Sunday, December 30, 2007

Downer

Today, I'm not quite so chipper about Mason possibly being diagnosed with HFA. I've been reading a lot, trying to gather information, and the more I read, the more I see Mason in those articles.

Mason woke early this morning, wanting to begin his day, but through tag-team mother-father efforts, we managed to nag and convince him back to sleep. He slept for 3 additional hours. I was brimming with - it turns out - false hope, for a better day. He still went postal over a diaper change, as typical. And putting him down for a nap was no picnic, either.

I'm swimming with self-pittying thoughts like, "This is going to be my life - managing melt-downs ad infinitum." Whereas, at three years of age my older two kids were just coming into the best part of child-rearing, my little man is displaying behaviors he will not outgrow. I guess. I'm still learning.

I read up on Wiki all the proposed treatments for HFA, from the proven to the ludicrous. (Case in point - the Son-rise program, which hopes the child will come to choose non-autistic behaviors through parental love and acceptance.) Initially, I was excited to learn about ABA - Applied Behavior Analysis - until further research tells me the child needs 25-40 hours a week of work in ABA in order for it to be effective. How can that be done?

Now I will be cutting my thoughts short, because I have to go run intervention yet again; Mason's nap just abruptly ended one hour after it's laborious beginning.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

How the Appointment Went

Well, I'm happy to report that Mason's appointment with the pediatrician went pretty well. The doctor did listen to me. Surprisingly, she didn't reckon I was just a bone-head at-home mother who has to endure a tantrum every so often. Even more surprising, the labs and referrals she wrote up included each and every thing I had as possibilities on my list. She recommended the following screenings: blood sugar level, thyroid, lead and anemia. She also recommended that I get an appointment at Kennedy Kreiger for assessment of high-functioning autism.

On the surface, that sounds like such a frightening word; nobody wants to hear "autism". But high-functioning autism is not a major tragedy. I'm positive I know a few adults walking around undiagnosed, clearly possessing the traits of HFA or Aspergers, perhaps even a few in my own family tree. (I have a big family; hopefully they'll all think I'm talking about someone else!) Mostly these are just the really brainy people who don't like a party.

In any case, it's a relief to hear a doctor agree that something more could be going on here than stubborn-child-with-tired-mother syndrome. It brings a fresh wave of patience into the dynamic. Knowing that Mason simply may not be able to control his emotions is easier to manage than thinking he just won't.

The only thing that didn't go well was a conflict we had over Mason's vaccination schedule. He is "behind" according to their absurd, intrusive schedule. This is a new doctor in the practice; the more reasonable doctor quit to raise her kids, dammit. I have delayed getting the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for the time being, for the very reason that I thought Mason had extreme behaviors for so long. Although I'm 90% sure that autism is at most tangentially related to MMR, I didn't want it nagging the back of my mind. If he had the shot at the usual age and then seemed to develop autistic-like symptoms, it would really bug me thinking maybe the shot had something to do with it. But, if he received a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder without ever having had the MMR, I could feel confident that (at least for us), it had nothing to do with the shot.

Anyway, I told the doctor I was willing to update some shots, but I was holding off a while on MMR and I haven't decided about Chicken Pox. She said, "Well, let me just tell you that if you're not planning to get the shots, I cannot be your doctor." Okay. Don't beat around the bush or anything.

I think this sort of medical bullying is wrong. And that's really all it is. Obviously, she feels that all children must have all the shots on the schedule and so she's going to strong-arm anyone who seems to be noncompliant. Yet, even the CDC openly states that vaccines are not 100% safe and that side-effects, even fatal side-effects can occur. But, when it's not your own child, I suppose it's just the few eggs you have to break to make an omelet. It always seems like that when it's not your child.

I do believe that vaccines are one of the most wonderful inventions of modern medicine. Our grandmothers never questioned it, probably because they lost a friend or a sibling to horrible diseases like Polio and Pertussis. However, I do question the current schedule of dozens of vaccines. I do think we could have gotten along fine without the Chicken Pox vaccine. Geez, they even have vaccines against ear infections now. But the "mandatory" bullying of parents to inject things into their children, or else be doctor-less is entirely WRONG.

