Monday, December 26, 2011

New Year's Resolutions are for schmucks!

This looks good to me!

It's that time of year again. The time when we all tell ourselves (and everyone within earshot) just how dramatically our life is about to change. Of course it is. Of course we do. Just like we did the last twenty New Year’s eves. And how well did all of THOSE turn out? Many of us are fantastic resolution makers. Beyond that, not so good. The making, good. The doing, not so good.

January is the "official" start time for change.  A new year, a new you and all that jazz-you know the story.But  if you really think about it- shouldn't you be making changes all year long?  Why the hell are you waiting till the end of the year or the start of a new year? If your life was screwed  up before 12/31, its going to be screwed up going into the new year.  "But this year will be different!" you are probably saying or thinking as you read this. I truly wish you the best of luck with that. I know for myself- making a "resolution" is basically setting myself up for failure- because NOBODY holds me to higher standards than me- so when I fail- I fail HARD.

I have come to the realization that if you make a resolution you might as well throw a penny in a fountain and make a wish. It’s the same hopeful optimism that drives both activities. No "resolution" will work unless you have formulated a plan- written it down and gave yourself reasonable time to complete it.  And I repeat- why didn't you (or I) do this earlier in the year? I have needed to lose weight ALL YEAR. I have needed to quit smoking ALL YEAR. I have needed to save money and take better control of my finances ALL YEAR.  The changing of the calendar after drinking, eating and smoking to my heart's content is not magical in itself.  If only! Then  we would all be thin beautiful, rich non smokers and there would be peace on Earth yadda yadda yadda.

If I am going to try to better myself, I should be doing it year-round. It should be a constant goal, not something marked on a calendar. I know that these things need to start at some point, and what I need to do. I also know that falling on my ass and looking like a total schmuck and then beating myself up over my dismal failure  is not a good strategy.  

So despite an abysmal track record and a vast wasteland of shattered dreams, we continue to approach every New Year the same way; with the same pointless strategy. Isn't the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome? So that must mean that a whole bunch of us are off our nut insane because that’s exactly what we do. 

So my only "resolution" this year is going to be very vague- I resolve to do some things over the course of the year to make my life better. There.  Now I am gonna go have a cigarette, drink this bizarre concoction that my neighbor Paul just brought me, and then probably eat something fattening. Happy Freakin New Year. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dear Santa

Dear Santa:

I won't say I have been necessarily GOOD this year- but I certainly haven't been BAD either. I gave of myself, my time and talents, and there are just a couple of things I would like for Christmas- if you can swing them that is.

1) Family members that pick up their own crap- without being told 10 times.

2) The student loan money I so desperately need so I can finish this damn degree and start actually making real money in a career I love

3) A successful weight loss plan that doesn't involve hair falling out stress or illegal drugs. 

4) My husband to stop asking me what needs to be done around the house. YOU LIVE HERE!!! FIGURE IT OUT!!!

5) Teenage daughter to stop destroying the 5K I invested in her mouth by not wearing her retainers. 

6) Same teenage daughter to stop being so against showering and cleaning her room.

7) (nearly) 21 year old TO MOVE THE HELL OUT!!  

8) 9 year old to finally learn to tie his shoes. Autism, schmautism  he CAN do it.

9) Asshole neighbors to get their illegal landscaping leveled so my back yard won't rival Lake Michigan this spring. 

10) Extended family to stop treating us like lepers and actually hang out with MY kids once in awhile- without us having to resort to begging and planning a year in advance. 

I know you are busy, and a lot of folks are asking for a lot of things. This list is in order by priority- so let's just say Top 5?  I get screwed every year for my birthday and Mother's Day- so it would be nice if I could be recognized this year.  Just a little- I mean Christmas is all for my kiddos- and I don't want to steal their thunder- so just a wee bit- ok?

I made some pretty awesome cookies for ya- and screw the milk- I am leaving a bottle of my favorite wine for you this year. Just don't drink too much and ...ummm... sleigh?


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Beaded Ornaments and Bubble Lights

Traditions. Everyone has a few.  And during the holiday season, perhaps more than any other time of year, we relive our childhood by sharing traditions with our families, as well as making our own.

Some of my favorite holiday memories growing up included baking, decorating and lots and lots of Christmas music. Decorating the Christmas tree has got to be one of my single most cherished memories. We always got a real tree- and not from a tree lot either. Oh no- my parents packed the family up, packed a lunch and drove to the mountains and cut down a tree.

I remember literally vibrating with anticipation- waiting for the tree to be put up. Giggling quietly with my mom listening to my dad untangle the lights.  My sister and I helping to get the boxes and boxes of handmade ornaments out, dimly hearing her voice giving instructions on placement of said ornaments. I had my favorites that I insisted on putting on the tree- and the fact that it irritated the hell out of my older sister was just a bonus.

