Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tag! I'm "It!"

Stephanie from Daily Smiles tagged me with some fun and thought provoking questions.


1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing it that way; if you are not anonymous do you wish you had started out anonymously so you could be anonymous now?


Nah - there's no need for anonymity. I think everyone should know who they're pointing and laughing at.

2. Describe one incident that shows your inner stubborn side.


Just one? I despise limitations. Hmmm...I'm pretty sure I wear my "inner stubborn side" right next to my "outer stubborn side." Most recently it was at the start of
The Skink's hospital adventure. It was clear there was something wrong when I took The Skink in to the ER, but after looking her over and doing an X-ray, they wanted to send us home. I said, "No. Absolutely not. Please admit her...  or I'll have a tantrum." Thank goodness - it was a life-threatening condition. 

Of course there was another time back in college when a course I wanted to take was too full. The professor told the class that anyone who was not a Junior or Senior should leave. I was a freshman, but I didn't go. After the class I went up and told him I wanted to stay. He told me I couldn't because I was a freshman. I asked, "If I come to every class, turn in all the homework and take all the tests, will you give me a grade?" I ended up getting an "A."

3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?


Some days I see a very tired woman and I just can't figure out where she gets the strength to keep going. Other days I see someone who does not look like a 40-something, and it makes me want to go buy something alcoholic just to see if I can get carded.


4. What is your favorite summer cold drink?


Arizona Diet Green Tea!
No ID necessary!

5. Is there something you still want to accomplish in your life? What is it? 


What? Like you think in the last 40 years I've accomplished even half of what I want to do? I want to travel all over the world, raise money for Reece's Rainbow, write a number of books, advocate change in the cultural perceptions of people with disabilities, raise my children to the best of their God-given abilities, and so much more!

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the class shy person, or always ditching school?


In high school I was apparently socially disfigured. I was the "weird" girl. In college I achieved normalcy and had tons of awesome friends!

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what do you see?


Wow! That's a tough question to answer without risking becoming the "weird" girl again. Ummm... past, present or future?

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people or events?


I share true events. It's not always easy, because some of the things we experience on a daily basis are very different from what other families experience, and may be hard for some to relate to. On the flip-side, I sometimes feel very alone dealing with some of our middle child's autistic traits. While I have found a wonderful and supportive social network of families who have been touched by Down syndrome, stories of life with a daughter with Asperger's seem to be harder to come by. If I don't share our stories, I am just leaving other families to feel alone. We ARE that family in WalMart that other people point at. It's not easy. 

In the past, people tried to hide anything that seemed different. I suppose our society was based upon a British elitist system, and no doubt everyone wanted to be seen as special, or elite, for these people received the most respect... in the olden days. My mother asked me just recently if I really wanted people to know "all that" about the things that happen in our home. The way I figure it, we used to hide family members with Down syndrome, "crippled" people, mentally ill people and people with autism. Who did that help? Certainly not the misunderstood "imperfect" children who must have felt so terribly unwanted and unloved! It certainly didn't help spread understanding in our society! Only by sharing these experiences can we spread the gift of acceptance.

No - it's not always fun and easy to raise kids who are unique. S*** happens (and sometimes urine, too) but I'm not embarrassed by it. It's my life, and I'm proud of everything God has given me. For some reason He though I could handle this. I take that as an amazing compliment!  And having those really low, lows? Those just make the highs SO much more amazing!

10. If you had the choice to sit and read or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?


I would write... because it is a great release... and because I like making my own choices :o)


OK, now I'm supposed to tag some unsuspecting reader. if you've already been tagged sorry, if not lets hear your answers. 

I hereby tag Whitney S., Lisa from Loving Alina and Patti from To Love Endlessly



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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Weekend Update... finally

On Friday we said "good-bye" to a dear friend.


It was tough to watch the car that had served our family so well be hauled away. Unfortunately, it was well beyond totaled by the lady-on-the-cell-phone incident.  These are some close ups of the actual damage:



On a far more happy note, there was a Renaissance Festival near us on Saturday - the perfect medicine to get our minds off our vehicle woes. The day could not have been more perfect. The temperature stayed in the 70's with clear, sunny skies and a backdrop of the Blue Ridge mountains. Celtic music rode on the breeze as we wandered about, showing the children all the wonders of the (somewhat glorified) Middle Ages. It was like being in Victorian England, but without the plague, lepers, foul odors or rats.  


