Category Archives: Doodicus

Tomorrow

Things have been not so good lately, but each time I sit down to draft it out, 600 words later I have deleted it and closed the window. One of my friends from Facebook posted on one of my wall updates how I never seem to be happy, and frankly, the words stung with their accuracy. I have not been happy.

It’s not because there is a sense of “buyer’s remorse” over our moving Doodicus from a private school to a public in the hopes he would have access to more…more what? Yeah, well, that’s hard to explain. And the remark about Buyer’s Remorse came from the psychologist, not from Sparring Partner, myself or Dood, but it kinda sums things up nicely.

It’s not because Sparring Partner’s dad is slipping slowly away in a too-small nursing home room. The giant man whose presence in any room could not simply be ignored – not just because of his size – but because his distinct Bostonian voice could drown any cacophony of Midwesterners, has become an almost empty, cancer-riddled shell. Or that my mom’s Alzheimer’s is progressing in what seems like light-speed ever since Aitch started going to school and we see her less frequently. Talking with her about how the kids are adjusting to school, or the home projects, or just little stories about day-to-day happenings is like trying to write on a chalkboard in the middle of a rain shower.

My unhappiness is not because my son had a crisis that shook us all to our very quick; that incurred a standing appointment with the behavioral health department every other week, that made me ache to go back in time and tell him a thousand more times a day that we love him more than anything. I should have hugged him more even though he always wiggled or turned away. Especially when he wiggled and turned away.

It is that culmination of emotional weight and stress and a feeling your life is spinning wildly off course even though there was never a course to begin with to follow. I know it will slow down enough so I can catch my balance. Yesterdays always seem much simpler, and certainly less of a burden. They are the days that no longer have long lists of things to-do and the things un-done. They are just simply the days that were. Tomorrows are hard because they are filled with expectations, anticipations, dread and worry.

I am hoping just for better tomorrows. Maybe even happier.

Naughty

Aitch’s preschool class takes turns in bringing snacks for all the kids. Each day, a Snack Bucket is sent home with one child who is to return the next with snacks for all. This is rather an exciting event to four-year olds. I remember the first time my son came home from preschool with the Snack Bucket because he had snuck it into his room and had fallen asleep not only with it in his bed, but with it wrapped tightly in his arms.

My daughter is no less enthusiastic about this honor, but when I asked if her classmates had enjoyed the snacks she had brought yesterday, she sadly told me that she had not been able to hand them out. Instead she had sit in time out. “I wasn’t listening,” she explained with a pout.

This had not been the first time that she has told me about sitting in time out for Not Listening, so today I caught the preschool teacher and asked her about it.

“It’s not that she’s being naughty…” she started. I braced myself because really, what else could it be?

“…it’s more of she’s not following directions.” PO-tato, paTAto, right?

The teacher continued, “When we came in from recess, I counted the children and came up with 23 (FYI: there are 24 in her class), so I counted again and came up with 23. We realized Aitch was missing. We quickly discovered she was ‘hiding’ from us, which is why she was given the time-out.”

Oh,yeah, I definitely think that qualifies for being naughty.

How Do You Answer These Questions

I had yet another downer of an ending post drafted before I deleted it all. Instead I put to you these questions I had last night from Doodicus:

"I hate school. Why do I have to go?"

"What difference does it make if I get Fs and Ds instead of As and Bs?"

Please, don’t respond with "So you can go to a good college and get a great job!" because if we’re already struggling beyond words to get him through the fifth grade, you can bet the farm he has absolutely no desire at this point and time to look forward to another four years of higher education if we’re even able to get through these next seven. "A great college…" is no incentive here.

Also? The flute lessons are absolutely off the table, but you may have already figured that out.

Contrary

The transition from a private Catholic school system to a public school has neither been as bad as I had imagined or as good. I would be delusional to think that this would have gone picture perfect, but I would be a pessimist if I thought it was going to be rough.

The week before school started, I sent an email to his homeroom teacher introducing Doodicus. It wasn’t a formal 504 Plan with a list of accomadations, but it wasn’t a hey! my kid is perfect! you shouldn’t have any problems! kind of letter, either.

I recently decided that instead of him keeping a devoted notebook for each and every subject, which was not only the teacher’s preference but Sparring Partner’s as well (and one we tried first), he is to keep all of his subjects’ notes on divided ruled paper in what we refer to as The Case. I bought a set of 8 dividers that have pockets on both sides (Avery brand and they are AWESOME), which I labeled in order of his class schedule, and then put in several sheets of ruled paper with the reinformed sides for note-taking.

While the down-side to this system will be that when the teachers want the kids to turn in their notes, he will have to open the D-rings and hand over the loose papers instead of a notebook, AND that if he loses the binder he loses everything (which nearly makes me nauseous just thinkintg about it), the disadvantages to the other system (one notebook to each subject) are not as easy for me to accept. He was bringing home the wrong note-book to use to study tests or not bringing them home at all, or if he did bring them home the night before a test, he had nothing written in them and by then it was too late. The other issue I discovered is that while each notebook was labeled with the subject, all of them that I brought home after my meeting with his teachers last night had notes in them from at least two different subjects. His notes consisted of a few words at the top of the page and the rest a series of doodles. Then a couple blank pages, more doodles, then a page with a definition or two written on them and usually from a different class. There’s no way they would ever be effective for studying. Sorry, but I tried it their way, it’s time to try mine.