Makes me want to be a pediatrician, just so I could be a good one.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Countin' the Days

It's December finally and I'm counting the days. Not until Christmas; until December 20th. Why December 20th, you wonder? Well, let me just tell you.

My dear 3-year-old, Mason, has been a challenge since he could roll over. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how best to help/manage him. He has been on special diets. He has had a few medical tests. I've changed my mind about how best to discipline him 18 times. Not originally a spanker, I did reconsider that position a time or two...or ten. But I would come back to this basic fact: a light spanking doesn't remotely influence Mason's behavior. Which would leave only...what? A severe spanking? The only possibility that spanking could perhaps change his behavior would be if I spanked him so painfully and so often that he feared me. Which I will not do. So, we're back to what to do?

As he was rounding the corner out of the "terrible twos", I revisited this worry nagging at the back of my mind. Shouldn't the incessant tantrums be tapering off by now? Shouldn't he realize by now that when I say I will change his diaper, I will, and there isn't a whole lot of point in going ape shit about it? Then, as I sat in the waiting room of the hair salon, I started reading an article in a magazine about a woman whose son was finally diagnosed as Bipolar, after her wondering for ten years what the heck was up with him. It freaked me out slightly and I had to Google "Bipolar-early onset" twelve times before I could breath normally.

The insidious thing here is that I cycle between thinking he's a normal, if high-intensity, active, child and thinking he's definitely abnormal. A friend of mine, who also has a challenging son, described it well. She said, "It's almost like a battered woman. When everything is going okay, you forget what you were so concerned about and tell yourself it's fine. Then, you have a bad spell and you feel desperate for help right this second." (Okay, I paraphrased and embellished there, but that's the gist.) It really is like that.

In November, we were having one of those bad days. Mason was going ballistic about every imaginable thing all day long. He had had several bad nights in a row, complete with night terrors about spiders he was sure were in his bed. I called the pediatrician and told them I needed an appointment to discuss "behavior issues". (One of my main problems in life - understating the problem to the people who can help.) The receptionist came back with an appointment in January. Say WHAT??? Fortunately, at just that moment, Mason went psychotic because I didn't let him play with my PDA. I practically screamed into the phone at the receptionist, "Do you HEAR why I need to come in SOON?!" That's when she found me an appointment December 20th, which was still a month away.

The good part about having to wait a month has been that I have documented what goes on every day and every night. I'm putting together a synopsis on a calendar, so I have a quick-start chart for the doctor to look at, since I reckon it's improbable that he'll read 57 pages-worth of The Mason Show. This way, he'll be able to see the erratic, unpredictable chaos in shorthand.

Right after I made the doctor appointment, we had about a week of "normal Mason". There I was, the battered woman again, thinking, "I feel stupid telling the doctor he tantrums endlessly. I mean, little kids do that. I'm probably wrong. He'll probably tell me I'm an idiot and I got lucky with the first two really cooperative children. I probably had PMS when I made that appointment." (Which I did, actually.)

Last night, though, Satan Spawn Mason showed up again. I didn't know whether I needed a doctor or an exorcist. I had to take Kyla to do a chorus concert at the mall. There's my daughter, singing like the Heavenly Host, and there's my son, rolling around on the floor like he's possessed. An elderly couple was glaring at him out of the corners of their eyes, no doubt thinking, "God, what an awful brat!" The nicer people said, "Boy, he has a lot of energy!". I just smiled wanly and looked at my watch.

I really want to find out what's up with Mason. The Demonic Mason cannot be normal. Something has to be provoking it. And why, I wonder, do the nightmares coincide with the rages? He'll sleep normally for weeks and behave okay. Then, he'll have horrible nights and worse days for a few days. Why?

