Jump!

“Oh he’ll grow out of it.”

In seven years, I’ve heard that more than I can count. But in seven years, there have been moments when I’ve thought “Nope. This isn’t a grow-out-of situation.” That thought is shortly followed by a story about how their child used to be afraid of some inane thing and how they were able to tell their child to just buck up and get over it. Good for them. That’s not how it works here.

Liam was officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder last year and now I understand why fear and anxiety have been a far more constant presence in our lives than the lives of our friends. It certainly doesn’t mean that I’ve got everything under control, but I can see his reasoning behind our chaos much more clearly now.

For instance, we started Liam in swim lessons when he was two. He just started swimming this summer. In the space between then, he’s screamed and cried, clung to the wall, the instructor and myself. This year, he’s been doing private lessons and group lessons. In the last week, he’s had two panic attacks related to the pool. We keep working at it and have spent a great deal of time making goals and talking about how we are going to accomplish them.

Today, at the end of swim lessons, the lifeguards told the kids they were able to jump off the diving board. Every child except Liam jumped. At the end of his private lesson, his teacher again told him he was ready to jump. He walked over and I ruined it. I realized what was happening, wanted to catch it on camera and spooked him. He tried twice over the course of the next hour. Half of that time I spent treading water in the 12-foot deep end trying to provide the security he needed.

After supper we returned to the pool, this time with Liam saying he was ready to jump. Ready to jump for him meant an additional 15 minutes of him standing on the edge of the diving board shaking and trying to work up the nerve to jump while we filmed. And cheered. And encouraged.

He did it. It took years of encouragement… this is not hyperbole, we’ve been working to get him to jump for years. A little girl did not get to jump because he took so long and her mom wanted to leave. The pool’s diving coach got into the water and waited for him for almost ten minutes.

When you have a child with an anxiety disorder, every little challenge that is met graciously by a stranger is a beautiful moment. I’ve had many moments of frustration and embarrassment, but tonight, I watched two lifeguards show my son love. He looks so normal that people see his fearful expressions as him being spoiled or whiny. They don’t hear his whispered fears in between the sobs. They don’t realize how wiped out he is from the effort to even try. He can’t see his hands shaking in fear.

Today, Liam jumped off the diving board. I asked him if he wanted to do it again. He said no. And it’s ok. When he’s ready to, it won’t be his first time. He’s already done for the first time. Sometimes, the first time is the hardest. And I have it on video for him to relive whenever he wants.

Orange Stripe

As I type, I’m hiding in my bed. The kids are watching tv and Matt’s grilling steaks. I’m tired. I anticipate being more tired tomorrow. Severe storms are expected to roll through after 11 and with those, I always find myself awake for hours with frightened children. Such is life, no?

Liam was awarded his Orange Stripe tonight in his jiujitsu class. I’m proud of him. We’ve been in a cycle of testing and analyzing and figuring out for months now and it was nice to walk in, sit down and know he would take his test and pass.

Yesterday, drove back up to the neurologist for a full report on the testing they did for him last month. As Liam has gotten older, the effects of his brain injury at 22 months have become more obvious. And as school has become more complex, I’ve been concerned. Overall, I wasn’t really told anything I didn’t already know, but at the same time, it confirmed that I need to make some changes to some things, but celebrate that others are exactly what he needs.

Liam was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder last year and works regularly with a cognitive behavioral therapist. She has really helped his quality of life and while he still struggles a great deal, he is no longer obsessed with having a stroke, so for that I’m grateful. The days can be very long and on ones like today when he is pushed beyond his comfort (albeit for something valuable like a swimming lesson), he is miserable to be around because he struggles with re-centering his mindset and continues to function at a very tense level. At least 4-5 nights a week he cannot sleep for hours and I’m working on his routine to try and help the insomnia without having to medicate him for sleep.

During the evaluation, they discovered that he has a language processing disorder and ADD. I will admit that the ADD diagnosis took me by surprise. Even though I know he has trouble concentrating and is very unlikely to focus for any length of time, I’ve accepted that as part and parcel with the head injury fallout. It’s our life. However, medications can help to straighten out those neural pathways so that instead of his brain jumping all over the place, it can actually complete a thought or task now. Taking a pill was a hard task for him and continues to be, however, his medication has improved the quality of his life immensely (and by default mine as well).

Prior to medication, he would take 10 minutes to struggle through reading 3 sentences. Now, three weeks later, he is reading chapter books. I showed him how to “carry the 1″ while we were doing math last night and he grasped the concept. And it wasn’t a struggle. We have been trying to help him adapt to the effects of a brain injury for 5 years, and finally we are on the right path.