After the meeting with his teachers yesterday, which I initiated, I cleaned out Dood’s desk. Chaotic doesn’t even begin to describe what I encountered. Aside from the mess, we found three pieces of homework that were due today so I brought them home. When I showed Dood, he went into a full-on meltdown, yelling how he never gets any free time. He can’t seem to understand that if he gave himself less "free-time" at school (not using the study hall periods or the after school access to the study center effectively) then he would have more time at home to do what he wants.

Last night was also suppose to be the parent’s meeting with the music store to talk about the band, orchestra and rentals, which Dood really wanted to go to as he is interested in learning to play the flute. The meeting was at 6:00 and it was nearly that time, an hour after we arrived home, that he had finally stopped yelling at me and got to work. There was no way I was going to be able to take him to the meeting, have supper, and still get homework done by bedtime. I never said a word about the meeting until after he was done for the night (not done with homework, mind you, but it was bedtime), at which time we had to break the news that we just couldn’t add band to our schedule.

He of course broke down into a fresh wave of tears, this time in grief instead of rage, and I felt like an absolute shit for taking that away from him. We could only promise him that we would consider the option next year, but that just made me feel worse to know that he would have to wait a whole year to try something he wanted to do now. I tried to make him understand that it wasn’t a punishment, but that we just don’t want to have these fights every night over what needs to be done first before he can just chill out with a video game, or watch TV, or play with his sister. Getting him to practice an instrument was just another battle I personally do not feel up to taking when I am so battered from the ones now. That’s probably why I still so badly want to say yes, because the reason I’m saying no feels entirely selfish.

Make Your Next Anxiety-Filled Meal a Manwich Meal

Doodicus races radio control cars on the weekends with his dad through an RC club. He’s been doing so for at least five years. While he likes the actual driving, he leaves the pit work up to his dad as he prefers to pass the time on the park’s playground equipment or riding his bike on the walking path. Sparring Partner in turn makes sure to replace the shocks, charge the battery, change the tires, etc., on the car based on how he reads the track or Dood’s driving performance.

A couple weekends ago, they raced on a ridiculously hot day (in my opinion, they should have cancelled, that’s how hot it was). They couldn’t keep the dirt track wet enough as the 100+ temperatures just instantly sucked the moisture out of it no matter how heavily they watered between races. They eventually gave up watering, which meant the track became supper hard and supper slick.

Now for a little racing blah-de-blah stuff that actually does end up relevant, so bear with me: If you’ve ever watched a car race, whether it’s something like NASCAR or Formula One, you may have noticed that instead of having “nubby” or treaded tires, they are completely smooth. The reason is simple: the smoother the tire’s face, the more contact it has with the track’s smooth surface; the more contact, the more control. Now let’s look at Rally Racing or Off Road Racing. Those tires have exaggerated treads, studs or “knobs” to provide grip on an uneven and unstable surface.

Back to RC racing: the exact same principals apply except it’s scaled down considerably. They normally race studded tires because it’s a dirt tract, but on this particular day, the track couldn’t be kept in the condition they would have preferred in the time they were allowed. And to make a long story short, Sparring Partner changed Dood’s tires from studded to slicks. However, because Dood wasn’t use to the handling of the slicks, he accused SP of sabotaging his car so he wouldn’t do as well.

Doodicus went into a tirade of tears and yelling and there was absolutely no way we could get him to understand that SP was only to help him out. Even when we asked, “Why would we want you to do poorly?” he could not get beyond the idea – the IRRATIONAL thought – that his dad’s actions were not to help him.

Now hang with me, because I’ve got a similar story that revolves around Sloppy Joe’s.

Doodicus is a terrible eater. Fruits and vegetables haven’t passed his lips voluntarily in years. “Weird” foods are off limits, i.e. casseroles or crock pot meals. He prefers plain, unadorned food: steaks, pork chops, the occasional hot dog (but it must be XYZ brand in html color #CC3333).. Sometimes he’ll even eat a hamburger or a *gasp* taco! It’s exasperating. Once he confessed to liking Sloppy Joes at daycare, so I happily bought a couple cans of Manwich. I personally love Sloppy Joes. They’re easy to make and easy to use for left-overs. The first couple of times, they were a hit. Then one ill-fated night, he took a couple bites and suddenly clutched at his throat in a melodramatic way, “There’s onions in here!” He refused to eat them from that point on. By the way, there were no onions.

Fine, whatever, kid. Everyone else in the house likes them, so the other night it was on the menu (hahaha! we don’t have a “menu”! Our meals are based on what’s in the pantry and my mood du juor.). Sparring Partner thought he could help diffuse what battle there was sure to come by actually reading the ingredients from the can to Doodicus to prove that there were no onions involved.

