Saturday, March 28, 2009

"This was a very fun day."

I'm going to go into the book and the program I've discovered to help Little Girl and Baby Boy and all that later, but my sister has agreed to allowing me to try this program with Little Girl, and while she won't take her off the meds right now, she said she will take her off when school ends. (She previously had decided she was leaving her on them all summer!) This way we have a chance to find out over the summer if the program is taking care of the problem or not with no meds to mess things up.

So, she came over today for her "evaluation" and after she finished it, I let her stay the rest of the day.

We read a couple of chapters of Little House on the Prairie. Sang some silly songs. Bounced on the trampoline and played some badminton. Got out my fiddle and boy, was she ever determined to learn to play it. I think I'm going to look into lessons that she and I can perhaps take together, and buy her a half-sized fiddle (or perhaps a Half Pint fiddle? :) ) so we can play together.

Went for a walk, and admired the neighbor's flowers. (Since I have none. He has a yard just full of tulips and daffodils and hyacinths all singing the glories of spring and my yard is stark and barren. Ah, well, we'll fix that next year...)

And the strangest thing happened on this walk. Right there, on the main street going through the subdivision, far from any farm, were two corncobs and kernels of corn scattered all over. Where they came from and why they were there is anyone's guess. All I can figure is God knew a certain Little Girl had had a rough couple of weeks and needed a free gift, so He rained them down from heaven for us.

She gathered up the corn kernels and stuffed her pockets full of them, announcing that tomorrow she is going to plant them at Grandma and Grandpa's because they have a BIG yard, and then the corn will grow and we can get one of those machines like they have in South Dakota that takes the kernels off the corn when you turn the handle and make lots of corncob dolls. I like the way this child dreams. :)

We, of course, took the corncobs home and promptly turned them into dolls. Little Girl made them almost completely without assistance. Their names are Charlotte and Little Blue.

As we headed to the car so I could take her back home, she looked at me and smiled. "This was a very fun day."

I couldn't agree more.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I feel like Mrs. Boast...

Mr. and Mrs. Boast lived by themselves on their farm. They had no children and could hardly make fuss enough over Rose.

When at last the visit was over and Mr. Boast was standing by the buggy to see them start, he started to speak, then hesitated and finally said in a queer voice, “If you folks will let me take the baby in to Ellie for her to keep, you may take the best horse out of my stable there and lead it home.”

Manly and Laura were still in astonishment, and Mr. Boast went on. “You folks can have another baby and we can’t. We never can.”

Manly gathered up the reins, and Laura said with a little gasp, “Oh, no! No! Drive on, Manly!” As they drove away, she hugged Rose tightly; but she was sorry for Mr. Boast as he stood still where they had left him, and for Mrs. Boast waiting in the house, knowing, she was sure, what Mr. Boast was going to propose to them.
~Laura Ingalls Wilder, in The First Four Years

Many people are rather horrified by this passage. How dare such good friends even think to ask such a question? And to offer to trade a baby for a horse?

But I'm not horrified. I understand. I'm glad Laura inserted the line that she was sorry for Mrs. Boast waiting in the house... I'm glad Laura could look beyond her shock that her friends wanted her baby to see the longing that brought them to pose the question, and the anxious waiting of the childless woman inside.

Yesterday I did an absolutely insane thing. I took a page out of the Boasts' book.

And now I feel like Mrs. Boast waiting in the house. Only instead of waiting only a moment for my husband to return to the house, I await a phone call that could come at any moment, or never at all. A phone call from a family who now has a decision to make, because I was crazy enough to ask them if I could have their little Rose.

(I did not, however, offer them my best horse.)

I'm still in shock that the words came out of my mouth... "I would take her in a heartbeat, if you'd let me have her..."

And now to wait for the answer... I just can't imagine they would say yes... I just can't. How could a mother sign away her little girl? They won't say yes. There's just no way.

But what if they do? After all, they haven't yet said no...

Mrs. Boast... I understand.

Update: I originally put this post up last Friday then decided it was a little too close to my heart to share with the world at that time, and also, if they did say yes, I didn't know that I wanted everyone to know the circumstances of how she came to be mine... So I took it down.

But I know some of you had already read and commented, so I thought I'd repost it now that the waiting game is over, and let you know how things turned out.

What I didn't say was WHY I asked this family if I could have their baby. Last summer I mentioned this family (click here to read) and I have never stopped wanting those little girls. A few months ago, the mother signed over the older child to a relative, but the relative was unable to take the baby. Without going into the gory details, things had reached the lowest of lows you can imagine and the family, and even the mother herself, realized that this baby is not safe in her care. Not safe at all. They were discussing all the family members that they were trying to get to take this baby and nobody could or would.

Thus prompted my "I would take her in a heartbeat, if you'd let me have her..." to the family who has the older child.

The response, "Well, if you want her! We'll talk to Mom and tell her you'll take her if she wants. You can just go down to the district attorney's office and for $500 they'll do the papers, and she can just sign away her rights to you."

$500... my best horse... what's the difference really? Who knew you could buy a baby for five hundred bucks...?

Floored me. Never expected that response. This family does love that baby and I never dreamed they'd give her up to someone not only outside the family, but who now lives hours away so they would never see her! I guess concern for the baby's safety won out over their own desire to be able to stay in her life, which is actually pretty admirable.

So you can only imagine the thoughts consuming MY mind all week. I do want to adopt, but this wasn't exactly how I planned to do it. Still, I knew that IF it was God's plan for me to take this little girl in, He'd take care of all the details someway or another.