Next on the docket though is to get a spine MRI done to check on the nerve development. His somatic response to pain stimuli is extreme and he is still highly monitored for intestinal function. He also is in for another OT/PT referral since the dyspraxia/hypotonia is worse having discontinued therapy. I also need to reassess his math curriculum to see if I can find something that is more effective for his learning needs. He’s been doing Saxon and is about 3/4 of the way through the second grade material, but he is not retaining the math facts. Anything logic based, he can do and do well, but when it comes to the rote memory, it’s not so hot.

I had envisioned writing this post with great joy and excitement that we had all the answers and knew what steps we were to be taking next. I don’t quite feel that way. Dyspraxia. Sensory Integration Disorder. Attention Deficit Disorder. Language Processing Disorder. Hypotonia. I have read the diagnostic sheet over and over. Each child is different and while there are recommendations, there aren’t set-in-stone steps… I want that, but I won’t get it just yet. Instead of feeling like all the proverbial ducks are in a row, I feel more like the ducks are headed toward the row. We can do this. We will do this.

In light of all, I decided to start documenting our life again. I’ve been wanting to return to blogging, but didn’t know what I’d talk about. Here it is: Life. We will beginning our third year of homeschooling in August, this time with a second grader and a kindergartner. Liam is learning to play guitar. Both kids are swimming. Liam is in jiujitsu. Sylvia is in ballet. Our garden is growing. I killed my sourdough starter. There are things to talk about and milestones to celebrate. So I will do just that.

Dance Mom

This weekend was the weekend I’ve been dreaming of since Sylvia was born. Ballet recital weekend. I’ve been looking forward to these days for quite a while and was just over-the-moon when we finally arrived at the date. Sylvia skipped into the venue with our make up and costume and many expectations for a wonderful evening.

But you see, ballet moming is not for the faint of heart. Oh my. I didn’t realize that a two hour performance requires 5 hours of my presence and attention. Also, the dressing room may have been an entrance to Hell given the temperature that we could decrease regardless of attempts. I was not aware of how many times tiny ballerinas need to go to the bathroom while fully dressed and perfectly bunned. It’s a lot.

So I left on Friday night, exhausted and hot. Sylvia fell asleep in the car on the way home and I did little more than remove her makeup before putting her to bed. I then crawled in bed myself, grateful that I have served my time and would be able to sit out in the audience on Saturday and just enjoy. At 430am, she woke me up with the announcement that she was going to throw up. And she did. A lot.

We made the trek back to the recital the following day with a bucket, a roll of paper towels and the prayer that she wouldn’t puke on stage. You know what? She didn’t. And she went out on that stage with a big smile on her face and danced her heart out. She came off the stage and said she was ready to go home. I’m proud of her her being brave and dancing on stage like that, but I’m even more proud that she realized how tough she actually is. It’s no fun to perform when you don’t feel well (trust me, lots of experience) and yet she did it with so much grace and maturity.

Despite my personal discomfort this weekend, I have never been so impressed. I grew up dancing for a studio that prided itself on perfection, so I had expectations of what ballet would be like for her. Almost every expectation I’ve had has been flawed. During her tech rehearsal, the director sat the little girls down and talked to them about how to take care of their bodies: eating good meals with lots of protein, making sure they were hydrated and resting every night leading up to the performance.

Mistakes were made. Sylvia’s class is 4 and 5 year olds. But not once was it ever mentioned. Instead, her teacher and the directors focused on how proud they were of each child. I have walked off a stage to criticism and was so delighted that Sylvia didn’t have that experience. In fact, as she and I were talking about the show yesterday, she mentioned that she made a mistake during her dance and then said “but it’s ok because I didn’t let it stop me“.

I’m so proud of her. And even more grateful that we chose a studio that is helping me build her up like this. Even if it means sweating half my body weight out in a cramped dressing room. I hope I can be a dance mom for… ever.

Hello?

I know. It’s been almost a year since I last wrote. But I’m back. I think. I just can’t let go of this blog quite yet. The Pug certainly cannot let go of the kitchen.

In the time since I last wrote, I’ve started working part time for Moms Clean Air Force here in Ohio. I love it. So much that I went on our local tv station and was interviewed for the show “I Love my Job”. It airs next week and until then, I’ll be wondering if I actually sounded as awkward and nerdy as I do in my head. Also, there was no mirror with which to check my hair or teeth… I am legitimately afraid.

Today, I pulled everything out of the school closet and organized it. And while I love it’s newly cleaned appearance, I’m sad. No one needs the letter matching cards or color puzzles any more. It’s as though they grew up without letting me know it was happening. I mean, I packed the diapers up a few years ago and the last time Sylvia had a stomach bug, she took care of herself and I didn’t clean up puke once. But the realization of how much they’ve grown up seems to be all sorts of raw lately.