I'm worried the doctor won't listen, or won't care, or won't want to get to the bottom of it. My husband thinks I'm setting myself up for disappointment. "You'll probably be more frustrated when you get home than you were before you went." Always the optimist.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day. And I actually hope I have one more bad spell, on December 19th. Then, maybe I won't forget how desperate I feel right at this moment and how really worried I am for my son.

Here's to answers: hope for the best! Feel free to pray for us if you like that sort of thing.

Monday, December 3, 2007

That Ancient Question

One thing I like about the church we've been going to is that there aren't any canned answers from the pulpit. Some people rail against this type of church, because they find its lack of dogma heretical. All I know is that without a church like this one, I couldn't go to church at all.

This past Sunday, the pastor was talking about the hardship that Mary and Joseph faced, hardships we generally forget in our romanticized nativity stories. To illustrate, he told a story about his grandmother. His grandmother suffered a major tragedy during World War II, when the German air raids made a direct hit on their garden "bomb shelter", killing 11 of her 13 siblings. The only 2 surviving brothers, ironically, were off at war.

There were some interesting "coincidences" in the way events unfolded. Circumstances worked out such that the grandmother had not been able to be there that night. If she had done what she intended, she would most likely also had been killed.

What I like about the pastor is that he didn't whitewash the two ways of seeing this. One could say God spared her. But then, it begs the question, why not spare the other 11? Of course, he has no answer; this is not a new theological question. But I like that he's plain enough to say so.

This is the very question that goes through my mind in an endless, dizzying loop. How can we ever be grateful for some good we perceive as coming from God without wondering why He would also allow the bad? I'm thankful for the three kids I have. And I'm damaged over the one I lost. I have not been able to see how one can suffer tragedy as a Christian and not be nagged by this question forever after.

Another thing I appreciate that the pastor said was that his grandmother never really did heal from that loss. It affected her emotionally forever. This is another plain talk fact that I too seldom hear among Christians. In Christian circles, everyone wants to hear how someone remained "strong" in spite of tragedy. Or even better, tragedy upon tragedy. Job is admired. It is a great smudge upon a Christian not to rise from the ashes like the Phoenix and proclaim that God is good. It really isn't popular to be shattered. Nobody had a good word for Humpty Dumpty, who couldn't be put back together again.

There was another interesting feature to this story. The grandmother most missed a little brother named George. The pastor later learned that Grandmother was fond of the pastor (Matthew) in part because he looked like George. When Matthew had a son of his own, he named him George, without knowing this was the name of the favorite brother of his grandmother. And it turns out, little George looked even more like the great-uncle George than Matthew had. And so, the grandson George was a favorite of Grandmother. So, if you invoke Providence again, it's as though the grandson redeems the loss of the brother in a way.

But not really. Why not have an Uncle George that gets to grow up
and the little grandson George? What would have been wrong with that?

The reason Suffering poses such a problem theologically is because there is no way to put these three elements together: 1) Omnipotent God; 2) Omniscient God; 3) Omnibenevolent God - and still come out with suffering. How can tragedy be if: 1) God has all power; 2) God has all knowledge; 3)God always does the best thing? Every possible explanation manages to be lame when you are the one with the suffering.

Anyway, at least the pastor is good enough not to give the lame excuses and try to sound righteous.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mom's Behaving Badly

Right after "Why do you homeschool?", the second-most-often-asked question I get from the non-homeschooling curious is, "How do you do that?" Today, I'm sorry to say, I would probably answer, "Badly". (Or "Poorly", if I care how my grammar sounds.) But "Badly" is probably more the word, since "bad" is what I would call the behavior of any child who threw the Science book across the room, as I did today.

See, I've always had this grandiose theory about how Science should really be taught. Textbooks? Anathema! Fill-in-the-blanks? Perish the thought! I combine Kyla and Collin's science into one. I plan my Science program for the upcoming year some time between March and August. And then I buy marvelous books, a few kits and some supplies and guides for experiments.

