Bloggy Moms

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

When God Doesn't Give Us What We Want

My friend just posted the quote below on Facebook. I got to thinking about a conversation I had yesterday with the ten year old philosopher who lives in my house, AKA Princess. I told her that God is not like Santa. He doesn't dole out what we want. He gives us what we need. Sometimes we like what He gives us because it is even better than we could have every imagined. There are other  times when those gifts invoke anger. Do I dare say rage, in us?
There are many, many times in my life when God answered a prayer of mine in a completely different way than I would have ever imagined but it was always perfect.
When my husband found out that he had cancer the first time, we prayed for a miracle. We got one that time. Then two years later his cancer returned. It couldn't have come at a worse time. My mom was really struggling with her mental illness and I got pregnant at the same time. I remember wondering how everything was going to get done- we had to move my mom into an assisted living facility, my husband had to go to his chemo treatments and somehow I had to get the house ready to receive our daughter. The tasks seemed insurmountable. By the grace of God we accomplished everything. He provided the resources we needed to get everything done. Our church family provided meals. My younger brother came from out of state to help me move my mom- She'd been in her apartment for thirty plus years. The nurses at the cancer center told me to stay away. They didn't want me to get sick from all of the germs that cancer patients seem to bring with them. They assured me that for the sake of my unborn child, they'd take good care of my husband. They kept that promise.
When Princess was born, we marveled at the miracle of her birth because we knew all of the things we'd endured before her birth.
Fast forward to two years ago. Our family was once again in crisis. I had a bully boss that I could not seem to please no matter what. My husband had encouraged me to quit because he could see what it was doing to me. I prayed instead for another teaching assignment. I worked so hard to make things right. I wanted desperately to be the best teacher on the planet. At the very same time Princess was struggling. We prayed for a miracle with her as well.
I'd been out on stress leave from March until June earlier that year. My hope was that I could figure something out so that I could teach at another school in the district. Alas that was not to be. When school resumed in late August, I remained at the same school with the same administrator. I was even given the same grade to teach. I had renewed vigor to make this work even though we'd had a horrific summer with Princess. About a month in I could no longer handle the stress it was placing on my body so I went out on stress leave again. I had no idea what I was going to do. God knew though. He knew that Princess needed more of me. Two weeks after my second stress leave Princess had her first hospital stay. It was in a facility 100 miles away. I was beginning to see that my daughter needed an emotionally strong mom.  A  stressed, worn out momma was not going to help her. When she was discharged, we were advised to put her in an outpatient program. Interestingly enough there were no spots anywhere except at the hospital she had been at. My husband and I determined that I would stay with her while he went back home to teach PE at a small private school. Finally it clicked I was needed to care for our daughter and not teach. God knew that for our situation I could not possibly teach and be the mom my daughter needed.
I wish that it would have been easier to get to that point but I am sure that I would have left teaching kicking and screaming if it had been different. I was one of those people who'd dreamed of teaching ever since I was 14. I exited college with the same major as I had  entered it.
Another prayer that my husband and I had was the prayer for stability for our daughter. For over four years we prayed for just the right mix of medications. Our daughter's psychiatrist tried everything before trying the magic pill Amantadine. It was a long and hard road. Princess had many side effects and many hospital stays. We never gave up hope though. I think in my heart I knew that eventually something was going to work. Now over a year later since starting this medication,  I continue to see my child blossom into a beautiful, loving and caring human who is genuinely happy.
While I wish that I had not had to go through so much fire. Everything I've been through has made me a stronger person. It's made me appreciate the little things more. I am a happier person. If my prayers had been answered the way I wanted them to, I'm not so sure I'd be as at peace as I am today.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Oh the Wisdom of a Child

