Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Next Day...

The day after Tortuga's celebration he woke up completely dysregulated. He went into the bathroom to do his morning routine and got upset because I gave him a new bar of soap instead of body wash. (He has always used soap.) He started screaming that he hated me and that I never give him what he needs. He went on and on about how he was going to hurt me and how miserable I made life for him. That was the beginning of a pretty terrible day. There was no way to diffuse or redirect him. By dinnertime I was exhausted and had sent him to bed.

On the plus side, he didn't lose it the day before. I also knew enough to expect that there would be payback for so many reasons--celebration, fun, friends, sugar, being the center of attention, new toys, feeling so incredibly loved. The range of feelings he must have experienced are far beyond anything I can imagine. On the plus side, he didn't rage or meltdown. Yes, he was vicious, rude, mean, disrespectful, and all of those are intolerable and hell to deal with but he didn't rage or meltdown. I am hanging on to that. On the negative side, it made for a horrible beginning to our week and this threw everyone off.

Corazon handles other kids getting attention pretty well now when we have parties, etc. Including her in the planning and preparation certainly kept her attention-seeking behaviors to a minimum. BUT, once it passes, she starts to act out too and ACT. OUT. she did. So there I was dealing with both of them needing constant attention and pulling out all the stops to get it in negative ways.

In addition, Corazon has been struggling with some of her "normal" kid privileges. We have always had issues with her sneaking and lying. Mostly now they are in the more normal range. When she does sneak it is usually something innocuous like reading. However, she behaves as though it is one of the worst things in the world if she gets away with it. I had noticed that she was "sneaking" reading when she was supposed to be doing other things (putting away her clothes, getting dressed, doing schoolwork, cleaning her room, etc.) We only recently let her have a bookshelf and books in her room and this is causing her some angst. The more she gets away with sneaking reading the worse she behaves.  I have told her that she is going to have to figure that one out. I am NOT going to take the books and shelf away and she is going to have to figure out how she manages that responsibility because she is READY.  It is hard for me to stick to this but just like she has needed practice with other things she needs practice with this. So we do this dance. She sneaks and wants to be punished in some way. I refuse to "catch" her at it and give her consequences. She gets frustrated and anxious BUT she does stop herself for a few days. I know it seems torturous for all of us but this child desperately needs to know that she can STOP herself from doing things that aren't in her best interest and that I won't always be there to catch her. Of course, I am cheating because I can do this about sneaking books whereas I don't think I could do this about a whole host of other things. Anyway, the good news is that she is able to go longer and longer without sneaking reading and I am hoping this transfers to other things. However, the process, is so NOT fun!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Birthday Celebration

Earlier this month we celebrated Tortuga's 12th birthday. It has been a month of ups and downs for this child. We have had some wonderful moments and some pretty awful ones too. I think I have about eight different posts that I want to write or have started to write but I get sidetracked by the goings on around here. Right now I want to focus on Tortuga's birthday.

We had planned a surprise party for him in hopes of diffusing some of the fallout that normally occurs. We told him we would be celebrating it a week after his actual birthday due to some work travel for C. In actuality we planned the party for his actual day. Corazon was in on the surprise and she helped me tremendously as we made plans and preparations for the weeks leading up to his day.  He wanted a "Lego" day so we had ordered a cake, goodies for the party, and even a special shirt for him. When the day came, we were ready and he had held it together beautifully up until then (which has NOT been the case in previous years.)

We started the day with our usual birthday greetings, special breakfast, and a few presents.



 Then we sent him off to do his usual post-breakfast morning routines and activities. While he was in his room the rest of us went to work getting the place ready and decorating for the party. By the time our first guest arrived we were sent and he was none the wiser. It was perfect. By the time he realized we were celebrating his birthday he didn't have time to anticipate and mess thing up for himself.

The party was an overwhelming success. We tried to keep it low-key by keeping the kids outside playing with their bikes, skateboards, roller blades, hoops, and basketballs. We had never been able to pull off a "party" for him that included more than our immediate family, but we managed to entertain 16 kids ranging in age from 6 months to 14 year on what turned out to be a beautiful day! Tortuga really looks up to Christine's sons and Corazon was thrilled to spend time with her daughters so it was especially wonderful to have them join us. Overall the day was a huge success. Here are some of the highlights.

