Sunday, December 29, 2013

Holiday triggers for RAD kids

  Any change in routine is difficult for kids like Jon. Even the happiest, most entertaining events are super stressful. Add in the fact that we got him at the beginning of January (meaning he knew he was leaving his old family that Christmas) and this time of year is difficult. He acts out at school and at home. Old negative behaviors raise their ugly heads and he does his absolute best to appear unloveable. Each year it has gotten better with less drama and more true enjoyment. This year I was worried because it is the first time we have ever been medication-free.
  One big difference this year is that I have not been working. Instead I became a substitute teacher for the school district so I am spending a lot of time at the kids' elementary school. I touch base with Jon during the day, giving him hugs and smiles, letting him know I know he can do this. He only had a couple of issues with his behavior and they were pretty minor. Well, except for the day he set off the fire alarm by opening the emergency door in the gym. Ugh! He claimed it was an accident but the teacher watched him put both hands on the release bar, look around, then give it a big push. His story is that he fell into it after he tripped. Yeah, right.
  The vacation days leading up to Cristmas were really busy and he held it together really well. He was a little hyper, but so was every other kid alive. Christmas Day was lovely. Relaxing, happy and great family time. All of the kids had a great day and loved their gifts. It was awesome.
  The day after was okay. He left his remote control helicopter on the floor and a dog chewed on the blades. Only very minor damage but he was sure it was destroyed and fell into a deep, negative mood. I had to work hard to pull him out of it, but it worked and he recovered quickly. He also snuck out ofmthenhouse with his roller skates and tried them out without any safety gear. Luckily he did not get hurt.
  Yesterday the cracks began to appear. I sent the boys to pick up their rooms and the whining and negativity began. A job that should have taken 10 minutes dragged into an hour and Jon had still not picked up anything. Instead he had lost his pants that he had been wearing, wiped spit on is brother, sat on Ahren's head and said several ugly things to anyone close enough to hear him. At this point I went in to help. I find if I break it down into smaller tasks, such as pick up only the blocks and put them into the bucket. As we began this project I found the remote control helicopter in the trash can, again. Then I found several other toys broken and hidden under is bed. I also found empty candy wrappers, sucker sticks and crackers under there. (We have a no-food in the bedrooms rule) Then I found Levi's cell phone under there. At that point I began to ask him about these things. Well, he claimed that he did not do any of it. He blamed everything on various others, but he was innocent. I can handle all the negative behaviors except for the lying. That pushes my buttons! Just admit you ate candy in bed and hid the wrappers. I will remind you of the rules and it is done. But the lying? That is going to destroy his life if it continues. Without that inner self control and sense of responsibility, he will be in danger of ending up on drugs, in jail or dead. I can follow m around at this age and give I'm external clues and control, but I can't do that for ever. He has to internalize it and listen to his own inner voice. He is doing better, but this area is still a  big issue.
  It would be easy to make excuses for him,  to blame his behaviors on RAD/PTSD and give him a break. We have chosen not to do this. Instead we set the bar high. Not just at normal, but at extraordinary. We know he has it in him. If we don't push him to reach high and realize his full potential, he never will. We would be failing him. A close friend of mine has an autistic son and we have discussed this many times. She also pushes her son to higher standards, and he is surpassing all of the professionals' expectations for him. Extraordinary. That is my goal for my son.

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Obamacare experience

  I hesitate to post about anything political or religious. I have my opinions and I really don't want to argue them or defend them on a public forum.....but I feel the need to share my experience regarding the new healthcare initiative.
  A little background: when I left my job this summer we used Cobra for continuing our health insurance for a few months. After that I got plans for Kaytee and Ashley thru the college, but the rest of us are uninsured. Yep, we are 'those' people right now. We knew that by January we would be participating in a new plan, although we will not qualify for any assistance. We just wanted a plan that could give us decent coverage and not cost thousands every month.
  Starting on the first of October I began attempting to use the site to create an account and shop for insurance. First, it took 7 attempts over 5 weeks to actually create an account. Then I had to fill out pages and pages of information. I did that but none of it saved. Again and again and again. Then finally one day I got thrunthemapplication process and onto the identity verification portion. This is where everything tanked. The site could not verify my identity.  So I called the special phone number. They told me that they did not have me in the system and to try back next week. This went on for three weeks until they finally told me to call a specialist. Again, I did that but she also couldn't find me so she took my info and told me a higher level specialist would contact me. Yup, that never happened.
  I called again and was told I had to upload pictures of my documentation, such as my drivers license, passport and social security card. Say what? You have my social and license info already, how will a picture be any different? Seriously? I feel completely comfortable sending everything needed to steal my identity to a website that is so jacked up already. NOT!!!
  It is now past the deadline to enroll and I have called, resubmitted our application numerous times and done everything short of offering them my first born child and my identity to steal. We are now shopping directly with the insurance companies. It's too late to have coverage in January but maybe by February.
  So in the end I am not a fan of the new system. Maybe the coverages will be worth it, maybe not. I will wait to see before making an opinion on that. But the system so far? Broken, frustrating and ridiculously difficult. I gave it my best effort. I reserved judgement early on. I really hoped it would be a success.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Catching up in pictures