I try really hard to only tell my daughter things that I think she is mature enough to handle. I don't want to put her in adult situations before she is ready. Last night I made the decision to break the silence on something that I have not told her about for almost three years. I told her the real reason that I left teaching.
After we dropped of cookies at the pharmacy, our favorite Justice store and our favorite Soup Plantation restaurant; we stayed and had dinner at Soup Planation. While we were there, the grandparent of one of my former students came in with her family. Her granddaughter wasn't with her but I recognized her anyways because she volunteered many hours in my classroom. Her grandchild was one of the ones that I was teaching when I had to go out on a stress leave. I regret that I had to do that but I had to take care of myself. At any rate before she left the restaurant she gave Princess $10 and told her to take me to Five Guys. She remembered how much I like their hamburgers. That was such a kind gesture.
When we were done with our meal, we headed to Target to pick up some dog food. As we were driving Princess asked me if I missed teaching. I told her that I did but that I am happy to be home being her mom. I'm also happy to have a new career as an educational advocate. Then I told her the secret that I'd been keeping from her. She never even had an inkling that something wasn't right at may school. I tried very hard to keep my conversations about it private.
I told her that my boss was mean. I told her that nothing I could say or do would ever make her like me. You can read more about my bully boss here.
She asked if I had told other people. I had. She asked if I had told my principal's boss. In some respects I had but there are a lot of politics involved. I let my sweet girl know that sometimes no matter how hard you try, it's best to just move on. The best part is is that now I get to be her mom full time. When I was teaching and in that awful situation, I spent many hours away from my family. At the height of it I was putting in 50-60 hours a week trying to perfect my lesson plans and classroom. I let my girl know that I am happy with my life. If I were still teaching, I would not be where I am today. I told her that something wonderful came out of something so ugly. Then my wise child said, "It's kind of like Pompeii. After the volcano erupted and all those people died, new life came out of the ashes. The earth was made new." That's kind of how I feel. The old has been buried under ashes and soot. New life is springing from it.
I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I am glad that I waited to tell Princess. She is now older and more mature. I left out most of the ugly details but I will tell her one day when she is older. I was so proud of my daughter that she handled it so well. I reveled in her kind words and compassion.
 After this heartfelt discussion, we found a parking space near Target and did our shopping. On our way home from, we drove home to the sounds of the sound track from Disney's "Shake it Up".
Too bad it wasn't Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off." Maybe I'll listen to it today.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Tribute to My Daughter's Therapist

In April of 2010 my husband and I were at a loss as to what to do to help our daughter. Upon the advice of the school psychologist we started researching a family counselor. The therapist we eventually chose was referred to us by a pastor from our church.
From the moment we walked into Miss R's office we immediately knew we were in the right place. She talked to our daughter privately while my husband and I filled out some paperwork, one of which was the Connor's Rating Scale, a survey that measures the likelihood of a child having ADHD. As we left that first meeting, we scheduled a follow up appointment with just my husband and I.
For a long time after the first initial sessions, our therapist became a cog in the wheel for us. She had been down this path many times before. She knew what we needed to do, who we needed to talk to, what books to read etc. She even had the names and numbers of references, one of which ended up being our daughter's wonderful psychiatrist whom we also are very thankful for.
Miss R was very frank with us from the very beginning.  She never sugar coated what we were dealing with. We were told, "Your daughter has severe ADHD. I also think she may have Bipolar Disorder based on your family history of mental illness." We were in shock and disbelief but not without hope.
At one of our first visits, she told us that she wanted to see our daughter on a weekly basis but she also knew that my husband and I needed support in how to parent her. So we agreed to see her on a weekly basis as well.
In addition to being an MFT, Miss R is a registered play therapist. This means that Princess is able to receive counseling through play. Miss R became someone who Princess looks forward to seeing every week. There were a number of times that I thought we'd be asked not to come back the following week due to Princess’ outbursts and meltdowns but every week we were still welcomed into her office with open arms and a smile.
This "Feelings Doctor", as Princess calls her, truly has a gift. I get the sense that she feels this is her calling in life.
When Princess was at her most unstable points, I could call Miss R and expect a return call in sometimes as little as twenty minutes. She gave us advice in many crisis situations.
It's hard to believe that we've been with Miss R for over 4 1/2 years now. The time has just flown by. We know how rare it is to find such a competent and caring therapist let alone one from the very beginning. It was important to my husband and I that Princess really like her therapist otherwise it would be a struggle to get her to attend her weekly sessions. There have only been one or two times out of the many, many appointments that Princess did not want to see Miss R. I can't help to think that God had His hand in choosing this special lady. I know that my family is grateful to have this professional in our lives.