 Cake...

 Hula Hoops...

 T-shirt decorating...


Pizza...

Bikes, roller-blades, scooters, and skateboards...



 Lego car kits, bracelet making, sidewalk chalk...




Even the adults got in on some of the fun...




Our dear friends' babies definitely stole the show...




 Milagro hung back and took it all in....

The best part of this day, besides seeing Tortuga thoroughly enjoy himself, was that he HELD. IT. TOGETHER. After everyone had gone home we let him open his presents and hung out. He still didn't lose it and he was feeling pretty good about himself. He even thanked us for a great day and for "loving me so much."

The next day...that's another story...

Monday, April 4, 2011

The look of progress...part 2

Tortuga was very happy to have me home from Orlando. He wanted to be near me all the time. We went out to lunch when I returned and all he wanted to do was hug me and sit at the table with me rather than go play with the other kids at the playground. He genuinely seemed happy to see me and was quick to articulate that. He was also really angry at me for leaving and I could sense that just under the surface. He held it together until we got home and THEN it started. My usual statement of "Please go do your nighttime routine" was met with a GROWL, a stare-down, a stomp and muttering under his breath. A reminder to put away his clothes was met with open hostility and a resounding "NO!" A request that he change his tone resulted in him turning his back on me, yelling that I was "mean" and that he "didn't care." Before it escalated further I called him downstairs and like any smart mom asked him what was going on. Of course he responded with "Nothing!"

So I changed my strategy and said I knew what was wrong. I told him he was mad. He denied it. He was mad at me for leaving. He denied it. He was mad at me for not being home. Denial. He was mad at himself for missing me. "No!" he yelled. He was mad that he even cared. He started crying. Big tears rolling down his face. So I told him, "I know why you are crying. You are crying because you are RELIEVED. Even though you heard me say I would be back and I am always here, a small part of you was WORRIED. Even though you knew I would come home, You were worried." He kept crying and finally told me he had dreamed on both the Friday and Saturday that I was gone and he couldn't find me "no mater how hard I looked". He said he kept thinking about what would happen to him without me if I didn't come home. Poor kid...I felt so sad for him. Yet this was also huge progress. Of course I have know he misses me even when I leave him home to run an errand. But this was for 3 whole days and even though C. was home and he feels safe with her he was still worried.

The next couple of weeks were filled with ups and downs for him. He stayed mad and had to work extra hard to keep himself in check. Sometimes he has succeeded but other times...not so much. I know his anger is fear based but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with. I know he is healing and I know he is attaching but he still has much to work through.

A week or so ago they were all having an especially difficult time. I had spent ALL day trying to keep the older two regulated, the younger boy from hurting the youngest, and the littlest one out of the fray. By 4:30 p.m. I had the three oldest in bed for the night. I hadn't even fed them dinner! C. and I were putting together a meal for a family whose dad was seriously injured in a biking accident. We were focused on trying to be helpful and the kids were feeling "neglected" because our attention was focused on someone else.  By the time I was finished preparing the meal and C. was ready to go deliver it, I had had enough interruptions to last me for the rest of the week! So I put them to bed. When C. returned she lit into the three of them for their behavior and attitude. She was upset because she had seen the kids, their mom, and grandparents and they were so worried about their dad because he had a head and brain injury and still didn't recognize them. She reminded them how precious life it and how wrong it is to take things for granted. Tortuga was the first one to burst into tears and he wanted to apologize for his "selfishness" as soon as she finished speaking. He is most definitely our most selfish and entitled kid so this was a huge deal for him as well. After that I fed them dinner and put them back in their rooms to read before bed so C. and I could have quiet time together.

We are seeing a wide range of expression of feelings from Tortuga. We are working hard with him to name these feelings and the thoughts behind these feelings. We are working to help him match his thoughts, behaviors and feelings because often there is a serious mismatch. For example, he will frown when something good happens. We have also found that writing is an excellent way for him to process his feelings and even though he complains at times about writing it is a strategy I highly recommend for kids who get triggered by verbal interactions. In fact sometimes I will "script" much of what took place and leave blanks for him to fill in the feelings, thoughts and actions. It is a little bit like a mad lib. This strategy has really helped him piece together some of what he is feeling and thinking.

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