Career day at school. Ahren went as an FBI agent.

Jon went as a cowboy (he doesn't really want to be one, just wanted to wear his hat and boots)

 Why do they sleep like this? They look like they have been run over!

Ahren and Levi dressed up for a Halloween party.

Boys and muddy holes. Pure joy…for them!

                       Boxers are the best dogs for kids. This is how the boys sleep every night.

Lots of outdoor activities now that it is not so hot. Levi on his 4-wheeler. Helmets are required!

Levi stylin. 

                           Heapin' pile of boxers. They constantly lay on top of each other like this.

Trunk or Treat at the church. We went as Duck Dynasty. Hilarious!

We borrowed a friend of levi's to have enough characters. Adam was Willie. Levi is Si, Jon is Jace and Ahren is Jep.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

School, Impulses and RAD/ADHD

  We have constantly been seeking out ways to help Jon heal, regulate himself, and control his impulses. Although medications can do wonderful things for a child's behavior, they only mask the underlying issues and do not fix them. Therefore we have only used meds when absolutely necessary and at times it was the only way for him to be successful in school (and for us not to force teachers into early retirement!)

  We are now completely medication free and he is doing okay. Occasionally he gets a color change at school but they are now for things like talking and playing in line. Hey, thats like a normal kid! He has been having difficulty in PE but we are working on it.

  Here are the things we have done that may or may not have had any real impact. Somehow the total of all of them have worked. No, he is not 'fixed' but he is so much better. And so much HAPPIER!

1) Black and white. There cannot be any gray areas for him. If he gets by with something once he then begins to spin out of control. It takes 1000 reinforcements to convince him that the boundaries are there.

2) Coordinate with the school. We are extremely blessed to have wonderful people in our school who truly care and want to help. This has been a true blessing. I was up at the school on Thursday when a dear PE teacher that Kaytee had since 2nd grade came and found me. It seems Jon had been very disobedient and disrespectful to her while waiting in the gym for the bell to ring. She was concerned because this was new behavior she had never seen. We had a long talk about meds and behavior and such. She was very supportive and together we came up with a plan of action. I am meeting with his teacher on Monday. I had e-mailed her a few weeks ago just to give her a little insight into him but I think she didn't quite grasp what I was saying. She just assured me that all kids need time to settle into the school year and he would be fine. She didn't even react to the fact that I had already confiscated several stolen items from him. She will not be helping him by being nice and going easy. See #1 above.

3) Therapies. We started with the traditional therapy route. Talk, talk, talk, play, act out scenes, etc. This was a total bust. He is charming and delightful around strangers and shows absolutely no sign of the extreme turmoil raging inside of him. Two different therapists told me he seemed fine. I got the feeling they thought I was trying to create issues with him for my own attention. I wish! This is when I began to think outside the box. We took him to a year of ABA (Applied Behavioral) therapy. This is an intense form of therapy often used for children with Autism. For Jon, we had them concentrate on emotions. Reading other people's emotion, reading his own emotions, and the proper reactions to those signals. Before he started he had absolutely no comprehension of facial expressions. I would be joking with him and he would burst out crying or screaming thinking I was mad. I had a light fun tone to my voice, big smile on my face, and open body position, but he saw MAD. Now he is able to read those expressions, and can even tell me what he is feeling. Amazing progress! We have done some neuro-visual therapy to re-route pathways in his brain. This has been proven to work for PTSD. There has been Hippo therapy (horse back riding) and our therapy dog Buster.