That seemed to have worked as he sat down with the rest of us and dug in, taking first one, then two and then a third! bite of his Sloppy Joe. And then IT happened: “Mom! You put onions in here!” “No, I didn’t.” “Yes, you did! I bit into one. I can FEEL it!” The exchange devolved into yet another teary tantrum, complete with dramatic gagging and threats to throw up. He even went so far as to say the company who made the mix were putting onions into it and not listing it on the ingredients.

At our appointment with Dr. Rita yesterday, somehow this story came up. He looked at Doodicus and asked him calmly about why he didn’t like the sandwich. “I know I think there’s onions in it!”

Back up and read that again: I know I THINK there’s onions in it!

This is an Irrational Response.

“Uh…duh,” you might be saying, but get this: whenever you try to rationalize with someone who definitely holds irrational thoughts, you keep that irrationality alive in them. If Dood was rational during that race, he would have eventually responded to our explanation for the change in his tires with, “Oh. I didn’t know that there are different tires to help me when track conditions change.” A rational child who might have exclaimed, “You snuck onions into my Sloppy Joe!” would have quickly realized that some rogue Manwich employee was not going around throwing bits of onions into the mix before it was canned.

However, trying to rationalize with Dood means he must try harder to believe his irrational thoughts are true, which leads to us trying harder to rationalize with him and the vicious vortex of suck becomes ever deeper and broader and encompassing.

When Dr. Rita explained that to me, I literally gave myself a face-palm. WE are maintaining the irrational thoughts Dood has every day! “This is a different brand of bacon! It tastes funny!” “No, Dood. See, it’s in the same packaging as the last time.” “You are just taking out the new bacon and putting it into the old package!” “Of course we’re not doing that! Why would we?” “To get me to eat it! It’s not the same!” and wouldn’t YOU want to convince – to rationalize – with him that you are not trying to pull one over on him?

Instead? When he brings up an irrational thought (You’re trying to make me lose! You’re putting onions in the sandwich! You’re buying the wrong kind of bacon!”, we are simply to respond, “No, we’re not. It’s time to race (or eat),” and that’s it. If he persists, which Dood WILL do, we are to respond: “You already know the answer.” or “I’m not going to answer that,” and what should eventually happen is he’ll realize the world will not end if he does end up eating an onion, or coming in last at his race, or getting dropped off on the west side of the school as opposed to the east (another irrational argument that has recently come up).

If you don’t have a child who suffers from anxiety or other challenging behavioral issues, this post probably won’t make sense to you. But, oh, if you do, I hope you had a Lightbulb Moment as enlightening as I did. And I have Manwich to thank for it.

Smile. It Won’t Hurt

We spent this past Sunday at the zoo. It was cloudy and the heat is finally fading away, plus it was the last weekend before school started and we hadn’t made it there once this summer. The kids wanted to ride the train, which goes around the zoo in a loop that’s just under two miles long. Since the train is steam and crosses several pedestrian areas, it is wonderfully noisy with its chuffing engine and warning high-pitched whistles. People can’t help but watch it go by, and a handful would wave as we went by.

Later, we were walking between exhibits and heard the train coming. Aitch stopped to watch it and I suggested she wave to the passengers. As she did, a few on board waved back, but not many. Doodicus asked why we should wave; we didn’t know anybody on board, and I was struck by his question. I told him briefly how decades ago, everyone waved or acknowledged a fellow human being if they crossed paths. A hundred years ago, men politely doffed their hats out of respect to the women passing by and at the minimum, made eye contact out of polite acknowledgement with the men. Then I said, “People have simply become so rude.”

The media has picked up on a story of an airline losing a ten-year-old girl and how the company couldn’t have been less indifferent if the girl had simply been a forgotten jacket. Not only had the airline acted as if it had been some lost inanimate object, but I read the comments by people who felt it was somehow the parents’ fault for entrusting the airline with their daughter even though it’s a service they not only offer, but get paid extra for doing so. Not only have we become more standoffish, some people have just become dicks and companies like this airline (United Airlines, for what’s it worth) ultimately reward ambiguous treatment of fellow human beings because it saves resources, i.e. money.

When DID we become so…numb…towards each other; so void of empathy? What ever happened to the simple nod; the one-finger-off-the-steering-wheel wave; the SMILE? We are more connected to humanity then we have been in the history of man – digitally, but it has made us also the most disconnected interpersonally, keeping everyone and everything that can bring us happiness at arm’s length, because it, too, might bring us pain. Smile. Acknowledge. Can it really hurt THAT much?

The Other Half Needs an Ass-Kicking

I have to vent or I’ll not be responsible for bludgeoning my husband with this laptop…

If you have a child with ADHD, you know that sleep is an anomaly. They DON’T sleep well, especially when on any kind of drug regimen. While Doodicus heads to bed at 9:00 p.m., it’s not unusual to find him still awake by 10:00 p.m. And then he’ll be awake by 5:00 a.m. It’s not all the time, I’m just saying it’s not unusual. AND I GET THAT. It’s just how his brain functions.

