I originally started this blog a few years ago to chronicle Noah's daily struggles with autism. It was a dark time in my life - a time when I felt that things would never get better. It was a time when I felt that all my hopes and dreams for my son and for our family had died. In my efforts to help Noah recover from autism, I began a journey that inadvertently led me to rediscover myself. I learned how to laugh again. How to dream again. How to live again. How to love again.

Autism Schmaustism. He's still our son.

This is a blog celebrating our family. Our kids. Our life.

Monday, June 29, 2009

My name is Forever Mommy. I'm from Planet Mom.

Shh, it's me. Can you tell? Two of my kids we're having some troubles, so I decided it was time for a daily visit from Forever Mommy from Planet Mom. My younger two have very active imaginations.... so I thought that they might be able to relate to me more if I were to join them in their fantasy world. So I decided to don my cape, tie on my mask, grab a fairy wand, and throw on a beret.

The beret really doesn't have anything to do with the costume, but my alter ego likes to think that she's French and really sophisticated, polished, and able to eat all the Nutella she wants without having massive elephant thighs.

Like I said... pure fantasy.

Anyway, Forever Mommy is always there for her kids. She will never leave them and she will always protect them from dragons (bad people and bad things). She talks in silly voices and relates to her children. She plays with them and slays all the dragons with her magic wand. She also does silly dances and gives her babies jelly beans and m&m's when they do unexpected things - like when they show manners by saying "yes ma'm" or "no sir" and "please" and "thank you". She never raises her voice and she encourages her children to put on their happy shiny invisible yellow suits every morning and shows them how to blow their "yuckies" into pretend black balloons and let them float all the way to the sky. (Thanks Lisa for the cool ideas).

Forever Mommy rocks.

Leslie Mommy? She pretty much sucks. At the end of the day, Leslie Mommy is tired, pooped, and plain worn out. She vegges in front of the T.V. watching The Bachelorette and Wipe Out and spends her evenings with her boyfriend, Mr. Google.

She also has an annoying habit of referring to herself in third person.

Maddening, isn't it?

No, seriously. I am not one of those moms who gets down on the floor and plays. I am, however, one of those moms who would gladly spend a day building replicas of Egyptian pyramids with sugar cubes and plotting the timeline of all the kings and queens of England.

Man, I love stuff like that!

4 and 5 year olds? They don't care about that. Mine want me to play dinosaurs and hotwheels and throw pretend birthday parties for their stuffed animals. I am way too anal and research oriented to have preschoolers. It's pretty pathetic.

BUT... I'm currently reading Playful Parenting... and it's totally opening my eyes to how important play is to our kids. And it really stresses how important it is in terms of facilitating attachment.

It's helping me to rediscover my inner kid. It's helping me realize that it's okay - that's it's necessary - for me to be silly and playful... and that I can use play as a way of bonding with my kids.

So that's how Forever Mommy... from Planet Mom was born.

Eli LOVES her. Nandi HATES her. Eli loves her because she plays dinosaurs and dragons with him and protects him from the Evil Sister Dragon who bites and kicks and wants to kill him. (He also informed me that the dragon's mom is dead and left him and his sister and now they're all alone. Helllloooooooooo... can you say abandonment issues?) Nandi hates Forever Mommy because she doesn't yell or smart off and she never loses her temper and she's really loving and likes to give lots and lots of kisses.

Nandi tried to stab Forever Mommy with a pretend sword 8 times today. In the butt.

Fortunately, Forever Mommy, like Leslie Mommy, has a lot of padding back there. So she was safe.

But... good grief!

Anyway, I really do recommend the book. I haven't read all of it, but it really did help me realize that I need to be more playful with my kids. And it's really working with Eli. Even Noah had a bemused look on his face when he saw me in costume.

Nandi? We'll see what happens. If I can keep my invisible shiny happy yellow suit on and not blow it by letting her passive aggressiveness (or just plain aggressiveness!) get to me, then I think we might turn a corner. It may be a little corner, but a corner nonetheless.

Now.. if you'll excuse me, Leslie Mommy needs to get back to The Bachelorette.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Noah, Kiva, and RPM

Have you heard about KIVA? It's this amazing organization that supplies loans to people around the world in need. Basically, you can go online and check out the loan requests and donate anywhere from $25 and up towards a specific loan. Once enough money is collected, the loan is given out and the person who requested it can start their business, buy food for their market stall... basically get whatever is needed for them to support themselves in their country. And once they start earning money, they work on paying back the loan.

