Looking Up

When I last wrote, life was looking pretty bleak. I’m happy to say that, although October has been a month of ups and downs and more than its fair share of craziness, things overall are moving in the right direction. Though I am still exhausted! (But are we really surprised there?)

Emily

Though far from perfect, Emily’s behavior doesn’t seem *quite* as bad as it was. Yes, she still has moments of brattiness, but that is usually when she’s tired. Most days at school she’s OK. And she seems to be more affectionate these days, which I’m definitely fine with. Extra hugs and snuggles? OK!

My primary concern these days with Emily is back to the potty-training situation. *sigh* She had been doing well, but she’s starting to be stubborn again, not wanting to go. I’ve learned to stop asking her if she has to go most of the time, and instead just tell her she’s going. Even then she’ll fight me a bit, but she usually goes. If I take a more laid-back approach, we end up with accidents — several accidents. There have been days lately with 4-5 accidents. Of course that means more dirty clothes — right when my washing machine decides to conk out on me. Great. But we’re working through it.

Avery

My dear, sweet boy is making an appearance more often these days. Though not perfect, his behavior at school has been considerably better these past couple of weeks. I can’t say exactly what has caused the improvement, though his teacher and I have both been making efforts in this area. I am pleased to say that at Avery’s parent-teacher conference, his teacher did not dwell on the challenges that Avery has presented, but rather discussed some ideas she had to help him. She put a chart in place to encourage Avery’s positive behavior, with the reward being free reading time (he loves to read). She also brought in a big bin of her own son’s books (that he had outgrown), just for Avery. She offered a small bean bag to keep Avery’s hands busy. And asked his opinion on other things that might help him. I was told the literacy specialist was going to be testing him to see where he stood in the reading curriculum, so they would be able to best structure his days for success. And Avery said he’s been doing some kind of other testing, too. I was glad that at least a few of the people at his school were working to help him.

At home, I’ve made a few changes, as well. The most notable change is taking away screen time in the morning. Avery had gotten into the habit of turning on the TV or some device with video games first thing in the morning. Even if I limited how much, he still seemed overactive afterward, less willing or able to settle down and get ready for school. So I decided to try taking away all screen time in the morning. My theory was that the screen time was overstimulating his brain, making him need that constant activity and stimulation. Since he already had some difficulty with transitions, this did not set him up for success at school, where he needed to be calmer and more open to lower levels of stimulation. It seems to be working. Most days I notice a difference at home. And his behavior at school since I implemented this has been much better, as well. (Though it did correspond to the changes made by his teacher, as well, so it’s hard to say which had a greater impact. I’m sure both played a part.)

In any case, we’re moving in the right direction. Now I have to work on creating more definitive chores and responsibilities, both for Avery and Emily. They have both gotten into an entitled mentality, expecting things to be done for them. And I want to make sure they gain a greater sense of self-responsibility, realizing how their behavior affects others and how they can become more self-sufficient. We’ll get there.

Me

On a personal note, this has been a busy, crazy month. Emily’s birthday, a book fair, vendor events, trying to clean house….oh, and getting legally divorced. All positive activities, but I am left feeling a bit burned out — moving into the busiest time of the year! I’m starting to slip once again into that “I don’t feel like doing anything” mode. But this time I am doing what I can to nip that in the bud.

Over the last couple of months, my schedule has been all topsy turvy, dealing with last-minute, urgent activities, rather than setting me up for success with more gradual progress. And I think that has contributed greatly to the tired, burned-out feeling I’ve been experiencing. So first on the to do list is to get back into a routine, to schedule times when I will work on urgent items, and times to make progress on my more long-term goals. 

What I have found to be the biggest discouragement is looking around, feeling like nothing is getting done. So, while I do need to build in times to relax, I also need to push myself at times to make some kind of progress. The less I allow myself to do, the less I feel like doing. It’s a vicious cycle. For a while now I’ve realized that I work best on a deadline. So I’ve set a few in place, to encourage me to handle business items, household items, and other such things. Early registration also starts on Tuesday for grad school, so I have to figure that out soon, too.

Life is certainly not getting easier, but it is moving in the right direction, and overall I’m feeling more positive. November will be busy with events and holiday prep, but I’m hoping December will be a bit more relaxed so I can enjoy the holiday season with my kids. Christmas shopping is probably about two thirds complete. Bills are being paid. Goals are in place. With a little bit (OK, a lot) of effort, I know I’ll get there.

