Wednesday, October 17, 2018

New school year *Now with Pre-Teens*

The new school year has started off with a roar. Mostly the roar is me yelling at the kids to do their homework. Both boys (5th and 6th grade-- that's right! Middle school!)  have decided that homework and in Hamslice's case classwork too is "not their thing" and they just lie about it and don't do it.

Grades, of course, are posted online, so I nagged a little bit but mostly waited until grades were posted. And of course each boy was FAILING at LEAST ONE CLASS because they weren't doing their work. I got to say "I told you so" but to what end?

Little Ham was embarrassed and knuckled down to complete all his work and bring his grades back up. Hamslice is going down the road of total defiance and refusal to cooperate with anyone or anything.

I'm not sure if Hamslice is caught up in the 'middle school angst' or if there is a larger issue. We are bringing him in for an eye exam and also having him take SCAT tests to see if there are learning gaps to address. I mean... he is SO DEFIANT. I've seen a bad attitude from him before but this really takes the cake.

He's also struggling with our anti-technology stance (I know guys, the irony is obvious) and he is very resentful that we haven't given him a smart phone and that we don't allow video games at all anymore. But I can't help feeling that turning him over to technology to socialize and stimulate him is a huge mistake. What do game developers have to teach him about caring for others? About building character and developing a sense of humor? About learning responsibility?

I mean... once these traits are well developed in him, maybe he can get back to gaming but not as a substitute for growing up.

Hamslice, maybe someday you'll read this and finally understand why your Mom is such a jerk

Until then....

Monday, June 11, 2018

End of School Year Wrap Up

This is the last week of school -- Hamslice transitions to middle school after this week, and Little Ham will move up to 5th grade. Only one more year of elementary school left for this family, after what has seemed like a full lifetime of Parent Loop and endless in-class volunteering.

Little Ham ends the year with all A's and B's, because he is a cooperative soul at school, with a real desire to please and complete and total aversion to any form of hard work. He is smart enough to sail by without putting in any real effort, which is reflected quite well in the grades.

Hamslice, though, is like an asteroid trying to enter the Earth's atmosphere, even still. His grades throughout the semester see saw between A's and F's, not due to Hamslice's lack of ability -- instead it is based on his willingness to take tests. I am looking at his grades right now and see three entire tests in math that he just refused to take, so the score is Zero. Mind you, he is in the most advanced math, language arts and other classes, and I see the same pattern throughout. He won't test. He just thinks it's stupid.

In one of our meetings with the elementary school administration, the vice principal muttered under his breath, "That kid doesn't even need to be here." Hamslice is playing a whole different game than the other students. Probably a different game than you and me as well.

That's all great, but I wonder how much his separate, non parallel existence will interfere with the things he thinks he really wants out of life.

Let's see what middle school has to offer...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


So about 3 weeks ago, my boys were in the back seat of the van, fighting over a stuffed animal and they tore the tail off. I put the toy in the trash as punishment. "If you can't play nice..." you know the drill.

Fast forward to today when I saw Little Ham playing with that same toy, beautifully repaired.
Apparently he took the broken toy out of the trash and then to school, where he told his best girl friend how mean I am. SHE took it home to her mom, who repaired the toy for my son. I don't know this other mom.

Now we have to go to this girl's birthday party on Saturday and deal with the super judge face that I know is waiting for me there. #momcantwin

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Seeing Clearly Now

As I mentioned in my last post (sorry for the super psycho lingo in that one, btw) Little Ham was getting new glasses. They arrived on Tuesday, and for the first time in his life, Little Ham can see 20/20.

Little Ham has no memory of ever being able to see, and it has had behavior consequences in school and at home (IE: refusing to read,  standing up in front of the TV, etc). As we were leaving the eye doctor, he listed off things he can see now -- birds in the sky, blades of grass, texture in rocks, and of course, wrinkles on Mom's face.

He continues to talk with amazement about the things he can see, even several days later. He talks with wonder about how his eyes hurt when he takes his glasses OFF. His biggest discovery so far is that news print is made of just tiny dots if you look close enough at it.

I am so happy and sad for him at the same time. I am very happy that he can see now, and that he understands good vision even looks like. At the same time, I ache for him that this has been a years-long struggle for him and nobody has been able to help him until now.

During earlier eye tests he would trigger out about somewhere during the exam, and just stop answering the questions truthfully after he triggered. His prescriptions came out completely wacky after this half-participation/hostility/lying. Little Ham said his first pair of glasses was so off that he could not see to walk.

He admitted that my going into the exam room with him helped to keep him calm and focused through the exam and helped him answer truthfully to questions about what he could/couldn't see in the eye tests. And I wish that I had been able to be there for him earlier. More often. Always.