It's really cool.

We supported a loan a few months ago for someone in Pakistan to buy a rickshaw so they could start their own taxi business and support their family. So far, we've received half of our $25 back... and we decided to transfer that money and add $12.50 so that we could help someone else get started.

This time, however, we wanted to let Noah choose the person to support.

So we did some RPM with him... you know, that awesome autism program that we learned about in Austin? Yeah, that one. By giving him a series of two to three choices at a time, Noah told us that he wanted to lend "his" money to someone who met the following specifics:

1. Male

2. Married

3. 7 + children

4. Living on the continent of Asia

5. Above 30 years of age

6. In the agriculture business

I could only find one person who had 7 or more kids (geez, Noah!!) but wanted to give Noah an option of two people, so we picked another person who met Noah's qualifications, but only had 6 children.

The first one was from Cambodia, has 8 kids, and needs money to buy seeds for his land so that he can grow food. The second candidate is from Tajikistan, has 6 kids, and also needs seeds so that he can grow and sell food.

This is who Noah picked to sponsor: Mukim Mamadjonov. You can click on the link and it'll take you to his loan request page.

He only needs $125 more to meet his loan request. Just five people donating $25 each... and you eventually get it all back.... (and, of course, can then sponsor another loan!)

What an unbelievably cool and easy way to help change the world!

So, Noah, age 7, is making his mark on the world. He loaned $25. When that $25 gets paid off, he'll redistribute it to someone else. If he does this twice a year, then in 10 years, he'll have helped 20 families put food on the table.

All for one initial $25 investment.

You know, it doesn't matter how old you are, whether you're "able-bodied" or not. Doesn't matter if you can talk or if you're non-verbal, if you can walk or need a wheelchair to get around. Doesn't matter if you're rich or poor. Everyone can help make a difference in someone's life.

So... uh... what are you waiting for?? Get to it!

UPDATE: In the five minutes it took to type out this post, Noah's "friend", Mukim, had his entire loan amount raised!! There are HUNDREDS more out there, so please look through the site and see if you feel called to donate.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Praise Report

This one is actually about Noah.

We've been driving to Dallas 2x a week for a new therapy that we're doing. And, of course, our lame insurance refused to pay for it. 3-hour RT, twice a week, at $75 a pop for a 30 minute session.

It adds up quickly.

Anyway, I called their office today and cancelled our remaining scheduled appointments because we couldn't afford it anymore. It broke my heart to do this because we have truly seen some great changes in Noah since we started. But we didn't have a choice.

Twenty minutes later, they called back. They'd just gotten the mail in and there was a letter from our insurance company. They AGREED to pay for the therapy.

Ya'll, you don't understand. I fight with our insurance over everything. Maybe they decided to cover it because they realized it'd help - or maybe they decided that they didn't want to spend another summer dealing with Leslie-Noah's-Mom. I don't know. But they're covering it. This means we can continue to take Noah and, God willing, he'll continue to get better.

Whoo hoo! I wish you could see the happy dance I'm doing over here. Okay, well maybe not. Because it does slightly resemble Elaine's from Seinfeld. (Hey, I never said I was talented.)

BUT... I do have a huge great grin on my face. This is the best news we've gotten in ages. Praise God!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What should I title this blog post?

I've never been one of those people who adopts because they want to "rescue" a child. I adopted because I wanted to be a mom, and I just always knew, even as a teen, that I would adopt someday.

Having said that, last week I found myself thinking some terrible things. It'd been an awful day. RAD behaviors were at their highest and Nandi was testing me every single step of the way.

We were running late and I was desperately trying not to lose my cool. I would get Nandi dressed, turn around, and she'd be undressed. Get dressed, undressed, get dressed, undressed. Shoes on, shoes off. It was driving me nuts.

And, for the record, I did actually do reverse psychology on her once when she did this. I said, "No problem. You can just ride naked." Sure enough, she rode buck naked all the way to a friend's house. Didn't bother her a bit.

Of course, it didn't. She's a nudist. What was I thinking???