I never got a phone call all week, so it was with quite some nervousness that I went to see the little girl yesterday. I had decided not to say anything lest the family had since that time become offended that I'd even offered to take this baby off their hands, and to wait and see if they said anything. Nothing was said for five or ten minutes as I played with the little girl, and then suddenly, "CPS came and took Baby Rose. So it's out of Mom's hands now. She can't decide who she goes to. Rose is in foster care."

Many details ensued, but that's all that's important for now. So just like Mrs. Boast, I shall remain childless -- at least for now. At least little Rose is finally safe.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Our Quirky Baby

I haven't forgotten my Little Girl series. I'm coming back to that. But this post, though about Baby Boy, actually is going to tie in to Little Girl's story later. So bear with me. :)

Little Girl was the perfect baby. She was happy and content, bright and active, always met all her milestones right when she should, if not a little early, would go to anybody -- she was just wonderful. Baby Boy, on the other hand, is a different story.

Baby Boy was born with a problem. I actually knew before he was born that the chances were pretty good he was going to have it. Sensory integration disorder. When I graduated eleven years ago with a master's degree in speech-language pathology, I had never heard of it. That is unfathomable to me now. It's become a big buzzword in early intervention and with good reason: so many kids now suffer from it. Huge increases in recent years. In fact, most of the children I see have it to some degree or another.

I first heard of sensory integration at an inservice my very first day of teaching in the fall of 1998. I sat there in rapt attention as the symptoms of the disorder were described by the school occupational therapists. They were describing my life.

Thus began my obsession with neurology. I sought out more and more information on sensory integration and how to treat it in a desperate attempt to treat myself. And somehow I got really lucky and my haphazard self-treatments did some good; this was one huge factor in my personal journey to healing from depression, though not the only one.

Three years ago, coincidentally enough (God's timing is never a coincidence!), I attended a workshop on sensory integration disorders for early intervention, and it was the absolute best training I have ever attended in my life. Except for the one I flew to Florida to attend a month later from the same speaker because I was so impressed and eager to learn more, more, more. And the one I attended the next year when she returned, and the next.

I knew the day Baby Boy was born that he was indeed afflicted with this cursed disorder, which runs in our family and can be ultimately be traced back to my grandfather. (I never knew his family so I can't trace it back any farther than that.) And my suspicions were only confirmed in the weeks to come.

Poor Baby Boy had a rough first few months. He was allergic to absolutely everything, and covered in rashes and eczema as a result, and put on all sorts of medications to try and control the allergic reactions, which caused his beautiful head of thick dark hair to fall out. He cried and he cried and he cried. Nobody could hold him except his mother and even then he cried a lot. He was absolutely miserable (and so were his parents!)

Thanks to that training I attended, I had a whole notebook full of activities on how to treat an infant with sensory integration disorder, and I shared these with my brother and sister-in-law, and he gradually grew better and better. Were it not for those activities... had I never attended that conference just months before his birth... I am convinced Baby Boy was well on the road to autism.

But we saved him from that. Unfortunately, sometimes when you treat children young for problems, they make so much progress that they don't qualify for any special help... and yet without the help, they don't make the continued progress they should get. My big beef with the system, whose rules and regulations are invented by people who sit in an office and never see a child.

So when I had his parents contact early intervention to get Baby Boy some occupational therapy so he could have a trained specialist to continue to treat him instead of just me who had attended a conference or two on the subject, things didn't go well. He barely qualified for services, and he had to wait several months more for an occupational therapist, and then they'd only give him one visit a month. Like so much can be accomplished once a month... Then he ended up doing so well that they dismissed him entirely, saying he had no more sensory integration problems.

I knew better. He was definitely doing much better but I could still the subtleties. And now his speech wasn't developing properly, as a result. And now here he is, at two and a half, suffering from apraxia and "quirkiness".

Quirkiness? I don't know what else to call it. Except sensory integration disorder, which he supposedly no longer had. Baby Boy is quirky and there's just no other word to explain it. Most people would write it off -- others in my family even write it off.

"Look at how he runs... there's something just kind of awkward about the way he moves," I point out. My sister says, "Oh, he just runs like Dad. That's how Dad runs." Okay, to me it is a problem if a 2 year old boy runs like an overweight man in his 50s... but she just puts it off on genetics.

He eats french fries with a spoon and fruit snacks with a fork. He won't finger feed, everything must be eaten with a utensil. Not because he doesn't want to touch the food either -- he will actually pick up the french fry and put it on the spoon. Everything, once put on his plate, must remain that way on his plate. If he eats his mashed potatoes, you cannot turn his plate around so he can reach his green beans better. He will turn his plate right back to the position it started in.

He develops routines and rituals for everything, and does them the same way every time. If he enters my parents' home, he must go straight to the tv and turn on Wiggles. If he enters my grandmother's home, he heads for the Country Roads CD, puts it in the CD player and turns it on, pulls out a stool and sets a mat in front of it, and goes around and around in circles, climbing on the stool and jumping onto the mat. If I teach him a new game, he plays it with me. If someone else tries to play it with him, he'll return to me to play it. Everything must be done the same way with the same person in the same place.

See what I mean? Quirky. But I know it's just me seeing this stuff. And his parents are aware that something's not quite right, thank goodness; at least I don't have to fight to convince them something's wrong because that would be really awkward. Telling someone there's something wrong with their child is never fun, especially if they don't even see it...

So the past couple of weeks I have been on a mission to get occupational services back in place for Baby Boy. I've interviewed OTs in the area and selected someone I think will actually be able to help him. (My brother and sister-in-law are all for it, lest you think I'm being the pushy aunt. :) They want to do anything they can do to help him!) And she's aware that the issues are subtle and hopefully that means when she comes out to see him, she'll qualify him for services.

You may think Baby Boy is a really weird kid based on the things I'm saying, but if you saw him, you wouldn't. Most people would look at him and say, "I don't know what you're talking about, he looks fine to me. Maybe he doesn't talk quite as well as he should, but other than that, he's great."