4) Supplements. I am a big believer in nutrition having an impact on whole person wellness. Research has suggested that kids with ADHD symptoms may benefit from Omega's. There is also some studies that report these kids may also be low in zinc and iron. We have begun adding these to his routine. He fights me on taking them, not because they taste bad or make his stomach hurt like the ADHD meds do, but just because he has the need to control EVERYTHING. He is very passive/aggressive about it. He will smile and take the pills, act like he swallows them, and then I find them under his chair, in the dog food, in the toilet, etc. If I stand over him and watch him and make him show me his empty mouth afterwards, he cries, chokes on them and will throw up. (He can vomit at will, a common trait in RAD kids) One other thing I found is that ADHD kids do not sleep well and are perpetually tired, leading to more behavior issues. We now use melatonin each night and he is falling asleep much faster and staying asleep.

5) Diet. This goes along with #5. I restrict the amount of processed foods he gets. I cook from scratch as much as possible to limit preservatives and additives. I pack his lunch every day (I had to lock his school lunch account because he was buying a bunch of stuff I didn't want him to have and not eating what I sent). He gets a nutritious snack every day at school, too. (Our school has a snack time for every child every day. They have realized that a child who has breakfast at 7:30 am cannot make it to lunch at noon without running out of energy) As for sugar, I don't actually limit it but I do watch what kinds of sugar he gets. Less processed and more natural sugars. Does this help? I don't know, but it makes me feel like a good Mom! LOL!

6) Discipline. Ugh. I feel like I am on him so much more than the other kids. He just requires so much more direction and external regulation. I hope this gets better because I cannot spend my life following him around and telling him what to do. I have to think way outside the box on this one. I use a lot of humor to redirect him. If he tells me No (not allowed) I will make an exaggerated face and in a super goofy voice ask him, "What did you say? I didn't quite get that?" and he will giggle and do what I asked him to do. If he starts screaming mean things at me, I place him on his bed, then stand in the other room screaming bizarre things. He screams he hates his life, so I scream I hate lima beans. He screams how mean I am, I scream how big an elephants behind is. He usually stops screaming in less than a minute and ends up smiling. Then I tease him about smiling......and he smiles bigger. When humor doesn't work, I will have him do chores for me to make up for his behavior. He actually likes this! I give him things to do and then tell him what a great helper he is, how good of a job he is doing, etc. Positive, positive, positive. Not over-the-top fake positive but sincere words. I have also been known to completely loose my shiznit and scream at him. Not proud of those moments. We do sit and talk about it afterwards. Sometimes when he pushes me that far it has a huge impact on him. On one hand he is trying his best to push me over the limit, but on the other hand it scares him a little bit. We talk about it afterwards and he and I have a bonding moment. He is like me I say. We both lose our cool sometimes and we talk about how to do things better next time.

What has worked for you? What hasn't? I have no idea if I am doing things right, but I just keep trying!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Food Allergies

  I would like to thank the Texas legislator who was so upset that his daughter could not have cupcakes at school on her birthday that he snuck in wording into a completely unrelated bill to make it LAW that kids can bring birthday treats. Yep, he deserves a great big hug from this Mama. NOT!

  You see, as the parent of a child with food allergies, I have to work really hard to protect my son. We are lucky and Ahren's allergies do not seem to be life threatening at this point, but I would kind of like to keep it that way. When they have scheduled parties at school I can prepare him and coordinate with the teachers to have things that are safe for him to eat. I have no idea when a parent might bring birthday treats for the class. The only way we can think to keep him safe is that he cannot participate at all.

  So Mr. Smartypants Legislator, your daughter can now bring whatever she likes for birthday treats, but kids like my son will have to sit and watch as everyone else gets to enjoy them. Worst case scenario is a child with allergies gets too close to or does eat the treat and ends up in the hospital or dead. There was a valid reason for changing the rules about snacks and treats. Reasons that involve life and death for some children.

  Instead, you got your undies in a bundle because your child didn't get to hand out cupcakes at school. Why didn't you just explain to her why the rules were that way? Why didn't you teach her that it's more important to keep kids safe than for her to have cupcakes? Why didn't you use this as a teachable moment to show her that it's not all about her in life, that others need to be considered? This is the most colossal parent FAIL! He failed to teach her simple humanity and is putting other kids at risk.

