Monday, April 25, 2011

No Small Miracle - BIG Behavioral Improvements

If you're one of my regular followers, you already know what a challenge we've been faced with in dealing with Iraq's issues. It has been an 8-year, uphill battle filled with endless tantrums, meltdowns, whining, crying and property damage. We have counted ourselves very lucky to get her into a public school that is wonderful about providing extra help and attention for her, and dealing with her kleptomania. We are lucky to have been able to move to a state (VA) that provides more assistance than TX did. We have been blessed to find a doctor who knows more about girls with Aspergers than most psychiatrists, and is willing to work hard to try to help us. Yet with all the great help, the days have been something akin to traversing Iraqi mine fields and the evenings have found us exhausted both mentally and physically... when there seems to be no end in sight, it can take a toll on a family.

Two weeks ago we had one of Iraq's monthly visits with her psychiatrist. On this visit the doctor asked (again) if we were interested in trying a medication like Abilify to see if it would help ease some of her symptoms. We have avoided this family of medications because it is known to have a number of serious and permanent side-effects like shrinkage of the white brain matter, twitches and tics that don't go away when the medication is discontinued, and weight gain.

Iraq is a skinny little thing, so the weight gain wasn't a big issue, but we feel she has enough issues without developing some lovely little twitches and tics to go along with her outrageous behavior. And brain matter shrinkage? I can't say I'm a big fan of that idea, honestly.

Yet in the throes of desperation, in the last few months I concocted my own theory. On that day I got up the nerve to bring it up with the doctor.

ADHD medication - namely Concerta. That's what Broadway is on. Why? (Hey - great question!) Well, my theory has been that if we can slow down Iraq's impulse control by just a beat, perhaps she can get a handle on her out-of-control behaviors including her kleptomania. It's a bit of a stretch, but I'm just crazy enough to come up with something like that and think it might work. I'm also desperate and unwilling to use my 7-year-old as a guinea-pig for a brain shrinkage and bodily twitching experiment.

Our fantastic doctor (after warning me at length that these types of stimulants can cause a plethora of other negative issues for children in the autism spectrum) agreed to let us try it. We started with good, old fashioned Ritalin. It's a short-acting medication so if we encountered any adverse side effects, it would wear off sooner. She was a bit skeptical, but said if it worked, she was willing to prescribe Concerta which is a timed release form of the same drug. One of Iraq's doctor's biggest concerns about trying this medication is that many children loose their appetites and loose weight - not a great thing when your child is skinny from having so many food-related dislikes.

So... On April 9th Iraq received her first dose of Ritalin.

I didn't hear angels singing or have a vision of any winged apparitions coming "unto" me, but a miracle still happened! Since Iraq started the medication (we have now progressed to the long-acting Concerta) we have had a total of 1 (one) meltdown, and it lasted 7 MINUTES! Suddenly my anxious, whiny, temperamental, Mount Vesuvius-like child is... well... so much more like a "typical" 7-year-old.

Only 2 weeks ago if we had asked Iraq to please go clean her room, the request would have been met with a whiny response that quickly morphed into a full-blown freak-out. Now, our beautiful little 7-year-old responds with a simple, "OK."

Who are you and what have you done with my daughter? On second thought, who the heck cares? Please stay a while!

It is not my intention to give anyone false hope. What works for one child may not work for another. The message I would like to share is that parents should follow their instincts. In many cases the answers are not obvious, but must be stumbled upon after years of misery after diligent effort and consideration.

Now - on a different subject, Easter was lovely! We went to Mimi and Pop's house where we enjoyed egg coloring, egg hunts, a boat ride and a delicious Easter dinner! Yum!

I have created a slide show of the photos so as not to make this post a million miles long.

See Slideshow here

For those of you who don't want to deal with the slide show, here are some highlights from the day:

The lake has become a nesting ground for Osprey.

My husband temporarily confiscated my camera. Note the "look of death" I'm giving him.

I hope everybody had a Happy Easter, and that you all see miracles in every day things!

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Cow in the Park - Moo!


First and foremost, I'm thrilled to announce that the Cutler Family from Texas will be adopting beautiful Josephine! You can see more about that HERE.

I couldn't be more happy for Josephine... or for the Cutler Family! Congratulations, Cutler Family!