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In a Funk

Sometimes when life gets particularly crazy and overwhelming, the only thing to do is write it out. For me, at least, writing it all out makes me have to think about everything more objectively, to process it all, and to find ways to simplify it — and that, in turn, gets me in the frame of mind to do something about it. So let’s give it a shot.

Emily

My sweet, independent, easy child is not so easy anymore. On a positive note, she’s finally potty trained! She started accepting the potty the Monday before school started. And, while she still has the occasional accident, she’s doing pretty well — even overnight! So that’s good news.

In the not-so-good news, however, is her increased brattiness. She’s more prone to tantrums these days, especially if someone does something she doesn’t like. And her tantrums can involve whining, arguing, yelling, and even pushing and/or hitting. I’m sure a lot of it is her age. She’s testing her limits, asserting her will, and in general making sure everyone knows she’s not happy. But it can be very difficult to deal with, especially with everything else on my plate! And her teacher has already commented on it, asking if I had anything that worked at home to help. *sigh*

Avery

Emily’s behavior seems mild compared to Avery’s. With Avery, I have to deal with defiance, lack of respect, constant arguing and/or whining and complaining, bossiness, bad attitude, and the occasional impulse that negatively affects others. And it’s affecting school. I have already gotten multiple calls and reports home about his behavior. Thus far nothing seems to be working.

We’ve been seeing a family counselor, and she believes that we need to put into place a positive reinforcement system in an attempt to encourage him to behave better. She’s also pushing me to request a PPT through his school — a meeting with staff members at his school to get him formally evaluated and to discuss challenges and how to address concerns. I will be stopping in to his school one day this week to meet with the behavior specialist and sit in on his classroom, and I’m hoping to discuss setting up a PPT at that time.

I’m hoping those steps will help, but honestly to me it feels like there’s something else going on. I don’t know if he just truly doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks or wants, or if he is intentionally (even if it’s subconsciously) defying everyone. Either way I wish I knew how to address it. I’ve taken a pile of books out from the library, but finding the time and energy to read them will be a challenge.

I did notice Saturday that there were two occasions when moving away from a busy, action-packed environment to a more subdued, calm environment led to him acting better. I don’t know if it was coincidence or if there’s something there. At this point I have so many theories and thoughts running through my brain it’s hard to determine what’s connected and what’s just me grasping at straws!

Me

All of the drama involving the kids has made me feel like a bad mom lately. I feel like I’m turning into the kind of mom I don’t want to be: one who yells all the time, is constantly worn out and frustrated, and wants to be far, far away from her kids. I love my kids; I truly do. But most of the time lately I just want to be alone. And I hate feeling like that.

I’m sure part of it is my just being tired and overwhelmed in other areas of my life, too. I feel like I don’t have much of a handle on anything these days. And that is not like me! I like having a plan, a routine, a course of action that I actually follow through with. But lately I feel like I’m just floating along, doing the bare minimum to get by on a day-to-day basis. I have no motivation to do much of anything. My energy and desire to tackle my to do list have gone down the toilet. Is it because of the kids? Is it because of the condition of my house? Is it because with school starting (and Emily starting school) my daily schedule is all topsy turvy? Is it just because I need a vacation from it all? I don’t know. Probably all of the above. And it sucks big time.

As I’ve done in the past, I’m trying to take a deep breath and figure out a game plan. I’m trying to make new routines and habits, to come up with a schedule that will work. I’ve got a POD sitting in my driveway, ready to fill with boxes and miscellaneous stuff from my house as I attempt to tackle the clutter. I’ve got that pile of parenting books ready to read. I’ve got ideas and projects and activities that I want to try. But it all seems so much harder this time around. I just feel so tired.

I’m trying to draw on resources that have worked in the past: planning things out, listening to motivational audiobooks, pushing myself. I’m probably going to go back and re-read a bunch of A Life You Want posts — that sometimes works, too. But it feels different this time; probably because I’m at such a loss over what to do with Avery. I feel helpless and hopeless.

But I’m not giving up. I refuse to give up.

Avery and I are going to be putting together a positive behavior chart tonight. And the kids and I are going to work on clearing out boxes and clutter this afternoon. Maybe seeing some progress in the house will make me feel a little better overall. It’s worth a shot anyway.