And they'd be right. But with my background, and the knowledge I have, I see the subtle problems -- the problems that may not be so subtle on down the road. And I know that NOW is the time to fix them, not later after they've escalated into much bigger problems.

Well there happens to be a superb OT in the town I've just moved from that I wish could work with him but the distance is far too great. But I decided last week to pick her brain a bit, and out of that conversation came a book recommendation.

I ordered the book, received it in the mail yesterday, and thus the decision to post about Baby Boy's problems... and about Little Girl's problems too. Because this book has opened my eyes to the real problem underlying both of their issues: a brain imbalance.

And the solution to that problem. I hope!!

I will return after finishing the entire book for part four... the potential solution. So if you have a kid like Little Girl, or a kid like Baby Boy, please stay tuned... the answer is coming.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Little Girl and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Medicine (Part 2)

Read Part One here, where Little Girl is given Vyvanse for ADHD and has horrible side effects of depression and perfectionism.

So. My mother and I begged my sister not to ever give that horrid pill to Little Girl again.

Her response? "Oh, she probably just needs a bigger dose."

A BIGGER dose!?!? What on EARTH is she thinking!?

She gave her the pill anyway the next day, and the next, and Little Girl is still taking it.

On Tuesday, so the third day she was taking the pill, I had to go pick her up from cheerleading. She was a perfectly normal Little Girl that evening... but I think it's because the meds wear off by night. She doesn't eat all day but in the evening she does.

Saturday evening we all took the kids to the park. Ditto. She was fine. But again, it was evening. However, my sister reported that she had done well in school all week, and that she's been just fine. Well... but my sister doesn't see her till about 6 pm... and it's worn off by then. That's my theory. More on that later.

Last Sunday wasn't bad. She wasn't crying all day or being a perfectionist, at least. But she still wasn't Little Girl. She was quiet and played off by herself all afternoon. "See how good she is," my sister praised the pill.

Yes, I saw how good she was. The trouble is, Little Girl was lost inside of that "good" child. Her personality wasn't there. Little Girl is the sunniest little thing you ever saw, and that was missing. She was calm and well-behaved sure, but where was her spirit that I love so much!? I still wanted my Little Girl back.

This Sunday was at least as bad, if not worse, than the first Sunday was. She was so touchy. Everything had to be exactly so-so or there was a meltdown. First, she was busy lining up things in her bedroom at my parents' house and wouldn't leave them, even when I said, "Little Girl, we're taking Baby Boy outside to play... do you want to come?"

Her two favorite things in the whole world: playing outside, and playing with Baby Boy. And her response? "I have to finish this first."

"Okay... well... I'm going outside to play with Baby Boy then..." We played outside for awhile, and she never came. Then we headed to my grandmother's house to visit with family. I called down to my parents' house and told the others to come and bring Little Girl. "Um, we're trying..." responds my sister. "She insists she has to clean her room first."

Clean her room? Who on earth IS this child!?!?

She never came. A little while later, my aunt and I took Baby Boy on a walk and when we passed by my parents' house, I said, "I'm just going to get her." It constantly frustrates me that my sister takes eons to get Little Girl to go places. I tell her all the time, just pick her up and go! She sits and cajoles and bargains and begs and Little Girl ignores her completely.

So I walked in the house, into Little Girl's bedroom, scooped her up and she screamed and wailed that she wasn't finished cleaning up her room. She had a million stuffed animals lined up in a row on the floor and was neatly arranging them on her bed. Again... who IS this child?

She settled down and curled up against me as I carried her (and whew, is that child ever getting big!) to my grandmother's. Up there she sat in the middle of the couch and insisted that my sister sit next to her, to her right. However, my aunt was already sitting to her right. She insisted that my sister sit there anyway, but would not scoot over, so my sister tried to squeeze in between them, and she screamed that she was crowded. But she still wouldn't scoot over. Then she demanded that my aunt get up. We sat and discussed the issue for quite some time while she kept insisting and crying and finally my aunt said, "Well, I'm sitting on the other side of you then." Little Girl agreed that this was okay.

Then a few minutes later when she got up to do something and someone else sat there, Little Girl screamed again. "NO NO, YOU SIT HERE" to my aunt. She's turned into an absolute tyrant, and there's no dealing with her because she just screams and cries and is inconsolable. If this were her typical behavior, obviously some major disciplinary strategies would need to be in place, but this is NOT her. I don't think you can discipline out the side effects of a drug...

So she sat and drew her picture, and then she snatched my mom's laptop and sat at the table playing games online and getting SO upset that it kept lagging because the wireless internet connection is actually at my mom's house, and the distance was so great that the connection was pretty thin... and slow.

She kept screaming at me to come help her, and I kept trying to explain that there's nothing I can do to make it work any faster. I stand there with her trying and trying to explain this and calm her down and then she yells at me to "JUST STOP TALKING." Well fine. I walked off, and she screamed, "NO COME BACK HERE AND HELP ME!"

You cannot even imagine what a frustrating afternoon this was.

But the worst came when my brother and sister-in-law got up to leave. After five hours, mind you. Five hours that she has barely acknowledged Baby Boy's presence.

"NOOOOOOO!" she wails. "I want to play with Baby Boy!! I didn't get to play with him!!!"

There was no reasoning with her. If you think explaining that she has had five hours to play with him and has chosen not to was going to work, then you think wrong.

She just sobbed and sobbed brokenheartedly. Baby Boy went around the room for his hug-everybody-goodbye ritual and stood back from Little Girl because she was crying so hard and he didn't know what to make of it. We urged him to give her a hug, and he did, but then just as he pulled away from her to head toward the door, she let out a piercing heartbreaking SHRIEK like her entire world had just collapsed on her.

