Friday, December 22, 2006

Does it ever warm up in this country?

The coming superstorm has come and superstormed all over us. The city of Denver has been ransacked. Chaos reigns in the streets. I fear that I will never get out of my parking lot:
The Kid screamed in anquish:

Okay, not so much anguish. But at some points in his trek about the snow covered condo complex we call home, all I could see was the blue hood of his parka. It was up to his head, yo.

And while I secretly, or not so secretly, love the weather and excuse to stay in my pajamas at all hours of the day and night, I did not like spending hours trying to dig my car out of this snow, only to realize that my HOA would not be coming to plow our parking lots until tomorrow, or possibly ever, rendering my hard work and sore muscles all for naught, as I will never, ever be able to back into (and then drive out of) the 4 foot drift of snow that is directly behind my vehicle. Or, I will have to shovel out my parking lot my damn self. But at any rate, I will not be making it to work tomorrow either. But I still need to work. So, please, call a whambulance for me immediately.

Also, because of this storm, my playdate with Mr. Lady, Alison and Sarah has been indefinitely postponed. This really sucks because I've not been able to hang out for an entire evening sans children with Mr. Lady for approximately 5 years (I'm so not kidding about this, am I Shannon?), nor with Sarah for any appreciable time since we were in Indiana at a wedding, and her friend and I saw fit to laugh at her when she broke her thumb the night before she had incredibly important guest book duties at a wedding we would be attending the next day. Alison, however, I've seen recently, thank GOD, but I simply don't see her enough. So anyway, I'm bummed about the postponement. However, it WILL happen. It must.

So, I guess, watch what you wish for. On one hand, I've got all the pajammy jam time I've been praying for as of late, but on the other, I'm stuck in my house with an junkie who is going a little bit stir crazy. He also eats me out of house and home, so much so that he has turned to eating snow to fill his insatiable appetite:

I actually love blizzards, however, for this exact reason: it's the best excuse to be stuck at home for days with just me and The Kid. The Kid and I have had so much time on our hands, we've developed a new sport, Snow Wrestling, and we've figured out that The Kid can "oink" Jingle Bells, while I simply cannot make my pig noise go fast enough to create any kind of rhythm. It's really hard to explain, but it's simply awesome. The Kid completed a charming art project, I've eaten about 3 candy canes today because The Kid always decides at the last minute that he actually does not want a candy cane in his hot chocolate. Basically, all moms need ME time. It's huge, in trying to keep the semblance of sanity in family life. But all families also need US time. For us, this blizzard is a time out. No appointments, no rushing around. (I'm so about to go all Goonies on you here). Out there, it's "their time" (their time!). During a blizzard, well, you get the rest.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Snow Business

This post is brought to you by the BLIZZARD OF 2006. We're having a white Christmas in Denver, y'all.

See, I wouldn't normally have time to write this post. My life has been a flurry of errands, driving The Kid to and fro, and work. But Blizzards? They prevent us from running errands. Both of The Kid's schools are closed today (both of them, that's right. I'll get to that later...). My friend Shannon wrote today in her blog that this must be proof that God hates Christmas, because now the last minute shoppers (okay, I'm so included in this category) will not have time to purchase all that they need before Sunday. I think an alternative theory on this is that God hates last minute shoppers.

I take it to mean, however, that God really loves me, because I really really really needed a day where I stayed at home in my pajamas all day. So, well, aw shucks, God, you must really like me. Thanks a lot.

So. On to what I would post about had I the time.

The Kid.

He's really doing remarkably well. Something happened shortly after Thanksgiving. He honestly had a completely crap Thanksgiving weekend, and it was right about then that I noticed how chunky the boy had become. Like not fitting into his jeans. Like I could see chins, in the multiple, where in past months, it was hard to find anything chubby about The Kid ever, on any part of his body.

We made some notable changes to his medications, as in dropped completely the evils of the atypical antipsychotic (which, while it is as scary as it sounds, is a very normal prescription med for pediatric bipolar disorder) and switched back to Abilify, which is ultimately an antipsychotic med as well, but seemingly without these scary side effects. A "new generation" med for crazy kiddos.

He's also not taking as MUCH medicine, which is always cause for joy.

And you know what? He's loads better. We're still seeing some troublesome stuff, however, so we're not done. He gets really sleepy in the late afternoon, which, funny enough, is when he has the least amount of medication in his body. The doctors are confused, but they are committed to figuring it out at least.

We've also found a school placement for him after the holidays. It is a special classroom, a special school, in fact, for kids that can't quite handle all of the 'inclusion' of a regular SIED program. It is very much a "self-contained" program, which a lot of SIED programs call themselves as well, but it is truly "self-contained." The SIED classroom The Kid was in back in October when all of the hospital talk began spent a great deal of effort to get the kids to be in the general education classroom settings. So, the most sensory overloading parts of these children's days would be spent with the rest of the school: Art, Music, PE, Recess, Lunch. I've always assumed that this choice for 'gen ed' time was more because of scheduling issues than for "concern" to get the kids included in a general ed program, but that's kind of beside the point right now. Basically, The Kid can't handle a classroom of more than 10 kids. All of the good things that have happened to him, all of the strides he's made, they go out the door in large settings.

We've visited this school twice. Once, I drove him there and we all met with the staff and it was just them, me and The Kid. The second time, I did not go. The Kid will be taking the bus (an hour long drive!), so he tried that out, and spent the day with them on Monday. He was supposed to go today, but oops! Snow day.

The best news ever? I told The Kid this morning that he didn't need to wake up early, that we had a snow day today. Know what he said, "No! I wanted to go to school!"

Music. My ears totally heard music there.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I've outsourced blogging about my son...

I have no energy to post on this blog apparently. So, Mr. Lady wrote a really lovely little snippet of what life is like with The Kid. Please go read it and remember how I used to write with gusto about how much I love him. I still do love him, it's the writing with gusto part that is hard for me.

See, I'm writing this from my mom's house. Things had been going reasonably well for The Kid at hospital school, and still are. But life is always ready to throw a curve ball.

My mom, my awesome sweetheart of a mom, had surgery to repair a detached retina two weeks ago. It's really not the worlds worst thing that can happen to a body, as long as it is caught early and is repaired well. However, this happened to her before, when The Kid was a baby. We lived here then, too.

A retinal detachment is repaired by inserting a bubble of gas into the eyeball. After the procedure, the recovering eyeball needs to have the pressure of the gas against the effected area. Usually that effected area is at the back of your eyeball. Quickly do the science experiment (use a snow globe with a little bit of air in it perhaps?) in your mind... To have the gas bubble touching the back of a person's eyeball that person must have their face down. When my mom had this happen the first time, she was face-down for about three months. She had the surgery, I think, three times. But the retina never re-attached, and she is now blind in that eye.

But the good news about this time is that she caught it within days of the detachment, the surgery was almost immediate, and it was successful. But she has had to do the face-down thing again.

For a few days there, she was almost completely blind. Every day since, however, she sees more as the gas bubble 'resolves' (that's what the doctors call it), and she is able to be more independent.

The Kid and I have been staying with her since the night of her surgery. We have basically moved in. I like it here for the nice washer and dryer, and the big kitchen. The Kid likes the multiple televisions. I hope that my mom likes us here for the home cooked meals and the company. What I don't feel like I can do here, though, is my blogging habits. And so, a little drought creatively as well as in quantity.

I think we'll go home tomorrow, as she's pretty much back to kicking this thing, and we really need to get a Christmas tree put up in our probably very dusty and sad little dark home of our own. And so, hopefully, we'll get back to our routine, and I'll be back to blogging about the wonderful things that come out of The Kid's mouth, although Mr. Lady is so very good at it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Goodbye again, John Lennon

So, it's been a while since I blogged. I guess one should not count a survey of Christmas habits as a real post, what when my last posts described The Kid's jaunt through the hospital and all that.

You know what, though?

I don't have time or energy to update you now.

What I do need to do today is to wish my dear friend Sarah a happy birthday. I know Sarah doesn't mind the whole 'keeping you updated on every detail of life' thing, as she is the kind of friend that could talk to you every day and it would be awesome; you could even crash on the floor of her apartment for the majority of a summer and she won't even be outwardly be annoyed with your sloth, depression, or strange baked potato eating (I did this to her and Mama Cumquat in 1997); or you could not get in touch for the larger part of a year (or more!), but when you did, it would be the same, strong, great friendship. She and I have alternated between those modes of communication for the last 10 years or so.

That said, I'm really really grateful that 2006 has been a year that I've been in close touch with Sarah. I couldn't do what I'm doing if I didn't have the wonderful support that I get from her. She's a pretty rocking friend.

Happy Birthday, Sarah. I can't wait to see you and give you the world's biggest hug when you are in Denver for Christmas....

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I am incapable of writing about real life, so I'm giving you a meme, Shannon.

1. Eggnog or Hot Chocolate? (And 'fess up - do you spike your drink, and if so - with what?)
Eggnog. Because you can drink Hot Chocolate all year 'round. Actually, for real holiday-only beverages, I'm partial to our own family holiday drink, The Nutty Irishman, baileys and frangelico... Mmmm.

2. Colored lights or white lights?
I like white lights on the outside of a house, it just looks cleaner. Colored lights on the tree. I'm all about the messy family home made decorations type tree.