  I was at the school today when a Mom brought in cupcakes. Pistachio cupcakes. For a class with a child that has severe nut allergies.  No one knew what to do because it is a freakin LAW. They ended up calling the allergic child's Mom and getting permission to remove the child from the class for the last 15 minutes of the day at which time they served the cupcakes.  I suppose afterwards the teacher had to stay and clean the room really well since even brushing against a product containing nuts is dangerous to this particular child.

  It's not easy to keep kids with allergies safe. At the first class party after Ahren was diagnosed I carefully prepared him a bag of party treats that were safe for him to eat. I would have liked to have been at the party but had to work. The teacher knew everything and I trusted her completely. That night as I unpacked Ahrens backpack, I found the goodie bag untouched. I asked him what he ate at the party and he began to list off things he absolutely could not have. Turns out that the Mommy helper decided to make him a plate of food when she saw he didn't have one. She set it in front of him and told him to eat it so he did. It took 5 days before his belly stopped cramping and bloating. Now I stick a sticker on his shirt that says, "Do Not Feed Me, I have Allergies. I guess I need to put that on his shirt every day now. Maybe I can just get some shirts printed up with that.....

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Isn't this just about the funniest looking face you have ever seen?

 Jolie, the grand dame of our house and ruler of all, has decided that she can tolerate the kitten.
 Levi has quite the fashion sense. (Thank goodness!) I think his sisters had quite a lot to do with this.
 We have been spending more time cooking now that the weather is cooling off a bit. Levi is chopping dried fruit for breakfast cookies.
 Ahren has a lot of style too, as long as I pick out  his clothes! LOL!  Here he is 'poplin his collar' and reliving the 80-s.
 Having a large yard means a lot of work. Here is Chris out mowing around the pond with the tractor. We are again in a drought so this was a dirty, dusty hot job. I almost had to strip him down and hose him off in the backyard before letting him in the house! Hahahahahahaha!!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Aggie Traditions

Kaytee and Ashley are both attending Texas A&M university. Kaytee is a senior and this past week she participated in one of the oldest Aggie traditions. The ring ceremony. We had no idea what to expect since this is our first experience. 

Months ago we ordered and paid for her class ring. The coolest thing is that the school pays half of the cost and insures the ring for the students. One week earlier all of those participating lined up to pull a time slot for the ceremony. From 2pm until 8 pm, a large group of students is ushered into the receiving room every 15 minutes. They line up by last name, show their IDs and get their rings. Then everyone cheers and claps, snaps pictures and then gets ushered out the other side so the next group can file in. 

Then on Friday, we all drove to College Station, ran several blocks in the rain, and all for this sweet young woman.

In line with her paperwork.
 Her ring box, held by her father. It is tradition that he places it on her finger.
 Placing the ring on her finger. 
 I think she was a little happy.....
 The traditional ring sign. 
 She had goosebumps and was shaking she was so excited. This is a huge deal at A&M.
 Up close shot.
 Kaytee and her father. I wanted to also take a picture with my husband Chris and his checkbook, but it didn't happen. Kaytee will be graduating with no debt, no student loans at all. 
 She really stands that much taller than me. Brat!
 Kaytee and Ashley, our Aggie girls.
 Posing in front of the spirit coach. 
 Kaytee and her little brother Levi. These two are so alike, definitely peas in the same pod.
 All three little brothers. I love how close my girls are to their brothers and vice versa. 
It was an exciting evening, full of proud parents and wonderful memories. We will be doing this again in a few years. And again and again and again, since all 3 boys have already proclaimed they will also be Aggies. Hey Daddy, hang onto that checkbook!!!!!

Friday, September 06, 2013

This is not fall weather...

 Every night Chris goes out to water trees, feed the deer, and feed the fish and turtles in the pond. Sometimes he has company along to help (and ask a million questions and hopefully not fall in...)

See how our lovely drought is treating us? Dead grass in the back part of the property. If we want to water it we will need to dig a well. otherwise it is just way too expensive. 

We never have problems with mosquitoes because our pond has a bumper crop of dragon flies every year. They come in a lot of colors but this is the first year we have seen hot pink! (doesn't it look like the hot pink one has giant googly eyes on the top of its head?)