The experiments are usually the first to go. Geez, how I hate doing them! How I hate looking around the house for a metal brad that makes the doo-dad spin on the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong. And it may be that empty soda bottles lie around most homes, but I don't have one, unless you include an ancient Sierra Mist, still full, sitting in the Dining Room buffet cabinet, left over from a party I had in 2004.

One year, I even bought a kit from a major supplier that did include practically everything you need to do an experiment a week all year long. But after I spent about 8 weeks demonstrating every possible neato thing a magnet can do, I got bored and canned that, too.

Today, I opened up the kit I had bought to make a volcano. This was to enrich our Earth Sciences study we've been doing. As I read the directions about what to do with the plaster, I froze up. I'm not mixing up plaster today. Prob'ly not tomorrow, either. Or any day after that. Basically, they can do this right after they purchase their own home.

So, I went for the one element in our Science program that is not so easily influenced by my lack of inertia. The book. It's a nice Usborne Internet-Linked book I bought at a discount. The "Volcanoes" chapter now firmly behind us, I prepared to introduce them to "Climate". So, we sat on the couch and I began to read about the earth's atmosphere. Mason, however, wanted to sit on my lap. But only for 16 seconds. Before I had read through three paragraphs of incomprehensible babble about air currents, he had caused 27 different calamities. Collin was on my right, and although I had sent him to the bathroom twice today to brush his teeth, there was still a noxious green cloud wafting towards my nose from his direction. Mason was sent to time-out, right between the Troposphere and the Stratosphere. While in time-out, he emptied half a tube of A&D ointment onto his "boo-boo" on his toe (and everything within a 2-foot-radius). After I cleaned up that minor disaster and brought Mason back into the good graces of family life, I attempted once again to illuminate my progeny regarding atmosphere. You ever read through a few lines of text and have a simultaneous dialogue going on inside that goes, "I might as well be reading to the tuna fish, because if any of this makes any sense to them or is in any way memorable to them at all, I'd be astonished!" After that bit of cheery self-talk, it really only took one more squabble between Collin, fighting to remain in suffocating proximity to me and Mason, trying to unseat him, for me to go ballistic. The Usborne Encyclopedia of Planet Earth went whizzing across the room, demonstrating a little "air current" of my own. "FORGET IT! Enough! What am I WASTING MY TIME for???!" I fumed at my bewildered young. Mason was unceremoniously air-lifted off for a nap that I need more than he does. Kyla and Collin just exchanged looks in astonished silence. (Until the UPS guy came, which is some sort of small thrill for them.)

In all probability, the error was my own for trying to do this part while Mason was up. It's better done while he naps, experience has shown. Actually, nothing described here was rare, except for my own tantrum at the end. I guess we all have a breaking point.

Right now, textbooks are looking very attractive.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Level

I've had two main wishes for most of my life. They are mutually exclusive; if I had either one, the other would be moot. Here they are:

1) That life would slow down. That it would be 20% plan and 80% wingin' it. That there would be nothing urgent for several months.

OR

2) That I could just accept that life doesn't slow down. That I could be happy with 80% plan and 20% wingin' it. That I could be comfortable with everything being urgent all the time.

It seems that since puberty, I've vascillated between feeling competant and on-the-ball, to crashing and just wishing I could get off the ride. I'll have all these great ideas and be like, "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" and then a few weeks later, I'm all, "Man, would everybody just GO AWAY?!" I wonder what it would be like to just be level.

And really, I know what the problem actually is. It's not that it IS urgent all the time, it's that I make it that way. See, every mom has to get Halloween costumes together for her kids. But my resident perfectionist cannot bear to spend $35.00 for a glued-together, no-hem, trash-looking Wal-mart costume. So instead, I spend an unmentionable amout of cash purchasing white sparkle taffeta, irridescent blue fabric with moons and stars, sheer sparkle fabric for the sleeves, white cording, lining fabric, interfacing, thread and a pattern. Then, I spend dozens of hours crafting a "Moon Fairy" costume suitable for Broadway. Okay, maybe not Broadway. But it was freakin' gorgeous!