I need to get myself out of this funk. But for that to truly happen, something needs to go well. Let’s hope this week is better than the last. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me!

What a Week

This past week had to be the most stressful week I’ve experienced in a long time. Nothing extreme happened. There were no disasters or crises. Nobody got hurt. No property got damaged. So why was it so stressful? Avery was at a new camp.

If you have never had a child with a behavioral issue attending a camp where no one knew him, after having been essentially kicked out of two camps previously, consider yourself lucky. The anxiety, the nerve-wracking tension that each phone call brings, the reluctant hopefulness that day brings — it was a rollercoaster of emotions and nerves.

As I mentioned last time, I cut most sugar out of Avery’s diet. No sweet cereals, no sweet snacks, no 100% juice. The first day on the diet was a success. The second day was decent, too. The third day was his first day at the new camp. Trigger the anxiety. I had no idea how he was going to do. When I started his diet some said his behavior could actually get worse, as he body “detoxed” from the sugar. But he seemed to be taking it in stride. Was I lucky? Or was I just on borrowed time? I was a nervous wreck. But the first day at camp seemed to go OK. The man in charge lumped Avery in with the other young campers when he said he had some trouble listening. I breathed a hopeful sigh of relief.

Then Tuesday hit. On top of difficulties at home in the morning, this second day at camp was horrible, reminiscent of the very difficult days Avery had experienced elsewhere. Great. Were we back to square one?

The third day, following the bad behavior on Tuesday, was even more nerve-wracking than the previous two days. Would he get kicked out? Would they make him sit out activities, say he couldn’t come back? But Wednesday was OK. Some trouble not listening, a couple of small issues, nothing major. Small sigh of relief.

Thursday: not good again. But they said he could come back…

Friday morning I broke down. Avery was already acting up at home. What was he going to be like at camp? I was fortunate that they had put up with him already, that they had said he could keep going. But would they live to regret that decision? Would Avery make the last day of camp miserable for everyone? The stress got the better of me, and I broke down and cried.

And, while I had gone into a separate room so he wouldn’t see me, Avery came in and saw me anyway. As difficult as it had been, I think seeing me break down like that affected him more than the yelling and talking and punishments and pleas had. Because after that, he was OK. And his day at camp was OK. Not great, but OK.

I was relieved when camp was over. I was able to breathe a little deeper. I was able to stop worrying every second of the day. Of course I still don’t know what to expect from Avery each day, but I think we’re making some progress. I have definitely seen a difference since taking him off most sugar (and if I hadn’t before, all it took was giving him a cookie dough pop yesterday to quickly show me the difference!). He’s getting used to less-sweet drinks and snacks. And, as he continues to progress, we can move on to more changes, to improve his diet overall and get him to a better place.

While the next couple of weeks will certainly be busy, I’m hopeful they will be a bit more peaceful. We’ll be gearing up for a new school year — and Emily will be starting preschool! There are projects to finish up, places to go, things to do. But it’s all good stuff. And as long as we keep moving in the right direction, I’m going to stay positive. We can do this!

 

Hoping For a Miracle

Sometimes life gets to the point where you think “everything’s so crazy, why not add one more thing?” That feels like where I am right now. The one thing I’m adding? Changing Avery’s diet.

For those who read my last post, you know that we’ve been struggling with Avery’s behavior this summer. And I had been reading a book to help him with executive function skills. But another option had been suggested, especially since I was having limited success with my efforts thus far: diet.

It’s no secret that Avery’s diet has been far from ideal for a while now. He’s been a “typical kid” with what he likes: what they call a “white diet,” with a few chicken nuggets or a hot dog thrown in for good measure. The white diet consists of starches such as bread, pasta, crackers, etc., milk, and cheese. Sounds like Avery to me! So I already knew he wasn’t getting enough protein, and he wasn’t getting enough nutrients. But, of course, he liked his sweets. He takes after me, and I’m a big fan, too, so that’s no surprise, either. So, with diet being suggested, I decided to check out another book, this time one focusing on diet: Cure Your Child With Food.

I’m not trying to go crazy here. I don’t want to pump my child full of supplements or suddenly say he can’t eat anything he loves. But last night, as I was listening to the book, I heard a story that was all too familiar, about a boy whose behavior sounded a lot like Avery’s: poor impulse control, not listening, hyperactive. He had a diet similar to Avery’s. And what helped him was cutting out added sugar.

