Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Children Are Losing It Advisory System

Today I'm over at Rants from Mommyland, one of my favorite blogs ever, identifying the stages of tantrums, from the happy-happy Code Green all the way up to the horror that is Code Red.

About a year ago, Kate and Lydia were kind enough to provide all of our children the Mommy May Lose Her Schmidt Advisory System. It's a simple enough system to follow; when Mommy is happy, everyone is happy.

Thanks to this helpful system, my kids are pretty clear on when I'm about to lose my schmidt. Or maybe they just finally noticed that when the veins are popping out on my forehead, and you can actually hear my jaw clenching, that I'm about to lose it. However, the minivan still remains challenging for them, because they can't see my face. They do seem to be picking up on the fact that if I throw a soft pretzel across the van, I might be losing it. If they fail to notice that, I might have to slam tap the breaks slightly harder than necessary to get their attention, because nothing drives the point home like a little whiplash.

In all fairness, though, it works both ways: when our kids are happy, we are happy. Perhaps the kids need a similar advisory system to keep us informed as to their own schmidt-losing status.

Check out the rest of the post at Rants from Mommyland: The Children Are Losing It Advisory System!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Brilliant Disaster: Kindergarten Open House

Holy sensory overload, Batman. Last night we had the Kindergarten Open House for the school Little Dude will attend in the fall. The event was attended by approximately 5.8 million other children, their parents, and their siblings.

It's the same kindergarten that all three of our daughters went to, so it was a lovely little trip down Memory Lane, at least until we took a wrong turn down Meltdown Alley. As a bonus, we took the scenic route along Adderall Is Wearing Off Trail.

Obviously, from there we turned directly onto the Early Bedtime So Mommy Doesn't Blow Her Stack Turnpike.

Actually, it all went pretty well, considering the Balloons of Doom outside.  (None inside, thank goodness.)  The girls got to see their old teachers, everyone got a special pencil, and I got the chance to mention to the principal that I'm looking forward to our IEP meeting being scheduled. (I know. I'm subtle that way.)

Meltdowns: Ours are sweatier, but
still look pretty much like this.
Guess which one is me.
But wait, here's the best part: Little Dude held it together until the exact moment I was speaking with the Special Education Coordinator who will handle his IEP. I actually could not have planned it better.  (Of course if I had planned it, it would never have worked. )

Little Dude started with the rocking, shaking, twisting, and stamping.  I saw it, but before I could say anything, Cookie cut right into the conversation with "Mommy, Little Dude's done."

Done, indeed.  Done demonstrating exactly how quickly he can go from seemingly fine to full-on freak-out.  He may have just scored himself some extra services.

The Special Ed Coordinator nodded understandingly, commenting on how overwhelming the Open House can be and how great it is that his sisters can pick up on his cues. I picked him up and whisked the whole gang of us out of there.

Well, maybe "whisked" isn't the right word. We'd had to park a couple blocks away, it was humid, and I was sweating even before I had to carry him.  So maybe more like "trudged."  Whatever.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Moms Gone Wild, or Something

This weekend I went to the Jersey Shore with some mom friends.  Two nights, four moms, no kids, no pets, no husbands, no schedule, and no one waking me up to the sound of "Mommy?  Mommy?  ARE YOU AWAKE?  I need water / my Lego guy / breakfast / clean sheets." 

One of the most fabulous things about this weekend is that we had absolutely zero events and activities planned. It was the "Do Whatever the Hell You Want" weekend. Don't feel like getting up for breakfast? That's cool. Feel like making a Frodka at 3:00 p.m.? Giddyup. Instead of a real dinner we should eat a bunch of appetizers and watch chick flicks? Excellent idea

The only downside to going away for a weekend without my family is that I kind of had to the entire weekend's worth of errands beforehand, so Friday was crazy.  There was the laundry, some cleaning, and of course the guilt-infused grocery trip in which I bought the kids too many treats. You know what powered me through those ten loads of laundry?  Getting the best text message in the whole history of texting technology:

Yeah, I know.  I have awesome friends.

The Fresca and vodka, of course, are for the Frodkas, which are delightful and sugar-free.  If you add a splash of orange juice it's practically health food.  I'm too old, decrepit and out of practice to actually drink much, or I'll pass out from sheer exhaustion and then wake up at the crack of dawn feeling like crap.  But I can nurse a nice, weak Frodka for quite a while and still function.

Ugh ... not that Jersey Shore.

I should clarify, for those of you not from the New Jersey area, that it was not that Jersey Shore.  There's the Jersey Shore of the MTV "reality" show, and the Jersey Shore of actual reality, which tends to involve a lot less orange cleavage.  The town we stayed in is a dry town, so it's less Girls Gone Wild and more Golden Girls.  You might get side-swiped by an old lady on a Lark scooter, but that's about as rowdy as it gets.