3. Does Santa wrap presents at your house, or sit them underneath the tree unwrapped?
He wraps them. Last year, I did my santa wrapping at mom's house and left the santa paper over there. The Kid discovered it late afternoon on Christmas, and came and got me and said, Look! Meema has the same paper as Santa! She always knows the best places to shop!

Phew. That was a pass.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope. I'm pretty minimal on the christmas decor.

5. When do you put up your decorations?
Usually the weekend following Thanksgiving. I got my balcony lights on that weekend this year, and if I remember right, last year. But the week following Thanksgiving this year and last year were a little too tumultuous personally and I was late last year getting my tree up. This year, I've not even been home enough to even think about the tree. So, from the outside, though, my house looks decorated for Christmas. My dear friend Jaci reminded me that this is a good thing, as it is always better to look good on the outside. ; )

6. What is your favorite holiday food?
Moose munch. Who invented chocolate covered popcorn? I will marry that guy. Shoot, I want to marry moose munch.

Well, and Hamloaf. It's a family delicacy. God I love that stuff.

7. What is your favorite childhood holiday memory?
My sisters have reminded me of playing Name that Tune with our Uncle Bob. I've been laughing all day about it. It's hard to describe, but his humming... Oh, funny, but indescribable.

Basically, Christmas memories mostly center around my sisters and just being super duper silly with them. Every year we have some kind of running joke going... Last year? 'That's cool." In two thousand fizzle? Ah, shizzle it was return of the kizzle. Oh, and it is an annual mission to quote Elf as much as possible.

8. Do you believe in Santa? If not, why?
SANTA! SANTA!!! I know him!!!! (see what I did there? Did you HEAR THAT?)

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
No. We don't do that. I think we'd have a hard time stopping if I allowed that.

10. Describe your Christmas tree:
It is 4.5 feet tall. I place it on a little ottoman table thingie I have so it will feel bigger. Most of our ornaments are lovingly home made, or candy canes. There were a couple years there where I was making my friends make ornaments for us if they came over to my house. Jaci and Erin, I still have the ornaments you made for us. Our angel will have to be remade this year, I'm just remembering. Hmmm, sounds like craft time! Whoo hoo!
Most of the stuff on my tree is sentimental. My favorite ornaments are the ornaments I made as a kid, the ornaments from our family tree that my mom has given me (nothing valuable, I assure you), the holy family Jaci gave me, the Tiger Jaci gave me and most of all The Kid-Picture-Wreath he made two years ago.

11. SNOW. Love it? Or Dread it?
Dread, I think, is the most perfect word for how I feel about snow. I don't hate snow. I enjoy it often. Snowmen, snowball fights, I like to ski, etc. But even on nice peaceful nights, when the city is being blanketed in snow, all I can think about is scraping my windows off the next morning. And then driving my ten miles to work with 100,000 freaking a-holes.

12. Can you ice skate?
Yes, yes I can. I'm all like that Sasha Baron Cohen bitch up in an ice rink. Like, exactly, sexytime, fo sho.

13. What is your favorite Christmas gift of all time?
Wow, I had so many. There would be the boom box I got in 10th grade, I was all psyched about it, but then quickly turned to brat because it wasn't accompanied with The Police Box Set, but then my family tried to give it to me all Christmas Story AFTER all the other presents were opened, and I felt like a poop. But both of those things gave me endless joy.
I also remember getting my doll house that had working lights.
Oh, and every girl has their "my first ambulance toy" story, right? All girls pine for and pitch fits about model ambulance toys with little working stretchers and comes stocked with super beefy EMT's? Well, yeah, I was lucky enough to get my very own ambulance toy when I was about 7 or 8. I was also a complete brat about it because it didn't have a siren (as I parent now, I understand that!), but then I played with that sucker for years and now all of our children have played with it too. It's a pretty kick heinie ambulance.

14. Which do you prefer: Giving or receiving?
Oh, without a doubt, giving.

15. Tell us about your favorite holiday tradition.
The Kid and I haven't truly developed a tradition. We usually read The Night Before Christmas, and we ALWAYS set out cookies and milk for Santa, and spread oats out front of the house for the reindeer. Beyond that, not too much.
What I love to do, and what I have done since I've been old enough to acheive it, is to be the last one to go to bed on Christmas eve. I just LOVE to sit in the dark (well, all dark but the tree), sometimes listening to Xmas music, sometimes silently, just basking in the glory of the tree. In fact, I used to sneak out of my room early morning as a kid so that I could do that. It's not really a tradition, because it isn't shared, but it is by far one of my favorite things about Christmas.

16. What tops your tree?
Well, we made a big yellow star out of construction paper and glitter, and then glued together and stuffed with cotton balls, and it was kind of ugly, but we had so much fun making it, but anyway it totally kicked the bucket last year. So, The Kid and I have a job cut out for us. Angel or star? I'll leave it up to him.

17. What is your favorite holiday movie or tv special?
It's a Wonderful Life. That movie truly has no equal. Second place? Elf. Third? A Christmas Story.

18. What is your favorite Christmas song?
Bing's White Christmas, isn't it just a yummy song? I love the Charlie Brown Christmas album so very much as well.

19. Candy canes ... yuck? or yum?
Yum! I'm surprised that people out there think they are yuck!

20. Describe the oddest or most unique Christmas you've experienced.
21 years old, I traveled around Europe with my ex-boyfriend (and technically, he was my ex even then, so that was something, like straight out of the freaking Amazing Race). We spent Christmas skiing in clouds at Chamonix, France. We stayed in a youth hostel with a bunch of insane ski bums from around the world. There were a bunch of amazingly sustained-drunk aussies (and some possibly british, it was honestly difficult to tease out the accents between the slurring), two really sweet japanese girls, a kindred spirit of an argentinian girl that I shared a bottle of wine with after sourpuss ex boyfriend went to bed. It was incredibly lonely, and the only Christmas ever that I haven't spent here in my mom's house, which I love.

Merry Christmas everyone!
And, since I'm supposed to tag people at the end of a meme, if that is what one could consider this, I will tag all of you. Mr. Lady's unique take on Christmas as a recovering jehovahs witness will be good, no doubt. I want to hear from Caty, Sarah, Alison and Diane too!!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Happy Turkey

My sister, who recently arrived for the holiday from Boston, has brought me my very first Sudoku book. I'm afraid I will not be posting for a few days as I am now frantically obsessed.

I, for one, am thankful for Sudoku. For bringing the idiotic obsession that I have not known since tetris back to my life.

I'm thankful for a few other things too, like clean water, good family, my sunshine of a child, but mostly Sudoku.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

My Other Best Friend From High School

In all of the drama of the past few weeks, I've neglected to direct your attention to Mama Cumquat, aka my best friend from high school. She happens to be the person who introduced me to both Mr. Lady and Sarah.

She also happens to be the first friend I had, outside of my sisters, who really got me and she did a great deal towards teaching me how to be myself around people. Because before her, I was a pretty lonely little teenager. I was never unpopular in school, but I definitely didn't get to talk about the stuff I wanted to talk about with my friends. In fact, right before I met Ms. Cumquat, I was told by a friend that I used too big of words, and if I wanted to be friends with her, I needed to not be so serious all of the time. Yeah. Teenagers suck.

So anyway, enter Mama Cumquat. She was the new kid, she was in my french class, she wore lots of silver and listened to cool music. She had a thing for Peter Gabriel. We became fast friends, and with her I was able to incorporate my love of books and movies and talking about real life things like politics and religion with wanting to talk about boys and clothes.

Recently, she's been blessed with a son. I've not met him in person yet, but every time I see a picture of this kid, I couldn't love him more. He's gonna be as warm and funny as his mama, I can tell. Anyway, check out her blog!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Wherein I Write Haikus and Write About Really Sad Stuff

I'm in the strangest mood tonight, let's get that out of the way right here.

See, I've not been in the mood to write much lately. But fueled by creative cooking (I made really yummy pork chops brined in saltwater and maple syrup with a very inventive Fat Tire gravy... Did you know you could deglaze a pan with beer? It's great!), as well as a medicinal amount of beer while I cooked and ate, I find myself again in the mood to write a thing or two about the state I am in.

See, prior to the creative cooking experiment, this week has looked a lot like this: wake up, go to work, pick up The Kid, go home, work, feed self and Kid, attend to other random needs of Kid and self, bed. Repeat. See? No where in that previous description do you see "write pithy blogpost about heartbreaking struggle on internet." Nope, no place for it.

Instead, I've done a lot of thinking internally. There is plenty of room in the aforementioned schedule for navel gazing and self-doubt. I look back, I can say with all honesty that each week since somewhere in July has been progressively worse than the one prior to it. Prior to the start of first grade for The Kid, my biggest problem was that the daycare annoyed me.

Remember? Summer?
Bickering With Other Kids.
Damn. Good times, indeed.

Then, school started and The Kid started going slightly nutty with the running away from teachers and kicking chairs and breaking the really nice school secretary's pencil caddy. And I wanted to help them help him, and was playing the role of super involved parent, writing long emails and calling daily and setting meetings and stuff. But then I lost all faith in them because instead of working with me to help The Kid, they broke all kinds of laws and failed to do all of that 'parent notification' stuff that the pesky disability laws protect against. I can't lie and say I'm over all of it, but I can say that I've learned a little bit about being the obstinate party on the bad side of bad news. Sometimes you have to suck it up and take it.

Schools: Don't break the law
Bitches. Yea! The A.D.A!
You stick up for us!

or alternatively:

Should have known better.
The school couldn't handle it.
The Kid needed help.