Some kids are just more sensitive to sugar than others. And I figure, even if that’s not the biggest cause of his behavior, what could it hurt? It’s not like sugar is a necessary nutrient. So wish me luck, because we’re starting today with cutting WAY back on sugar.

I’m trying other things, too, like trying new foods and taking a vitamin to fill in some nutritional gaps. And while I’m not exactly expecting a miracle, I’m certainly hoping for one! He starts a new camp on Monday, one he’s been excited about attending: Camp Invention. And I want him to go. I want him to learn and explore and try new things. He wants to go. And it would be good for him. But I have my fears. I worry that he’s going to struggle again, that he’s going to have to leave early again. And I don’t want that. I don’t want to have to worry about my son missing out on things he would otherwise enjoy because he can’t control his behavior.

It won’t be an easy road, but what’s one more thing, right? And if it helps, it will all be worth it.

Amazing Kids Have Problems, Too

Last night, after putting Emily to bed, I spent some time with Avery. This has become our new norm: some one-on-one time before he goes to sleep. Last night, though, was a little different. Before we settled into our usual board games or other activities, we spent some time chatting. And, while we were chatting, I was observing. Unemotionally, non-judgmentally, just observing.

This may seem like a little thing, or a strange thing, or certainly something not worth mentioning. But in some ways it was kind of a breakthrough. You see, we have been having a rough couple of weeks. While we’ve struggled with Avery’s behavior for a while now, on and off, a week or so ago things seemed to be getting worse. Earlier in the summer, he had been behaving at camp, and then his behavior started sliding downhill. When things seemed to be escalating to a point I was uncomfortable with, I decided to be proactive. He said he had been getting bored at camp (and, knowing Avery, when he’s bored, he tends to misbehave, so this seemed like a potential cause of the issue). So, since parts of camp were boring, I decided to look into other camps. He loves science, so I spent hours searching and looking into different science camps. And I found one that had availability last minute, that he could start this week. He was excited; I was excited. It was right up his alley.

His behavior at science camp was worse than it had been at the other camp.

What on earth was going on? I got emotional. I got frustrated. I got disappointed. He enjoyed the activities — at least the ones he was able to participate in without getting kicked out. He said he liked the people — yet he wouldn’t listen to the counselors, and he kept getting in the other kids’ way. He wanted to be there, but he couldn’t behave enough to be able to stay. So, after a day and a half, I pulled him out of camp.

For a while now I’ve known a few things about Avery: he has poor impulse control, he has a different way of looking at things when it comes to his behavior, and he has to constantly be moving (with the exception of a very few activities that hold his attention). We’ve suspected for a while that he may have ADHD. He’s a good kid. He doesn’t want to misbehave. He just can’t help it.

So what’s a mom to do?

I cried. I got depressed. I brainstormed. I held my little boy. I told him that no matter what, I love him. But I wanted to help him. We have to move past this. So, surprise, surprise, I turned to books. We went to the library and took out books geared toward kids that he could read on his own – about feelings, behaving, self control. I started listening to a book that fits Avery perfectly and could help guide me in my endeavor to help him. And last night, encouraged by the book I had been listening to, I observed him.

What did I learn?

Avery is amazing. He is smart, and sensitive, and affectionate. But I already knew that. But watching him without judgement (despite his flopping around, throwing a stuffed animal in the air, and doing other things I would normally criticize), I really saw how, despite his inability to slow down, he picks up everything. He’s still listening when I talk. He’s still processing and thinking and learning. He just can’t calm his body. And he can’t control his reactions to things sometimes. That sensitivity can sometimes make him over-emotional. But during our chat I learned that he’s more than willing to try things to help him. He doesn’t want to misbehave any more than we want him to.

And so, over the next days, weeks, months, it will be one of my biggest goals to help my little boy overcome these concerns. The book I’m listening to describes certain skills as “executive functions,” and some kids just struggle with one or several of them. Not surprisingly, kids with ADHD are often among those kids. And impulse control and emotional processing are just a couple of these skills. The book offers information and guidance on how to deal with deficits in these skills. I’m hoping this book will help me help him.

Avery has so much potential. He is a gifted kid, with a passion for life and learning. And I want him to be the best he can be. Not for my sake or his teachers’ sakes, but for his sake. He deserves it. And I won’t give up until he gets there.