I do get a rush of extreme pleasure after I've indulged my stratespheric standards and come out with something amazing. But while I'm sewing in the Dining Room at 11:49pm, I wonder what the heck is wrong with me. Doctors have perscriptions for just this purpose!

I don't know what the tragedy would be if I had the kids wear crappy costumes for Halloween. Or if I made Hamburger Helper for dinner one night. Or even if I said, "Sorry, folks. I'm not making dinner tonight. Look around. There's food here." What if I brought the car home with barely enough gas to get to the station the next day? What if I wrote a big check without any idea what the balence was in my account?? WHAT if - this is hard to imagine -but WHAT IF I failed to have a back-up quart of Half-n-Half??? The possibility that there might not be enough cream left for everyone to have coffee as they like...man, that's rebellious! Just think of the chaos that would ensue!

It was only in the last few years that I stopped much caring whether I showed up perfectly on time for things. Actually, it hardly ever matters if you're late. If the family picnic is at 2:00, what happens if you come at 2:20? I discovered that nothing much happens. (Well, there's bound to be someone who is disgruntled about it, but that's family for ya.)

Maybe I'll just chip away at all these things that I think are so urgent and when I'm 87 and it couldn't possibly matter anymore, I'll finally be relaxed. So, I'll try to let things go a little. Maybe I'll simplify dinner. Maybe I'll turn down a request or two. But I'm NOT stooping to junky costumes! That would just be crazy!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Can't We All Just Get Along?

I belong to an ecumenical, Christian homeschooling co-op. It is full of lovely, intelligent, decent families.

Recently, though, some of the women were dismayed to learn that there are a few Jewish members in our midst. Several rallied for stricter controls on membership approval. According to these purists, we must ensure that every person signs the Statement of Faith, signifying their commitment to the tenents of the Christian faith. Opinions among the board members were split. The solution was to mass e-mail the members. We were given two options.

Option A: All potential members must sign a statement of faith. No exceptions are made.

Option B: A potential member may join without signing the statement of faith if they are recommended by another member, meet with the board members and hold no leadership position.

Actually, though I voted for Option B, I think even this Option is more stringent than necessary. In the first place, the group's name and materials overtly describe a Christian group. I hardly think non-Christians are lining up for entry. Secondly, there is no danger in allowing a non-Christian to join. Oh, I understand the fear. The fear is that if we don't require people to state their faith, then we could get some "really bad religion" people in there and then how could we kick them out? The fear is that our children might sit next to a child from one of those other, wrong religions and those children might tell our children Jesus is not God.

But I believe that "perfect love casts out fear". I know the Jewish members. And I like them today as much as I liked them before I knew they were Jewish. They teach classes that enrich the lives of the children. Their children are friends with my children. And they are intelligent, loving, decent mothers who homeschool their kids, too.

When Jesus walked the earth, the religious leaders of the day were shocked and horrified at the people he consorted with: tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes. He broke bread with hated people. He spoke to the woman at the well, a social outcast, who had had five husbands. Jesus condemned those who were more concerned with the letter of the law then helping those in need. Would Jesus require people to sign alligience to His faith before joining his group? (If he did, ironically, it would be Judaism!)

In our co-op, 100 families get along, even though we come from many denominations. Catholics, Baptists, Episcapalians, Presbyterians, Pentacostals, Methodists...we all operate together without problems, despite differing doctrinal beliefs. What is the difference if someone does not believe all the tenents listed in the statement of faith?

I don't think division, exclusion and separatism in any way reflect what Jesus was about. Exclusive people spread unhappiness and ill will. Accepting people spread community and love. I vote for acceptance. I embrace love.

Monday, October 22, 2007

My Hero is Gay

J.K. Rowling dropped the bomb, if you haven't heard. Turns out Dumbledore, my favorite Harry Potter character, is gay. (Or was gay, since he died before the series ended.) Now frankly, I wouldn't care about this personal detail, even if he were a real person. Straight or gay, I still love the wise old wizard.