So we tried another school, but then the hospital. The hospital which I tried to contact first, but we got talked out of it. Oh well, another missed opportunity to provide timely care to The Kid. It happens every day. But anyway, we DID end up at the hospital, in their school program, and damnit if they couldn't even handle it. He was admitted to the psych ward.

Bring on Sedation!
Drug him 'til his eyes water.
That will fix him, right?

Except, that was not it, not it at all:

Wow, the crazy kids
They're a lot like us. Cute, too!
The Kid belonged here.

The staff at this hospital was sooooo good. They did have to give him "extra" doses of certain meds to keep him safe for the first few days. After that, though, the non-extra doses of meds kicked in, and he began to function, he began to be my darling Kid again. See, he was a mess before that. He was anxious, and unsleeping. He was tirelessly angry, and itchy. Also restless and sad. He didn't function. Living with that was a lot harder than seeing him on psychiatric medicines in a hospital, believe me. After 10 days inpatient with significant gains in mood stabilization, he was discharged.

He came home Monday
pizza and macaroni
joyous reunion

But then, but then... Do you know how life has a way of letting you know that you are not the center of the universe?

We went to my mom's house for a family dinner when he came home. My mom and I were bitching about political solicitations via telephone, and her phone rang, so I answered it, expecting another of these November nuisances. Instead of a recording of Bill Clinton or John McCain, it was a real person. And not only that, something and someone much much more.

It was my aunt, and my uncle had died. Suddenly. Shockingly. No one was prepared for this. My uncle was a quiet guy. He loved his wife, his kids, and his dogs. He wrote out the Christmas cards and birthday greetings and all of the letters to the family for as long as I can remember. He was strong and silent, and good. Good as can be. The very definition of Good Man. He was a hunter, and trained black labs for hunting trials. He was a man of few words. Our last great and very typical conversation took place right around the time of the great Chaney-Shooting-His-Buddy-In-The-Face incident. I asked him if he could understand what happened there, to see if that was "something that could happen," like the stories you hear other random accidents that you think, 'that SO could have happened to me.' He said, "No. And I'm not saying that because I'm a democrat." I often thought of him as the kind of guy who preferred the kind of communication that exists between a man and his [extremely well trained and beautiful] dogs. Not complicated, lots of unspoken understanding and great amounts of peace.

Don, you and your dogs
are hunting in the duck blind
together, Heaven.

Other things have been going on, too. Midterm elections. Whoopee. I'm feeling so underwhelmed and cynical about it all. Perhaps it's because Colorado elected all sorts of blue in all sorts of places, but then still decided to put into our constitution an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman . I guess I'm an underrepresented extremely liberal democrat, and I want the sun and the moon and the stars and I've only been given the moon and I'd really like that sun and stars, too. Also, I read an article which cited the last time congress changed hands as dramatically, in the year of Gingrich's contract for America, 12 years ago.

12 years ago? For reals? I remember that Wednesday morning so well. Honor Scholar seminar, freshman year. DePauw University, where the students are 9814% more conservative than the professors, where the majority of the students come from affluent suburbs of Indianapolis, St. Louis and Chicago, where the majority of the students never saw diversity in color and ethnicity until Pell Grants and affirmative action made them see it (and they've probably not seen it since, for the most part). And the fucking gloating on my friend Kevin's face when he walked into seminar that morning. So, I freaked out quickly in thinking that that was only 12 years ago and holy shit I'm getting old that I was an "adult" 12 years ago (but that fixed the freak out, because I was exactly 18 years old in 1994, so yo, I'm really not very old at all), but then I returned to Kevin's gloating. I will not be a Kevin in the light of this change. I'm in Wait-And-See mode. But also, don't think for a minute that I've not done the math to figure out that we've got a woman third in line to the presidency. And a woman from San Fransisco, at that. Cheers, girls! (But I'm totally not gloating, it's just about the girl power. Oh, and Impeach Bush AND Chaney. Somehow)

Midterm Elections
Steering us toward center
I want to go left

I think this post has to end someday. I can't think of how to end this, but in Haiku:

Soapy Water, yo
The Kid, Dripping With Crazy
The Mom, Drinking Suds.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Untitled, or The Hospital Post

The Kid has been in the Inpatient Child Psychiatric Unit of the hospital since last Friday. I really haven't been finding much energy or time to post an update here, but as I've found myself with a slight window of time, I shall attempt to. I can't promise complete sentences or even coherent thoughts, but here goes:

Here are some adjectives that do NOT describe what it is like to hospitalize one's child because of psychiatric illness: easy, fun, and relaxing (as in, although there have been many times that I've wanted to ship The Kid off and see what it would be like to have a house to myself for one goddamned night, this was not one of those occasions).

Here are some adjectives that do describe what it is like to hospitalize one's child because of psychiatric illness: heartbreaking, tiring, lonely, alternatively encouraging. He's doing better. His first few days weren't good, but he was there because he so desperately needed stabilizing, and that is what they have endeavoured to do for the past 5 days. He completed an EEG (which The Kid told me he thought was a 'brain transplant') yesterday, which means I missed out on depriving The Kid of sleep for the test, so in a way, that was a good thing. Mengele G. is not my name, if you know what I mean. He had an MRI today. I should hear back about both of those things tomorrow.

He's slowly but surely getting more sparkle to his eyes, while simultaneously being calmer and less anxious. He can still get pretty pissed off, but it's really hard to tell what is pissed off because of inability to control anger vs. being sleep deprived and/or having been anesthetized, as he was for the MRI (he had to stay perfectly still, and anesthesia is the only way to do that with The Kid).

It's up in the air as to how long he'll be in there. They are hoping Friday as a discharge date, but it just depends. It's too long and hard to explain given that I have to leave for the hospital again in 10 minutes.

The only other thing I have time or energy to share right now is to put in writing how completely wonderful my family is. My mom is the most generous person I know, and I'm not talking about money. My sisters have been perfect supports for me and for The Kid. When I admitted him, they tried to say that only nuclear family should visit him for the first few days. I told them that just having me visit him would not be an option. During those tough first days of heavy medication and long rages, his only joy that I could see from him was in getting visits from his aunts and Meema. After the staff at the hospital has come to understand how our family rolls, they've agreed to one more very special relative. Tonight he gets to see his cousin, K. I am so excited to see his face when she walks up to him.

Friday, October 27, 2006

This is your kid NOT on drugs...

The Kid started going to the 'hospital school' on Tuesday this week, and I must say that after three days, I'm honestly starting to feel optimistic again. More good things have happened in the last three days than have happened for The Kid and his mental illness in the last year. Or shoot, ever.

That said, he's still had some tough days. They have a 'safe room' where kids can safely rage and completely lose it. He's spent a majority of his days in that room. His first day was disastrous. But we're seeing signs of hope, he's using his words to describe his feelings a little better. He's not dreading leaving the house in the morning, despite his bad days.

One of the benefits of a day treatment program for kids like The Kid is that school is completely centered around their needs. There is no, "I don't have time to ______" from the teacher. There is a fully accredited teacher in the classroom, at least two nurses, several social workers, and a team of psychologists and a team of doctors rotating around the classrooms like satellites. Well, satellites that would jump back to earth whenever they are needed to fix things. Okay, bad analogy I suppose. Anyway, there are academics taught and worked on, but a great deal of the day is spent working on the more expressive aspects of academics: art, music, playing games in the gym or on the lawn. Don't discount gym... The Kid has such a hard time with the disappointment of losing or the careful science of social interaction within sports, especially just being a good sport. That kind of social interaction is one of his biggest difficulties. He needs more training in sports than reading right now, probably. I can work on his reading, and while I can play games with him to teach him about losing and being a good sport, what he really needs is to learn how to do that with his peers. One of the most amazing things I've seen this week was a ball game the kids were playing on Wednesday, and when The Kid was "out," he simply went and sat on the concrete wall with the other kids that were "out."No fight. I was amazed. Normally, that would be a trigger for rage.

But it's all baby steps. He's still having a really difficult time in the classroom. Like, I said, he's having meltdowns about 6 to 10 times per day. That's hours and hours of the day. We're currently in a wait and see time to see if they want to hospitalize him, inpatient, for a few days before they spend much more time in the classroom. The hospitalization would act as a chance to really stabilize him and work with him more intensively (out of the school environment) to get him on the right meds, really investigate root causes, etc, before the continued attempt to get him to function better in the classroom. I understand. I don't want him hospitalized, but I'm also cynical enough to know that I've got thirty days per calendar year through my insurance for mental 'inpatient' services. Each day of day treatment is equal to 12 hours of inpatient. Each day he's there, my countdown clock of time at this hospital ticks down. If he needs to be inpatient for a few days to help the classroom setting be more effective, rather than the contstant struggle he's currently having in the 'safe room,' then I'll be happy to give it a try. Nothing would be worse than to struggle for the next 15 or more days with only a little improvement, only to THEN have him hospitalized, and eventually run out of options when my insurance company pulls the plug.