Summer’s Just Begun

Isn’t it funny how sometimes one aspect of your life can just seem to take over for a bit? It seems to happen to me a lot; my regular schedule goes out the window because a pressing deadline or unexpected news pops up. I do the bare minimum with other stuff and devote most of my “free” time to this new activity.

The last couple of weeks it’s been Usborne Books & More. Not really surprising, but instead of the one deadline (such as a vendor event) that has to be addressed, this time it was a few at once! There was the self-imposed action of creating an inventory sale. But then I was encouraged to be part of a booking challenge (during which we try to schedule as many parties as possible and compete against each other), home office issued a special recruiting offer, I was finishing up tasks related to my book fair, and, of course, I had to deal with the regular flurry of new ideas and tasks that come to mind.

Fortunately most of the UBAM activity should be settling down this week. Then I can get back into a regular routine (if there even is such a thing!). As of now I don’t know of any deadlines I need to worry about until the end of August. That means I have almost two months to tackle my cleaning projects and figure out a regular routine that lets me stay on top of things when school starts. Sounds like enough time, but it won’t be easy. I really only have four full days when Kevin has the kids, plus an hour here and there, to get things done. At night I rarely have the energy to tackle big cleaning projects, and in the early morning I rarely have enough time to really get started. Those are times I reserve for regular tasks and smaller items that come up.

But more important that all the cleaning and organizing tasks in the world is my kids. I feel my attention has been divided a bit, and that being present has been more of a challenge than it should be. So this summer I need to work on that, too. I need to make sure I make time to play and read and do things with them. And I need to work on less pleasant tasks: potty-training Emily and working with Avery on his attitude and behavior. Those are no less important, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the struggles we’re facing in those areas have to do with my constant busy-ness. I need to work on finding balance (surprise, surprise, right?). I know most parents struggle in that area, but I also know that I can improve. It is within my power, and my kids deserve it.

So my goals for the next two months:

  • Finish cleaning projects (living room, basement areas, playroom, and kitchen)
  • Spend time daily playing and doing things with my kids
  • Figure out how I’m paying for grad school
  • Potty train Emily
  • Have fun!
  • Find at least a little time to relax

Easy peasy, right?

Pushing Through the Insanity

Is it just me, or has June been a completely insane month? Between last-minute events and activities for Avery’s school, a book fair I was asked to run at another school, my brother and his family coming to visit from India, making up hours at home for work missed due to all the above stuff…I’m exhausted! But of course that’s not all. There have been challenges to compete in for Usborne Books & More, and a summer sale I’m running for Usborne, as well. I have (unsuccessfully) been trying to keep up with cleaning tasks at home. I’ve had meetings and plans and goals to reach. Oh, and let’s not forget the water pipe that decided to wreak havoc in my house last night (and get water all over both my bathrooms and into the basement).

Sometimes it’s amazing I’m still standing. But I’m doing my best to take it in stride and just keep pushing forward. Needless to say I haven’t accomplished the goals I set for myself earlier this year. I hadn’t expected the end of the school year to be quite so frantic. Silly me! So I guess I’m going to have to do some adjusting.

Amidst all the craziness has been a big dose of mom guilt. I feel like I haven’t been spending much quality time with my kids. There’s been too much yelling and not enough playing. I also need to work with both of them on their attitudes and behavior. With school out for the summer, I’m planning on putting into place new routines to get us back on track. I’m building in time for a little yoga in the morning (to work on mindfulness with the kids and maybe curb some of Avery’s impulses), play time in the morning, too, maybe a walk after dinner. I also need to get them working on their self-sufficiency. Avery in particular has gotten too lazy, expecting me to do everything for him. And he should definitely be able to get his own breakfast, at least!

Of course built into this routine will be time for me to take care of my own tasks. But I need to work on my willpower. I’ve been feeling lazy in the evenings too often and not getting anything done. Instead I’ll stay up way too late, which means I’m not getting anything done in the mornings, either, because I sleep in. I need to reset my system a bit so I can go back to being productive. While a little down time here and there isn’t a bad thing, this cycle hasn’t been good for me.

OK, so new routines. Tonight I will be tweaking the schedule I’ve made. Tomorrow I hope to put it into action. It will take a while to really get into the swing of things, but hopefully by this time next week I’ll start feeling more in control. No more insanity! (At least, no more than I was already used to!) I have a lot to get done this summer before school starts, and I can’t afford to give up now!