We saw interesting sights and touched parts of dead animals. This one used to be a mink... But The Skink was unimpressed.


And then we armed Iraq, because... why not?




And might I add, she surprised everyone with her good aim! Just another reason not to piss her off!


And while The Skink took a long nap in her wagon, Iraq tamed a local bear.


And what could be a better end to the day than Mexican food? One of The Skink's favorite words is "Taco!"


She may have been just a little excited to get her own taco.


And playing with your big brother is ALWAYS fun!



And while the weekend was quite fun and interesting, on Monday we got back to business as usual. Unfortunately we had some more behavioral issues with Iraq on Monday, but today was actually quite nice!

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy week!

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nobody Said It Would Be Easy

We have our good days and we have our bad days. Unfortunately since school started, Iraq has had more bad days than good. She has been doing well in school for the most part, although I have received a couple of calls from her very wonderful and understanding teacher about some social issues. But once she is home, she morphs into some sort of hurricane that rips through our house, striking terror into everyone around her.

Our hurdle right now is Iraq's sense of entitlement. In a strange twist of "I think, therefore I am," Iraq sometimes behaves like a 3-year-old on steroids. "I want, therefore I deserve."

This becomes a devastating mix when it combines with the obsessive-compulsive part of her personality. The things that she wants or wants to do become obsessions. For instance, if she suddenly wants to "beep" my nose exactly 3 times, she may simply lunge forward and catch me completely unaware upon the first "beep." Then as I react (rather negatively) to being beeped, she seems shocked that I am not in a beep mood, and will continue on her quest to get in those last 2 beeps. If I fend off her beeps, she will go one of two ways - either she will become more aggressive about beeping me through my flailing arms, or she will go into "beg" mode.

Unfortunately, even if she goes into "aggressive beep attack" mode first, it will soon disintegrate into "beg" mode anyway if I refuse to accept my last 2 beeps.

Beg Mode - boy, that's a really fun one! We see beg mode a number of times every day. Beg mode sets in when Iraq realizes I am adamant about NOT letting her carry out what ever desire/compulsion she has it in her mind to do. As we fall into beg mode, high-pitched cries of "PLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZZZZZ" emanate from my petite 7-year-old. By high-pitched, I am referring to that tone between fingernails on a chalk board and the sound made by a saxophone in the hands of a very untalented first-time user.

No matter what response Iraq receives (and, by-the-way, that response has never been a "Yes") "PLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZZZZZ" will be immediately followed by "PLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZZZZZ!" And then, "PLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZZZZZ!"

It doesn't matter if I try to explain my decision not to let her beep my nose 2 more times, or if I simply give her a firm "NO!" No matter what I say, she will continue screeching "PLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZZZZZ" and then perhaps accuse me of interrupting her if I say anything at all.

It is nearly impossible to redirect Iraq out of beg mode. We can reason with her, be firm with her or even threaten her with bedroom-incarceration to no avail - only more "PLLLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZZZZZ!"

We don't know the reason for it, but it is like Iraq becomes temporarily stuck in beg mode. She has never once gotten her way like this, yet for whatever reason goes into beg mode almost every day, and usually more than once.

If we're in the car, we're screwed!
If we're in WalMart, we're entertainment.

If we're at home or at Mimi and Pop's house, Iraq is generally temporarily incarcerated with the option of early release for good behavior. Unfortunately it usually takes more than one 7-minute "time-out" (a.k.a. incarceration) before she calms down. At that point it a crap-shoot whether or not she'll ask for the thing she wants again.

Yesterday it was computer time. That's what set off beg mode. I had let her play on my computer for a while before homework time, and after she did (most of) her homework, she decided that my computer should be hers again. I would rather limit computer and TV time, and said no... and once I say no, I mean no...which cues beg mode to begin.

Needless to say, Iraq spent quite a bit of time in her room last evening - incarceration has become easier for me ever since Iraq broke her doorknob... she can't get out. The doorknob can be easily put beck together, but at this time the hubby and I rather like it the way it is.