Other things that encourage me:

1. He is going to get a neurologic work up next week. This includes a sleep-deprived EEG, and probably an MRI. Because of his frequent vomiting and the physical tics that he's developed, they want to rule out a seizure disorder. A friend of my sister's brought this to my attention a while ago, and we actually have an appointment to meet with a neurologist in January (the first appointment available when I made the appointment in September!). Because of this program, we get to do this next week. The EEG is 'sleep deprived,' I have to keep him up until midnight the night before the test, and then wake him up at four the morning of. This means I get to go all fraternity pledge hazing on The Kid. We'll call the frat Mu Gamma. Just for fun, I was thinking about instituting other frat-house hazing staples, like running naked around the house, cleaning the bathroom with a toothbrush, speaking only to his pledge mom (me) and learning the greek alphabet. I suppose we'll refrain from obligitory shots of Jaegermeister. I'm totally kidding, you know. (we'll definitely be doing the jaeger)

2. Right before we started this program, our regular psychiatrist took The Kid off of all of the meds he'd been taking previously and started him on Depakote. Depakote is a med that only works if it has an optimum level in the blood stream. It takes a long time to adjust and lots of blood testing to know when that optimum or therapuetic level has been reached. Because of the start of day treatment, we never got that blood level taken. The hospital did take it yesterday. I guess the therapuetic level is between 75 and 100 [whatever units of whatever to whatever in his blood]. The Kid's blood profile from yesterday only showed 37 units. He's essentially unmedicated right now. I've basically known this without the blood test, but knowing how off the mark he is, this just shows me how un-mitigated by meds his behavior currently is.

3. He's in a great mood. He's doing better with his anxiety. He's talking about his feelings. Ultimately, I think The Kid is encouraged. Which is the best news of all.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Two Unrelated Things

First, I'd like to refer you all to this excellent article in the NY Times.

Second, I'd like to illustrate why I love Colorado.

Last Friday, it snowed. Quite a bit.

We woke up Saturday to a lovely blanket of snow and a clear blue sky. Naturally, a snowman was made:

Then, on Sunday:

I can't articulate it. But this is why I love living in Colorado. But pay close attention to the fact that The Kid is wearing sandals. And climbing on the carcass of our rocking snowman, a mere 18 hours after his, uh, birth. Heh. I heart Colorado, where snowmen aren't built to last...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My most boring writing yet! And yet I want you to read it because it's an important update!

I'm unhappy to report that The Kid's experience at the new school was not immediately good. He exibited the same behaviors, only worse. And added to the mix is extreme anxiety. He knows that something's not right, he can't sleep without a heavy dose of benadryl and he's been really amping up at home as well, getting angry and acting out in the one place where we've been free of the anger.

On his first day, he exploded when a child laughed at him because he dribbled food on his pants (applesauce, the offending food). He's reacting poorly to the school's behavior management programs, in fact, they are his worst trigger for outbursts. He kicked his teacher and hit students. It's not been good.

On Monday of last week, I expressed my desperation to the school psychologist. I explained how the psychologist is saying everyone should wait until she can treat him with the right meds, how he's just getting worse on them and we're running out of time. School is not a safe place for him or with him in it. I asked him what was next. He said "Day Treatment." This is supremely frustrating because I pursued day treatment a month ago, but was told by his psychiatrist that it wouldn't be necessary.

The school psychologist and I contrived a plan to get him into day treatment at the best hospital in town, with or without the consent of our psychiatrist. I agree that he needs intensive help, and I'm not waiting for the psychiatrist to fuck The Kid up with lots of crazy meds and no therapy. So, we waited for The Kid to get angry. The second he compromised the safety of himself or others, we called 911. Long story short, ambulance, emergency room, admission to day treatment. The psychiatrist has no say, although when she called me back (eventually) after my voicemail informing her of the week's events, she acted like she thought it was the best possible treatment for him all along. Grrrr.

So, next week we start "hospital school." It is an intensive outpatient system, wherein he is in a small classroom, does some instruction, but mostly moves around to doctor to psychologist to group to specialist if necessary. I wish I could say I'm hopeful that this will be a solution, but if I don't find a psychiatrist that I have a good trusting raport with, and if I don't find an ongoing therapist, anything they do there will pop up again in a few weeks, months, years.

I'm starting to realize that The Kid is far sicker than I ever imagined he could be. That he has a crippling mental illness that causes significant disability, not merely a challenge or a set of obstacles as he moves through childhood. I lay awake at night and imagine myself at 60, 80 and more taking care of my mentally ill son. I know that's defeatist and just unbelievably sad, but it's part of the greiving process I'm going through. He's sick. He'll never be 'normal,' not even in a nice sense of that word. As he gets older, this is going to follow us. I just hope we find the right resources to help us navigate that future. And that he has the fortitude to remember his good side, his strengths and his ability to succeed. I hope I can do the same.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Better Blogging Through Technology

Or, at least, another video post:

The Kid competed in his first Karate Tournament yesterday. I think he did fantastically well, except I guess when he almost punched his judge!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Happy Things Do Happen

The Kid went to a birthday party today. He had a great time swimming and playing with his friends. I got to talk to some amazing moms that I truly enjoy. Good things all around.

And then there's this video below. I meant to take a still photo, but I accidentally had my camera stuck on video. My camera doesn't do sound, so watching this, I almost expect to hear the sounds of a movie projector, and The Kid's movements kind of look like something straight off of an old wind-up movie camera like my uncle had. Anyway, it's very cute...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

There better be no school like the old school!

We're done. We're not going back.

Today was my last meeting with the folks at The Kid's school, which is now his former school, which is exactly how I want it to be...

His IEP was up for renewal last week, and today was the IEP annual meeting. I couldn't be happier to leave that bunch of people. In the end, my advocate I've been using counted at least 5 IEP violations over the course of the last month.

I've never not said that The Kid is a tough kid to have in a classroom. I just wish that they had communicated with me better, and that they had shown him more empathy.

In the end, they wrote in his IEP horribly inaccurate things. They said that he is a "student" for only 2% of the day. By my math, that is 8 minutes in a day. Other parts of the same document say that when he is effectively calmed down he participates in classroom instruction for 15 minutes at a time, and that that happens "several times in a day." So, going on that, we're up to 45 minutes a day, or a little over 10% of the day, so there's a discrepancy for you, albeit small. They also pull him out of class at least once an hour or so to take "sensory breaks" even though he is not labled with sensory integration issues, so a great deal of his time out of the classroom, not being a "student" is due to their "service time." This service time includes playing on the playground with a para. Great therapy.

They also mentioned that he displayed "obscene gestures," which I'd never been told about before. When I asked about them today, they said that he flipped them off. First, I secretly gave The Kid a high five in my mind. Then, flabbergasted, asked how often that happened and they answered only once. I really don't know why that had to be in the IEP, when of all the things that this child IS consistent with regarding the typical behaviors of a bipolar child, obscene or foul-mouthed is definitely NOT one of them.

They also gave him free rein to go to the social worker's office or the principal's office whenever he needed to calm himself. Now they are telling me that he would leave the classroom, and that was a major behavior problem in his day. They had trained him, however, that when the going got tough for him, he was supposed to go to the office. I just don't understand how they could expect The Kid to know when it would be appropriate or not appropriate to go to the office if they told him he could go down to the office whenever he needed to.

I could go on and on, but I need to say good bye to it all, and let it go. Ultimately, they are very poorly equipped to teach The Kid. I pray and I hope that this new school can.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I Happen To Like The Roller Coaster...

I took The Kid to Elitches this weekend. By all accounts, it was a fabulous time. I even got that little guy to ride the Twister. He was scared to death on the big hill that starts the roller coaster, and I honestly thought that I was the worst mother in the entire universe for talking him into riding it. But then the speed picked up, and we were up and over and around and through and The Kid was squeeling with delight. Phew.

In all we had a fabulous time and all of the troubles of the week were thoroughly girated out of my body. The Kid had fun too. He and I even had the most reasonable talk about the latest bad news from the school over $7 french fries and a soda at the park, and I told him about what to expect next week. We even talked a bit about how all this anger is hard on his cousins and his friends. It was heartbreaking, but it was also a heart-to-heart, which is invaluable.

Sometimes I forget how serious all of this is. The school and IEP violations they've committed have been perfect opportunities for my attentions and focus and anger to be directed at a source firmly outside of my own home. The bottom line however is that The Kid has a very serious, diagnosable mental illness and we're going to be on this bumpy ride for a long, long time. No scapegoat will get us out of that. Amusements are good for affirmation, however, and weekends are priceless for our sanity.

I'm happy to say that The Kid's personality is back. He is still doing that scary stretching thing and I will be calling his doctor tomorrow with those concerns. She swears they aren't tardive diskenesia, a disorder caused by psychiatric medications (she says the movements are not the same), but I'm scared shitless nonetheless.

The Kid has been suspended from his school, and so is heading back to my mom's house for the next three days. I don't even completely understand what happened at the school that caused the suspension, but I believe that it was: a) serious, and b) what they probably should have done instead of giving us that ultimatum of SIED program vs. no school, so at least they are kind of following the rules so far. This also means that this suspension will end on Thursday and he will start a new school that day. I've chosen a school, and all seems to be adequately promising. In all honesty, however, I'm too wary to be optimistic any more. I just hope the new school knows more about how to work with kids like The Kid. And I hope they are willing to try and learn new things if they don't.

I still don't know if they suspended him correctly or if they've broken other areas of disability law. Last week they tallied about 2 IEP/ADA/IDEA violations, so suspending him pretty much got them off of the hook next week, meaning, if he's not at school, they can't break the law anymore. Plus, The Kid won't be there anymore, so their lives are all going to go back to their perfectly normal and insidiously boring ways, which I understand they prefer. Who wouldn't?