Tonight, after Sparring Partner tucked Dood in, SP sat down next to me and told me he was talking to Dood and the Olympians getting up at 3 – 4:00 in the morning, every morning, just to train. Dood told him that sometimes he wakes up then, too. SP then said, “You need to tell your body to go back to sleep!”

I listened to this slack-jawed. “That just tells me you haven’t got a clue how his ADHD affects him. You aren’t listening to me. You aren’t listening to him. You don’t read the articles I send you about ADHD. You. Don’t. Get. It!

…so I’m sitting here steaming, watching the Olympics.

He then asks, “What do you think the temperature of the pool water is?”

I shrugged, disinterested.

He immediately flips open the iPad to google it.

He doesn’t want to use the resources available to him to understand how ADHD affects not just Doodicus, but our whole family dynamic, but he’ll look up the fucking temperature of the fucking pool water!

Don’t be surprised by tomorrow’s headlines, “Ritual Killing? Man Found in Quiet Nebraska Rural Community Strangled by USB Cable: iPad Duct-Taped to Genitals”.

P.S. By the time I finished writing this, I’m not as furious. Just fuming.

The Wind Caves of South Dakota

Doodicus would probably tell you that touring the Wind Caves was his favorite part of the trip. It didn’t involve sitting in a car and watching the landscape whiz by his car window hour after hour.

When you pull up, there’s really not much to see. A simple, single-level, brick building surrounded by native brush and rather innocuous bluffs. Inside the building, you can either visit the retail store, which if you or someone you love is into books on geology, that’s the place to be; check the tour schedule or purchase tickets. Downstairs they have a modest display highlighting how the caves were found, by whom, and some examples of what would be found below.

The tours are scheduled throughout the day so make sure to check the schedules and the availability before heading out, especially if you are not going to go out until later. We got lucky as I hadn’t taken this into account and had arrived about 40 minutes prior to their most popular tour plus there were openings. They can only take a certain number of people with them on each time.

With Aitch’s fear of dark, unknown spaces and her age, Sparring Partner volunteered to stay on the surface with her while I went with Dood underground. I had thought enough to bring my Merrills and a light jacket, but Dood didn’t have anything but his t-shirt to keep him warm. A quick trip to the tourist area and he then had a long-sleeved t-shirt to layer. For him, I figured that’d be enough to keep him comfortable in the 53 F temperatures.

I was very proud of Doodicus. Sometimes I’m never sure if he’s paying attention, but prior to our tour, the ranger gave us a briefing on what we’ll see and the rules of the caves, including not touching anything but handrails; no leaning on outcroppings and no walking or standing on anything but the pathways. Guess who was the first to lean on a ledge during one of our stops? Me. Not once did I have to remind him not to touch even when I wanted to. After exiting the tour, he excitedly explained the rules to Sparring Partner and what he saw along the way.

Keep these tips in mind:

1) Check the descriptions and times for tours. Make reservations. “Moderately Strenuous” was easy enough for me, and I’m lazy.

2) I wouldn’t recommend for smaller children. For our tour, I think three was the youngest they’d allow, but realistically, I wouldn’t take one under the age of five. If they get scared, or tired, or bored and want to be carried, you can’t.

3) Make sure to have something to eat and entertainment for anyone left at the surface. Neither is an accommodation by the park and tours can last two hours.

4) Stairs are numerous and some areas are super narrow. Seriously, there are a lot of steps, nearly all of them going down, which makes it a rather easy tour, but if your knees are wonky, I wouldn’t recommend. Another reason you can’t carry your kid. Not to mention some places so narrow, I wonder how our guide, a park ranger, made it through without removing his hat.

5) It’s cool down there. A sweatshirt or jacket or you’ll be miserably cold. I wore shorts, but with my jacket, it was perfect. Doodicus is warm blooded, so his layered shirts worked great.

6) No flip flops, sandals or heels. You’re a danger to yourself and everyone else on the tour.

7) Flash photography is still allowed but they could change that policy at any time. Nothing more dangerous than taking 300 steps down into a cave and some asshole blinds you with his camera flash and you miss a step.

8) Go last. I was that asshole with a camera but somewhere along the line, I read a tip from someone else when visiting the caves. With Doodicus and I last in line, we didn’t have the pressure from people behind us. The ranger stressed the importance of staying with the group, but it was nice to have a couple extra seconds to take a picture without someone breathing down my neck. I think this tip made the difference between Doodicus really enjoying the tour to just finding it “meh”.

The exterior of The Wind Cave Visitor’s Center

The natural entrance to The Wind Caves. That’s it…just a hole not much wider than my 10 year old’s shoulders.

The first gate installed to the Wind Caves, but there’s an external door that’s actually an air-lock. Once in, these are locked. The only way out is at the other end of the tour.