By the way- Her initial gut feeling that our daughter had Bipolar Disorder has been confirmed by a number of medical doctors.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Does Stability Look Like?

For a little over a year my daughter has been experiencing the longest period of stability in her 10 year old life.  Her father and I couldn't be happier.
A question I hear over and over is, "Is stability possible?" Some people believe "Stable is a place where horses live." When Princess was so unstable due to her mood disorder, I knew that stability was possible but it sure seemed a long way off. I also believed that stable was more than just a place where horses live.
Before stability came to live at our home, things were pretty chaotic. Even though we tried really hard to set limits and keep a structured environment, the littlest thing could trigger a meltdown of epic proportions. Sometimes we knew what the triggers were but other times we walked on eggshells. It was not very fun to live at my house.
Then Dr. Wonderful prescribed Amantadine. About the same time, Princess started at a Therapeutic Day School. Those two things combined have helped my daughter achieve the level of stability she has today. There is still the occasional day where Princess will have a meltdown but those days are less frequent. Additionally the duration and frequency of the rages have diminished.
When I ask my child to pick up her clothes, she does so. When I ask her to help with dishes or laundry, I may have to ask a second time but she will complete the tasks. When it is time for homework, Princess gets right to work with very little assistance from me. When it is time to stop a preferred activity, my daughter stops. If my daughter makes a poor choice that requires a consequence, she accepts the consequence. Recently Princess got upset about something my knight was telling her. She didn't like what she was hearing but she willingly took a cool out in her room until she was calm enough to rejoin the family. On that same day she recognized what she was doing and said, "That was an outburst. I'm sorry." Tonight as she and I were running errands for Christmas, Princess asked me if we could go home. She's learning to listen to her body. She knows how important it is for her to rest when she gets tired or overstimulated. That's a big step towards maturity.  Finally Princess has shown no aggression towards my husband or I in a very long time.
Before stability all of the above was not possible. Homework and chores were not expectations because they required too much effort on Princess' part. No matter what sticker charts or behavior modifications we used, battles ensued at the mere mention of homework or chores. We believe that just going to school and performing simple tasks really took their toll on Princess.
There are a few things I learned a long the path to stability. One was that stability is not achieved over night. We spent three years looking for it. Princess went through many many medication trials. She's had a number of hospitalizations. Another thing I learned is just as a child with Autism or Downs Syndrome has that condition but they learn to function in society with it, so does Princess still have her alphabet soup of diagnoses. Lastly we see that all of the things that were making her act out have calmed down quite a bit.  However, I do find them lurking in the shadows. We are ever mindful of them.
I have no idea how long this period of stability will last but for now I am enjoying it. My knight and I are living in the present. When and if Princess becomes unstable again, we have hope that it will end because we've seen stability and we know how wonderful it is.
*Please note: This is my family's experience. Yours may be different.
Additionally, do not stop or start any medication without the advice of a licensed doctor.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Very Special Gift

It was December of 1997. I was celebrating Christmas for the first time with my fiancé's family. When it came time for me to open my gifts, I received three themed gifts. The first was figure skater ornament. The second was a novel about an olympic ice skater. After I opened the second present, my fiancé reached under his mom's sofa and produced an envelope that contained two tickets to see a professional ice skating show. I was utterly speechless. I'd never received something like this ever. I'd come from very meager beginnings. I knew who I'd be taking to the performance, the gift giver.