We had our meeting last Tuesday and it was grueling to say the least. I stayed calm and stood my ground. The fangs only ever came out while my mouth was firmly closed, so I did no harm by losing my temper or presenting myself as the angry mama bear which can so terribly cloud discussions like that. I got the school to agree to strike entirely the IEP addendum which they illegally wrote. The Kid's annual review of his IEP was up on 10/3, so I obviously granted them an extension and they will have to write an official IEP. Whatever, I'm sure they'll do a bang up job of it. The beauty here is that I will have it written into their IEP that it must be re-written by the new school 30 days after he enters the new school, so all will change fairly quickly. Now, in preparing the new IEP, they obtained test data without my consent, so they're in trouble again, but it's really not my concern anymore. I've been assured by my advocate and by district personnel that the school is being investigated and will be somehow made to deal with their lack of training in these issues.

I really don't care anymore. Because there's a much bigger picture here: My BOY! He's sick! He needs care and time and understanding and most of all help. And that school was not helping, nor would they have helped at this time, even if they filled out every form pertaining to his disability at the right time. They can't do it. I sure hope the new school can.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

You Sure Look Lovely In The Moonlight...

An additional side effect of The Kid's meds that is troubling me that I don't think I've written about yet is insomnia. Or at least, severe difficulty falling asleep. One night last week, The Kid was up well past midnight, just completely unable to sleep. Finally, about an hour after a second teaspoon of benedryl, he passed out.

He's had such a hard time falling asleep, I've pulled out his old lullaby CD that we listened to for approximately 2 years when he was a baby. Tonight, even that didn't work, so I went back in to his room, and asked him to think about something calm and happy. Dumb suggestion, as Mr. Anxiety could in no way see beyond the fact that he was still awake and it was stressing him out. So, I asked if I could talk to him about a calm, happy memory. I suggested talking about a hike in the mountains, which he was not a fan of. He suggested Halloween, which I was not about to start talking to a boy who needed to be calmed down about the spookiest night of the year, aka, the only day of the year wherein you can go ask people for candy and they will actually give it to you.

I asked him if he could think of anything else he'd like me to talk about. Sweetly, he said, what about when I was a baby? I turned to goo. Of course I'll talk about when he was a baby. Any time.

I told him how we used to go downstairs to the bedroom, I'd play his CD and give him some milk. That I'd rub his back just like I'm doing now, and rub his head, too. I told him how I would listen to the sounds outside, the snow, the neighbor's windchime, and how sometimes I would sing to him. He asked, "Can you sing me one of those songs now?"

The puddle of goo I already was turned to goo.

So, I sang him my favorite. The one that was not written about being a single grad student living a nice single grad student life and finding out that you were going to have a baby and then being given the most challenging, least like my own personality child I could have imagined, but it could have been:

Life was a song, You came along

I've laid awake the whole night through

If I ever dared to think you'd care

This is what I'd say to you:

You were meant for me

And I was meant for you

Nature patterned you

And when she was done

You were all the sweet things rolled up in one

You're like a plaintive melody that never lets me free

But I'm content

The angels must have sent you

And they meant you just for me...

And now he's asleep. The key to all of this is to remember that no matter what happens, no matter what drugs he's on or therapy he's undertaking, or letters of complaint I have to write, or hours of my weekend spent working from home or battles I have to don my suit of armor for, he's my baby. Always and forever. He's why I'm here, today, being the person that I am.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Post Secret

Have you ever clicked on my link to Post Secret over there on the side bar? It's been widely written about, and I noticed when I checked the site this morning that I was somewhere in the ballpark of the 45 millionth hit on the site, so I'm guessing you have at one time or another. I don't know if this is not cool or whatever, but I had to take a secret to post here, as it seems kind of apropos. Go visit this site, it's interesting.

Girl, you better work!

Sorry, is that joke about 20 years old now? sheesh. old, that's me.

Truth is, I have a lot of work to do this weekend. My poor boss is about to tear his hair out because of all of the time I've missed from work dealing with The Kid's many advocacy issues. In the last week, I've missed at least another whole day's worth of work at meetings and visiting SIED classrooms. I'm so lucky because my boss has been through everything I've been through. He understands how dire the situation is. His mom was bipolar, and a messy-wouldn't-take-meds-and-would-wake-him-up-at-2am-to-drive-him-to-disneyland-only-to-turn-around-just-north-of-anaheim-because-she'd-get-depressed-and-then-sleep-for-a-month type of bipolar. His son is bipolar as well, and when he was 7 years old, it all hit the fan in a manner similar to they way it has for The Kid. It is vital that I know my boss because I also know that due to his and his wife's efforts (not to discredit the efforts on the part of my boss's son), his son is now enjoying the sweet success of a great high school career behind him (senior class presidency and lacrosse star and all the dreams of popularity in high school), and has just entered his freshman year at the University of Montana. Knowing my boss shows me that success for kids with mental illness happens, thank god.

But anyway, the point here is that I not only need to make up work to save my vacation time which has been quickly depleting and I would really like to spend time with the fam for Christmas, but also because I owe it to my boss. He's the ideal boss for me, we are so well matched. But I've not been a model employee for the last month, and I feel so terrible that my boss has been putting in the hours to make up for my absence, and while his understanding of my situation seems boundless, I need to make the effort because he's not only my boss, he's my mentor and my friend.

So, there's the job work. Gotta do some.

But I also have "The Kid work" to do to. Next Tuesday, I'm having the meeting from hell with The School, a couple of district brass-types, my advocate and me. It's a continuation of the "informal" meeting we started on 9/12, but it also the formal discussion of where we'll get him placed, the forum for my complaints about The School's non-compliance with special education and/or disability law, and ultimately to change all of the inaccurate and horrible things that they've written about The Kid in his IEP.

I'm so grateful to have this blog because it lets me blow off the anger and steam that builds up from how frustrating this situation is. Once I get all of the really mad stuff out of my system via the keyboard and post it on the blog, I am able to write very reasoned, tactful letters and agendas. It helps me essentialize, but it also helps me express the anger and honestly allows me to share that anger with someone on a somewhat formal forum so that I can return to the real task at hand and not be the crazed-with-anger mama-bear, but instead the mom who is a tough advocate but is also reasonable enough to work in a team. At least, that's the hope.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Child is Disabled.

I had to tell a client that today. Because I've been, well, unresponsive. I've been out of the office and not returning phone calls. My boss had already explained that I'd had a sick kid, and was out. When she talked to me, she said (I might be projecting here), forcefully and so not all that sincerely, I hope your child is over his cold. I had to correct her. No, Client, my son is disabled. And he's not better yet.


So, some updates. Because the school trampled on my rights as a parent, told me what I was signing was "informal" and "just a record that [I] attended this meeting," and that was a complete lie, I am currently shopping for an SIED classroom. Because he must be placed in an SIED classroom, as what I signed was as formal as the constitution, and their recommendations, however contentious, are currently the stone tablet of The Kid's current educational plan.

Now, before you go and find out what school The Kid attends so that you can throw eggs at it or whatever, I am going to go along with this decision. I'm willing to change his placement because it means that he will get the hell away from the Social Worker Pro Tem, who I'm fairly certain is the spawn of satan, and The Principal, whom I can no longer look in the eye directly because she so completely betrayed my trust. They don't want to teach The Kid anymore. How could I possibly want them to teach him, then? If The Kid's behavior necessitates it (like I think it might), I can request a formal review of the IEP at any time. It's a lot more tricky than that, but I'll not get into all the legal bull-oney quite yet.

But the SIED classroom. Sweet Jesus.

I went to the one that they chose for me. I have two major complaints that tell me this school is absolutely unacceptable for The Kid.
  1. They are using goddam fucking sticker charts. (Plusses and Minuses! Add Up Your Points At The End Of Each Day For Skittles!!! Motivate them to behave better! We're not just teachers, We're CHEERLEADERS!!!! If they're real good, we'll bake 'em cupcakes and hide 'em in their lockers!!!--Oh, seriously, sorry for that) I hate the sticker chart because we used this on The Kid for two years and it was only disastrous. It provided good data, but when he was involved in the "points," or "smiley/frowny faces," a 5 minute tantrum turned into a 30 minute tantrum, because he'd get upset all over again when time came to record the negative behavior. And in the end, that's not teaching better behavior. I hate the sticker chart thing because what these kids with psychiatric disorders that inhibit their ability to react to bad news or control their impulses when presented with frustrating situations don't need is to be set up for more tantrums. I thought that was one of the major reasons he was being put in SIED. When I expressed (kindly, for real) my distaste for this kind of charting because of bad results and further reading I've done [Greene, Ross; The Explosive Child], the SIED teacher said, "Well, all of the kids in this class do these, and don't you think if the other kids were doing it, he would want to do it too?" Um, The Kid will not be attending here. Peer pressure as behavior plan doesn't work for me. Especially since in 10 years, The Kid will still be bipolar and I'm already terrified of peer pressure then and the comorbidity of bipolar with substance abuse. Plus, I totally squandered an opportunity to say to this teacher, "Well, if all the kids wanted to jump of a bridge, do you think The Kid should do that too?"
  2. The kids. Six third-graders. A second-grader and first-grader each. That's the population. One of the kids pointed at me and said something rude. Another kept banging his head on tables and walls. This is so absolutely horrifying, I can't imagine these kids as The Kid's peers, even if they have the same diagnoses. Apart from the emotional reaction to seeing disturbed kids, the heavy weight of older kids in the classroom bothers me, legitimately, I think. Most of The Kid's problem is social, the last thing he needs is to be around bigger older kids with emotional disabilities (at least, when the bigger older ones are in the majority). There's got to be some learning of bad behaviors that would happen.