So, I had no idea what to do in this situation. She'd already called my bluff and I'd run out of tricks.

Anyway, I found myself thinking some really horrible thoughts... thank goodness I didn't say them out loud.

"You ungrateful little snot. Do you have any idea what I have sacrificed for you? I have done everything for you. I'm staying home for you. I cook for you. I clean for you. You jump, I say "how high"? I pick you up when you're crying. I clothe you. I feed you. You don't want for nothing because you have everything you could ever ask for. I have done everything I could possibly do for you and you treat me like *$@$%**&!. Do you have any idea what your life would have been like if you'd stayed in the orphanage? Huh, do you? DO YOU???"

For the record, I did NOT say this out loud. But I thought it. And it scared me. I mean, where did this come from? I was horrified that I could even think this. She's my daughter. You don't think things like this about your own child.

You know, I never think about my kids being adopted. It never occurs to me. Honestly, sometimes I forget that I didn't actually give birth to them. They're mine. They are my flesh and blood.

But with RAD, I don't know. It's like a slap in the face. It's a constant reminder that I'm not her birth mother. That I'm being rejected. That I wasn't there. It's always looming.... no one was there for her. No one was there for her. I wasn't there for her. Every behavior, every bite mark, every cry for help is a constant reminder that she was adopted. That I'm not her birth mother and that she rejects me.

And it just really did a number on me psychologically and I found myself thinking those terrible thoughts.

So, here's what happened. And, let me say, God can really orchestrate some amazing moments...

That very night I went with some friends to visit a church member who'd just had a baby. Now, I've never really been around newborns. And certainly haven't been around a newborn since all this attachment stuff came to the surface.

Anyway, I was looking at sweet little baby Jay and seeing how everyone in the room was completely in love with him. I saw how his mom just held him and beamed with joy. And it suddenly occurred to me...

Who held Nandi when she was born? There were no flowers the day she was born. There were no balloons saying "It's a girl!" There were no tears of happiness. No distant cousin to say, "Awww, you'd better lock the doors when she turns 16. She's going to have 'em lined up the block." No proud dad to say, "No way. She's not leaving the house until she's thirty!"

She wasn't passed around from relative to relative. She wasn't rocked and held and breastfeed. No one counted her 10 fingers and toes. No one taught her mom how to swaddle her tight.

What happened when Nandi was born? Was she whisked away to a cold sterile room with rows and rows of cribs? Was she rocked? Was she cuddled? What happened to her? Was she held only when she was fed? Was she even held when she was fed or was her bottle propped? Did anyone pick her up when she cried? Was her diaper changed the moment it was dirty or did she have to wait for all the other diapers to be changed?

What happened to my Nandini?

And that's when all my resentment and anger started to fade away.

She needs to be loved. She needs a mommy who doesn't stiffen up when she gives her a bottle. She needs a mommy to tell her how pretty and beautiful and amazing she is. No matter how she acts, she's just a little girl. A little girl who needs a mommy who loves her no matter what.

And that's the day, the moment, the minute, my attitude started to change.

It doesn't mean that things are better. But I feel better. And every time I feel my frustration rise.. oh, and believe me, it rises a lot... I just try to remember what it must have been like for Nandi when she was born. And I'm not faking it until I feel it anymore. I love her. I am her mommy. I am her real mommy.

And I love her.

Christine posted this video last week and it really speaks volumes about why our kids are they way they are.... It's a long video, but even if you can watch the first few minutes, you'll gain some incredible insight into what happened to Nandini and other children with attachment issues.

So, this is my last post on RAD (for awhile). I think I've caught everyone up. Now, we're just doing our day-to-day... trying to get by. I'm sure RAD stuff will come up in my posts - because I blog about what's going on in our lives, but it'll be nice to blog about some other things, too. Some more Eli-isms, some funnier stuff, just other things.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

I've Got a New Attitude

Well, it was clearly premature to start a series of posts about what’s working for us… when it seems the only thing that brings peace and harmony around here is actually not being here.

Last week was pretty good, but we were gone sunup to sundown. Yesterday? Eh… not so good. This morning? Ugggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

But I’ll go ahead and humor you and tell you some of the things we’re trying.

First of all, and perhaps the biggest, is that I’m having to change my attitude. I never realized my extreme need to control things until I had a little RADish… who also has an extreme need to control things.