Not enough!
The hot chocolate would be made for us kids, the hot toddy's for the adults, Christmas music cranked up-  it was a wonderful time. Until it got to the tinsel part- and that was always a battle between my mom and I - I loved to just THROW the stuff everywhere... my mom was a "draper" each strand had to be just right. (I have since abandoned the tinsel tradition- when I realized what a damn mess it was to clean!)

Like this- but more ornate

Many years have passed. My mom passed away 10 years ago. I have developed many traditions with my own family, as well as incorporating from mine and my husband's. The tree is still quite possibly my favorite. I have a ton of ornaments, but the ones I really miss are the beautiful handmade ones that always adorned the Christmas trees of my childhood. Some of you may remember- giant Styrofoam balls- with long, decorative stick pins and a ton of beads?  The heavy salt dough reindeer, some painted, some au natural.  The stained glass ornaments. Each one with a story, each one precious.

Remember the bubbling Christmas lights? They are making a comeback now- but when I was growing up- they were so unique and cool... I remember my dad making sure they were all upright so they would bubble right!

Well- I don't have One. Single. Ornament. NOT ONE. When we lost mom- my freeloading sister and her family swooped in and moved into my childhood home. My dad eventually met someone and moved on, and out. But my sister got the house for NOTHING and everything in it. I have never seen one of my mom's ornaments, never been offered any of them- I mean- with only 2 of us we could have split them up, right? Not to sound all vulture-like- because, honestly, I didn't even think about this until mom had been gone for 5 years- and only then because my grandma asked me if I ever got any of them.

I have precious few tangible objects that belonged to my mom. I wish I did. The family fell apart after she died- and  an already strained relationship with my sister turned hostile, and is now non-existent.

At Christmas time- I miss those things...A LOT.  The ornaments, the lights, the  hand made ceramic Christmas  decorations all through the house. Silly, I mean, they are only things. I DO  have the exquisite hand made counted cross stitch stockings that she and my Grandma made. And believe me- they are one of a kind and something I am insanely proud of. But I would really, Really, REALLY  like to have just a few of the ornaments and decorations. She can have the bulk of them- I would just like a few of my favorites- and my school made ornaments. If they are even still around.

So I will bake the cookies, and share stories with my kids about their Nana.  I am certain that she is all around me all the time and is proud of me and my little family. Maybe someday I will get the ornaments- probably in time for Teenzilla to be grown and starting her own Christmas traditions.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ADHD: To medicate or not? That is the question

My son is autistic, ADHD with a little OCD for flavor. We found all of this out between the ages of 3 and 4. And since he turned 5 he has taken medication to help with the ADHD.

Now hear my story before jumping to self righteous conclusions. We sit and we judge and we think we have all the answers because we read some article about how ALL kids should be X, Y, and Z and ALL parents should do A, B, and C. But the truth is, when it is your child, those lines and rules are a lot grayer. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our kids do not fit into the world’s little boxes. A LOT of study and research went into starting him on stimulant medication so young. If you follow my blog at all, you know that I am the QUEEN of research, and nothing makes me happier than immersing myself in it. So we tried EVERYTHING for him to avoid meds. Diet, supplements, behavior modifications, "all natural" remedies, yoga...and while each of these things helped a little- we knew that once he started school we were going to be in for trouble.

The autism for instance made it extremely difficult to distinguish behaviors- well, not for us, but for teachers it would. The meds we grudgingly started giving him did NOTHING for the autistic behaviors-they weren't supposed to and we knew that. BUT- what they DID do was Slow.Him.Down. He was seriously like the Tasmanian Devil- he NEVER stopped- and I am not talking fidgeting either.. I am talking RUNNING. CONSTANTLY. Zero impulse control. ALWAYS moving....even in his sleep.
 Now- check out these similarities between Autism and ADHD:

Autism Behavioral Checklist

Difficulty mixing with other children;
No real fear of danger;
Tantrums: displays extreme distress for no apparent reason,
Inappropriate giggling or laughing,
May not want cuddling or act cuddly,
Noticeable physical overactivity or extreme underactivity;
Little or no eye contact,
Works impulsively; often makes careless mistakes: work is sloppy,
Uneven gross/fine motor skills

ADHD Behavioral ChecklistCannot talk or play quietly; disrupts others with talk or actions,
Difficult awaiting turn in games or activities,
Engages in potentially dangerous activities,
Plays without normal caution or consideration of consequences,
Severe temper tantrums,
Interrupts, disrupts, talks and acts inappropriately,
When younger, difficulty accepting soothing or holding,
Always on the move, overactive, even during sleep,
Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly,
Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in school work or other activities,
Uneven gross/fine motor skills.

Kind of scary isn't it? Too often, difficult children are incorrectly labeled with ADHD. On the other hand, many children who do have ADHD remain undiagnosed. In either case, related learning disabilities or mood problems are often missed. LIKE AUTISM. We were told by the school initially that The Boy was simply ADHD- something I questioned immediately- because last I checked you are a school NOT A DAMN DOCTOR. This is after two neurologists told us it WAS autism AND ADHD.  Hmmmm..... interesting. Then there was the fight for the DOCTOR's diagnosis not to be trumped by the SCHOOL.... yes that was an issue- but a blog for another day.