Details not caught unless using flash: reinforcements to the ceiling.

A sampling of what makes these caves so special: rare boxwork. It’s impossible to describe how beautiful it is.

This is a shot looking UP towards the stairwell we’d come from. A handful of steps among the over 300 on this tour. See? The advantage to being last of the tour group!

One of the few steps we had to go UP. An elevator actually takes everyone back to the surface.

 

When you gotta go, you gotta go.

We went to Black Hills National Park in South Dakota last week and maybe at some point in the near future, I will tell how this trip, via a minivan, was just as shockingly expensive as a trip, by plane, to Disney World.

However, this post is about two things I thought I could avoid exposing my children to…wait, make that one thing. Maybe two. I’m not sure. How about a compromise? Two things that revolve around ONE thing: pee.

There are several places to pull over to take in the amazing views when you take the Interior Loop through Badlands National Park (and you most definitely should at least once in your life) and we did just that. There are very few amenities, which is probably why I liked the Badlands – no tourist traps. At one of the stops we made, there were bathrooms, but they were nothing more than permanent outhouses (no flushing toilets). The kids were both so excited to explore and climb in the area, that we headed straight out. In fact, I hadn’t even noticed the little concrete building when we parked the car.

The kids (and Sparring Partner) gave me mini-strokes as they ran for the rocky edges with sheer drop-offs that were no less than a hundred feet straight down, and usually into another series of pointy edges before dropping off again. There are a few barriers but they are basically token attempts at safety. The rest of the paths probably started as bighorn sheep paths, from what I could gather. I took charge of looking after Aitch who kept pulling me behind her while I had a deathgrip on her hand. We had almost reached the furthest point one could go on foot when she stopped to inform me she had to go potty.

If it had been possible, I would have shuffled her off behind a bush or boulder, but there was nothing. That’s when Sparring Partner told me there’s a bathroom back at the parking lot. I turned to look from where we had come and felt my shoulders slump. We were making a sprint back that way, and Aitch is doing the international sign for “I gotta pee!” (hand between legs), which is slowing us down. So I pick her up and ask her not to pee on me. She said she really, REALLY had to go. We reach the steps. There are only about a thousand to climb (maybe just four or five floors, but still). I put her back down and we make it up the steps in record time and miraculously, to the bathroom without an accident.

This only has one thing to do with exposing my kids to something I really had hoped to avoid, and that one thing is that while Aitch used the bathroom before we got back on the road, Doodicus did not.

We loaded up and headed down the road a little further to take in another scenic view when Dood announced HE had to go to the bathroom. It happened to be in one of the areas there was no where to go. There were no safe places to hike to that would obscure him from public view. He’s about to bust and there’s no way of knowing if there is anything at the next stop so I do something I never imagined: I emptied a gatorade bottle, sat him in the van with the doors closed, and told him to fill it. And to make sure the top was on TIGHT when he’s done.

Rest assured that at the next stop, the bottle was disposed of quickly.

A few days later we were on the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. FYI: pretty but a little stressful with two children who are bored and tired and dad who won’t let them color or play video games for fear of missing the herd of buffalo. For what it’s worth, one does not simply “miss” one of the largest herds of bison in the world. There are no bathrooms on this route, but there is little traffic, which equals more privacy. So there we were, right in the middle of the 18 mile trek when Aitch announces SHE has to go potty. Our only option? Show her how to “cop a squat”.

I had her take off her shoes – for obvious reasons – and explained the concept to her, assuring her that I would hold her so she wouldn’t fall…and then that was that.

With those two experiences (and now I have the lyrics, “If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I’d like to do…”), you can rest assured that I am arming them with the skills to survive in the wild.

Shifting Gears

I do think Dr. Rita has some personal experience when it comes to ADHD (my response to a recent question left in the comments). I’ve yet to ask him if it was with himself or one of his children, but I do believe that it’s someone very close to him just based on a couple of things he’s said. I haven’t asked for two reasons, one being out of basic respect; and two, these sessions are for Dood. Sorry, if that makes me out to be kind of a dick, but for now I am being quite selfish about that 60 minutes we have been allotted.

The vyvanse? When it kicks in, it’s wonderful. When it hasn’t – or when it’s wearing off – he is painful to be around. Basically it amplifies all of Dood’s personality traits, whether they are bad or good. I wish I had a better way to describe it, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

Today I turned in the enrollment papers to the public school. They will in turn file a formal withdrawal from the Catholic school Dood had attended up until now and request his transcripts. I wish I could brush off my apron and say, "And that is THAT," but Aitch is enrolled in the pre-K classes at the private school. Initially I felt a bit awkward about that decision, but right now I feel it is going to be a good decision on both parts.

Aitch is taking swim lessons for the second session in a row at the local YMCA. My son does not care much for swimming, and I’ve rarely seen him go into water higher than his knees, and never at the lake. Aitch, on the other hand, is fearless, and as such a danger to herself. She walks into the lake until there is nothing under her feet. I literally have to be within arms length of her at all times to scoop her up, and when I do, she just sputters a bit, squeals in delight, and wiggles her way back into the water. At the pool, she loves to jump off the side, go completely under and then leapfrog it to the surface. My heart seems to leap into my throat much the same way.