You know that book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. And It’s All Small Stuff ? Well, I sweat the small stuff. Big time.

I’m trying not to sweat the small stuff anymore.

That book that I read (the one I hated so much and hate even more because it actually taught me a few things and I really didn’t want it to because I hated it so much. You know, that one?) , well… it kept trying to get me to recognize my own fears. Like, why certain things drive me crazy. What am I afraid of?

Why do I get in such a panic when we’re running late to therapy or Pre-K?

Why do I get agitated when the kids can’t find their shoes and we’re running late?

Why do I get in a frenzy right before Sim comes home and the house is a mess?

Why does it irritate me so much when I spend time fixing Nandi’s hair and realize that she took it down in the car and now it looks a mess?

Why do I get upset when Nandi wants to dress herself in her crazy, color-blind outfits?

Why do I get in a panic when Eli starts fussing and throwing a fit in the middle of Walmart?

So, I sat down and analyzed all these things and realized that it all comes down to this… I’m afraid people will think I’m a bad mom.

If Nandi dresses herself in pink pants and a red shirt with marker all over it and then takes her hair down on the way to school and it looks like it’s never seen a brush, then I’m afraid the teachers will think I don’t take care of her.

If Eli throws a fit in Walmart, I’m afraid everyone will think I can’t control my child.

If we’re running late somewhere, I’m afraid people will think I can’t get my act together.

If the house is messy when Sim gets home, I’m afraid he’ll think I sit on my butt all day.

Don’t you see? All this paranoia is unjustified. Who cares??? When I die, am I going to have to answer to anyone but God? No. And He knows I’m working my tail off and doing the best I can. He put us together as a family. He knew it’d be hard. He’s the only one that matters.

And all this guilt and worrying is causing me to be permanently stressed… and trust me, the kids feed off it. They love it.

So the first step in all of this is to change my attitude. Quit worrying about what everyone else thinks. And, also, start changing the way I do things so that I won’t be running around all crazed like.

I’m not one of those moms who has outfits ready to go the night before. Lunches aren’t packed and ready in the fridge. I take showers in the morning. (Oh, who am I kidding. Who has time for showers?). I wait until the last minute to do everything.

So, I need to take responsibility for some of the chaos that’s going on in our house and change some things. Be more organized. Be more prepared. Keep things running as smooth as I can.

I may not be able to change what happened to my kids. I may not be able to help them on my own. But I CAN change myself and do what I can to make things less chaotic – and to things to help change my attitude and frame of my mind.

Now, as far as the RAD stuff goes…

We’ve (I’ve) started bottle feeding Nandi three times a day. She really loves this and actually made eye contact for the first time yesterday! She then scratched my face, but hey, it’s all in the name of progress, right?

The kids listen to Dr. Reznick’s Guided Imagery CD’s at night to help them relax. They seem to really like the CD's and beg for them at night.

We’re also going to start doing light therapy with the younger two. Noah started it a week ago, and since we already had to pay for the glasses, we thought we might as well see if all three kids could use them. Eli and Nandi have their evaluations in two weeks. It’s pretty cool, as the glasses were designed to stimulate the temporal and parietal lobes… and Nandi’s missing parts of both lobes… so I’m curious to see if the glasses will help.

Even though we know she has an attachment disorder, I can’t help but think that her brain injury plays some part in this.

Also, we’re trying to do some sort of physical activity each day. Right now, Sim is training for a marathon and I’m trying to get in shape for the 10K, so we’re at the park several times a week.

The kids are also doing 4 (possibly 6) weeks of swim lessons. Excessive, I know. But Noah looooooooooves the water and I’m very passionate about kids learning to swim. Drowning is the number one cause of death for kids with autism, so there’s no debating it.

We’ve also decided to enroll Eli in public school next year. He’ll start kindergarten and it’ll be an all-day class. He has a lot of specific learning issues and I do foresee that we’ll have to pull him out at some point in the future, but, touch wood, he’ll be in Kindy all next year.

We had always planned to homeschool, but honestly, I need the respite. I apologize to all the teachers out there who just read that I am putting my kid in school for respite care. But, seriously, I can’t handle another year like last year.