Scared Baby Boy to death and HE started crying, she was again inconsolable and cried and cried and cried. It was a positively dreadful experience.

CLEARLY this is not a medicine this child needs to be on. But how to convince my sister of this?? Because even observing this behavior, she simply replies, "But she's so good at school now, her teacher said she never has to say a word to her to keep her on track, she doesn't hum and sing, etc."

I don't care. Little Girl is now suffering from depression and anxiety, produced by this drug. I know she is, because I recognize it. I thought that was what was going on two weeks ago, but the scream at Baby Boy's departure... I knew it beyond the shadow of a doubt. The absolute heartbreak of someone you love leaving you -- it's beyond understanding. It's truly not anything I think you can understand or imagine unless you've been there. I know now what it's like to be normal, and to say "Hey, had a great time, see you next time" and that's the end of it, and you're fine. But years ago... that tearing away was like ripping out a piece of your heart. It was as if you'd never see the person again, like they were dying. And that's what I saw on Little Girl's face as Baby Boy walked out that door. And it's unbearable to think that she's suffering that kind of pain -- and needlessly!! It's drug-induced!!!

And as for why she doesn't behave like this at school but does for us, I've figured that out too. She still feels that way at school, but she can't trust them with these feelings. When I suffered from depression/anxiety, most of the world had no idea. None whatsoever. I was just quiet, kept to myself a lot. Hmm. Isn't that what Little Girl is now doing at school? The only people who I ever let see the ugly side of depression/anxiety were the people I trusted not to hate me for its ugliness, the people I hoped beyond hope could help me out of the ugliness. That's what she's doing. She's showing us what she feels inside because she trusts us to help her out of it.

And as long as my sister keeps giving her that pill, there's not a thing in the world we can do to help her out. It's the most helpless and heartbreaking feeling in the world.

I HATE that pill.

There will be a part three. And I hope it contains a solution. If you have a kid on Vyvance who acts like Little Girl, come back again...!!

Little Girl and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Medicine (Part 1)

So in recent weeks, Little Girl was officially diagnosed with ADHD.

I have many opinions about this. First, how do you diagnose a child with ADHD anyway? You have the parent and the teacher fill out a questionnaire, that pretty much any kid who is being referred for ADHD testing is going to fail anyway, and then they call it a diagnosis. It's not like they can do a blood test or a brain scan or something and say, "Oh, look, yep, there's the problem right there, this is definitely a case of ADHD." So I don't put any stock in a doctor's diagnosis of ADHD anyway, for any child. All they're doing is putting a label on symptoms, not diagnosing a cause.

Second, do I think Little Girl truly has ADHD? Maybe she does, but I'm not convinced. I think she has a combination of things going on, myself. Her diet first and foremost. I have told my sister repeatedly that if she would stop letting her eat anything she wanted (and she eats a LOT of junk food... a LOT) that that might be enough to cure her right there. But she won't take the time and the effort to change the child's diet. "It would upset me if I couldn't have cookies and candy and pop," she says. "I don't want to upset her."

Um, yeah. Not impressed.

She also has not been consistently disciplined. It's understandable to an extent. Her dad walked out on them when she was just a baby, my sister was young and very inexperienced and trying to struggle along raising an infant by herself, then I won't even go into all the men she dated along the way who all had decidely different opinions on how Little Girl needed to be treated and my sister is a pushover (except when it comes to my opinion, apparently!) and then all the uproar with Little Girl emotionally when my sister finally married. And they do much better disciplining her now, but even still there are certainly flaws in consistency... and Little Girl takes full advantage of them!

And add on top of all that the fact that she inherited the family stubborn streak. :) She decides what she wants to do and by golly, nobody's going to convince her any differently. That includes teachers.

However, despite all these issues, she really hasn't had problems this year at all. In kindergarten, she was constantly in trouble, but she has a much more reasonable teacher this year who recognizes that, hey, these kids are 6, and doesn't expect them to sit motionless and silent for 7 hours a day as the K teacher did.

So why my sister decided Little Girl has to be on meds now is beyond me anyway. I think she sees it as a magic pill that will make her perfectly well behaved and she won't have to do any work to do it. No discipline. No dietary changes. Just pop a pill every morning and I have an angelic child.

I was very very unhappy with this decision, and have been fighting her on it for months, to no avail. I even found an "alternative" treatment which utilizes various vitamins, minerals, Omega-3s, etc. to boost attention in kids -- all of which I know Little Girl doesn't get enough of because all she eats is junk -- but the pills were too big for her to swallow, and when we opened the capsules and tried sprinkling it in food or drinks, well, it just wasn't going to happen, let's put it that way... I don't know why on earth they couldn't have made this in a chewable form, or in smaller pills, knowing it was designed for children.

So two weeks ago, Sunday, Little Girl took her first ADHD pill. She's on Vyvanse, for all you google searchers whose own darling children have been transformed into someone you don't even know and you're looking for more information.

It was a dreadful day from beginning to end. The first I saw of her was when I went to pick her up from Sunday School. Typically, I enter the room to find Little Girl up and about, doing something. Always busy and happy. She'll turn and see me and excitedly run to meet me and show me what she's playing with or working on. But on this day, I walked in and she was sitting in a chair. With her head down. Doing absolutely nothing. Just sitting.

"Little Girl," I called. She looked up. No reaction. She just sat there. I was alarmed. Was she sick? Hurt? What on earth had happened to our Little Girl? No, she said she was fine. She very quietly got up and came with me. No excitement, no nothing.

She didn't even ask for a donut on the way out, and that has NEVER happened before. Typically it's me trying to scoot her past them on the way out of church without her going into a tantrum, because if Grandpa is there, he always lets her have one.