Today we went to our local park, and much to our great surprise and excitement, there was a baby bull there (rumor has it he'll become a steer next week). Needless to say, The Skink was thrilled beyond belief! She was so sweet and gentle with him.

Oh... and chickens.

And back to the cow...  (as cow crazy as The Skink is, is it any surprise she couldn't get enough of the sweet little guy - who technically wasn't a "cow," but why confuse the matter with bovine gender specifications?)

And then the cow had to go home, so we played at the park for a bit.

Can you see the dragon?

On a side note, we are trying the medication Concerta with Iraq. So far it has been a successful experiment! We've only had 1 (one) meltdown in a WHOLE WEEK! That's gotta be a record for her! We are also hoping the medication will slow her down an extra beat and allow her to overcome her kleptomania impulses. (Keep your fingers crossed that her fingers become less sticky!)

We have also found a new rental house and we'll be moving in a few weeks! More on the new house in a later post!

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Josaphine Has A Family!

I don't have details yet, but I'm SO happy to announce that Josephine is now officially listed on the Reece's Rainbow "My Family Found Me" page!

I'm currently doing a Jim Carrey-style happy dance around my home office.

Thank  you to everyone who spread the word and donated to Josephine's adoption fund. I will give out more details as I learn them. Hoooorrrraaaaayyyyyy!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Cleaning Challenge!

It's that time of year again! Time to sweep winter's dust out of the house and let in the sun and fresh air!

I know over the past weeks I've been calling upon my friends to make a donation to beautiful Josephine's adoption fund. This little girl is so much like my own beautiful Skink, I ache inside knowing what she could be faced with if we can't find an adoptive family for her and raise funds to help that family bring her home. See THIS post for details on Josephine's situation.

I also know that like me, many of you don't have a lot of extra cash lying around. You may figure that there are so many children in need out there, you just can't help them all. I understand. I really do! So what if I had a neat suggestion that could make it easier to come up with $10 - $50 to help out - and with NO hit to your bank account?

Here's Josephine's Spring Cleaning Challenge:
Sometime when the kids are at school, napping or otherwise engaged in some (somewhat safe and non-destructive) activity (assuming you have kids), sneak into their rooms and look for cute-but-outgrown clothes and the toys that they haven't really played with in about 6 months or more. C'mon - you know there are some in there! Maybe a lot more than you know. All those things like the extra set of crib bedding that never got used, the Easter or Christmas clothes from last year, the Halloween costume that will never fit again, the baby crib toys that currently have no other use than giving your kid something to step on to climb out of the crib and OH! That toy that Uncle Bubba sent for Christmas that makes that horrible noise you can't stand! Yes! THOSE items!

Now... Put 'em in a box! Or a bag. Or a pillowcase. And here's what you do...

In may cities and towns across the US, there are children's resale shops (and no, they don't resell used children). They go by names like "Cutie-Patootie Kids" and "Once Upon A Child." Find one and take the toys, clothes, furniture, shoes, and horrible-torturous-noise-making-devices to it. They will hand you CASH for these items! Yes - even the one that makes that horrible sound! Now - donate the amount they give you to Josephine's fund!

Can't find a children's resale shop? Put the stuff out on Craig's List or set the items in your front yard this Saturday. People will give you money for them! Don't have kids? I'll bet YOU have some odds and ends you really don't need any more... don't you. Don't you?

Now you have a slightly less-cluttered home, and Josephine's adoption fund is a little larger! It's a Win-Win situation!

Once you do that, go leave a comment on Marianne's Blog (click here) and for your cleaning efforts you could win a $50 gift certificate to Starbucks or Subway! How cool is that?

We may not be able to save them all, but I have to believe there's something great about doing something to help! Call it good Karma, call it God's work, call it your good deed for the day. What ever you call it, you are helping to show that this little girl matters.

 Click on the button to go to Josephine's donation page!

Now - doesn't it feel nice to get that "freshly-cleaned good Karma" feeling just for getting rid of that noisy toy that you hated anyway?

Thank you for helping Josephine, and enjoy your less-cluttered (and quieter) house!

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Very Quick Aulancraphobia Update!