Liam’s last day of school for the 2015-2016 year is Friday. Since August we have completed the entire 1st grade Saxon math curriculum and half of the 2nd grade material. We have completed all of the All About Spelling level 1 book and are several lessons into level 2. We’ve gone through world geography and cultures. We’ve completed the Apologia botany curriculum. We learned a ton about space. Starting next week we will just be reading and working on math on a daily basis. Liam’s short term memory isn’t the best and I just can’t stand the thought of him sitting in front of a math book in a few months unable to recall what he had previously excelled at.

Sylvia will graduate from preschool in three weeks. I hate to say it, but I am done. The three of us have a lovely daily routine with schooling and my work and their activities and play. Interrupting that loveliness three times a week has gotten old. And yet, today, she and I went over her letter recognition and sounds. She blew me away. Preschool has been good for her. And honestly, it’s been good for me. But it’s the end of the school year, folks. Mom. Is. Out.

So. I’m back. It’s feels good to type in this space again. And to get those thoughts out of my head. Tonight, I’m going to be brave and attempt to make gluten free wonton wrappers. I’ve haven’t been brave in a long time. It’s time to step out once again and be fearless.

On Why I Care SO Much About Climate Change

Moms Clean Air Force director, Dominique Browning, opened the press conference, surrounded by 500 passionate moms, fathers, children, nurses, reporters all hoping to communicate our goal clearly and effectively!

A week ago, I woke up in a hotel room in Washington D.C. I was there to participate in the Moms Clean Air Force Play-in for Climate Change. I had left my home and gotten on a plane… two, in fact… to participate in this event. I haven’t flown in nine years due to an extreme fear and the lucky excuse of having small children who don’t travel well. Yet, there I was, miles away from home because the issue of Climate Change is very important to me.

I suppose I’m a bit of an anomaly. I’m Baptist. I’m Republican. I’m Ohioan. On paper, those three details do not make an environmentalist. But not shown on said paper is my background as a biologist. What does not show are the months/years I spent following around my ecology professor asking endless questions, reading studies and soaking in lectures. What you cannot see are the weekends I spent as a college student doing lake monitoring, cleaning up creek beds in Tulsa or recording data about the wetlands. And before, you don’t see the teenager pestering her Biology teacher to explain how micro-evolution works when species are exposed to chemicals in their environment.

Four years ago, I was introduced to Moms Clean Air Force. I had an infant and a toddler. I was terrified of driving in traffic. I was afraid of navigating Columbus to attend group meetings. But what I was not afraid of was calling up to the Ohio Senate and talking to staffers for my congressmen. I was not afraid to educate them, ask questions about their standing on coal fired power plants. And when the opportunity came to go and speak to these politicians in person came, I got in my car and drove downtown… during morning rush hour. As the years have passed, I’ve gotten to be involved in ways that my biology degree did not prepare me for… I blew my senior presentation despite having two semesters of oral communication classes as preparation. {Apparently, I talk at mach speeds when I’m nervous and have yet to really conquer that.} I’ve discovered how much I actually enjoy speaking in front of people. Especially when I get to talk about science.

That’s the thing. Climate Change is actually science. It’s not an excuse. It’s not emotional {although sometimes I get choked up talking about the effects of climate change on our children}. It’s not a hoax. And it most certainly is not something that is politically one-sided. We are all impacted whether we “believe” it or not. As I type, a series of strong storms are headed my way. Did you know that as the temperature on earth increases, it adds moisture to the air? The moisture in the air joins our water cycle {a favorite topic of mine, so if you have questions, I love to talk!} increasing the intensity of our storms. That being said, the next time a nasty storm heads your way, or the forecast shows snow for days, stop whining. Call your senators and ask them to consider their position on pollution. In addition to making our air nasty, pollution creates what could be described as a fuzzy blanket around the earth, trapping the heat and moisture.

It doesn’t matter if you in New York or Amish Country, Ohio. We are all impacted by the pollution in our air. Some to a greater degree than others {I’m looking at you China}, but it is incredibly foolish to think that just because we may not live in an area with poor air quality, we are not effected. Those particles are in the air and the air moves. And fyi: state boundaries mean nothing to particulates traveling on the breeze. So it’s time to stop pointing fingers and stand up. If you live in an area of good air quality, consider yourself lucky, but don’t forget about the children suffering from asthma who aren’t as fortunate you. Aren’t quite sure what all the fuss is about? Check out this page for plenty of info on health, climate change, pollution and extreme weather. Read up and educate yourself. Gather your friends and take a stand. And call me. I’ll stand with you!