I love to watch him play outside in the sandbox or with his truck. He is so engaged and thoughtful and fully present without any of the anxious behaviors that accompany some of his group play or when he is surrounded by lots of other kids. I also love seeing how MilagroPollito looks up to Milagro too and in many ways they are peers despite the 3 year difference in ages. They currently share a room and it makes both of them incredibly happy. They will spend the mornings after they wake up making plans for they day. They plan what stuffed animals will come downstairs, what "play" they will perform and what movie they will try to convince me to let them watch. They are both so serious in their planning that it can keep them busy for up to an hour each morning.  Pollito still hates going to bed and we still have a bit of crying about that on most nights but I think this is getting easier is is probably linked to the years and years of nightmares.


There are so many times when I marvel at how wonderfully Pollito is growing up. He is healthy (no asthma) and happy so much more of the time. We have so much fun playing games together especially when we have "down" time and we copy each other's faces until one of us laughs (usually me!) He still melts my heart when he has to jump out of his chair at the dinner table to give me a hug or he just nuzzles next to me and asks if we can "hang out."  Happy anniversary to my sweet boy. You have changed my life!





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