Typically the whole family goes out to eat every Sunday after church, but on this particular Sunday, various members had various things going on, and as it turned out, only my parents, Little Girl, and I went to dinner. She talked incessantly the whole way there as she always does, but somehow it was different. Usually there's so much enthusiasm, she's so cheery and chattery, but this was just like a nonchalant rambling with no excitement to it at all. She just droned on and on.

We arrive at the restaurant, and she receives her kids' menu and starts working on a word search. And then the real problems began. Typically she sits and works on her puzzles and coloring and such in her menu and never asks us for any help at all. If she can't do it, she just does what she can. Sometimes she might show us what she did. But that's it. Not this day! She wanted constant help -- but she didn't really want help. She would whine that she couldn't find a letter, and that that letter wasn't in the puzzle, but she wouldn't let me show her where it was or even give her a hint. If it so much as looked like I might be going to give a hint, she went into hysterics. And the tears just rolled down her cheeks nonstop. It was the most dreadful word search I've ever seen in my life.

And then she was circling the word "butter" and accidentally drew her line a little long so it started to encompass the next letter, which happened to be an S, and she flipped out. "It's okay!" I assured her. "No big deal, here, we'll just fix the circle." Normal Little Girl behavior would have been to fix the circle herself and never even mention the problem.

"But you can still see it going around the S and you can't erase crayon!" she wailed. "Well, we'll just mark it out," I tried to calm her, and I took the crayon and scribbled out the extra mark. "But you can still see it!!!" she cried. "Well just circle the S and make it butters then," I suggested.

"Butters isn't a word!" she kept on crying. "Sure it is," I said. Anything to try to calm her down. The waitress had just brought the basket of bread, so I picked up two little packages of butter and said, "Look, here are two butters for your bread." ;)

"It's not butters, that's WRONG, it's just BUTTER!" she declared. "Butters isn't a word!"

"It's a word," I said. "If Grandpa says nice things to Grandma so he can get her to do something, you'd say that he butters her up."

It didn't work. Finally she moved on to just coloring a picture. Surely there wouldn't be any stress involved there, right?

Wrong. She didn't have brown, and the picture of the boy on her menu is the same as the boy on her cup, and on the cup the boy's hair is brown, so she has to have brown. "Just use red," I said. "He can have red hair."

"But his hair is BROWN!" she retorted. She attempted to use every color she had on his hair in the hopes that the mix of colors would make it look brown, but it just looked a mess. This did not help.

Despite the fact that Little Girl is "grounded" from getting any toys except as gifts for holidays right now, because of repeated tantrums when being told no at stores, we bought her a Webkinz that day. We figured her mother would just have to deal. The child was distraught. She deserved a Webkinz. Did I mention she didn't eat anything for lunch? Not a single bite.

So we went home, and she went straight to the computer to register the new Webkinz and was quiet there for awhile. But I noticed her hands shaking, like tremors. I watched for awhile without saying anything, but it just kept going. Finally I said, "Are your hands shaking?" to see if she was even aware of it. "Yes," she responded calmly. "Do your hands always shake like that when you play this game?" I questioned. "No," she said simply.

Great. And she still wouldn't eat.

After awhile, she asked where Baby Boy was. I said they had gone to a special activity somewhere but they would be here sometime this afternoon. "I wish he'd hurry up," she said. "I want to play with him." A few minutes later, they arrived. I ran in to see him, but Little Girl didn't come. I thought perhaps she was so engrossed on the computer that she didn't realize he was now here. "Little Girl!" I called to her. "Baby Boy's here!!"

Typical Little Girl reaction? She LOVES her little cousin. ADORES him. She typically would have jumped up and come running and scooped him up and covered him in kisses. Her response on this day? A droopy glance up, and a sigh. "I know." That's it. No emotion.

Well, Baby Boy had brought with him a new kite, and it was a windy day, so we took the kids outside to play with it. As I said, she adores Baby Boy, never has any problem sharing with him or giving him turns, or even letting him have ALL the turns!! Not today. SHE wanted to fly his kite, she wanted every turn, she had numerous meltdowns when the kite wouldn't fly, she did NOT want my brother to help her, she wanted to do it herself and it wouldn't go up without some help.

My brother's reaction? "This (the medicated version of Little Girl) is supposed to be BETTER?"

Yeah. Exactly.

I don't know who that child was that day, but she wasn't our Little Girl.

And she never did eat anything. ALL DAY.

To be continued...

Monday, March 23, 2009

No Place Like Home

After a crazy winter involving lots of transitions, spring has brought with it a peaceful contentedness.

At last referrals are starting to trickle in locally and today was my first "local workday". I haven't had a local workday since moving from the old town, and quite honestly, I still find myself feeling a little more at home there than I do here. That seems strange, even to me: I was born and raised here, and my family is all here. This is home, right?

But the old town... well, I'd put down some definite roots. And my daily routines and especially as it pertains to work, well, they belong there, not here.

So today I got up, left the house at a reasonable hour, drove just up the highway a-ways and started seeing kids. Right here in my very own county. And then, I came home. It didn't take me 2-3 hours to get back, when I was done, I was done.

I had forgotten what that was like. It's what I did in the old town day after day for several years. And I realized, that's why there feels more like home than here. I didn't realize how important work was to me. I need to work to feel involved in the community, I think. I need to get up in the morning, leave the house, and see families right here without extensive drives, and then come back home, to feel like I really belong here.

So hopefully today is the start of a real homecoming. I'm already counting down the weeks until I don't have to drive back to the old town anymore, though the final goodbye is certainly going to bring with it a bit of sadness.