So, The SIED class was disappointing, to say the least. I think it will be a big fight to talk about a different placement, but shit, I will do anything to keep him out of that particular program. But, who am I to be judgemental of the behaviors of other children? My child is disabled too.


My child is disabled. Do you know what's worse? He looks it now. We've overmedicated him since last Friday. I went to the doctor today with major concerns about side effects from all of these new drugs he's on. He's drooling. He can't fall asleep. But most seriously, he's complaining of muscle stiffness and is doing this scary arm-stretch and back arch that looks postively palsy-ish. He does this back arch thing and the sticks him arms out at about 45 degree angles from his sides and then moves his thumbs and pinkies together, and sticks his other three fingers on each hand down toward the ground and stretches, showing of his double jointed elbows. It kind of makes him look like the typical "retard." And it makes me sick and sad and guilty and regretful and horrible. The doctor stepped back his meds, prescribed a drug to counter act these side effects, but the fact that he's so filled with little synthetic inhibitors and receptors and atypical anti-psychotics and stimulants just slays me. I can't even write about how that makes me feel.


I always think I've got this thing together, that I'm getting tough. But don't let that fool you. Every day, my lifelong dreams of being a parent to my very own baby die to the reality that we're facing. And I can lie and say I wouldn't have it any other way, but the truth is, I don't want to have a disabled child. I want a healthy, happy child. Right now, I don't really have either of those things in The Kid, and it hurts so much. It hurts the most because I know all he wants is to be happy and healthy, and I'm the only person on this earth equipped to fight for those things to happen. No matter how hard I fight, it might not happen. What if he can't get it together and he spends the rest of elementary school in SIED? And what if in 7th grade he and his SIED buddies find out that smoking pot and drinking vodka make you feel a lot better than the pills mom makes you pop every morning? What if he's in for a struggle for the rest of his life? The fear of those things can really suffocate a mother.

I'm in mourning tonight. I'll get better, and I know that The Kid will too, eventually. I truly, honestly hope so anyway.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I'm Not Saying You Should Sweat The Small Stuff...

But that small stuff can sure cheer you up from time to time.

Case in point #1:

On my way to work every day, I walk past the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sakura Square. They have a installation up right now that consists of a motion detector and two speakers on the side of the building. As you walk by, it gives you compliments. "Hey there, you look terrific." "I can tell you are going to have a great day." "Nice shoes!" I look forward to it every day.

Case in point #2:

Going out of town for the weekend and returning to dozens of emails from friends, e-friends and perfect strangers giving me encouragement and good advice.

Case in point #3:

Aspen leaves. I know that most of you who read this blog either live in Colorado or have at one time lived in Colorado (and one of you is headed BACK to Colorado-yea!), so, you already know what fall is like in Colorado, especially in the mountains. But for those of you who don't know, let me give you a quick primer on fall in CO. It is short. Like, it lasts for a few days.

That is, if you measure fall by the brightly colored leaves on the deciduous trees in the area, the decay of green summer into bright oranges and yellows and even reds that trickle down onto the ground. When I lived in Indiana, I was always amazed at how fall seemed to go and go and go. How in October, the leaves on the enormous trees on my school's campus slowly lost their summer chloroform and turned deep reds and oranges and all the colors you'd hope to see in a sunset. More amazing, was how in November I could still see those colors. In the montaine regions of Colorado, there really is only one kind of deciduous tree (I'm no scientist, there are probably others, but when you're talking iconic Colorado, yes, there is only one): The Aspen.

This weekend, my mom took The Kid and I to the Rockies to breathe in the peak of the turning of the aspen leaves. It was so wonderful to get away, to sleep in a mostly empty, clean condo, and eat mountain-style home cooking. In short, I'm rested, and ready for another week.

So, northeast, you can take your big fancy trees with their months of color, the raking and that oddly comforting smell of decaying summer. Here in Colorado, we get our bursts of color for only a day or two, and for the first time in my life, we made the trek up the hills on the exact right weekend. It was heavenly.

Note: blogger is driving me slightly batty tonight and I can't get my photos attached to this post. I have, however, totally stollen the idea from Mr. Lady's fabulous flikr link on her page, and if you want to see what I did this weekend, check out the photos!!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Storm Before the Calm (hopefully)

On weeks like these that have passed in the Soapy Water household, I find it difficult to resist the urge to over-document, to bore you with the details of the hell that has been the past few weeks. I also have the feelings that prevent you from wanting to communicate with anyone at all. Is that depression? Or just tired?

So, I guess I shall start somewhere in July. My psychiatrist was closing shop and moving her family to Wyoming. To make a long story short, this left us, well, psychiatrist-less for about three months. It takes approximately 204 phone calls to find a psychiatrist when you have the nation's crappiest mental health insurance coverage, you see. It also takes your child to be removed from school because he is behaving like a lunatic as well. If you have a mildly psychotic child, I hear it will take more like 846 phone calls.

Allow me to quickly fill you in on The Kid's behavior at school for his first three weeks of first grade. His behaviors include:

  • Screaming and yelling in the classroom.
  • Running out of the classroom.
  • Running out of the school.
  • Hiding under desks and pulling on electrical cords.
  • Ransacking offices and destroying school property.
  • Hitting children and teachers.
  • Inconsolable crying.
  • Rage and Anger, Generally.

I want to state, before I go any further, that I find these behaviors unacceptable and have only moved forward to help prevent these behaviors and work with the school to help The Kid manage these behaviors so that he and his fellow students can learn. I take this shit seriously, in short. I've done nothing thinking that The Kid was somehow NOT behaving in these ways.

When the insurance bureacracy was failing me miserably and The Kid's behaviors were so violent and out of control, I was looking into getting The Kid into The Children's Hospital psych ward on a day treatment basis. In fact, I had just hung up the phone with their intake nurse when I received a phone call from The Principal on Monday, Sept. 11. She informed me that I had to come pick The Kid up from school immediately and that he was not welcome back at school until we enrolled him in a SIED classroom. SIED stands for Significant Identifiable Emotional Disorder. It is not, by definition, a bad thing. For The Kid, however, I saw a number of things from this:

  1. If he was behaving as seriously and dangerously in a general ed classroom, I honestly didn't see how being in ANY classroom would benefit him, as I was quickly coming to the opinion (and as you will see, I was right) that he was unstable, and was reaching a new intensity of mania that we've never seen before. It was unmitigated by therapy or drugs.
  2. Out of nowhere? They are going to move him? How is this legal? How can they give me a choice between no school or restrictive environment, with 15 minutes to come pick him up or else?
  3. What the hell happened to his IEP?

We set a meeting for the next afternoon to discuss. And I picked him up.

And so began the week of effing hell.

The next day, I kept The Kid at home, and then dropped him over to my mom's house before the school meeting. I had smartly asked a friend from a parent to parent group to which I belong to attend the meeting with me to advocate/take notes/provide support. I showed up to this "informal" meeting to meet the area coordinator for special education, The Teacher, The Social Worker Pro Tem (who is not The Social Worker from last year, who I liked but is on maternity leave this semester, and so will return, hopefully, in January) and The Principal. And they have a new IEP. And they want me to sign paperwork. And suddenly this is an IEP meeting.

I call for a quick time out. I am asked to waive the 10 day notice prior to any official IEP meeting. They tell me this is an "Addendum Meeting." Where we create an addendum to his IEP. I say, what is an addendum meeting? I am not agreeing to anything today. They try to ease my fears, telling me that we are creating an addendum to his IEP, but it's just not as formal.

Now, let me tell you something about IEP's. It is like a miniature piece of legislation, that only pertains to a single child and his school situation. I would like you to think quickly about any piece of law or legal document that could ever be considered, "Less Formal." Bullshit I say. I agree to continue the meeting, but that I'm not agreeing to anything. I'm putting on my insurance broker face and getting all freaked out by legal stuff. As, apparently, I should have. I've since talked to an educational advocate who told me I should have walked out of the meeting.

They've clearly had it with The Kid. They want him out of the school, and have written in the IEP that regardless of the outcome of my attempts to treat his medical disability, they want him in an SIED classroom. This classroom is in another school. My repeated attempts to reiterate and get them to understand that The Kid needs medical attention for a psychiatric disorder and that until he is stable and reassessed, I will not agree to any placement.

The Kid says that The Social Worker Pro Tem hates him. As this meeting wore on, I began to believe him. The district resource person seemed unaccustomed to speaking to adults and talked to me in 6-year-old-speak about my resistance to SIED and then asked me to look forward to The Kid at 16 without having been in the SIED classroom (as if any alternative to that would have been visions of The Kid shooting people from the clock tower or something), all the while talking to me like she was talking about puppies and rainbows and like she was soon going to tell me about the teddy bear collection she keeps on her bed at home. That made me want to have a little pediatric bipolar tantrum of my own. The Principal is not seeing eye to eye with me either. In short, these folks had their story straight, they were sticking to it regardless of my input, and they wanted me to do what they told me to do. But I wasn't having it.

They were wrong to spring this on me. I have to admit that in the long term, they may or may not be wrong about the placement. He might someday be in a self-contained classroom for a period of time. But they CAN NOT go about assigning it the way that they did.