I briefly mentioned in THIS post that The Skink had an irrational fear of bagpipes (code name: Aulancraphobia). This phobia was most unhelpful at the recent St. Patrick's Day parade where she turned into a pile of quivering goo in my lap whenever the bagpipe groups came by.

But... The Skink came up with a plan! I have an educational App on my iPhone called "SoundTouch." It has all sorts of pictures of everything from animals to vehicles to musical instruments and when touched, the child can listen to the sound.

Well - for the past few days, The Skink has been taking part in self-assigned immersion therapy. Yup - my brilliant little girl has taken the bull by the horns and made herself look at and listen to bagpipes over and over and over on my iPhone!

I daresay that at next year's St. Patrick's Day parade, she'll be the one yelling, "Bring on the bagpipes!" which will leave my lap open for my older daughter who doesn't handle anything loud well...

We'll just take it one phobia at a time!

Don't forget to help spread the word about Josephine! Click on her picture for more information!

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

As the Years Pass

I find it interesting... the older I get, the less interested I am in "celebrating" my birthday. I'm still OK with what I see in the mirror, but "happy birthdays" are for kids. I mean, should I really be happy that I'm another year closer to getting to order off the seniors menu?

The Skink playing with Mimi this past weekend.

We spent the past weekend at Mimi and Pop's house where I took lots of pictures with my new birthday present (more on that in a bit) and avoided checking my mailbox.

Though that sounds random, have you ever noticed how certain businesses love to send birthday cards? "Hey! Happy 42nd birthday! You know what that means? Time to call us and set up an appointment to let us feel you up and then smash the living crud out of your boobies for your yearly mammogram!"

"Happy Birthday!" I bet you're feeling like you're 100, so c'mon in to Smith Chiropractic and we'll make you feel like your 80 again!"

"Happy Birthday! You're getting up there, so come in to Albert's Optometry and check out our new line of hideous bifocals that should help hide some of those wrinkles!"

I also got lots of well-wishes from wonderful friends who hoped I would have a good birthday. Nobody died, so I'd say in the greater scheme of things it was "good." The proverbial icing on the cake was when I got to take Iraq to WalMart to return an item she had shoplifted the evening before when we went there to purchase the non-diet cake that I really shouldn't have eaten. Fun times! As she is in the Autism spectrum, words don't come easily to her in new and uncomfortable situations, so I had her write a letter:

"Dear Walmart, I am vary sory I stole this while you wernt looking. I promise not to do it agan. Iraq"

The people behind the Customer Service desk fought to keep straight faces. They tried hard to look stern as they accepted her apology and we took the walk-of-shame back out to the parking lot. I really hope this facet of her "issues" goes away. Far, far away.

Aside from getting un-younger, this year I was surprised by my awesome hubby with a new camera! No - those geese above did not let me walk up to them and take their pictures. This thing has a 35x zoom! I haz a happy! He also sent me flowers! Best birthday since I got my first pony when I turned 13!

And this morning I got a compliment... As I was putting The Skink on the bus at 6:15 a.m., the bus driver asked if I just had my two girls. I responded that no, I actually also had a 16-year-old boy too. The bus driver and her aide looked at each other with "that look" and back at me. I could totally see (to my great pleasure) that they were assuming I must have had him... young... so I quickly interjected that Wednesday was my 42nd birthday and that I had been 26 when I had him. They both paused and together said, "Really?"

All I can say is that I'm loving the soft, dim light at 6:15 in the morning!

So, although I just celebrated the 21st anniversary of my 21st birthday, it's all good. Something about having younger children at this age keeps a person younger (and reintroduces one to the joys of mid-day napping before the bus brings them back!).

And don't think for a moment that if we were in a better place financially, we wouldn't be making this little pumpkin part of our family also!

Marianne who adopted little Darya from Eastern Europe is helping me raise funds for Josephine. Check out her giveaway of $50 gift certificates for Starbucks and Subway at her blog, A Home For Darya!

The best birthday present I could get would be to see adorable Josephine's adoption fund grow! That, and finding a family (of any age) who can adopt her!

I'll be announcing more giveaways soon on my blog too. Don't forget to check out my current giveaway for cute toddler bedding HERE.

And remember... you're only as old as you pretend to be!

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