 I have a riddle for you. What do you get when you give a RAD kid a pop tart?

 A big mess!!! (Good thing he is so adorable!)

First day of 4th grade.
 First day of 2nd grade.
 First day of 2nd grade and running behind as usual. 
 Oh my sweet Rio. He sure loves us and we love him. I gave him a bath the other day and he played in the water like a little kid. He kept sticking his lips over the hose and making water spray all over.

The Tooth Fairy has been working long hours here recently. Just last night Ahren lost his second top front tooth. Now he looks just down right goofy. LOL!

Another baby blanket I have been working on. I used Vanna's Choice Baby in three colors, worked it in strips and made up the pattern as I knit. All I have to do now is add the edging and block the whole thing. I loved this because I could put it down and pick it up later and never have to remember where I was at in a pattern. I did learn that certain stitch pattern pucker more than others, but once it is blocked I think it will lay flat and look right.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


  For a long time I thought that the word 'twerking' referred to the spastic RAD behavior of traumatized kids. Like, 'oh no, he has been triggered and is really twerking now!' It's the perfect word to describe the bizarre, off the wall behaviors of these kids. Picking his nose until it bleeds? Total twerk. Shredding his food? The poop and pee issues? Seriously twerking. The inability to modulate the level of his voice, sit on a chair to eat, or remember what was said to him 10 seconds ago? Annoying twerking behaviors.

  This is the first week of school. We did everything we could to prepare for the transitions, the changes, the different routine. We stayed on the same bedtime and wake up routine all summer so we didn't have to readjust it twice. We talked daily about what we needed to do each morning. We organized school supplies, new lunch boxes and school clothes. Absolutely everything we could.....and yet it is never really enough. My little man is having a rough week. He is exhausted due to the high level of anxiety he has all day long. He can't calm down at night to fall asleep, he lays there twitching and rolling and talking to himself. He is behaving in school but it is taking everything he has to hold it together. At home he is a hot mess. Shredded food, bloody nose, pinching, hitting, screaming, etc. true twerking behavior. Poopy underpants and pee on the floor have also appeared but only a tiny bit. This year is better than last, so he is still making progress but I just hate seeing him so stressed out.

  So Miley Cyrus, you don't really know what true twerking is. Yours was choreographed, staged for maximum impact. Our kids also are going for maximum impact but everything in their lives drives them to twerking and they are masters of the craft. Until you have had a 4 year old head butt you in the face and try to literally scratch your eyes out, you haven't experienced true twerking.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

We are Awesome!!!

Buster is now official! He is a credentialed service dog, trained in therapy of persons who are traumatized, in crisis, and emotionally needy. He has worked with kids with autism, trauma, and abandonment issues and adults suffering through traumatic times. We took him shopping with us the other day in his service dog uniform and he did so well. Kids ran past him, ran up to him and shouted in his face and he never moved except for his wagging tail stump. Plus, Jonathan was his handler and he did an incredibly wonderful job and was the best behaved he has ever been. Its a win-win and the perfect solution for my anxiety ridden child. 

 Ahren has been struggling with his asthma the last two weeks. He fell asleep on the floor in the middle of the day, that's how tired he has been. Sweet Buster kept him company. (Can that be comfortable?)
 Here is the next square (2 of 6) of my Lion Brand slip stitch throw. This one went twice as fast and I discovered some mistakes I made on the first square. Oh well, it's still going to be just as soft and warm....
 Ashley moved into her very first apartment at college. It is absolutely lovely. We made it a family affair  (maybe that was not such a good idea....) all of us giving her many hugs and kisses.

I am making my very first attempts at healthy lunches a la bento boxes. 

Sushi, carrot and cucumber sticks, red grapes and cookies.

 Chef salad with mozzarella, turkey, croutons
 romaine, carrots, cucumbers and ranch dressing
 Turkey sandwich, cheese stick, home made pickles, greek yogurt with fresh strawberries and spicy pretzel chunks
 Turkey sandwich, same yogurt, ranch dip with peppers, cucumbers and carrots for dipping and cookies
 Crackers with cream cheese and turkey, grapes, home made pickles, chips and cookies
 Blueberry pancakes, turkey sausage with maple syrup, fresh grapes and cucumber strips

All of these meals were approved by picky kids in my household.