But I'm disappointed that Rowling decided to present this particular backstory. What was wrong with leaving this part of Dumbledore's past cloaked in mystery? (Just wait 'till Rita Skeeter hears!) This is just going to give the fanatical Dobson-worshiping homophobes another reason to crusade against the Harry Potter books. Having never cracked a cover, they will assume there are gay references throughout the books, "indoctrinating" children to turn gay. Really - didn't we Christian-types who love the series have trouble enough defending Harry Potter against our slippery-slope-paranoid friends?

I am raising my children with an aim towards tolerance of other people who live their lives differently. But learning to be tolerant of different sexual behavior can wait until they are old enough to know about sexual behavior. Which is hopefully not soon.

My daughter is bound to discover this tidbit. So, what is the benefit of her knowing that Dumbledore was gay? And he was in love with Gellert Grindewald?

I don't get it. Jo, you shouldn't have done that.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Outcome

Wrestling won.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Reluctant Soccer Mom

I figured it would be good to do that local-sports-team thing with my kids. You know, get some exercise, learn teamwork, catch up on all that missed socialization (like learning the charming phrase, "Ha!Ha! Lick my butt!" which Collin surprised me with recently). Kyla and Collin have both played spring and fall soccer each year since they were four. I've been okay with that, although I resent the interference with our evenings sometimes.

Last winter, though, my husband, Kelly, signed Collin up for wrestling. Visions of by-gone glory days in mind, no doubt. It might even have been glory days for me, too. Wrestlers have always had a pull for me.

So, Kelly has been revving up to sign Collin up for his second season of wrestling. Collin has told him plainly that he doesn't much like wrestling, to which Kelly's response is to initiate a "take down" in the family room. See, Collin; it's so much fun! Yeah.

I've been on the fence about this whole issue. I never wanted to be one of those scrambling families, rushing the kids off to sports endlessly, season after season, year after year. And yet, here we are. How can that be? I have become the Soccer Mom I used to bad-mouth! I would be most content to stick with spring and fall sports; break for winter and summer. But, there is my husband to consider. I do care what he wants for them, too.

And then, there's that whole problem of Collin saying he doesn't really like wrestling. I'm not sure where I stand on that, either. On the one hand, I do think sometimes you have to help kids try things, get past the little hump of resistance. On the other hand, that's another kind of parent I never liked much - I wrestled, therefore so must my son.

Collin's soccer coach, it turns out, just asked Kelly if Collin was available to do indoor soccer for winter. Coach is putting together a team and would like to have Collin on it. Kelly was non-committal; he doesn't know what to do about Collin's reluctance to wrestle, either. Tomorrow is the last day I can sign up for wrestling, so I have to prod the issue. Man, I hate that.

I'd rather Collin go on the indoor soccer team. He loves soccer, believes he is good at it, and has an excellant coach. But, darn it! That means we're doing soccer three-quarters of the year! Still, it's better than dragging him to a sport he's not interested in.

We have to decide tonight.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Thinkwell

I talk to myself. I've done it as far back as I can recall. I remember as a little kid, maybe 6, walking around and around and around a tall tree stump in the backyard. There were roots that surfaced the ground in a little pattern and I would hop the pattern and talk to myself for hours. Well maybe not hours. A long time. Some undefined long period of time.

People who know me well are aware that I talk to myself. Thankfully, they hardly ever mention it.

So, I thought a blog would be just the thing. Kind of like a Pensieve. A place to store the silver threads of my endless thoughts. Maybe I will be less-often noticed at stop lights, chatting away to an enamored audience of one.

Happy reading!

The Premier Post

Here it is....The Very First Post on my blog! Wow! See, you can always tell someone who is older than 30 by how astounded we are when we dip our toe into the pool of technology and come away with some measure of success!

Thank God for templates!

More fascinating insights into the world of a homeschooling, slightly OCD, libertarian mother-of-three coming soon.