By summer, I'll really belong here, and FEEL like I do. They say that home is where your heart is, and my heart has been HERE for a very long time; in fact, it never left. Home is where your work is just doesn't have quite the same ring to it. :)

Maybe my heart is more into my work than I realized it was. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, when my work involves changing children's lives.

Whatever is going on, I'm just glad to not only be home, but to feel like I'm home.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Little Red Riding Hood

I love history. I love seeing how things that happened in the past influence the things of today. Perhaps it's because it shows me how things that I do today can influence things that will happen in the future, and that gives significance to the little day-to-day routines.

I learned some new history today, quite unexpectedly.

When I was a little girl, I loved the story of Red Riding Hood. I made my mother read it to me so many times that I could recite it. I liked to act out the story, so my grandmother made me a little red cape and hood to wear as I played.

Then the year I turned five, I decided I wanted to be Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween, so she made me a dress to go with it. At least, that's the story I've always heard. It's what my mother told me. Now I'm wondering if I was influenced at all in that decision. Perhaps without even my mother's knowledge. We certainly influence Little Girl in her Halloween costume decisions. We let her decide what she wants to be, but we definitely offer up suggestions and talk them up in the hopes of convincing her that she wants to be what we'd like her to be. :) Laura Ingalls... Alice in Wonderland... Little Red Riding Hood... oh, did I say Little Red Riding Hood? Back to the story...

So my grandmother made me a darling little red dress with a white pinafore of eyelet. I was in kindergarten that year, and there was a costume contest at school -- the entire elementary lined up along the edges of the gym while the judges walked back and forth, looking closely at each of us. And then the prizes were awarded. The scariest costume... the funniest costume... And when they called out the name for the most beautiful costume, it was mine.

The time came, of course, when I outgrew the costume, and it was tucked safely away in my closet. My little sister wore it, and it was put away once more. And there it sat, unused, for years upon years upon years.

And then along came Little Girl. I got the costume out when she was four and tried it on her. It was a little big but she was absolutely adorable.

In October, we took her trick-or-treating at an amusement park that had a Storybook Village. Of course she had to be Little Red Riding Hood. She was so adorable going around all the little fairytale houses in that costume. Here she is trick-or-treating from the Old Woman that lived in a Shoe.

This week her class is doing a fairytale day and the children are supposed to dress up like a fairytale character. Little Girl, of course, is Little Red Riding Hood. And though my grandmother has seen her in this costume before, we even have pictures of her with Little Girl in the costume, she told me a story today that she has never told me before.

"Little Girl is wearing that Little Red Riding Hood costume I made for you to school," she called to tell me. "Do you know why I made you that dress?"

"Because Little Red Riding Hood was my favorite story?" I responded.

"No," she said. "When I was in high school, we had some kind of special event and people were dressed up and such, and one of the teachers had a little grandchild there who was wearing a dress like Little Red Riding Hood. I thought it was just the cutest thing. And I always wanted to make a dress like that for a little girl. So then when you were little, I remembered that and that's why I made you that dress."

Some child wore a Little Red Riding Hood dress around 1940, and that's why Little Girl is Little Red Riding Hood at school today almost seventy years later.

What might the little things I do today influence seventy years from now?

Crazy Days, Crazy Nights

These days, I'm either so busy I can't see straight or so bored I can't keep my eyes open. :)

I'm still driving back to my old town every week to work for two days, spending the night. I've crammed a lot of kids into that two days, so on those days, I get up very early, drive the almost three hours there, work all day, kid after kid after kid without stopping, get to the hotel very very late at night, and get up in the morning, do it all over again, and drive the 3 hrs home that night. Exhausting.

And then I have the weekend off. Saturday anyway. Sunday is always nicely busy with church and family.

Every other Monday (well usually it's Monday) I then drive waaaaay out in the boonies. Why? Because I'm a pushover, I guess. And desperate. I was begged to go to this very rural area because no other speech therapist will. I agreed if they could give me a day's worth of kids to make the drive worth it, I'd go. After all, I need to get kids here so I can eventually stop driving back to the old town. They found me eight kids, and wow, is that ever a full day. Counting the driving time, it's a 15 hour day with no break. I mean none. That means no breakfast, lunch, or dinner, till I get home at 11 pm.

See what I mean about crazy? And then I have Tuesday and Wednesday completely off to sit around the house and twiddle my thumbs until Thursday comes around again and it's back up to the old town again.

I really don't twiddle my thumbs. I stay very busy on my days off too, but it's a different kind of busy-ness. It's a sit-down kind of busy. It's "write a chapter of this book", now "email back these people who wrote you while you were working on the book", now "contact these people about this project you're working on", now "goof off a little online", now "research this information and put it together in a document", now "time to email people back again", then it's "write up an article for this project", etc. I find myself sitting at the computer from morning till night, always with more more more to do.

I guess I'm making up for the three days a week I'm so busy seeing kids that I don't come anywhere near a computer all day. :)

I like my crazy life, somewhat. I like it when days are so busy that they really fly by because it's just kid after kid after kid and before I know it it's night. And I like the prospect the night before of a long day stretching before me with nothing I have to get up and do at any specific time. All on my own schedule, and relaxing in my own home.

But at the same time, I'd like things to level out, and be more "normal" again. A five day work week, where I leave at a reasonable time and get home at a reasonable time. And where I don't have to make loooong drives every week. And where I don't have to stay in a hotel.

Or maybe not. After all, what is normal? Are things ever normal? They never seem to be. It seems there's always some crazy thing going on, and when it comes to an end, some other crazy thing replaces it.

Life is just a little crazy, I guess. And that's okay. Because if it ever weren't crazy, I probably couldn't stand the boredom.