A week prior to this particular Christmas, I  had received another very special gift, my engagement ring. At the age of 32 I was considered by many to be an Old Maid. I'd even had a parent of one of my students ask me if I was gay since I was still single. My response to her was that I had not found anyone that I had wanted to spend the rest of my life yet. Being a chid of divorce and seeing how hard it was on my mom and feeling it for myself, I wanted to make sure that when I married it was forever.

I did marry this generous gift giver eight months later. Over the years my husband has proven his love for me over and over again. We have dealt with cancer twice (his), the death of my parents a year a part,  mental illness (our daughter's), and job loss (mine). Many men would have walked away from even one of those things but my husband has stayed by my side so we can do this thing called life together.

Parenting a Special Needs child alone is enough of a challenge as it is. I feel so blessed to have a man of such strong character walking by my side. He is willing to do whatever our child needs- therapy, medication, counseling, research, etc.- to ensure she live the best life possible for her.

Truly the second best gift I've ever received. The first one was the gift of God's son Jesus.
Eighteen Christmases later I still have the figure skater ornament. My husband and I hang it on our tree every year. The book and the performance are cherished memories.  I wear my engagement ring proudly although it is now paired with my wedding ring. These rings represent love- no less today than 17 years ago.

The best gift of all those many years ago was the gift of my husband- Someone who truly knew how to show me unconditional love. A man of character who could weather any storm life threw our way.
My Husband and I celebrating our 16th Wedding  Anniversary

More Than Just a Gift Basket: What Our Church Really Gave My Family

Last night was our church's disabilities ministry's annual Christmas program. There were so many in attendance, our church may have to have two performances next year. At the close of the event, the director of disabilities invited everyone to a cookie and hot chocolate reception in honor of the performers. She also informed us that each participant would be receiving a gift basket as a way of saying thanks.
I was in shock and awe over receiving such a lovely gift. It was filled to the brim with many goodies. My favorite though was a framed picture of my daughter.
More importantly are the many gifts our church has given my family already. We are so blessed that our church has a heart for children and adults of differing abilities. It is truly remarkable and rare. I know of many Special Needs families who are unable to worship together at their church of choice.
When my daughter was so unstable and unable to function in a regular Sunday School classroom, the director of disabilities found her a place to assist with severely disabled young adults. We told our daughter that she was "helping" others. She helped out for about six months until we found the right mix of therapies and medications that allowed her to become stable enough to reenter regular Sunday School with her 4th grade peers.  Even then we knew she needed 1:1 support so a college student was provided to become her buddy. This volunteer buddy also helped give Princess extra support this past summer during Vacation Bible Study (VBS). A true gift since she'd been unsuccessful in VBS for the past few years. Her buddy continues to assist her weekly in her 5th grade Sunday School class this year. Princess sees this young lady as the big sister she never had. They have very special bond. As a result of working with my daughter, her "Big Sister" wants to pursue a career of helping other children with disabilities like my daughter.
Another fabulous gift the director of disabilities gave our family was the gift of friendship through moms of Special Needs kids. The director realizes the need for these moms to connect. Many of them do not have anyone who can relate to them and understand what they go through on a daily basis. She hosts several get togethers a year for these moms.
At one such gathering I met a wonderful lady who has become very dear to my family. She helped us advocate for more services for our daughter. At her prompting and guidance, I decided to become an educational advocate myself.
While attending a  luncheon for moms of Special Needs children I met a mom who has a daughter with challenges similar to my child. It turns out that she is an elementary school teacher so we found an additional interest in common since I am a former educator. This friend has a very special place in my heart. There's nothing like having someone who has walked in your shoes to talk to, to cry on and to laugh with.
As I perused the gift basket tonight, I said a silent prayer of thanks for a church with such a vibrant disabilities ministry. My family and I are so blessed by many individuals who add so much to our lives.
Our Basket of Goodies