Tried as we might, we couldn't find any Snooki wannabes, and we only saw three guys that fit the mold.  You know, oversized basketball jersey, oversized shorts, gold chains, baseball cap casually worn askew.  Obviously by "casually worn askew" I mean "spent forty minutes preening in front of the mirror deciding the exact angle."

I was going to take pictures of the Jersey Shore castaways for you, but it seemed kind of awkward.  "Uh, hi, can I take your picture?  For my blog?  I'm totally not going to make fun of you."

Perhaps the Rapture did
 happen, and this is heaven.

I did, however, take a photo of the best sign ever, which was outside a candy shop on the Boardwalk.  It was advertising the miracle of chocolate-covered bacon.  This delicacy, by the way, is on a stick, which makes it even more awesome.  The only things that might improve the concept would be potato chips crumbled on top and the phone number of a good cardiologist.  Obviously I bought some for my kids, two of whom weren't into it and two of whom think it is manna from heaven.  I tried a bit and I can report that it's neither as awesome nor as digusting as it sounds.

The thing is, even if we had gone to a town that featured margaritas instead of chocolate covered bacon, I doubt any of us could have managed to party hard for more than about thirty seconds before needing a nap. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Room of One's Own

I would also like a bathroom of my own.
I am drowning. Drowning in the omnipresent laundry, drowning in macaroni and cheese, drowning in the needy needs of my children.

Virginia Woolf famously wrote that in order to write, a woman must have money and a room of her own. No duh, Virginia. This was, apparently, groundbreaking news in 1929. She didn't mean a literal room, although there's no denying that helps. She meant that there is a need for both creative and personal liberty.

That's all well and good, but I'd like to take the idea a little further by suggesting that perhaps what we all need -- writers or not -- is a freaking moment to ourselves in order to think straight and/or not go batshit insane.

I used to run. Once the kids were in bed, I would go to the Y and run on the treadmill, five or six miles. At the height of it, I was running five miles most days. It's not that much compared to some, but it was a heck of a lot to me. Then I got into swimming, and added that into my routine. I was super-fit, but more importantly, I was relaxed.

That was three years ago. In the mean time, our lives exploded into a maelstrom of doctor's appointments, therapies, and school meetings. I would sometimes make the effort, but I never committed to it again enough to justify new running shoes. Good ones are expensive, and I've been working out in a pair that should have been retired at least two years ago.

It's odd that in the last three years, I've probably bought at least twenty pairs of shoes for my kids, since their feet seem to grow overnight.  For myself during that time, I bought one pair of flip-flops at Walmart, and of course, my boots.  But the boots were a necessity for IEP meetings.

I need to get back to running. Not for the love of smaller pants, but for the love of having a moment to myself. For the love of being physically exhausted instead of just emotionally exhausted. For the love of being sweaty and gross *on purpose* instead of just because I didn't have time to shower this morning and then I spent all day chasing my peanut butter-encrusted children.  For the love of rocking out to tunes on my iPod that are completely inappropriate for my kids.

We're saving up for the next house, so joining the Y isn't really an option right now. But there are sidewalks. And there are Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons. And there is the brand-new pair of running shoes I just broke in.
New kicks + long run = instant mood boost.
p.s. Here's one of the songs on my iPod for running:

My apologies to my local friends if they happen to see me doing James Brown's funky dance moves while I'm running through their neighborhood.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Doctor's Orders: More Nutella

We recently made a small increase in the Pork Lo Maniac's ADHD medication, so yesterday we went to the pediatrician for a weight check. Despite the fact that she has actually gained a pound since our last visit, her BMI is still too low. (This is even considering that children's BMIs are different from adult BMIs.)

We pretty much have four weeks to jam as much Nutella as possible into this kid, or we're going to have to dial back the Adderall. As it is, any day she doesn't have school, we won't be giving her the meds.  And we are now planning a "medication vacation" for the summer.

Oy vey. 

Seriously, this is not going to be pretty.  The Pork Lo Maniac's behavior without the ADHD medication is, um, unhelpful.

When I realized what the PLM's body mass index was, I was like, "uh... then what about Cookie?" Cookie has always been pretty much a stick figure.  Turns out Cookie, who is not on ADHD meds and seems to eat anything that isn't nailed down, has the exact same BMI as her twin sister. (Go figure.)

So both girls are now eating Nutella on doctor's orders. Given that I've spent the last twenty-odd years trying to get my own BMI lower, it's a little hard to wrap my brain around this. All four of our kids eat a healthy, balanced diet, with a fair share of Doritos thrown in for good measure. I used to think about sneaky ways to jam more fiber and veggies into their diet. Now I'm wondering what's the highest-calorie breakfast I can convince them to eat.