People seem to think that the younger two must get ignored all the time because of Noah’s 24/7 needs. But it’s so not true. Noah is the one who gets ignored. He’s so quiet and passive and could happily stay in his room all day long. And the other two are so high energy and demanding that they get the bulk share of attention.

Noah needs me. And I haven’t been there for him. So come mid-August, it’s just going to be me and Noah for a few hours a day. Nandi will get out of Pre-K at 11:00, but from 8 – 11, it’ll be the two of us. I can’t wait!! There’s so much I need to do with him. I don’t think these next two months can come quickly enough.

And besides all that, I’m just constantly telling the kids how much I love them. Trying to keep calm, cool, and collected… and letting them know that I love them.

Now, I have to admit, that our case(s) is not as extreme as many. They don’t leave scary pictures on my bed in the middle of the night. I don’t have to sleep outside their doors or worry that they’ll hurt me in my sleep. So the things that we’re trying sound pretty simplistic compared to a lot of families who are going through some extreme things and seeing some pretty alarming stuff in their homes.

But, so far, this is what we’re trying and we’ll see if works. It hasn’t really worked quite yet….
However.... I have been left alone for 20 minutes to type this blog post out… and that’s quite a shocker. I'm sure the dog probably has Dora stickers all over her body and the bathroom might be flooded, but, hey, I was able to blog. lol

Now, when I blog again, I’ll post about the event that caused my attitude to start changing towards Nandini. I admit, I was getting pretty frustrated with her and pretty upset all the time. So I’ll try to blog about that soon – because it really helped put things in perspective.

Okay, gotta go and see what mischief those two have been getting into....

Monday, June 08, 2009

Back to the Beginning....

I don't know why I have such a hard time blogging about what's going on. If you see me in person and ask me how I'm doing... well, I could very well bend your ear for hours. But to actually sit down and formulate my thoughts into words (when my thoughts are usually a million miles a minutes) and then type it up... I just find it hard.

I like my blog posts to have some sort of cohesiveness going on... and these RAD posts are all over the place. Plus, my thoughts and feelings and just everything changes minute to minute. I'm constantly learning and things are constantly changing. What I write today might not be the same tomorrow.

However, I guess I do owe you all an explanation of how we realized that Nandi has an attachment disorder. I haven't quite explained that yet.

About 6 weeks ago, Sim and I were sitting in bed and just talking about how "different" Nandi is and we started listing all the things she does. Things that other kids don't seem to do. Like, she seems as if she wants to get in trouble all the time. As if she thrives on it. If we're super nice to her, she gets mad. If we yell at her, she then seems to love us more. It's odd... extremely odd. And she would get so jealous of everyone and everything and purposely destroy her siblings artwork and just be downright destructive. I mean, the list went on and on.

The next morning I sat down to read my blogs and checked on a blog that I hadn't read in a long time. It happened to be that the mom had just posted THIS POST and it just clicked with me.

"Holy cow, that's Nandi!"

(Okay, just realized that the link won't work. It does take you to the blog - so then scroll down to the March archives. It's the post titled "RAD").

So, then I emailed Christine - RAD guru and just plain awesome person - and I pretty much threw an online temper tantrum. I don't want this. I didn't sign up for this. I can't handle this. blah blah blah

But Christine talked me down from the ledge and led me to an incredible amount of sources.

Then, because the school had already been sending home notes about Nandi's behavior, I figured I'd better let them in on it. I was really nervous about letting them know about it, but I went ahead and printed off THIS LETTER and, let me tell you, it made all the difference.

(BTW, we had already suspected RAD earlier on, but we were floatin' down the river of Denial.... and finally docked our little boat.)

Nandi's teacher later told me that she couldn't believe how much the letter fit Nandi to a T. It really helped explain a lot of her behavior at school and I think they realized now why I always seemed so rushed and crazed when I would drop her off or pick her up.

So then we started reading books and listening to tapes and doing Webinars on RAD. And all these different philosophies just threw me for a loop.

I will say, I hated Beyond Consequences. I hated that book with a passion. I found it arrogant and trite. Yes, it did make sense. But the constant bashing of traditional therapies (and I mean constant - as in, every other page, constant) really irritated me.

BUT... .and this is a big but... I love love love their daily reflections. Major hi-five to Christine for hooking me up with that (and putting up with my rant about the book). Seriously, I love them. It really helps put things in perspective.