The Skink watches all this, which makes me cringe. I know Skinks emulate the behaviors they see around them, and I certainly don't need 2 kids going into beg mode! So far, beg mode doesn't seem to appeal to The Skink. In fact, when Iraq does it, The Skink will put her hands over her ears and run away.

On another note, the insurance guy came out to assess the hubby's car. It's totaled. Yes - totally totaled! They'll be sending us a check to reimburse us for the value of the vehicle... a value of about $2,000...
Can someone please tell me where on this planet we are going to find a car as reliable as the totaled Toyota Camry was for $2,000? I think there's a bigger chance of my husband riding a flying pig to work. 

I do have to share a few neat and fun things, though. Sure - there are challenges in life, but there is a lot of good stuff too!

Broadway found out that he ranked 6th in his ROTC summer camp, and first for his school! I love seeing him so proud of his achievement. His pride is working for him and he is striving to keep his grades up so he can continue with all his ROTC activities. And activities there are! He stays after school no less than 5 days a week for a variety of cool activities, and after doing so well in ROTC camp, he received a special invitation to become a part of the ROTC Exhibition Team! (And I think secretly he enjoys his after-school escape so he doesn't have to listen to beg mode.)

The Skink has been wearing her glasses for longer periods at school. She's also really blossoming in the communication and social interaction departments. Unlike Iraq, The Skink is naturally very empathetic. She picks up on the moods and feelings of people around her. Just this morning I had her seated on her changing table so I could put her socks and shoes on. She grabbed a sock and tossed it across the room, saying, "There it goooooooooooes!" I looked up at her and said, "I wish you wouldn't throw your socks when I'm trying to put them on your feet." She touched my face, looked into my eyes and said, "I sorry! Hug?" Oh, YES, hug! It doesn't get much better than that!

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Good, The Bad and the Just Plain Yucky!

The Good: Homework time went well! Iraq did her work quietly while The Skink kept her glasses on and practiced putting pennies into a jar  :o)



And some of our favorite toys don't cost much at all:




The Bad:

A lady in an SUV made a left turn in front of my husband - - she was talking on her cell phone.

AND... The Just Plain Yucky:

This is what happened...



The Hubby swerved to avoid T-boning the lady's SUV, and his front end went completely underneath her SUV - the SUV's muffler tore through The Hubby's right front quarter-panel. Then, The Hubby's car rammed into yet another vehicle, sandwiching The Hubby and his car between the SUV and the other car.

Our sweet Camry is a 1997 with over 200k miles on it - what a great car! Interestingly, though the impact was fairly harsh, the airbags did not deploy. Our theory is that if they had, there would have been a weak "Pppffffffffffffffffff" sound and the bag would have come out limp, throwing a small cloud of moths into the air.

The cell-phone addicted SUV driver was charged in the incident, but we're still out a car for now. Grrrr...

Just glad The Hubby and the other folks involved in the incident are all OK!

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nearly Wordless Wednesday - Beds

Up until earlier today, Iraq had bunk beds... the problem was that the otherwise unused top bunk had become a favorite hoarding spot. So, while the kids were at school, both girls' rooms got a bit of a "makeover."

Before:


After:


Before:


After:





The only problem with The Skink's bigger bed is that now I'll have to make more Cow Bedding! Christmas is coming I suppose. Is anybody interested in some custom infant/toddler cow bedding?

And... there was a new toy in the living room... for a while...



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UPDATE: Though Iraq likes her bed and thinks it's "Awesome!" it is still a change, and thus... this evening I found one of the cats locked in a toy oven. *sigh*

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Update From the Front Lines

Well, I don't want to say anything too soon, but when Iraq got home today, the homework was done in record time and without any grumbling or tears! We used pennies to do the math problems, and made a game out of the spelling work... of course, we always try to make a game of homework, but yesterday I suppose she wasn't in a game mood... or any kind of good mood for that matter!

Wish me luck as the evening progresses!

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Vent Blog!

Every now and then, a mom just has to vent! This is one of those times.