The meeting ended with me hating them all and wanting to pull my hair out. But I got my way, they were going to hold on doing anything. Of course, they were going to hold on doing anything because I was going to keep The Kid home, indefinitely.

By the end of the week, we finally got into a psychiatrist. The day treatment center required a referral from a psychiatrist, and just before I had a nervous breakdown, my shitty insurance company came up with a p-doc for me. I guess this is their criteria for when to finally provide customer service. Anyway. When we met with the new p-doc, she said that she felt that we were doing the right thing, keeping him out of school rather than have him rage in any classroom, regardless of restrictiveness (he is being home-schooled by my mom), and that he was unstable, and that she believed that the medications that she would prescribe would stabilize him so as to make the day treatment unnecessary. She also believes that once stabilized, he shouldn't need a SIED environment.

This week, we are seeing a much calmer Kid. He went to school for 1.5 hours on Monday and did not rage. He did show some ADHD symptoms, and after our follow up appointment with the doctor the next day, she added a med to treat those as well. The last two days? More improvement, as far as we can tell at the School of Meema.

The big test comes in getting him back in school. He now has so much anxiety about being there. He's convinced that they all hate him. I need a school that is willing to help him re-integrate. They need to understand that he's not going to be perfect, but I believe that he's going to be so much better that the SIED classroom won't be necessary, at least for now.

I can't help but worry that the staff at the school are so sick of us, and especially The Kid, that any call for help or intervention will not be met in hopes of farming him out. I've enlisted an advocate, I'm still working on finding a psychologist to help us out. The School has to follow the IEP, but when they write it, I've got misgivings.

I just wish that I truly felt like they came at this from a place that really cares about The Kid. I think they do, in a perfunctory way, in that they are professional teachers/social workers/school adminstrators. But their actions of late reek of the kind of careless expediency that typically can only indicate that they want their normal jobs back. That they want the easy way.

As the annoying "puppies and rainbows" lady tried to tell me the other day, you have to look into the future and hope that The Kid will succeed. I have a feeling they would prefer that happen from a distance from them.

I can't write anymore tonight, if you've made it this far, thanks.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Rock Bottom

I do believe we've reached it!

The problem:
The Kid is unmanagable. He's violent, and he's missing about 80% of instruction time due to his behaviors. He's scaring the shit out of everyone at the school, including the teachers and social worker. They say they aren't safe around him.

The School's Solution:
The school wants The Kid in SIED class. This stands for Significant Identifiable Emotional Disability. This is the type of class for kids who can't be in any other public school environment. They have asked that he not return to school until he goes to the SIED classroom. Oh, and the classroom? It's in another school.

My position:
The Kid is unstable. Medically. We do not have adequate mental health coverage. I've been getting this run-around with doctors and the insurance company for a year now. Actually a bit longer than that, as I first ventured into psych care for The Kid at his tender age of 18 months, but who's counting?

I don't know if I'm being pig-headed, but I don't think we make formal changes to his IEP and behavioral plan in light of his recent behaviors (which I think are worse than last year, or aren't being dealt with as adroitly as they were last year and therefore explode more potently), until we can receive good, intensive medical care in regards to his unchecked psychiatric disorder.

Did I tell you that we have no psychiatrist right now? Did I tell you the one we had who only ever prescribed pills anyway closed shop and retired to another state? Leaving us with a referral to a new doctor who in the end decided not to work with our insurance therefore leaving us without any medical care and 25 days worth of anti-psychotic medications that were probably not working anyway? Oh, I forgot to? woops.

I am truly of the opinion that we need to get The Kid's medical issue sorted. This is a seasonal disorder he's got here. He's in "the bad season." I want him stablized, medically, before they go branding him with the emotional disability (which in the world of education, as I understand it, is very different than the "other medical" classification The Kid currently has which qualifies him for services under IDEA).

So, I have kind of pulled him out of school, temporarily, at least. I'm working on admitting him to a psychiatric outpatient care facility, which will provide him with the meds consult he needs, along with much needed therapy.

Oh, and I'm filing a formal complaint to my employer for providing us insurance coverage which has essentially not covered us. EVER.

Oh, and I still have a job, but I have only worked two hours this week. So, The Kid's not learning, and I'm not working. This is working out fantastically for us.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Gathering of Angels, Part II

My cell phone does not provide the greatest quality video, nor can it last more than 30 seconds, but here is The Kid up on my friend's shoulders, watching his favorite band sing his favorite song:

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Gathering of Angels Appeared Above My Head, And Sang to me This Song of Hope and this is what They Said:

I'm addicted to music. It's kind of my thing. I am not, however, in any way a music snob. That much must be known about me. I do, however, have lines to draw as any sensible person would have, as you will see.

I have a few musical flashpoints in my own young life that I must share as background before I go too deeply into the true intent of this post, which is to tell you about The Kid's amazing relationship to music. But indulge me in a few moments that made me the music nut that I am today:

1. I am about 6 years old. It is approximately 1984. My sister Peggy is in full-on Police-mania, goes to their concert, and I feel true, real desire to be older, to get to have cool friends (one of hers was from Germany and I thought he was so dreamy, at six, yo) and listen to music with them and be cool too. It is Synchronicity all the time in the basement of our home. My first "favorite" song is Miss Gradenko. I sneak into her room on numerous occasions to listen specifically to Miss Gradenko. Is she safe? Who knows? All I know is that a nearly lifetime crush on Sting is begun at the tender age of 6. Unfortunately, the crush is blown to hell at approximately my age of 28 when he starts starring in ads for cars. But that was a good 22 year love fest we had, Stingy. [Stingy, this is a joke for Peggy. Do you get it?]

2. I am around 10 years old. My sister Bonnie is home for the summer from college and has all of her albums in her room. I discover, again surreptitiously, the world of musical theatre. Yes, geek, I know, but god, do I love that Stephen Sondheim. I could act out the following musicals from their soundracks alone: Sunday in the Park with George (favorite of all time), Sweeny Todd (which I hear is going to be movie, directed by Tim Burton: HEEE!!!), Les Miserables, Chess (yes, the musical written by the dude from ABBA, what of it?), later on I discover Into the Woods (god, great musical, Stephen Sondheim is truly a genius). If there would have been hidden cameras in my sister Bonnie's bedroom in the years between 1885 and 1990, I would have paid a great deal of blackmail money, on account of my fantastic renditions of the role of Eponine in Les Mis and Dot in Sunday. God, I wanted to be Bernadette Peters. Seriously. It must also be noted that Sunday in the Park with George just happens to be a musical based on the famous pointelist painting by Georges Seurat, which ultimately began my other obsession in life, ART, the history of which became my major in college. By the by, and, everything is connected, or in otherwords, Sychronicity.

3. I am 11 years old. Some goofy folk singer has come to my school to sing goofy folk songs. I can see the other kids in my school enjoying this incredibly. But I am making fun of it in my head. I am not clapping and singing along. I feel akward, like the dumbness of this guy's act is so apparent to me: He's a grown MAN! He's singing about Hildegard the Hippopotamus and he's as old as my dad! There's something totally wrong here!!! Later, my teacher asks me if I liked the concert. I politely said yes, but then she followed up with the observation that I didn't participate. I said, Well, it just seemed kind of dumb. And then I cried, because I was embarrased because I was clearly the only one who thought it was disturbing that this grown man was singing these inane songs. I was horribly self aware at even the age of 11. This self-awareness turned, for YEARS, into pretentiousness, a disease of which I am proud to say I've been cured. Thank god.

4. I am 12 years old. Saturday Night Live is good again. The Church Lady and Toonces the Driving Cat and all. I'm hooked. One night, The Sugarcubes are the musical guest. The Sugarcubes are Bjork's band, prior to her amazing solo career, which I have watched and admired at every single step since. My life subsequently changes, no joke. I buy their tape the next day. Oh my god, I can't tell you how many times I listened to Birthday. I hear that song today and I can see my junior high bedroom. I can even smell it. Bjork. I. Love. Her. Don't even talk to me about the Swan Dress. I don't want to hear it. She is brilliant. She can do no wrong. She is amazing. She has never been in a car commercial, nor do I think she ever will be.

[okay, before I go any further, can I say that my computer is freaking me out with some Sychronicity tonight? I usually write while playing music on my Windows Music Player. Almost everything I own on CD is on this computer. As I've written this, The Sugarcubes has played, which rarely comes up on the "all play" option as it is only one album of hundreds, and The Police have played about three times. But now we've got The Girl From Ipanema, so whatever.]

So, we've established the following: An early interest in non-child-friendly music. An interest in adolescence in "interesting" music. And I've confessed to sneaking into my sister's rooms and scratching their favorite records to hell. Yep, it was me, girls.

Now that I'm a parent, I need to explain some more. Going into this deal, I knew I would have a short fuse for Barney. I knew I wouldn't be able to listen to more than .23 seconds of Raffi. Because even when I was a little kid, I couldn't stand that stuff. I've been so painfully self aware my whole life. I've always attributed this to being the youngest of four daughters, teased at every turn for my developmental stages. With adulthood, I kind of realize that this was always just part of my psyche, but regardless of its source, I can't be highly dramatic or self-centered at any point in my life without knowing what an asshole I am being, so I rarely do it [i think, or hope anyway]. The result of this is 1) I am the world's worst candidate for reality television; 2) I'm an incredibly good friend because I rarely turn anything into something about ME; 3) I could never be a hippy or a deadhead because I'm far too aware of how dumb people look when all deadheaded out.