At the most recent trip to the pool she showed me a new "trick" by jumping off the side and then swimming under the water for a few seconds. The first time, I thought she had lost her footing and couldn’t get to the surface so I pulled her out, "Are you OK?!" "Yeah! That was fun!" and she jogged the best she could in three feet of water back to the pool’s edge, climbed out, and repeated. She popped up, gulped some air, and went back under. I could see her big, blue eyes beneath the water’s surface as she sought out my legs and reached out with her hands and kicked her feet in what one might describe as "swimming". That same night, she ASKED to go to bed.

And while Doodicus is not a swimmer, he did start getting the hang of doing handstands in the pool and I even assisted him in doing a somersault under water. Both kids have both figured out how to use a snorkel with impressive success. I think it’s Aitch’s skill and confidence in the water (as much an almost-four-year-old could have anyway) that has helped Doodicus overcome some of his trepidations. He is often ditching his friends at the pool to come play by us yelling, "Aitch! Aitch! Watch this!" and showing off for his little sister. They are so good for each other.

A couple months ago, I announced that I wished to go to Scotland next year for my birthday. Even though THIS year is a minor milestone, our trip to Disney in February pretty much tapped our vacation resources. I wanted the Scotland vacation to be just for Sparring Partner and myself; maybe the honeymoon we never had (15 years ago this month!). However, SP is not keen on the idea one bit. "I’m not an international traveler," he announced. I don’t even know what that means since he’s never traveled internationally. "Why Scotland?" he asked. I explained that while a vacation sitting on a beach all day drinking out of a coconut would have been my ideal vacation prior to my skin cancer scare, I thought a summer vacation exploring moors, lochs and circle of stones seemed like a rather pleasant alternative. And I know without a doubt, that he would love it. (see update below)

I let the topic drop until last night, "My sister said she would go with me to Scotland if you don’t want to." That statement was true. She loves to travel and as a matter of fact, just returned from her vacation to Peru. SP replied, "I don’t think THAT’S fair for you to go without me." "Does that mean you want to go WITH me?" "No. I don’t want to leave the kids for that long." I could only stare back at him incredulously. It wasn’t fair for me to go without him, but he thinks it’d be "fair" that I don’t go at all?

The prairie toads come out at night since it is much cooler. There are always a couple of them sitting in the driveway feasting on the bugs that gather around the outside lights. Last night, my husband got home from seeing his dad in the nursing home and it was already after dark. He asked had me come out and look at one of them. He was huge, like a baseball. And fearless, not even a flinch when I poked him with my flipflop. SP had backed the pickup into the garage to unload some things and I warned him to make sure there were no toads under the truck if he moved it. Sure enough, five minutes later, he comes in and sadly announces the big toad is no more. Worse, he informs me that he flipped the gruesome carcass into the nearby landscaping…where I walk around the house…where the kids explore. I chewed him out as if he’d run over the family dog and demanded he remove the remains and dispose of them properly. I am wondering why I had to even do this; he is 40-something-something years old after all.

ETA: I was sitting with my husband last night as he watched Feherty on TV and I was on Facebook. After a few minutes of listening to the interview I made the observation that Feherty is a Scot, not Irish, as SP has claimed in the past. "Oh, so now you want to go to Scotland?!" I looked at him as if he’d grown a set of thorny gonads from his ears, "What?" "Well, before you wanted to go to Ireland and now you want to go to Scotland!" "You asshole. For the past couple of months, I’ve ALWAYS said Scotland. I have never mentioned going to Ireland. No wonder you can’t get motivated to go with me when you don’t even listen to whatever the fuck I’m saying. Goodnight."

Handling an Explosive ADHD Child…the response from the Psychologist

I sent a photo of the picture Doodicus drew to Dr. Rita. Below is his response. Thank you all for your previous comments, because you each touched upon a point that the doctor echoed in his email:

I appreciate the note—I am glad you told me about this. It can be terribly scary for parents, and terribly difficult to know how to proceed.

First, I should say that this is not an uncommon before [sic?] for kids. As far as risk assessment goes, the behaviors you described do not indicate a significant degree of risk (for instance, he is not discussing means of hurting himself that he has access to, he is not acting on these statements, etc). Many kids make these kinds of statement and draw these kinds of pictures without appreciating the implications. This behavior is especially common among kids with ADHD, because a certain degree of emotional dysregulation goes along with the hyperactive and inattentive symptoms.

In terms of management, I would recommend several interventions:

1) Convey to [Dood] that these statements are serious, and will be handled as such. They are powerful words, and not to be taken lightly.

2) Identify the emotions [Dood] is experiencing in relation to these thoughts. He will have difficulty with this, so will need help. For instance, what he is really saying is that he is frustrated, angry, sad that he is not getting what he wants, etc.