Back to the decision to medicate The Boy. When we saw a HUGE improvement in his ability to sit and focus, it was a no brainer. We didn't do it to make OUR lives easier,although that was a by product,  and we certainly didn't do it because the teacher wanted little robots that never misbehaved- we did it because we SAW that it improved his QUALITY OF LIFE. Being able to focus made it easier for him to LEARN, kept him from being "in trouble" all the time, and made a difference in his social interactions- which due to his Autism were already difficult enough. 

I currently work with a child who is EXTREMELY ADHD, very immature for his age, and most likely dealing with some emotional impairments as well. It is clear he is NOT medicated at all- and I wish I knew why. I know there are some other conditions , such as Bipolar Disorder that make taking a stimulant drug impossible. Allergic reactions also prohibit taking the stimulant drugs. I don't know if this is the case with this child, but he breaks my heart. He screams, he can't focus, he can't sit still, he drives his peers nuts. He is a target for bullies. Even his parents don't act happy to see him. This poor kid has it rough- because this is not his fault. I know and understand.   

This could be my kid- if we chose not to medicate. Now, medication isn't a cure- we also do behavioral therapy as well, this is VERY important. Meds alone will NOT help LONG TERM. They treat the SYMPTOMS - not the disorder itself. Teaching a child how to cope with life in general is crucial.  

I do know this: ADHD does exist. It is both over-diagnosed by parents and pediatricians who want kids to sit down and shut up AND under-diagnosed by parents who are scared to death of labeling their child.There is no shame in a diagnosis. While labels are scary, understanding what is going on with your child is your first step in knowing how to help them.

Our hope is that The Boy will not need the meds some day. We are VERY aware of the dangers, side effects, and long term dependence concerns. We also take a very proactive stance in his schooling, and he has very clear guidelines for behavior. He is autistic first and foremost, but the behavioral modification strategies work with both conditions with some tweaking here or there.

In the mean time- I stand firmly behind out decision to medicate The Boy. But- I also understand parents who do not want to go down that road- we all try and do what we feel is best for our kids. But- speaking as a proponent for ADHD medications ( where appropriate!) I say PLEASE- if you have a concern, and if you have a child diagnosed with ADHD- consider all the options- medication included- and always ALWAYS take your child's quality of life into consideration. They are the most important.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I believe in Santa!

She probably has this picture in her room somewhere
I read an article today about a second grade teacher that took it upon her mean ass self to tell  her class of 7 and 8 year olds there is no such thing as Santa... WHAT IN THE NAME OF KRIS KRINGLE IS THAT SHIT ALL ABOUT??  I was so angry after reading this- I mean whatever religion you may or may not be or your socio-economic background, kids everywhere have at least heard of Santa Claus. It is up to families to decide what to tell their kids.  Is he real? Is he fake? Just the “spirit” of Christmas? Whatever- it is NOT the right of an ADULT, ( NOT a parent) much less a teacher to tell them. What an asshole.

The Boy still believes in Santa, and Teenzilla plays along.  I am TERRIFIED about other kids making fun of him, telling him there is no such thing, etc.  He goes to school with a variety of kids, from special ed, to general ed. some,older kids for whom the magic has ended, and kids his age and younger who may still believe in the magic. 


We also do The Elf on The Shelf tradition.  This actually works for The Boy- which kind of surprises me- but it works it's magic and he gets up each morning very excited to see where Clyde, our elf is at. He has talked to him, he gets worried if we get on him for something that Santa is going to hear about it and he will get nothing for Christmas... as a behavior modifier it truly is awesome. Is this also going to be  source of ridicule by meanie kids?  I mean- our Elf has to be real- he has his own Facebook page!  Come check it out! Clyde Finnegan Elf has a lot of friends and can post pictures of his shenanigans there as well!

 It is a VERY fine line we are walking - and I am so afraid of what will happen when we fall. Not just for him either- for me. I mean doesn't the end of believing in Santa just mark a downhill slide out of innocence? Or is that too jaded?  Is it just simply a sign of growing up- a natural order that kids go through?  With the fall of Santa, the Tooth Fairy also takes a hit, as does the Easter Bunny. IS sad. 

I know that someday we are going to tell him the "truth" about Father Christmas. Just like with the other 2 kids. That he was a very kind and generous soul called Saint Nick who lived many many years ago and that people decided that they wanted to keep the spirit of his kind ways alive and so that is where Santa Claus came from.  But, just as I have instilled in my other kids,  I feel the Christmas Spirit each December  and you can’t explain that to me outside of a universe with a Santa Claus in it

And THEN I'm going to hope that like me and his brother and sister he will carry on believing anyway. Because we all need a little magic in our lives.