I know that being too skinny sounds a lot better than too heavy, and socially, I'm sure it is.  But health-wise, it is a real problem -- and not just because I'm facing the possibility of reducing, eliminating, or changing the ADHD medication that helps the Pork Lo Maniac so much.  Kids who are underweight can have lower brain function, perform more poorly on tests, have lower immune systems, and become tired more easily.  Children who are underweight also tend to have difficulty concentrating, so clearly, that's not going to help anything here.

Speaking of lower immune systems, as a side bonus, the Pork Lo Maniac's respiratory virus from last week has magically morphed into strep. This is not the first time we've gone to the pediatrician for one thing and then randomly found out something else was wrong. ("Thanks for bringing the baby in for her 12-month well check. Has she been pulling on her ears? Because she has double acute ear infections.")

Of course, about 30 minutes after the strep diagnosis, she developed a fever. It's possible our pediatrician isn't even a medical doctor but is instead one of Dionne Warwick's Psychic Friends.  Or maybe he has some kind of superpower x-ray vision that can see the germs festering inside my kids.  And then right after the fever spiked, the healthy-looking flush in her cheeks bloomed into a scarletina rash. Because strep just isn't strep in our house until it's full-on Scarlet Fever.

Isn't that what Mary Ingalls went blind from? I half expect a shirtless Michael Landon to stroll in and ask for some corn pone and hardtack, whatever the hell those things are.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What You've Always Wanted to Know About Autism

Awesome news.  Epicsauce, actually. 

The young woman who wrote me the best e-mail in the whole history of ever now has her own blog. She's answering your questions from my post "What Have You Always Wanted to Know About Autism?" one by one.

Check out her answers so far at Diary of a Non-Neurotypical. .

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Short Preschool Story

I wasn't going to have a post today, but then this happened at preschool:

Today, Little Dude played indoor soccer with another boy. They took turns kicking the ball into a goal. A few times, Little Dude missed, and the other boy said "you lose!" Little Dude stopped playing, and just stood there, looking down at the floor.

"How about if instead of 'you lose,' we say 'try again!'" I said. "That way no one feels sad."

The other boy nodded and grinned.

"Try again, Little Dude!" he said.

They went back to playing.

Then they played some air hockey. Then they took turns pouring sand into sand toys.

Little Dude: "Martin, maybe we could be best friends."

Martin: "Okay!"

The End.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My ADHD is Not a "Neurosis"

You know what pisses me off?  Seeing women's mental health issues dissed on a national level.  A friend of mine sent me a link to an article in the Washington Post entitled "More women have ADHD ... or is it the stress of modern day life?"

I slogged through the entire thing (and that was *after* my Adderall wore off, so I'm pretty proud of myself), and quickly realized it was going to be the jumping-point for a nice, long, bitchy blog post.

If you don't have time for the whole article, or if you just haven't had your Vyvanse coffee yet, let me give you the gist: the compelling story of a mom struggling with ADHD is told in a relatable way. Facts are presented: More and more women are being diagnosed with ADHD. The average age for a woman to be diagnosed with ADHD is between 36 and 38. (I'm 37.) Women are now the fastest growing segment of the population taking prescription ADHD medication, increasing 164 percent between 2001 and 2009.

I should point out that while the increase for women is certainly there, men and women are now being diagnosed in equal number.

One single doctor opposed to all this prescribing is referenced. That doctor is Dr. Joanna Moncrief, a lecturer at the Department of Mental Sciences of the University College London. She wrote a book called "The Myth of the Chemical Cure, a Critique of Psychiatric Drug Treatment. Articles that she's written include such unbiased work as "Psychiatric Imperialism: The Medicalisation of Modern Living," and "Efficacy of Antidepressants."

So, you know, she might have an agenda some pretty strong opinions about ADHD medication.

Dr. Moncrief compares the rise in ADHD diagnoses in adult women to the rampant diagnoses of "neurosis" in the 50s and 60s, which came with the prescribing of mother's little helpers. My grandmother spent most of the 1950s whacked out on Miltown.  Hello? Women's mental health issues were dismissed then, and they're clearly being dismissed now. It's particularly shameful that a woman doctor made that argument.
Unfortunately, the experts that explain the difference between true ADHD and normal feelings of stress and anxiety, are buried pretty far down in the article.  Editors, please note that if you're going to title an article "More women have ADHD ... or is it the stress of modern day life," that clarification should have been in the first paragraph, not the last.