But we look ahead, not back. Things are ok now and will only get better for him. I just need to remember which way to turn my eyes.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Where we began

So now that I'm all sentimental about how far the family has come, I wanted to share where we came FROM. When Little Ham arrived, he was diagnosed with this: RAD (if you have time try to read this, it's a lot)

We believed that he had RAD, but also didn't... because we couldn't get our heads around what RAD was or what it would mean to our family. I must have read that page 100 times, looking for clues for us and coming out with a general sense of hopelessness. "HOW CAN YOU DEAL WITH SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE PASSAGE OF TIME?"

Once he arrived. we didn't have much of a chance to look back at the article, it's the only one we've found that really lays out the IWM.

This week I looked back at it. Little Ham had a giant dose of the anxiety, omnipotence, hyper-vigilance, scarcity, and dissociation. His emotional regulation was undeveloped, and he was very temporal. Basically the whole article with the exception of Indiscriminate affection applied to him quite well

We have been able to make significant progress with memory, hyper-vigilance, scarcity, Dissociation, Victim-hood, Temporal experience, Integration, language discipline and Consequences, adult attention, Discipline and Consequences, and boundaries. We still struggle with  emotional experience, Information and Power, and Nuisance behaviors. Oh the Nuisance behaviors.

Here they are, clipped from the article. You can see where they would be problematic:

Information & Power:  Information is power and AD children know this very well.  They will go to great lengths to control the flow of information about them in order to maintain their power to manipulate others' image of them.  AD children give out very little real information about themselves, for they view that as giving their power away to others.  Telling the truth, therefore, is to be avoided as a matter of policy, and adult urgings to do so can be seen as attempts to steal the child’s power because the adults want it for themselves.  Much of the fabricating of AD children is intended to keep adults confused about what's real and what isn't.  When asked questions, AD children often stall by “playing dumb” or “forgetting”, hoping that the adult will get impatient and give a prompt or clue around which the child can fashion an answer that will please the adult while giving away no information. 

Nuisance behaviors: These are frequently occurring, more minor behaviors such as interrupting, noisemaking, asking excessive questions, or relatively incessant chattering that serve multiple purposes: 1) disrupt the simplest of everyday interactions and block relating, 2) ongoing reminders that the AD child is not under the adult’s control, 3) nonstop chattering diverts awareness into left hemisphere language functioning and away from right hemisphere affective awareness (true of excessive verbalization in general), 4) discharge anxiety, and 5) probes the external environment to acquire information about the situation.  From adults’ reactions to these “behavioral probes”, AD children begin to piece together who is punitive and who is supportive; who will respond and who will ignore; who is more structured and who is more lax.  The child with AD is likely to use the responses to his probes to figure out how to “manage” the adults.  

We've been dealing lately with Disassociation in that it is not possible to get Little Ham to tell the truth long enough or consistently enough to get a glasses prescription set. Half way through he shuts down and starts simply grunting or answering "yes" to all the questions, and he then gets glasses he can't see out of. We are now on our third prescription, after he JUST  NOW failed the eye exam at school. so we aren't sure if he was disassociating during the school exam, or during the main eye exam or what. We have an appointment next week for yet another prescription...

Dissociation:  To protect themselves from their own own threatening feelings, AD children learn to dissociate or disconnect themselves from their own experience in the present moment.  Their selective perception is so well honed that AD children can appear to almost shut down parts of their brain in ways the average person cannot comprehend.  Experience itself is erased from consciousness as though it never happened.  Threatening questions, as well as any possible answer that might have immediately arisen can be obliterated right out of awareness.  AD children learn how to move and hold their bodies so as not to trigger physiologically stored emotions and memories.  This primitive denial is beyond the reach of conventional forms of treatment and is a major reason why such treatment tends to fail with AD children.  Overall, this dissociative response is made up of many different tactics including: increased distractibility and fidgeting (can look like AD/HD);  becoming confused; circular answers; vague or contradictory language; inaudible or unintelligible speech; loss of short-term memory; shutting down one or more of their sensory processing systems so they literally don’t experience their own sensory input (can look like learning disabilities except that processing can improve dramatically as attachment  develops); immature and/or faint tone of voice;  loss of eye contact; bodily preoccupations (picking at skin, scabs, bug bites; fingernail chewing, itching and scratching, hair twirling, aches and pains, repetitive movements, playing with fingers).   

 But, we soldier on. It took about a year to even understand that these were RAD behaviors, and now we work on omitting them using behaviorism and modeling. Still more years of work ahead of us, but also so much progress.

