Monday, July 29, 2013

13 At Last!

"13 at last!" she exclaimed on her birthday morning! This kid was so excited to turn 13! She had marked the days on her calendar starting around April 1st. I was hoping she wouldn't be sorely disappointed. This is the first year since moving to TX 5 years ago that we were home for her birthday. She wanted a party. She wanted a slumber party. I agreed to the sleepover (a first!) and then each of the girls she invited wasn't available. She was so disappointed but took it well.

We decided to celebrate on Saturday with a family party and invite a few family friends to dinner. On her actual birthday we went to see "Despicable Me" and ended the night with sloppy joes and a viewing of the first Star Trek movie. (We have been working our way through the original TV series.) Somewhere in there, C. took her out to buy her a new pair of sneakers for her birthday. It was a low-key, family birthday with no major fallout except for a little glimmer of jealousy from Tortuga.

On Saturday we had a Neon Glow birthday celebration. Besides our family and my niece it was mostly adults but we had a blast. At the end of the evening Corazon declared that it was "the best birthday ever!" I believe that is what it is all about.

(This is pretty much what all the party picture look like....)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Almost 13

Soon after Corazon turned 12 she rejoiced at the thought of becoming a teenager in one more year. I told her that many American parents dread the teen years because their once lovely children can become difficult and challenging "strangers" overnight. I recounted the story of a friend of mine whose daughter vowed at age 9 to never become that way and even allowed him to videotape her promising this. She turned 13 recently and was being particularly difficult one day so he pulled out that video and showed it to her. Her response was "whatever" as she stormed out of the room. She thought about it for a second and vowed it would not happen to her.

I guess the conversation stayed with her because a few days later she came back to me and said "Mom, I think you have already put up with me being difficult and attitudinal when I was a little kid. So, I don't think it would be fair if I did it again just because I became a teenager." I secretly wondered if that was her way of trying to take control of something that felt like it would be completely out of her control. She likes control and struggles mightily when she feels she has no control over her own actions or behaviors. Then again, if that caused us to have easier teen years, I'd take it.

It is now one year later and I must say that whatever that kid is doing and whatever her need for control is, she was right. The transition to teenage-hood has been mostly pleasant. She has chilled out and calmed down tremendously. She laughs at herself and is genuinely fun to be around much of the time. We rarely get "payback" after fun times.  Of course, she has her difficult moments and she still has some pretty bad times but that is what they are-bad times that punctuate the good times. We are no longer in those stretches of hellish behavior with a few respite moments in between. We are generally in good times. She still sneaks sometimes and lies sometimes and makes bad choices sometimes. Her attitude and defiance get out of hand at times and once in a while some pretty ugly stuff comes to light. We try to work through it as best we can and move forward. It's the ebb and flow of life with hormones, peer pressures, budding desires for independence coupled with overwhelming doubts about almost everything. Yet, it is "life."

She has become a most delightful and enjoyable young woman. She and C. laugh together and have actual conversations. Corazon no longer shoots daggers with her eyes at C. every time she sees us together or thinks C. is getting more attention from free than Corazon thinks C. should (this has ALWAYS been a major issue for us.) Corazon wants to spend time with C. and they have been able to work out at the pool together on a more regular basis.  At home, Corazon will ask me "what can I do for you?" and other times jumps to help without being asked. We play board games, do her hair, discuss books, stay up late baking birthday cakes or cleaning the guest room together. We have difficult conversations and she pouts and rolls her eyes but comes back later and thanks me or asks a question that shows she is paying attention.

My little girl is growing up and she is winning her battle against a history of neglect and trauma. She battles it every day and some days she gets tired and doesn't fight so hard. Other days I can see the struggle and it both hurts and melts my heart to see how hard she has to work to keep it together. It has been (and will likely continue to be) an uphill battle with days when none of us thought we'd survive, but we did and we carry our battle scars with honor (and just a tinge of embarrassment at times).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ups and Downs

Life has had a great number of"ups" this summer and its fair share of "downs" as well. We are in a downward phase with Tortuga since swim team ended. I am reminded oh how poorly he handles disappointments. Even though he is 14.5 and has grown a good deal over the past few years, expressing his thoughts and feeling with words is hard for him. Too hard when the feelings are strong. As swim team practices wound down his behaviors escalated. He fluctuated between giddiness and belligerence. Routines went by the wayside, manners slipped, loudness soared, rudeness increased, rule-following became a chore, bad habits surfaced and his testiness increased dramatically. The day after his final swim meet he was absolutely horrid. I tried to talk to him about the "big feelings" he was having but he was too overwhelmed to listen or participate in any of the activities that might have helped him slip out of it.