BTW, can anyone even think the word "Daily Affirmation" without thinking of those hilarious SNL sketches? "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt!" Awww, back in the day.. when SNL was actually funny.

Anyway.... see, now my train of thought is derailing..... and I'm short on time and have to rush this.

Quickly.... basically I was trying to implement all these different parenting techniques.. like, not lose control. Don't let them see you get irritated because it gives them control - yada yada yada. But, I was literally getting beaten up.

"Oh, I see you just bit me. Honey, if you're hungry, why don't you tell me. A peanut butter sandwich would taste much better than Mommy's arm."

And while I thought I was being clever and would pride myself on not losing control, it was ticking her off even more. This no reacting business basically ticked her off and she kept biting and hitting and scratching until I'd finally snap. This cycle went on for weeks.

Okay, yikes!!! I just looked at the time. I HAVE to go. We have to be in Dallas for 10:00 and then back to town for swim lessons. And I must take a shower this morning. I cannot go to the pool looking like a hairy ape woman and smelling like the bottom of someone's shoe. I literally can't finish this post.

It was getting too long anyway.

So, I'll finish tonight. Think of it as a TO BE CONTINUED........

Sunday, June 07, 2009

And a new week begins....

I've realized that I shouldn't leave two depressing blog posts in a row and then disappear for nine days. Thank you to everyone who emailed me and asked if we were okay. I'm sorry I didn't even take the time to pop on here and post a short, "Hey! We're fine, just a busy week" message.

But... here it is... Hey! We're fine... it was just a busy week.

Seriously, thank you to everyone who emailed me. Some of you even de-lurked (!) to email me.. and I want you to know that I really appreciate it.

The truth is... and it's not that interesting... is that we had a garage sale over the weekend up at our church. It was one of our fundraisers for the India trip and - including the sale - we worked on it for 49 hours total.

It wasn't yo' grannies garage sale. Oh no, we do everything bigger in Texas.

It was an uber garage sale.

And, man, did it take a long time.

So that - plus running around to different therapies and other various commitments - meant that we were up at 5:30 and often not home until 10:30 at night.

Of course, the kids were angels last week. I think the key to their success is keeping them away from home. hee hee. They do great when we're away. It's when we're home with nothing to do that mayhem starts.

Honestly, though, I do feel like I'm getting a slight.. and emphasis on slight.. grip of things. This whole journey is also making me realize how uptight I am about certain things and how much control I want over a lot of things.

Basically, we have two girls in this family who are both fighting to be queen of this castle... and I'm having to learn which battles to pick and which ones to let slide.

I think it tells you that in every single parenting book out there.. but, you know, I'm a little slow with getting the message sometimes.

Sometimes though, I wonder if all this RAD reading hasn't messed me up a bit. There are sooooo many philosophies out there.

One of them was great, but it made me question every move my kids made.. "Are they being truthful or trying to manipulate me?" And I couldn't live with second guessing every move my kids made. I mean, it was causing me to wake up every morning and view my kids as little manipulators. I was growing resentful and it showed.

Then another book told me that my kids live in constant fear all day long. And if I found myself getting mad, then I needed to sit back and reflect on what made me so angry. If my kids lied, I needed to reflect on what great lie was told to me when I was younger that would make me so angry when my owns kids were caught in a lie.

What?? Couldn't it just be that I don't want my kids to grow up to be a liar liar pants on fire?

One book says this, one book says that. One website says this and one says that. I don't know what to think.

But now that we've been at it for a month or so... I'm beginning to realize certain patterns and behaviors and have been able to pull bits from this book and bits from that one and put together some kind of formula that's working right now.

I will try to blog about that later today. This post was actually - really and truly - meant to be a "Hey! We're alive!" post, but once I sit down at the computer, my fingers start going a million miles a minute.

So, I'm going to cut it short here and try to post later on today about what we're doing and what is causing my attitude to change and what we think the future might hold.

Things aren't perfect here by any means. Little N has been working us since 6:30 in the morning.. pulling every trick in the book. But my attitude is changing - a tiny bit - and it's making things somewhat manageable.

Okay, I'll blog later about it all.

Just wanted to pop in here and say that we're still here.

Be back later. :-)