This last weekend was very difficult for us with Iraq. Perhaps it is the change in the schedule, the change in schools, the change in weather... I don't know for sure, but something has upended the delicate balance in a BIG way. Now, I don't want to mislead you - we really don't have much of a balance, but we do our best to keep things as calm as possible. As of late, all the "calm" has left the building.

The weekend was filled with tantrums, screaming, crying, repeated misbehavior... you name it. We stay very consistent in our house - each behavior is dealt with as it happens, every time. It was exhausting to keep up with to say the least.

Today when Iraq came home from school, she had her first homework. My stomach dropped a bit, remembering what all we had to go through last year to get homework done. I made light of it in my mind, and proceeded as if this was the most exciting thing to arrive home from second grade since someone invented the "grass-in-a-cup" project.

Iraq was NOT to be fooled. She had a very different reaction than I - - much as if she had discovered somebody packed a skunk in her book bag. And the screaming began.

I have just come down stairs after no less than an hour trying to get the homework done. We got about half of it done, and I have scratches on my arms, almost lost an eye to a flying pencil (no less than 3 times) spent about 10 minutes barricaded in the bathroom with a crazed and shrieking 7-year-old on the other side of the door while I quietly explained over and over that I would come out as soon as she stopped screaming and flailing...

I finally got her settled down just enough to do some math problems which I know darn well she can do quite easily. She did the same type of math last year and this is clearly just review. (Really - I should be receiving hazard pay for this). Every few math problems saw another major freak-out-break-down...

Once the math was finished with a huge amount of praise and the reward of letting her poke my nose after each problem had been done correctly, it was time for the spelling words. It should have been simple - write each word 3 times. This is not rocket surgery, people! (yes - that's a joke).

After subjecting myself to her escalating tirade for another few minutes, I couldn't handle it (calmly) any more. In a stroke of (what I hoped would be genius) I asked Broadway to help Iraq. NO DEAL!

Now Iraq has been physically locked into her room. I feel like I have her in a cage, and I don't like the feeling, but the situation has actually grown dangerous for me as well as The Skink and Broadway. I am hoping she will calm down as I write this. Of course I HAVE to get her to finish her homework... not doing so (regardless of the threat it can mean to my life) would simply be rewarding this Armageddon-size tirade of  universal proportions.

So not looking forward to the next hour...



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Friday, September 10, 2010

Helping Disabled Orphans Find Homes!

Andrea Roberts has a son with Down syndrome. When it came to her attention that children born with Down syndrome in other parts of the world are often abandoned at under-funded orphanages, and then transferred to archaic mental institutions where many die within the first year, she did something about it. Andrea founded Reece's Rainbow. This organization helps families in the U.S. fund adoptions from the Ukraine, and other eastern European countries where these children do not have a chance of having a good life.

Andrea and Reece's Rainbow was featured by People Magazine in the March 1, 2010 issue (Vol. 73, No. 8). You can view the article Here.

Now, Andrea is  in the running for People's Hero of the Year. If she wins, she will receive $10,000 - a sum that could go a long way to help many more children find forever homes. Please click this link to Vote Now!

To learn more about the lives of children born with disabilities in many Eastern European countries, please visit my "Show You Care" website.

Thank you in advance for your votes!! The lives of children just like this one are on the line.

 Elizabeth is waiting for her forever family!

The following are pictures of children who were not adopted, living in a Bulgarian mental institution.




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Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Dancing Skink!

This girl can dance!

YouTube Video - Dancing Skink!

I tried to upload the video to my blog, but it wouldn't work   : P

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Day of School

Tuesday marked the first day of school. All three kids were very excited, but of course there is a law against 15-year-old boys actually saying they are excited.

The Skink's bus comes the earliest - at 6:15 a.m.  As worried as I was about the early hour, she was already up playing when I went into her dark room. After getting dressed and ready, she finally got to put on her new back pack. It was a very exciting event!


And then we all admired her lovely back pack and well coordinated outfit (I actually didn't plan on dressing her to match her back pack.... we just have a LOT of pink).


Then, before the sun was even up, we went out on the front porch to wait for the bus... which was late. So The Skink took matters into her own hands and called it. That is, when it didn't show up in a timely manner, she started actually Calling "BUS! BUUUUUUUSSSSS!"