The Kid's grown into a true, awesome, devouring love for music as well. I can't wait to talk to The Kid at 22 or 32, and ask him about his relationship to music. Because right now, he is very into it. It all started with the Yellow Submarine. Choosing music in the car has always been a carefully done thing, mostly because a lot of the music I hold dear I don't really want The Kid to hear the lyrics to quite yet. So when he was really little, we played a great deal of Beatles in the car. One trip to the video store later, he had found the DVD of Yellow Submarine on his own, at three, because there are only so many things you will find with a Yellow Submarine on them, and yes, they will be mostly related. So, we rented Yellow Submarine and watched it so constantly that I had no choice but to purchase the film. And listen to the Beatles pretty much constantly until he was about 5 years old. Which was cool. The child's obsession was with something of amazing quality, The Beatles, arguably the greatest musical act of the modern age, and not with some mind numbing singing vegetables or any kind of CD that idiotically mispells Kids with a Z or contains the song "The Wheels on the Bus."

As the years have gone on, The Kid's journey through the history of rock and roll has been interesting, and stimulating. He has an amazing relationship with a certain song by The Smiths. Like, he knows all the words. He frequently requested T-Rex for quite a while. I'm unsure if he adored the pre-alternative sounds of Marc Bolan, or if he just really liked the name because of his concurrent love of dinosaurs. The Kid approaches music with total earnest commitment. He loves it, he dances around, he learns songs by heart. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I have listened to The Bicycle Song by Queen. I have found myself waiting to introduce him to certain songs until he is older (Tom Saywer? Mama?). He has a "thing" for Waterfall by The Stone Roses. The first concert he ever went to, he met David Lee Roth. The second concert he went to, he got us into the VIP section of a Bright Eyes NPR appearance, and was given a free T-Shirt, which he still wears weekly, no joke.

About a year ago, Peggy gave me a burned copy of Styx's greatest hits. She knew my soft spot for 70's prog-rock, but mostly she gave it to me because she knew The Kid would enjoy it. I remember playing it for him, but she gave me the disc at the same time she also burned the soundtrack to Xanadu, which deserves its own music history of Molly G's life of its own, and so the Styx disc went into the pile, and The Kid didn't really dig it at the time.

I recently spent a Saturday night at my friend Erin's house, and in preparation, I brought over one of my CD books so that she could [uh, totally download all of my music] listen to some of my CD's. In the book was this unlabeled CD. I threw it in the player. I was Styx. So we drove around for a day as I played The Kid some of their better songs [uh, Renegade, duh], until we came across Come Sail Away [link is totally awesome Karaoke version of the song, please, go, and give singing it a try, for The Kid]. The song is, undeniably, one of the best 70's prog-rock songs, and if you dare dispute me, I've got the guns and ammo to do it. Bring it on. That song is great. Don't fight it. No, no, you can't stop the rocking.

Needless to say, The Kid fell in LOVE. Not just love: lurve, the Woody Allen word for love when love just isn't enough to express all of that emotion. And so, by the time we got to Erin's house on that Saturday night, The Kid made me bring the CD in so he could sing it to Erin. And so, for the fortnight since, it's been a 24 hour per day Styx-fest. Come Sail Away with the cornflakes in the morning. Come Sail Away with the toothbrush at night. Just this morning, he was estimating how many plays of Come Sail Away it would take to get home from the mall. For your information, it took 3.5 plays. Just so you know.

As I dropped The Kid off at Karate this morning, then, what to my delight did I hear but that the talented Dennis DeYoung of Styx would be giving a free concert tonight in downtown Denver at The Taste of Colorado. As a responsible mother, I had no choice. We had to go.

He was SOOO excited. I can't think of a time in my life, in my own music freak-dom that I've ever been able to see a band live as immediately, as concurrently as a new obsession has formed. So, as we walked through the festival to get to the stage, he was literally bouncing. He was ecstatic, in the most literal sense of ecstacy.

So, as soon as we arrived at our chosen concert-viewing spot, Dennis began singing Domo Origato Mr. Roboto. One thing you must know, the dude is totally gray haired and old. Other thing to note? He still sounds exactly the same. Good voice on that dude, undeniably. Pure joy came over my son. Pure. And I honestly got teary. It was so sweet. We watched the whole show, waiting for Come Sail Away. I knew they would play it as the encore. Everyone knew it would be their encore, in that it is Styx's best song next to Renegade, which Dennis DeYoung didn't sing, so like, fuggedaboutit. The Kid was near to tears at the end of the show because they hadn't sung it yet, so I got to teach him what an encore was all about. But we screamed and yelled for about 1 minute before we heard the tinkling piano that begins The Kid's favorite song.

This all came after a week of total hell. My job sucks beyond definition, and this week it reached new lows that I cannot, literally, explain to you. The Kid had a violent bipolar explosion at school that resulted in a half-day's suspension (who is that kid? Not The Kid who spent this wonderful Saturday with me), and I got the flu of the century and missed an unprecedented three days from work in a row. But as the musically cheesy and hilariously brilliant Dennis DeYoung sang to me tonight, and almost as I'd say them to The Kid, my wonderful companion in life:

The headlines read these are the worst of times
I do believe its true

I feel so helpless like a boat against the tide
I wish the summer winds could bring back paradise
But I know, if the world turned upside down
Baby, I know you'd always be around
The best of times are when I'm alone with you

Friday, September 01, 2006

Some really great words to say with a stuffy nose:

1. Stuffy nose
2. Veronica Mars
3. Confused. [as in the not at all funny part of The Color Purple that a couple of friends of mine have forever ruined for me: Believe me, if you've ever walked up to your friend Dominic and just randomly asked him, "How are you feeling?" and he answered all southern and Oprah-like, "Confused," you will laugh til you cry. You should also try the word out with your next head cold. That's all I'm saying here.]
4. I'm cute! [a la Rudolph]

On to other things: We went to the dentist today. As you probably already know, DENTIST is a scary and notorious concept in our house. The Kid's teeth, however, are great! He gets major gold stars for brushing and flossing and using mouthwash!!! I, however, have been knocked from my pedestal. At 30 years old, the dentist has found my first cavity. I'm kind of devastated. Like, I was always all, "I've never had a cavity." "The dentist, though he is evil, always compliments me on my beautiful teeth." "I'm the poster child of flouridated water, my teeth are sparkling examples of better living through science." But now, after a two year absence from the dentist due to the paranoia of already having taken enough time off from work to deal with the many medical issues of my offspring, have caught his sugar bug disease. And I've learned that because of the superior quality of my teeth, I also have superior quality saliva, which creates superior quality tartar, which after two years of build up requires superior quality scraping and buffing and shining and spitting of blood into the little dentist sink. So, the lesson here? Go to the freaking dentist.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Grubmer's Sweet 16

My family got our first home computer when I was 14 years old. It was a Mac, and the screen was approximately the size of your big toe. My mom bought it in preparation for my entrance into high school, for the papers I'd write. Being a teacher, she knew that she could use it for all kinds of work-related documents, banners, signs, etc. What we didn't anticipate was the enormous gift to humanity that our first Mac provided my family: Tetris.

Some families refer to their calm, good times as the salad days. I like to think of the years 1991-1994 as The Tetris Days. It started small. My sister, Peggy, gave us a little floppy disk with the game and a few others, including this weird darts game that I could never master, entitled, "The Pleasure Palace." Once I started to play tetris, I saw the game long after I'd shut down the little Mac. I'd cut my dinner's steak up, and see the long four-squared piece, street signs and the geometric designs on the bathroom tiles all became a big, lifesized constant game of Tetris. The Mac became the center of the family*, as we all watched each other play tetris while making up words to the 'russianish' theme song played in the background: "Loser, loser, loser, you are a loser" were usually the components of any good tetris theme lyric.

But this was not meant to be a post about tetris, although it is quite possibly the best computer slack tool ever, except for the internet, which Al Gore hadn't even invented yet when we got the Mac.

The other good times we had on the mac were in Word Perfect. Ah, the fun we had before the internet. Our Word Perfect program came equipped with a "read it" tool, and the computer would read whatever we wrote. So, yes, we had good times making the computer saying antiestablishmentarianism and transubstantiation among other, less polite or erudite, words. But it was in particularly silly "read it" button in Word Perfect session where my sister, Peggy, and I created her alter ego, Grubmer. Peggy and I were just trying to crack each other up with the "read it" button, and she typed in the name that was to become her forever alias, her login name, I can only presume, for when she chats online with babes all day.

Grubmer is my silly sister, the sister who at 24 chose to stay home with her geeky little sister to watch tv over going out with her hip friends. The sister who would sleep in my bed when she came home from college to keep me company and have the truly life affirming coversations that my young brain needed to have in order to remain sane after the death of my father. I've always looked up to her, have always valued and loved beyond pretty much every other human being on this earth, because she can alternatively make me cry and make me laugh in about 30 seconds.

So, by my calculations, on August 29th, Peggy's Grubmer alias turned 16 years old. I hope she had a fabulous birthday. I wish I could buy her a car. But instead, I can only serenade her with the tune that made her a tetris legend on our old Mac.

"Loser, Loser, Loser, You are Loser."

I love you Pegs!!

*Hyperbole, people, for reals.