Good night, all. I'll probably be back tomorrow. After all, it's another long day stretching before me to waste on the computer. ;)

Oh, and for those who asked me what on earth those Gaelic phrases meant, I have one question for you... haven't you ever heard of google? :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Top o' the morning to ye!

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I leave with you this fine old Gaelic saying, chosen for its Laura Ingalls Wilder relevance. :)

Furain an t-aoigh a thig, greas an t-aoigh tha falbh.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Spotting Kindred Spirits

Have you ever seen someone -- a total stranger -- and just thought to yourself, "That person looks like a kindred spirit. I think we could be friends." ??

I have. Numerous times. But they're total strangers, and just how do you go about approaching a total stranger and saying, "Hey, you look like someone I could connect with, want to be friends?" Okay, an outgoing soul might be able to pull it off, but not me. So I never have the opportunity to really find out if that person is a kindred spirit or not.

Over the past few months, when I've been in town, there is a girl in the choir at church that always grabs my attention. I have no idea why. She really looks no different than every other girl standing up there in the choir. But something about her just draws me to her. "I could be friends with that girl," I would always think. "I just know we could."

Well, my sister is also in the choir so I always intended to ask her who that girl was, but always forgot. But the next time I'd see her at church, I'd think the same thing. And again, after church, it was forgotten.

Well one day a couple weeks ago, I suddenly remembered this girl while I was at home, and I thought, "I know, I'll go online and see if she's in the church directory." And she was. Her name was Alyssa Dark*.

"Alyssa Dark..." I thought. "That name seems vaguely familiar for some reason..." I couldn't place it, however, and dismissed it as just someone I did not know.

The next week in church when I saw this girl in the choir loft again, I thought to myself again, "Okay, that girl's name is Alyssa... Now I finally know..." And then it hit me. I DID recognize that name. I didn't know her personally, but it was the name of someone in a family story I'd heard many times throughout my childhood.

You see, my little sister (Little Girl's mother) is six years younger than me, and when my parents were discussing names for the new baby, I suggested Alyssa if the baby was a girl. My mother loved it, and so it was settled, the baby's name would be Alyssa.

And then another family at church (the Darks, of course!) had a baby and named her Alyssa, and my mother decided it would be too confusing for both girls over the years to grow up together being the same age, in the same Sunday School classes, possibly in the same school as our church ran a school in those days and most of the kids from church attended it, with the same name. So Alyssa was abandoned, and my sister was given another name. I always mourned the loss of the name... I just loved it. When I grew a little older, I began planning to name my own little girl Alyssa someday. I don't know that now I still will, but it's certainly on the list of names I will be considering. The real name, of course, not necessarily Alyssa. :)

Well, when my mother would retell the story of how my sister came to have the name she has instead of Alyssa as she and I had wanted, she always ended it with a sigh. "And then the Darks left the church a few months later, and we could have named her Alyssa after all!"

I personally think she should have gone in and had a legal name change. :)

So... this girl I kept noticing was the very girl responsible for my sister's name NOT being the desired Alyssa! How interesting.

I brought it up that day at dinner. "Is that Alyssa Dark in the choir the same Alyssa Dark that was in the church nursery when Sister was born?" I questioned. My mother confirmed that it was indeed.

My sister was surprised. "I never knew that..." she said. I reminded her of her name change. Apparently my mother stopped telling that story before my sister got to be of an age that she could remember, or it just never meant much to her, because she didn't even remember ever having heard that story before.

But the neatest part happened when my sister said, "I think she must be a kindred spirit... I noticed one time on the choir contact list that her email address had avonleapei in it."

What? An Anne fan in our midst? A big enough fan to actually make it part of her email address?

I do indeed think I've spotted a kindred spirit. And I suppose now that I've moved here and made this my church again that it's time to make contact. Maybe I have a new friend in the wings. :)

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent. :)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Things I've Learned in 2009

It's only been two months so far, but it's been a very full two months.

I've learned that:

*Real estate contracts are meaningless.

You know the whole, "Once you've signed the contract, there's nothing to worry about!" notion? It's a lie. Sure, there are often contingencies on the contract, and you know there's a chance that one of them could end up doing you in. But what if the seller just up and decides he doesn't want to sell his house after all? After the contract is signed. With no contingencies to allow for such a change of heart?

Well, I thought he just couldn't do that. After all, wasn't that the point of the contract? It made it legal. He had to go through with it, right? Apparently not, from what I was told. You can't MAKE someone sell their house.

Well, I didn't make him put it on the market, I didn't make him agree to an offer, and I didn't make him sign a contract. I am still of the opinion that yes, since all of that was done of his own free will, I could indeed MAKE him sell his house, even if I had to take legal means to do it. But... my opinion means nothing, and I was told too bad, so sad, if the seller wanted to back out, he could.

Fortunately, after an extremely stressful few days in which I believed that I would soon be homeless, the seller changed his mind again and the sale went through as planned. Whew. A lot of prayers went into making that one happen, I can tell you.

*I have entirely too much stuff.

I honestly didn't think I had a lot of stuff. I used to be a hoarder. A collector. I had to keep everything I'd ever owned. And then a few years ago, I met Flylady and I've never been the same. "Do you use it? Do you love it? If not, out it goes." And so I am no longer a hoarder, and my piles of stuff have decreased significantly as a result.

But when I moved, I realized that I still have way too much stuff. The trouble is, everything fit under one of the two categories: either it was something I truly do use, or it was something I truly do love. Books and Laura Ingalls Wilder collectibles are my downfall.

What really overwhelmed me during this move besides, "how full can I pack my car up this trip down?" and "where am I going to PUT all this stuff?" and "will this house EVER be empty so I can LEAVE it?" was the discrepancy. I thought about my Compassion kids. I pictured their houses. I pictured their stuff. And then I looked around my house at the boxes upon boxes of stuff and wondered, why do we need so much? And how do they get by with so little?