The entire premise of the piece smacks of "don't worry your pretty little head about it." And lest you think doctors doctors no longer dismiss the concerns of women, I've got a story for you. Last week a friend was in the children's hospital with her critically, chronically ill child. A resident doctor told her "not to worry her pretty little head" about the little girl's bloodwork results. Um, actually ... it's a pretty good thing to worry about.

It seems patently obvious to me why there has been an increase in the ADHD diagnosis for women in their late 30s:
  • We are only now beginning to diagnose girls correctly.
  • Women are diagnosed in their late 30s because a) they learn about it when their children (especially their daughters) are diagnosed and b) their ADHD now affects other people -- namely, their children
  • Stress and anxiety make ADHD symptoms worse. Have you done anything more stressful and anxiety-producing than parenting? I haven't, and I was in the freaking U.S. Army.
  • What happened between 2001 and 2009 to account for the 164% rise?  That might be how long it took for information in 1994's DSM-IV (a.k.a., the Big Book o' Crazy) to filter down to general physicians, pediatricians, and school professionals.  In this updated manual for psychiatrists, the term ADD (attention deficit disorder) was replaced by ADHD (attention deficit - hyperactivity disorder).  ADHD was subdivided into two types - Predominantly Hyperactive (i.e., hyper), and Predominantly Inattentive (i.e., space cadet).  As doctors became more aware of the inattentive type, more girls and women were diagnosed, because this is the type girls and women are more likely to have.
Then there's the fact that being a girl or a woman who's a space shot is not only acceptable in our society, it's celebrated. (For evidence, I give you Paris Hilton, who makes ungodly amounts of money for doing not much other than distracting herself with own cleavage.)

If men and women are now diagnosed with adult ADD in equal numbers, why is no one writing articles like this about men? Why are there no articles titled "Adult men and ADHD ... is it all in their heads?" or "Dudes and ADHD ... real disorder or a bunch of slackers who need to man up?"

On my blog, I make light of my ADHD issues.  I'm able to laugh at myself, but for the most part, it isn't funny.  It sucks.  Bills went unpaid, electricity was turned off, appointments were missed, papers were not turned in.  I'm sad that I spent so many years thinking I was lazy, or crazy, or both.

However, I'm overjoyed that the static in my brain is gone.  I'm also thankful that my doctor saw clearly what it took me nearly four decades to figure out: I have ADHD, and medication helps me.


Monday, May 2, 2011

We Go To School

We started at the new preschool.  We.  I go and he goes.  That is the deal. 

For a short time, Little Dude insisted that he wanted to go home. Obviously, I found the Lego bin immediately. He still wanted to go home. I said, "well, I'm going to play with the Legos. Oooh, look. Lego cars. And Lego animals!"

OMG Lego animals?  Are you kidding me?  They have a whole set of Lego zoo animals and Lego farm animals.  And Lego cars and Lego police helicopters and even a Lego recycling pick-up truck.  It's amazing.  And it's especially amazing for me because seeing him play with something that is not Star Wars-related is so refreshing I want to cry.

Once I got him playing with the Legos, he was pretty much fine.

We also did some puzzles. Another boy came over to help, which Little Dude was clearly not down with. However, I was impressed: Little Dude sat there motionless, expressionless, and waited until the boy was done "helping." He did not freak out. He did not cry. He did not smack the puzzle pieces out of the boy's hands.  Instead, he waited. When the boy was done putting the puzzle together, Little Dude said evenly, "Now I will do it over." He took it apart and re-did it.  Awesome, right?

Yeah ... it's amazing what you start to see as awesome.

We go back tomorrow. It's only three mornings a week. On one other morning a week, I help out at the elementary school library during the Pork Lo Maniac's library time. Little Dude sits at a table there and looks at books, or follows his sister around the library. He helps me re-shelve the books.

Here's what I've learned: observing your own child in a school environment is absolutely invaluable to parents of special needs children.  Yes, I know lots of kids are different at home than they are at school. Yes, I know that his behavior is probably different when I'm there than when I'm not there. Yes, I know that schools can't have parents traipsing in and disrupting classes constantly.


It's giving me tremendous insight into what his school-environment triggers are going to be in Kindergarten. We haven't had his Kindergarten IEP meeting yet, so believe me, I'm taking notes and I'll be bringing my suggestions to the meeting.

For example, while Little Dude may not qualify for Physical Therapy because he can go up and down stairs, I now know that he will not go up and down stairs when there are other kids on them. He just stops, clutching the railing, patiently waiting for the stream of children to go past. Fine, it's not a physical therapy problem. But it's something. Sensory? Anxiety? I don't know. But I know for sure that it's going to be a huge problem for his Kindergarten teacher.

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