3) Emphasize your concern and love for [Dood], and the reaction you have to him making these statements (this has a duel benefit, both modeling appropriate emotional expression and explicitly stating how much you care about him). Let him know that you are worried and scared, regardless of whether he meant it or not. He said it, and you believe what he says, and so you are scared, worried, etc.

4) Consider a natural and logical consequence, such as restricting access to the sources of the imagery he used. For example, where does [Dood] see bombs and missiles? If that is in video games, letting [Dood] know that you are really worried about him and want to keep him safe. Taking a break from those images might help. (the logic on this one will likely be transparent to you, essentially, saying these things will result in losing video games. However, were [Dood] older and his threats more serious, i.e., I am going to drive my car into something or take all the pills in the cabinet, we would talk about doing the same thing—restricting access to means and methods. Limiting contact to imagery is a downward extension, with the added benefit of introducing a cost to these kinds of statements.

5) Normalize the feelings. Letting [Dood] know that he can be angry, sad, frustrated, desperate, uncomfortable, lonely, etc., and these are perfectly fine feelings to share with mom and dad. You can hear that he is having those feelings. Of course, it will not change bedtime, shower location, or other environmental matters, but it is important to you that he shares these emotions and you can help him manage them.

6) I know this is a tall order, but try to take as much steam/pressure/heat out of the situation from the beginning. If you see him getting agitated, or feel yourself getting agitated, it is time to take a break. This is especially difficult in urgent situations, but also especially important. You, and potentially [Dood], will already be somewhat upset because you have to move quickly, so the fire is already stoked. You don’t want to add to it. He might say something inappropriate or loud or disrespectful. Wait to discuss consequences until you have the time, energy, calm head to implement it.

Runaway

A seventeen-year old boy didn’t come home after he was allowed to go to an underage dance at a public establishment yesterday. His friends said that they stopped at a gas station around 1:30 a.m. and they went in and left their friend in the vehicle. When they returned, he was gone.

Rumor had it that since hooking up with a new girlfriend, one that graduated this May and now refuses to become gainfully employed and is supposedly heavily involved in drugs, he has “changed.” He cut off most of his hair this past weekend and then dyed what was left blond (he’s raven-haired). His facebook updates are cryptic and worrisome.

It was a relief to hear that after he went missing, 15 hours later he was returned safely to home. He’d been found at the above mentioned girlfriend’s house. The one who denied knowing where he was when friends, family and authorities asked.

Yes, it’s a happy ending THIS time, but I can’t help dwell on what to you may seem just another clear-cut case of a runaway teen because I have known this boy since he was my son’s age. His parents are good friends of ours. They are the ones who tried for years and years to have another baby; tried several rounds of IUIs; and then finally brought home an adopted newborn in February. I’ve mentioned her several times in the past on my blog as our offices were next to each other when I was at the hospital.

His parents are loving and supportive to him. They are the positive epitome of Christian values and they have educated him all his years at the Catholic school. A two-parent home with two very successfully employed adults. They run prayer-groups for wayward teens in their home. They organize and attend Catholic retreats for couples routinely. From the outside looking in, his life – their lives – were perfect and exemplary. And now he’s a juvenile delinquent.

Here we are, Sparring Partner and myself, as soul-less as a couple of tumbleweeds. I have depression that remains untreated because SP doesn’t like medication. I’m sure I yell more than I hug. I have a little boy who not only has ADHD, but also has some kind of emotional disturbances, and for that we see a psychologist once every three weeks and give him medicine once a day. Every day is a scramble to get to where we need to do without someone having a major meltdown, whether that’s Doodicus or a cranky three-year-old girl.

If Dood does explode, sometimes the trigger doesn’t even exist. I made pancakes for the kids on Saturday and set down the first three ‘cakes, fresh and hot from the griddle in front of him at the kitchen counter. He went off in a fury, exclaiming how we hate him and how he hates himself. He has no idea why he said it. Then after not getting his way yesterday, he went off again in another tirade, this time blacker then I’ve seen before. I went outside to get away for a few minutes and when I came back in, he had written “I want to leave home and die,” on a piece of paper and then drew a stick-man with a knife at its throat and the word “me” next to it.

So I ask – no, PLEAD – of you, how can I expect myself to remain optimistic about my son’s long-term mental health when our perfect friends’ perfect child ran away from home??

Hackles

I got this note from my son’s teacher today. Please tell me this is nothing to get defensive about…

Good afternoon!
I intended to drop a note yesterday, but got otherwise involved after school…[Dood] had a pretty good day (yesterday), seemed more settled, more organized, more able to focus on tasks at hand.
Today started out in a much different way, back to flitting all over the room, neglecting simple morning responsibilities (even with several reminders to…i.e., fill in the lunch chart, pick up the book bag, take off the jacket, get your chair). He is my morning prayer helper this week and just couldn\’t stand still long enough to do even that job…his hands were up above his head, he was fidgeting and unable to stay in one spot.
I am more than a little concerned about our field trip to [the Capitol] next week (Thursday). I know mornings are often not good or at least unpredictable for [Dood]. Please give me some helpful information (re. meds, etc.) for that early morning departure and ride to [the Capitol] (remember, we leave @ 6:15 a.m. that day). I also am curious about the ride home and what we can do to make it the best possible trip for him and his companions.
I truly want the experience to be a positive and enjoyable one for [Dood] (and for those around him).