It was a sobering thought, and one I haven't finished thinking through.

* When you lose touch with people you like, you never run into them again. But when you lose touch with people you don't, just hold tight. It's guaranteed they'll show up in your life again. And again. And again.

Just think Nellie Oleson. (as in the book character Nellie, not tv show Nellie, and not her real life counterparts... although Genny Masters still fits my example...)

Just imagine Laura's face, when after having left Plum Creek and Nellie Oleson behind forever, who should trounce into her classroom in her new hometown but Nellie herself. Not the Kennedy girls, mind you, whom Laura would surely have been quite pleased to see. Oh no, it had to be Nellie.

I felt like poor Laura must have felt the day I logged into facebook and discovered that my own personal Nellie Oleson had requested to be my friend. I haven't seen this girl in probably fifteen years, and was perfectly happy about that. WHY did she have to show up, and WHY must she add me as a friend on facebook???

I will confess... I left the request sitting there for three days while I thought about it. "Do I HAVE to?? No, I don't HAVE to... I COULD deny it... But then how they'll all talk (the entire Oleson family)... and someday I just know it will come back to haunt me..." Finally I gave in and clicked accept. And I've been sorry ever since.

Oh, it would have done no good to have denied it either. After all, she went and added my entire family, and half my friends too. She's everywhere. Unavoidable. And after fifteen or so years of childhood torture-by-Nellie, followed by fifteen years of adulthood bliss due to absence-of-Nellie -- well, I just don't know what the next fifteen years of Nellie on Facebook is going to hold. I hoped that age would have improved her -- after all, it certainly worked for tv Nellie. Well, it hasn't.

Yes, I know my attitude about this stinks. I'm working on it, okay? Somewhere I have a prayer journal from when I was 13 years old, asking God to help me love Nellie, because I knew it was right to love your enemies. He actually did answer the prayer... though Nellie never changed, my attitude toward her did. At least I thought I did. Obviously upon Nellie's reappearance, it was my initial attitude toward her that resurfaced, not that new and improved one.

So I guess I need to take a lesson from my 13-year-old self who was clearly a better person than my 34-year-old self, and start praying again to love Nellie.


*Don't judge others by their behaviors. You don't know the whole story.

Yeah, yeah, I know I need to apply this to Nellie. And I do. I just still don't like her. Sorry. Working on it.

Okay, back to the topic -- I shared this in a previous blog post, of the girl who hated me (or at least appeared to) many years ago, when in fact an awful lot was going on behind the scenes that I had no idea of that was causing her to do the things she was doing. In what seems like record time, this once-upon-a-time "enemy" has wormed her way right into my "nearest and dearest" circle. When I asked God to quickly send new friends in the area when I moved here, I had in mind NEW friends. As in people I hadn't yet met. I like His idea better. :)

*Prioritize people. Stuff will always be here. Your to-do list will always be here. People... they won't always be here and they're the only things that really matter anyway.

I already knew this, but I had a review lesson last month when my uncle was fine one day... gone the next. Death can come so suddenly and you'll never in this life have another chance to spend time together. So spend it while you can, and when you get bogged down with too much to do, remember: People come first.

*Just because there is a gaping hole in a cardboard box of crackers doesn't mean you have a mouse in your cupboards. It might just mean you have a really bad memory.

'Nough said.

Monday, March 2, 2009

When Worlds Collide

I never realized until recently that I exist in different worlds, but I do. And lately, all my worlds have collided, and it's rather a strange feeling.

For example, last week I attended a conference. At the conference were my coworkers from my old home... my coworkers from my new home... my coworkers from the home previous to that... and two girls from church. Four worlds colliding. It was somewhat disconcerting... and who do you hang out with? Well, that decision was easy. I tried to keep to myself as much as possible because I had raging RSV at the time and didn't want to infect anyone else... not to mention the fact that I felt so miserable I could barely carry on a meaningful conversation anyway. :)

I guess this next example isn't really a collision... but it's a strange feeling anyway. I feel like I belong in two worlds, but don't fully belong in either. It started the weekend I moved. I moved on Saturday. I settled in all week. And then on Thursday I drove back to my old home, did the same job I'd been doing all along up there, saw the same families I've been seeing, visited with friends up there, etc. The only thing different was that I'm staying at a hotel instead of at my house... but other than that, when I return to the old place each week, it's like I never left.

But then I come back to the new place, and make that mental readjustment week after week -- no... I live here now.

I supposed it will be strange like this until I'm finished working up there. In a way it's worked out great; I haven't had to say any final goodbyes yet, or break loose the old ties. With all this dual living, it will really be strange the last time I go, knowing I'm not coming back, though.

But the biggest case of colliding worlds is occurring on Facebook. I've become addicted to it, I think. But it truly is a collision of ALL the worlds I've ever lived in. There's my Laura-Ingalls-Wilder world and my Anne-of-Green-Gables world. There are friends from church at home, and friends from church here. There are friends from work at home, and friends from work here. There are folks I went to elementary school with, as well as jr high classmates, and high school classmates. Most of my family has meandered on over by now, and then there are my internet friends and my real-life friends. All my worlds -- all in one place, mixing and meshing.

It can be disconcerting on occasion. But for the most part, I've found I really like it. It's been a great way for other people to get to know the sides of me they previously never saw, and see me as a whole person instead of just a coworker, or just a cousin, or just a speech therapist, or just an LIW fan. And it's a way for me to find out more about them too.

So while I know I railed against Facebook in the beginning, I've truly converted. I think it's awesome.

Colliding worlds... has a scary ring to it, but it's a pretty cool thing after all. :)