Friday, February 02, 2018

In Sickness and In Health

So one of the most surprising parts of adopting is the phenomenon of trying to treat the child when they are ill. Because the child doesn't know you or trust you in any way, the double whammy of feeling lousy, and believing there's no one to turn to is overwhelming.

When Little Ham arrived, the first several illnesses were quite difficult. We were up many times all night long because he wouldn't accept medication, including ear infection antibiotics and aspirin. Sore throats became the stuff of legend (between Hambone and me) and headaches were earth shattering.

As you may know, this year the flu virus has been very severe and ubiquitous. This week all of us got a stomach bug, and tonight Little Ham came down with a sore throat and fever.

I was just upstairs and Little Ham willingly accepted medication from me and told me he loved me after he took it. Sometimes I forget how far our family has come.

This simple action. This profound change.

Life is amazing.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Spoke too soon

Here we are after my glowing post about my mature boys just a few days ago...

Just got a note from the principal -- Hamslice told everyone in his reading group that they were s_____ readers, and then he curled up on the floor in the back of the room and wouldn't interact with anyone for about an hour.

So, hold off there with the maturation awards. There's still work to do. LOL

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Mid School-Year Check in

So the ongoing saga of my kids in school has been a source of much amusement with my friends and family.  This year Hamslice is in 5th grade, with Little Ham in 4th grade.

The year started out a little rough, with Little Ham finding it hilarious to swear like a sailor and discuss the concept of 'sexiness' in 4th grader lingo, including the phrases "sexy penis" and "sexy butt," punctuated with slaps to the heinies of both girls and boys. The school administration [ahem] frowns on such behavior.

Hamslice, meanwhile, entered the semester like an asteroid entering the atmosphere. Much as he does each year.

As of mid-year we are actually doing OK. Little Ham has figured out that he has the smarts to do all of the work required of him at school, so now he's a little cocky. He has these big diorama projects this year, and he waits until the *very last possible minute* and cranks them out in 5 minutes and gets "A"s.  This has Hambone and I gobsmacked, after years of listening to Hamslice's languid arguments about the theory of school and the appropriateness of the projects and the existential need for dioramas. We had forgotten that the projects can simply "get done" without all the drama.

Hamslice is in all advanced classes but pulling solid Bs - Ds because he fails to see the point of the details in his projects. Or the projects themselves, also what is the point of school. And life. He is testing out at mid high-school levels in all subjects, so we are not super concerned with his grades. It's probably just time for middle school for that one. Or maybe a year in a commune.

The boys are into 'full time brother' mode with just glimmers of transition still. For instance, Little Ham and Hamslice still fight about who gets to go into whose bedroom and when, but Little Ham is sometimes inclined to push too far and then when Hamslice gets mad, Little Ham breaks into gibberish speech and overly defiant behavior.

Little Ham is working hard right now on controlling his silliness. One of his defense mechanisms is to move into a near-manic state where he is just giggles and sillies and not at all able to function. It's a form of helplessness, combined with aggravating behaviors. Pretty neat. So obviously that is our focus right now.

Hamslice has matured an incredible amount this year. It's like a packet of neurons plugged in somewhere in his brain and he is now able to see outside of himself and understand other peoples' feelings and how his actions fit into these feelings. Typical Hamslice, he has lagged behind in this area for years, and then once he gets started figuring it out, he takes off like a rocket.

Our strange little family is a full-fledged unit, and functioning as one. So far so good, but already I see signs that the end of school year update will have some zingers.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Magic of Laughter

I am not sure if this happens in every family, but my family tends to devolve into greedy and ungrateful little monsters over the Holiday season. It has something to do with the anticipation of gifts and the disappointment with the reality of gifts. As we all know, NO GIFT WILL EVER LIVE UP TO THE EXPECTATION OF A CHILD.

Our best move is to open gifts and then immediately leave for a vacation. All the gifts sit in the house untouched while we're gone, and then when we return, they are suddenly fun to play with. I don't get it but it works.

Even with these great strategies, by about the middle of January we had ground to a halt -- there's no sun, it was freeeezing cold outside, everyone was grouchy and we were all mad at each other for every and no reason...

Then we had a bit of magic. Oddly enough it came in the form of tickling. Both boys decided that they liked to be tickled, and we started having these half-hour long tickling matches, where we all poked each other in the bellies and brushed the soles of our feet and of course jammed tiny fingers into the armpits.

The sound of their laughter, real belly laughs, was like medicine for the family. They heard us laugh, they laughed with each other, and the sound healed us.We bonded over the laughter.

Since the laughing, we are doing so well. We are all friendlier with each other and there's less competition for attention from the boys, they each know they can come over for a welcome laughing match and we all grow together.

Note to self: Laughing. Remember that.