My Angel Does Not Poop Fluffy, White Clouds

We meet again with Dr. Rita this Friday. I like your ideas of the reward system, but I’ll admit to being an asshole of a mom and stating it’s just easier on many days to wish I could thump Doodicus for being a real butt. However, since this is about HIM and not about ME, I’ll get some more ideas from the doc on how to implement a system that doesn’t backfire by bringing more attention to Dood at school. Seven- and eight-year-olds don’t notice that a classmate is walking around with a keychain of privilege cards or that the teacher is keeping a sticker chart. Ten- and eleven-year-olds will, and being the blood-thirsty heartless, little vultures that they are, they’ll go straight for his soft underbelly.

Let’s talk about Aitch for a bit now, shall we? She’s got me wound so tight around her little finger, my head is up my ass…twice. "Mommy, will you lay down with me? Just for a little bit?" she wheedles sweetly. And I perch myself carefully on a sliver of the bed she gives up for me. "You’re the best mommy," she sighs. "I love you," at which time she strokes my face with her still babyishly soft hand and tucks her feet between my knees to warm them. I’ve been lulled by her angelic nature.

She wrote her name on a piece of paper the other day, without any assistance. Sure, the "E" was backwards and the "L" was upside down, but it was her first autograph. She drew a picture of a person that same week. Again, without any insistence from us, and then came running up to me with a coloring of a very large-headed, stick-figure with three legs, tree branches for arms (per Aitch), and purple hair. She said it was me.

She’s as subtle as a hammer. Days spent at daycare means her "indoor" voice would rival a howler monkey. And she isn’t just loud, it’s constant. She’s either carrying on a self-monologue, singing or humming. My favorite is her trying to sing the Lion King’s opening credit’s song. If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear she was speaking in tongues.

What I’m really enjoying is her personal level of responsibility. When we ask her to get dressed for the day, she’ll happily skip to her room and come out just a few minutes later ready to go. Sure, she’s most likely wearing a yellow-striped tank-top under the purple polka-dot, long-sleeved t-shirt, zebra-striped leggings and a green tu-tu, but hallelujah! She. Is. Dressed. Most of the time, she’ll even remember to put the empty hangers in the hamper and shut off the lights to both her room and closet.

Doesn’t she sound positively PERFECT??

Yeah, well, before you hate me any further, I’m going to tell you Aitch’s dirty, little secret. She won’t poop in the potty. Oh, sure, she’s been potty-trained for nearly a year. She’s only had a couple of daytime accidents. But that ONE time she actually gave us a No. 2 in the potty was so traumatic, she utterly and adamantly has refused since then. Want to see a normally agreeable child figuratively lose their shit when they literally need to do so? If you don’t act quick enough for her liking, she’ll go put on her own diaper. Not a pull-up, mind you, but a diaper. She diapers herself.

After the first few months of her being potty-trained, we tried so hard to get her to try pooping (again) in the potty, but we only succeeded in causing such major constipation that we had to provide enemas and mira-lax. I have had a child before who refused to be potty-trained on both levels so I knew it just wasn’t worth the fight. It makes everyone unhappy and even unhealthy. In fact, knowing that it took us over eight years to finally feel confident that Dood wasn’t going to come home from school with "damp" underwear, I have given myself permission to wait out Aitch’s rebellion for at least another two years before I get my own panties in a twist. She’s never had an accident. She always waits until we’re home before the urge hits her. On our trip to Disney World? She regularly came to me in the morning to announce her intention, did her deed, and away we went to the parks and never had to give it a second thought.

I guess if there’s a potty-training issue to be had, she’s got the "easiest" kind. She asks for the diaper. She stays in her room (as required) until she’ done. She then gives us a shout. We get cleaned up and away we all go. There’s no impossible to reach awkward-tushy-spot on the toilet. There’s no embarrassing public call-out in the Target bathroom, "Mommy! Wipe my butt!" Of course, I would like to not have to buy diapers and would love to finally move the diaper pail into a recycle heap, because as wonderful and as sweet and as loving as she is, her shit STILL does stink.

In this case, I’m not calling out for help. It’s more of a hey, we may LOOK like we pretty much have it going on in the Big Kid department, but in reality we are letting a nearly four-year-old continue to dictate parts of our lives I would much rather have back for myself. Especially Sparring Partner who has brought her to the edge of Meltdown City before remembering there are much bigger battles to be waged and won coming our way, including prom-season. I don’t care if it is another 13 years away. She just better watch her step because if she even tries on a dress with cleavage cut to the naval, I will not be afraid to remind her how it wasn’t that long ago she was crapping in her pants.