Building Traditions

My Mom’s last Christmas, 2007.

December 1st is two short days away. In my family, that is the traditional start of the Christmas season. Our Advent calender will be hung. We will start to decorate, make ornaments, and bake. Most importantly, it will be time to focus on other people.

Children learn by seeing and doing. With my first family, we went to down to Myrtle Beach, every year, a full week before Christmas. We spent that week at Helping Hands, stocking shelves, sorting, wrapping, and delivering gifts, filling holiday baskets. The smallest kids could help people carry their stuff to the car and wish them a Merry Christmas. All the kids would help deliver Christmas to those families having the hardest times- everything from church clothes and shoes, to lovingly wrapped gifts that they had wrapped themselves. Bags and bags of groceries. A live Christmas tree and handmade decorations to decorate it. Always a star for the top. My children still remember these days vividly and their first true awareness that not everyone had it as good as us. We weren’t typical and life for them was difficult compared to the children they interacted with every day, but they learned that there were a lot of people that weren’t as fortunate as they were. When everything was done at Helping Hands, usually Christmas Eve afternoon, my extended family would go back to my parents. There we would put up our tree and decorate it, there would be large trays of lasagna in the oven, and we would make the 7 o’clock service at my father’s church. Our family belonged to many different denominations and each year, we would rotate which church we went to for Christmas morning service.

We don’t do Helping Hands anymore. My parents and brothers are all gone. However, Christmas is still Christmas. We want our current family to have traditions and experience Christmas as a season of celebrating the Christ child, building family connections, and service to others. GB could not cope with the chaos of Helping Hands. Helping Hands could not cope with the chaos of Hope. One of our local kids, a ten year old boy who is autistic, has a yearly project of collecting donations and distributing Christmas bags to struggling families. This year I am picking up 50 gifts and on Saturday, the girls and I will spend the afternoon wrapping them. While we are wrapping them, we will talk about why we help people who are struggling have a little brightness in their season. MK will share her memories of Christmas’ working at Helping Hands.

Family traditions change. You keep the values that are important.

My Troll Comes A Calling

I was feeling overwhelmed when I wrote my last post. Just to make my day, one of my all time favorite trolls left me a comment. Some of what she said was true. I have a hard time taking her seriously, though. The header on her site says, and this IS a quote, “My home, my blog, my opinions. I will not post any pro-adoption comments. This is not a forum for debate.” Nothing like a closed mind to start a discussion.

It is one of those days..

Maybe its the post holiday blues. I did not do Black Friday madness, but my 20 year old nephew did. I waited up for him to get home and it almost three before I got to bed. Maybe it is just tiredness.

Hope is playing up to everybody, except for  gunning for me and GB. Thanksgiving Day Hope scratched GB and left a 4 inch mark. When I tried to talk to Hope, she took a swing at me. The Dad told me to back off and leave her alone. Yesterday, GB left a scratch on Hope. The Dad was all over her, reduced her to tears and removed her from the group. Never mind that Hope was not where she was suppose to be. At bedtime, GB still hadn’t recovered. My sister’s oldest and youngest are both special needs, though bio kids. The 14 year old and GB have always been oil and water. Visits have gotten harder lately, instead of easier.

I am feeling isolated today and hear that two bedroom apartment calling GB and I by name. Hope and I did well this week and in 24 hours, I am back to wondering why I bother trying.

I will post again when I can shake the negativity I am feeling.

We Started Thanksgiving Early

This morning the alarm went off, we were awake, and decided not to get up. GB joined us first. The three of us stayed in bed and cuddled and talked. GB worried about the bus, but the Dad told her not to worry, he would drive them. Hope joined us. We spent some more time in bed, cuddling and talking. When we finally felt like it, we got up and got ready for our days. The girls collected their book bags. GB took care of Ellie. We all went out to breakfast, and enjoyed more leisurely conversation. When everybody was ready, we dropped the girls at school.

Tonight, after Therapy Tuesday (UGH), we will leave to visit my sister for Thanksgiving. There is much to be thankful for.

The CSE and Our Bottom Line

Today the girls quarterly Program Review CSE meeting finally took place. We made my before Thanksgiving deadline. Hope was my primary concern this time. My will-not-accept-no-as-an-answer position on Hope was she needed to receive more speech. They gave us more speech.

GB’s meeting was a pleasure. They were able to explain to me all of the details for her current reading program and which person is accountable for each piece of it. The reading specialist, who is the new member of the team, said she thought that GB would mainstream into third grade beautifully. I didn’t have to say anything as the rest of GB’s team told the reading specialist that GB couldn’t function in a classroom with that many  people. Everybody  commented on the big difference they have seen in GB the last 4 weeks. I took notes, and nodded at each person. Mr. Teacher told the rest of the committee about the medication change and his opinion that getting GB off Invega and Risperdal had a lot to do with it. Her current IEP did not have her social goals well spelled out. The committee took the time to spell them out and assign responsibility for overseeing them. We will meet again the end of January.

Hope’s meeting was not a pleasure. While Ms Very Young Teacher was reporting on the difficulties Hope has been having, the speech teacher interrupted several times to say that Hope’s emotional and behavioral difficulties were responsible for Hope’s difficulties making herself understood. The speech teacher also asked about mainstreaming as Hope had been mainstreamed last year. Ms. VY Teacher said Hope was starting to be comfortable enough in her class that her problems were easily apparent and she would not recommend mainstreaming until Hope developed more appropriate coping mechanisms. The therapist strongly supported her position. We spoke about the ongoing battle over home work. It was decided that we would set a timer and tell Hope she had 30 minutes to complete her homework. When the timer goes off, homework will go into her book bag. Anything not complete or incorrect will be completed at school the morning during the class’ free time. The therapist also suggested using the timer at dinner. Set it for thirty minutes and when the timer goes off, her dinner is over and the plate removed. I agreed to try it. The speech teacher reported that Hope was not progressing as fast as she should because she was a “slow starter” and for the first 10-12 minutes of every session it was as if Hope had never had speech before. Since the sessions are only 30 minutes long, that mean the first 1/3 of every session is nonproductive by the speech teacher’s own report. The speech teacher did not see the need to increase Hope’s speech sessions because she only tests with a moderate articulation disorder. The rest of the committee used her words (and my analysis) to justify increasing her speech. If I still do not see progress by the next meeting, I am going to request that either Hope be moved to GB’s speech therapist, or an outside, independent evaluation be done. Hopefully, speech 3 x a week will be enough to make some progress. I let the CSE know that Hope is being weaned off the Risperdal, with no replacement med in sight, so I expect things to get more difficult.

We are now free to enjoy the holidays. Our next scheduled battle meeting for both girls is the end of January, 2012.

Staying In the Moment

The Dad went out to dinner with friends tonight. He fed the girls and got them in pajamas first. The Dad definitely needed the socializing more than I did. The girls watched a fairy movie on Disney  and there were only a few flare-ups. When the movie was over, I gave then their meds and said bed time. Hope flipped. She was not tired, she was not going to bed with out her father and I couldn’t make her. I said “bed” and she started screaming and hitting.I forced a PRN into her and set her down. She screamed, cried, and threatened me for 45 minutes. As the PRN started working, there were pauses between her outbursts. When we had 3 minutes of silence, I quietly told her to go to bed. She did. I got through this evening by staying in the moment.

She is asleep and I am angry. I am so tired of being abused by a six year old- traumatized or not. Tomorrow is a new day. I am taking the morning to myself. Hopefully, that will be enough for a fresh start. I am not Christine. Now I need to try to sleep.