Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Testing Our Boundaries

It's been a busy summer and I just started training for the Philly Marathon because I really need something I'm doing for myself. For the last three years it's been work work work and mom mom mom and there's been zero me me me. So it's time to change that dynamic a bit. It's been really busy and kind of exhausting but I am really finding that I have more energy and that I"m happier so that's good.

For the most part, Christopher's been great but we have had some challenges sprinkled in there as well.

For example, a rough day this summer was the day that I discovered that Christopher decided to secretly stop taking his ADHD medicine.
I was at work that day and I got a call from YMCA camp asking me to pick the kiddo up because he was having a bad day. It was noon and I was confused but I left work to get him. According to the staff, he was hitting, kicking, and licking the other kids and spat at a counselor. Fun right? Not really.
I picked him up and asked him why this happened today. All I got was a shrug and an "I don't know". 
I was driving home and kind of at a loss. Out of the blue I decided to ask him, "you took your medication today....right?" He puts his head down and says "no."
I said, "what do you mean you didn't take your medicine? I gave it to you this morning".
He replied with, "I wanted to see if I could make it a day without my medicine, so I hid it behind the TV."
"Seriously? Well guess what...we know what happens without your medicine now don't we???" Yeesh.
I took the kiddo home and got him into bed for a much-needed nap and I went back to work on the computer. He woke up and seemed to be better so I thought, great, crisis averted.
I decided to keep his normal babysitter for the evening because he seemed like he was fine. And I really needed a run! So the babysitter arrived that evening and I went off running.
After the run, I checked my phone and had several missed calls from the babysitter, which is never a good sign. Uh oh. I quickly called her and she was practically in tears because Christopher was acting so crazy.
The babysitter had asked him to do his summer workbook pages that I've had him doing. I guess it was a really bad day for that though. By the time I got home, he had thrown lemonade at the babysitter, torn up the house and covered himself in kiddie "slime" he found in a drawer somewhere. He was locked in his room and the babysitter was shaking scared because she'd never seen him like that. Sigh. 

Funny enough though when she left I was able to calm him down pretty quickly, get him to clean his room up, gave him a shower, put some lavender-scented baby lotion on him and then put him to bed with books. I think some of the behaviors must stem from separation anxiety because of how quickly he was able to calm down. 

So the big take-away here is....Christopher REALLY needs his medication. I know it's normal to test boundaries but this is just one boundary that cannot be tested. On the one hand, I was annoyed with him but on the other, I was relieved that the solution was simple: Just take your meds. I was really afraid the Concerta wasn't working anymore and that would be horrible. This is a relief thankfully. Lesson learned though. From now on I will be watching him physically swallow the medication every single day so I can be 100% certain he's taking it. Since then, we've had no problems (knock on wood) and I hope that continues!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Summertime Ups and Downs

Here we are at the beginning of August already. How is it that summertime flies by so quickly and the winter just churns on and on and on and on and ....

Anyway, we've had a lot of fun this summer and as many great times as we have had, Christopher's been way off his routine more than I had wished. This does create some issues for him too.

For example, when Christopher gets really over-stimulated with lots of activity and other kiddos around, his medication simply stops working. So a few weekends ago when we were up in Maine, you would not even know he was taking meds. He was hitting, kicking and fighting with his cousin which really made me lose my cool a few times.

Also, even though his medication is a 12-hour lasting dose, it does wear off at some point. So here we are at dinner in a lovely restaurant with extended family and Christopher starts to melt down. Loudly. I even had to put my hand over his mouth at one point to keep him from scaring the other patrons because he was that loud. Luckily my family helped out and were able to calm him down because this frazzled mom was staring to feel overwhelmed.

One day this past week Christopher went to bed way too late and woke up way too early so he didn't have enough sleep. That day he was like a walking zombie all day and I felt bad for him. I tried to get him to take a nap but he wouldn't do it, instead just choosing to stare at his toys for a while. This was way out of character for him and I made sure that the following evening he got to bed earlier. His medication really does require that he get enough sleep and this is clearly what happens when he doesn't get it. Poor kiddo.

Last but not least, being off of his normal strict routine seems to exacerbate his PTSD and all of the sudden, once summer started, Christopher became deathly afraid of all bugs; spiders and black flies especially. He shrieks loudly, darts his eyes back and forth and runs to me, needing to be held. Let me tell you, in New England in the summertime, there are a lot of bugs so this has been an issue for him. I keep trying to remind him that he's safe but he's struggling with this the most. I will say that this past week on Cape Cod, he was not the only child afraid of the bugs because one of my sister's friend's daughters was also afraid. Plus my niece became scared yesterday as well. So I don't think that this fear is entirely uncharacteristic of children. However when you have a child who has experienced trauma, I guess the reactions are all just a whole lot stronger.

Now onto the good stuff. We had so much fun in our travels this summer. Best of all, my sister and her kids, who live in Colorado, were visiting this summer so we got to spend TONS of time with them. We just love them so much!

One weekend, we went to the new Legoland Discovery Center here in Boston. The kids had a blast but man, it was loud and exhausting. I was glad to come home after that experience.

On the following weekend, we went to Maine to see some extended family. For my brother's birthday, we all went to the local bait/tackle/gun shop to enjoy a fresh lobster and clambake. It was a unique setting...but very tasty.

We just got back from a week on Cape Cod where we got to stay at our family's lighthouse. Yep....my grandmother bought a real lighthouse in 1936 and it's been in the family ever since. We were truly blessed with amazing weather too so no complaints there.

It was fun because we got to host a lot of friends and family and enjoy a beach with hardly any people on it. How often does that happen in the summertime?

We all get clamming licenses so that we can go clamming and enjoy really really fresh clams that evening. I have to say, those are the most amazing, tasty treats. Nothing beats a fresh, grilled clam!

Even my dog loved the vacation. Nothing like getting wet and dirty in the sand with your family!

When we weren't traveling hours away, we managed to enjoy some closer to home activities this summer as well. For example, here's a photo I took in Gloucester last weekend, where we went for a day trip with a good friend of mine.

And even closer to home, I had a few barbecues this summer right on my front porch. The weather didn't always cooperate--for example it poured down rain on the 4th of July--but that did not deter me. I'm not going to melt. I just braved the elements for a while and next thing you know, I had some yummy grilled salmon and corn on the cob.

So yes we've had to take the good with the bad this summer but still things are better this year than they were last summer when Christopher was just so out of control. A year ago I didn't know what to do about Christopher's behaviors. He was just stuck in overdrive, couldn't slow down and would just get violent with other little kids. I also didn't know about the need for routines and a clean diet and we were still on the wait list for our intro appointment at the Behavioral Medicine Clinic at Children's Hospital. Since Christopher started getting treatment there, life became so much easier. Routines plus clean diet and medication have made a huge difference, along with Christopher just maturing and also believing more that this is his forever home. Each year it does definitely get easier. So that's great. The tough thing though is that as much as I'd love to be able to help other kids get out of the foster care system, Christopher is still such a handful that I just don't think I could handle another child with any sort of special needs. And let's face it, all kids from foster care will have some sort of special needs, right? The trauma alone will mess with a kid's head and they will need help. I just don't have it in me to do more though. My hands are full!

Today is Friday August 1st and I'm still on vacation till Monday. Plus it's an absolutely beautiful day so I've decided to keep the vacation fun going. I've got a few errands to run and a ton of laundry to do but that can all wait till tomorrow when it's supposed rain all day. I think I'll take the kiddo to the beach today. More memories to come!