And then it finally came! The Skink proudly claimed her seat right behind the driver, helped put on her seat belt and off she went for the next 9 hours!

Then it was Iraq's turn. She had been awake since 3-something in her excitement to go to her new school. We had the opportunity this year to have her go to a new (very outdoorsey and hands-on) trial program which happens to be starting out at the same school The Skink goes to! No brainer, there! It's an environmentally-based program that includes a lot of gardening and visits to the surrounding forest.

A couple of weeks ago, all Iraq's clothes were removed from her room when stuffing them all in one drawer became a strange compulsion that simply wouldn't go away... resulting in wrinkles and even small tears when some of them spilled over into the track that holds the drawer in place and got repeatedly "run over" by the edge of the drawer. (If you are a regular follower of my blog, you may remember a post not too long ago where I mentioned we thought we had finally seen the end of this compulsion. I was sadly mistaken.) At any rate, all the clothes have ended up in the master bedroom which is a pain in itself... but better than just standing by and watching the wrinkling and destruction of all those innocent clothes.

So anyway, I had laid out Iraq's 1'st-day-of-school outfit the night before. By the time we had seen The Skink off on her bus, Iraq was already dressed and ready to go... NOW! Of course "NOW" happened to be about 20 minutes before the bus was scheduled to arrive. Eating was out of the question, which worried Mom to no end. Just before running out the front door, Iraq finally agreed to eat... a green pepper. Yes - it happened to be a green pepper we grew in our own garden. Iraq has taken to picking them, rinsing them off and eating them like apples.


So off we went to the bus stop, green pepper in-hand!


Green peppers... The breakfast of Champions!
And of course because Iraq's hair is naturally straight, she made me set it up in curlers the night before so she could go to school with bouncy curls!


And then Iraq noticed the camera, and did what Iraq does best...




Until the bus came :o)


Last but not least, it was Broadway's turn. "Really, mom? You're gonna take my PICTURE?"
(Oh, YES, I am!)


Iraq was the first to get home in the afternoon. Her new school received a glowing report and she said that her class is comprised of mostly girls. Then she exclaimed excitedly, "And they all PLAYED with ME at recess."
*sigh*  That part broke my heart a bit. I have to wonder how long it will be before that changes. Even at summer camp it was not long before the other children distanced themselves from Iraq. Somewhere between her insistence on doing things a VERY CERTAIN WAY, her "unique" little compulsions, a few random outbursts and the fact that occasionally she will shut down completely - refusing to talk, look at people or be touched - other children eventually stop playing with her.
I continuously talk with her about social interaction... sharing, allowing others to decide how the pretend play progresses some times, why children become upset when she has outbursts or shuts down... but I don't think it's something she has full control over yet.

At home, Iraq's compulsions over-ride any fears she may have of punishment. Just like with the clothes - doesn't matter if we make her re-fold them all again, throw away a favorite shirt that got a hole in it or threaten to take them all away... something in her just seems to *make* her repeat the behavior over and over and over and over and...

The Skink was next to get home. I was sure she would be exhausted from her very long day, but NO! She bounded off the bus bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to play. The teacher sent a note saying that The Skink had a very good 1st day of school - Yayy!!

Broadway missed his afternoon bus and I had to go pick him up. School was "fine" and he was excited to have just found out he'll be taking Robotics this year due to a computer glitch. OK - that just sounds like a really cool class! We were hoping he would be taking drivers-ed, but apparently he's saving that until spring.

Anywhooo - otherwise, we are all doing quite well. I'm still figuring out what to do with my new-found freedom while all 3 of my little angels are off at school for the whole day. Yesterday I kicked off the school year by un-gardening... meaning I pulled up the jumbled pile of tomato plants by the side of the house that were done for the year. Today, perhaps I will focus on the potted tomatoes.  As a side-note, we started some pumpkins a few weeks ago and they are growing well in the spot we had the cantaloupes earlier in the summer. They may not be ready by Halloween, but we'll see. At very least, we should have pumpkins by Thanksgiving... mmmmmmm... pie!

The gardening project has been a good thing for Iraq, although by the end of summer rearranging the potted plants (into neat, straight lines) had become more interesting than watering them. Whatever. At least the experience provided her with breakfast for the first day of school!

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