It has been almost 3 weeks since swim team ended and while there have been days when he seems to be back on track for the most part he isn't and life has been harder. Part of it is his jealousy of the other kids. Corazon's birthday being around the corner didn't help at he got very fixated on what she wanted for her birthday, what kind of celebration was she having, what kind of cake did she want, etc.  Some days that was the only subject he could discuss, other days he accused her of being obsessive about her upcoming birthday. He was, of course, projecting his fixation onto her. She was actually being quite low-key about the entire thing.

His inability to stay on track with his summer schoolwork has created a bit of chaos for him as well. It usually gives him focus and structure to have summer schooling. Lately it has become a chore like everything else (including being pleasant to others at mealtimes or in the car, answering when spoken to, etc.) Right now he is disorganized and scattered, mean and aggressive, rude and disrespectful, and mostly not a very likable kid. That makes things hard on the rest of us and I have pretty much run out of patience and tolerance with him. If you know me that is bad. Patience is probably my only virtue and if it runs out no telling what can happen. But we keep on going and trying to find the moments when he can enjoy and appreciate time with the rest of the family. For the rest of the children it means lots more time with one another and without him. And I am getting better at feeling ok when he has to be left out.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Where to go...

I think I have hit that point where I need to reassess whether or not to continue with this blog. I don't want to stop but I also don't know how to continue. I have so much I want to write about and so much I feel I cannot write about. Go private? New (more anonymous) blog? For what purpose?

The older kids have gotten to a point in there healing where the issues are more subtle and more serious (if that makes sense.) Serious because of possible repercussions for the present and their future. The two younger kids are growing and changing too. Pollito's issues are clearer now-learning, developmental and emotional. Milagro is at a point where she is seeing and processing so much of how she is different from her siblings. She sees their issues and challenges and wants to help but doesn't understand the "whys" behind their behaviors.

RAD, ODD and PTSD are still very present in our lives but they are no longer the seemingly insurmountable obstacles they once were. I see the progress and the backward steps every day. Corazon deserves her own post but for now I will say that for anyone who doubts that healing from the brink of h*ll is impossible she is a testament to what is possible AND how long and hard the journey will be. That child was H.A.R.D. in all the horrible and painful and mind-numbing ways that RAD is hard. Pull out that checklist most parents with RAD kids have seen and referred to and remember that she was pretty much ALL of it at 4 and a half. And yet, at 12 she has healed so much that I think it is harder than ever to see and deal with those areas where she still struggles. I have to continuously stop myself from tearing my hair out when she pulls out some of those old and familiar behaviors. There is hope. I have always had it, always struggled to hang on to it, and almost lost it so many times.

Tortuga still has so many issues. Many that I doubt will ever truly disappear. Many that have disappeared or subsided. He is easier to live with and yet still hard to like. I love him deeply and he causes me great sorrow--for him and for us--but there are moments of joy too. He will probably always be "hard" but that doesn't have to be a bad thing all the time. It is what it is and we make strides as we can. But his scars are deep and they don't fade in 6 years. He takes and takes and takes and takes. He still doesn't know how to give but I do believe he has a desire to give. It just gets trumped by his desire (and perhaps need) to take. The other children are older now so they can "defend" themselves against him a bit better and there are even moments when they seem to "enjoy" him. I haven't been able to say that often over the past 6 years. That is how we measure progress. I remind myself that it IS progress and we celebrate it every chance we get.

I have so many "updates" I have started to write (and never finished) since my last post. Happy updates mostly about dance recitals, dance company tryouts, birthday treats (for me), swim lessons and swim team successes, celebrating my mom's 80th birthday with no major mishaps and acting out by eldest, strengthening bonds between C. and Corazon (major milestone), homeschool graduation for the Kindergartener (now 1st grader), and so much more. I might or might not get to them.

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