Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hope for Bliss

Having an issue identified and being able to start down a path of how to deal with it is one of the most fulfilling emotions I've experienced. In the same way, not having direction can make me feel I'm not being heard. And fills me with dread. And hopelessness.

Eric and I are desperately trying to help our Olivia Bliss be heard. And find hope. She has a very volatile personality when things don't go as she's planned or as she sees fit. Examples are: things being moved in her room, being asked to do something she doesn't want to do, she does not like the way her clothes look, or how her posters are hung, etc. The outbursts are overwhelming. For her. And for the rest of us in the family. She reacts so strongly and so crazed that it has boggled our minds and caused an insurmountable amount of stress in our family. The remorse and despair she feels afterward is equally overwhelming. And I know she feels helpless. I have never felt more like a failure in my life than I do as a mom to Olivia because I can't stop the chaos. I desperately want her to feel in control and I see how out of control this beautiful little girl of mine is.
We've talked to drs., counselors, teachers, friends, family and read numerous books. "You need to be consistent, she needs to know she is not the boss, you need to find her 'currency' and what will make her behave appropriately." We have heard from dozens about how I should not hold her and talk with her after these outbursts since she'll think she won-- "She should go to bed and lay in the dark and really think about what she did." How I should not always discuss feelings with her --"She's just spitting back at you what she thinks you want to hear". We've been told (and we have believed) that we just need to be stricter, stronger, tougher. We've tried. And it hasn't worked. And I am not convinced that any one has been right in their well intentioned advice. Although we are grateful. But it's not working. And I believe conventional wisdom is not what we need. It has been eating away at us lately ---as she has an outburst in the car and then walks into class with the weight of the world on her little back. Or as she lays in the dark sobbing--eventually succumbing to sleep. If this is all manipulation then I WILL get stronger and stricter but Lord knows I've tried and something in my gut is telling me loud and clear that it's so much more. In an email to my dad recently I expressed these deep concerns. His response was simple and yet said so much, "Mothers know best about these issues so go with your gut and keep praying." Eric and I were beginning to feel heard. Two days ago Eric spoke to a psychiatrist on the phone and gave examples of some of Olivia's outbursts --one at age 2 and one at age 7. The dr. recommended we read, "The Explosive Child"--it's written about children who do not progress to the degree that we would hope in the areas of flexibility and frustration tolerance. The dr. who wrote the book is a professor in the Dept. of Psychiatry at Harvard and runs the Collaborative Problem Solving Institute at Massachsetts General Hospital in Boston where my brother had several surgeries. His credentials alone sold me. So I got the book and read it--voraciously. For starters, the quotes from so many of the parents resonated with me. "People who don't have a child like this don't have a clue about what it's like to live with a child like this. Believe me, this is not what I envisioned when I dreamed of having children." "I hate what I've become. I used to think of myself as a kind, patient, sympathetic person. But she has taught me to act in ways I never thought capable. I am emotionally spent." Here was one of the first paragraphs in the book as the dr. uses an example of an 11 year old girl, "Over the years her parents have sought help from countless mental health professionals, most of whom advised them to set firmer limits and be more consistent in managing her behavior and instructed them on how to implement formal reward & punishment strategies, usually in the form of sticker charts and time-outs. After eight years of disparate advice, firmer limits, medicine and motivational programs she has changed very little since her parents noticed there was something 'different' about her when she was a toddler." Bottom line--when parents punish children who do not have the skills to handle how to deal with frustrations the children do not change. This leads to reason that the behavior is not calculated so popular strategies aimed at "teaching the child who's boss" do not make sense since she is not intentionally being "stubborn/manipulative/attention-seeking/ etc". Based on that perspective he asks parents to shelf the conventional thought and assume the child is motivated to do the right thing and already knows who's boss but has a developmental delay in the skills of frustration tolerance. No one has ever told me about this and I am so relieved. To me & for now --it makes perfect sense. We shall see.

The book states, "due to these children's poor tolerance for frustration their wonderful qualities and tremendous potential are often obscured." The children about whom this book is written do not choose to be explosive (any more than a child would choose to have a reading disability). He went on, "Parents of explosive children often discover that strategies that are usually effective for shaping the behavior of other children-such as explaining, reasoning, reassuring, nurturing, redirecting, insisting, ignoring, rewarding, and punishing-don't achieve the same success with these types of children." He states the knee-jerk explanation tends to be "their parents are poor disciplinarians" And then he says, "Of course this explanation doesn't help us understand why many of the siblings of explosive children are actually very well behaved." Amen. That's when the tears came. And that's when I felt like we were now able to help Olivia. And that's when I felt like Olivia's voice was starting to be heard. And that maybe my gut was right afterall. The premise of the book is, "Children do well if they can." And now I know that Olivia needs help finding the tools to do well. The dr. writes that "there is no other group of children who are so misunderstood." This makes my heart break. Eric and I parked at the beach yesterday morning while the kids were in school and I read him pages and pages of highlighted notes. I told him that I believe her outbursts are not planned. How she is not calculated. How getting punished or not receiving an anticipated reward makes these kinds of kids more frustrated, not less. We talked about the steps we are told to take, "empathize/reassure, define the problem together, and invite the child to help solve it." And then I read this to him and I vowed to change the way I view Olivia and respond to her, "Many people believe that if the consequences a child has received for his explosions haven't caused him to stop exploding it must be that the punishments didn't cause enough pain. So they add more pain. The majority of explosive kids have had more pain than most people experience in a lifetime." I am so sorry, Olivia. We love you. We finally hear you. We know the road ahead may be a long one but we finally have a map to help us. And most of all--we have hope.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter

Easter Sunday is tomorrow and we can't wait! I have very fond memories of childhood Easters. Some were spent at my maternal grandfather's vacation home in Sarasota, Florida.

Others were shared with my paternal grandparents in New Hampshire. We would wake to baskets brimming with chocolate bunnies, activity books, stuffed animals and more.

All of the females were given orchid corsages and we gathered for an early morning pancake breakfast at the local Elk's club (my Uncle Dave always worked the breakfast along with his cronies) and then we'd head off to church in the center of town.

The day was idyllic and the memories are forever cherished.

Over the years, our Easter traditions have changed some --no pancake breakfasts and no orchid corsages and we do not share the day with family as they're 3,000 miles away. But thankfully the Easter bunny visits Wilkinson Manor and tonite our house is buzzing with excitement.

Truth be told, much of it is due to the residual effects from Olivia's big night last evening---she was a hit in her elementary school Talent Show. After weeks of preparation, countless practices (both at school and privately with her gymnastics coach) the show went on. And she was super!

She did a solo gymnastics stint, was one of a dozen cheerleaders who kept the crowd jazzed as stage hands prepared between scenes, and she and her dear friend, Jewel, did a dance routine they choreographed themselves (from costumes to dance moves and everything in between!) The divas rocked!

As for Easter excitement, Audrey has set a "patch" outside her door to greet the Easter bunny. Numerous bunnies, a baby bear, lamb, horse "to represent new life in spring time" she told me.

This morning we did the annual egg hunt.

Tonite we baked cookies--and decorated them.

Here's what happens when I am setting the Easter table in the dining room... while the kids are "decorating" (and enjoying the frosting) in the kitchen~

sugar crystal overload!

The girls really did a great job though!

We also got in some last minute egg dyeing~

And on the docket for tomorrow is waking up to the goodies left behind by the Easter bunny, church at 11, the neighborhood egg hunt at the park in the afternoon and then dinner with The LaMarr family! We're certainly enjoying creating new traditions and yet I will always cherish the Easter memories of my childhood. I can only wish my girls will one day say the same.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Coffee Klatsch

Life has been busy--and I've been starting to get overwhelmed. But I was blessed to have coffee dates with two fabulous human beings this past week. They were two separate engagements which led to straight one on one time. Perfect. For each date we each were armed with travel mugs, loads of stories, and unspoken expectations to connect.

On my first engagement as we sat sipping our hot chocolates with whip, I learned all about relationships, culture, and even some science. I did not get a word in edge wise and sat raptured. The voice, the facial expression, the insight--I was mesmorized.

My next date we fueled up with decaf honey lattes and my date filled the hour with tales from the seventeen and eighteen hundreds combined with a great deal of geography and some grammar. Again, I barely spoke except to ask for more.

I learned about friendships and the importance of girlfriend secrets. I learned about the capital of Bolivia (there are actually two). I learned about Marie Antoinette and the guillotine. I learned that there are loads of "ch" words in the English language and how the list of homophones seems endless.

And most of all --I learned that these two beautiful, thoughtful human beings are God's gift to me. And to the world. And that they are and will grow up in spite of me. And I am so blessed to be a part of the journey.

Thank you, Olivia & Audrey, for once again surpassing my expectations and for being such lovely dates. You're just what I needed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Volume 62 on my radio dial has taken on a new meaning (no longer will it just stand as a reminder for my days as a crazed mom--see prior post "Food Fight" for context).

Instead 62 is the perfect volume to crank up some fabulous tunes to.

As previously mentioned, Eric is a music junkie and is spot on when it comes to music that others would like...

I just stumbled upon a playlist on my ipod that he created especially for me and hit 62!
For those of you interested in hearing some of these songs, I thought I'd share them.

Another Travelin' Song, Bright Eyes

Some fav lines...

"The best that I can do now is pretend that I've done nothing wrong and to dream about a train that's gonna take me back to where I belong."

"Nothing in the past or future will feel like today..."

Portland, Oregon, Loretta Lynn. Ever since Sissy Spacek played her in Coal Miner's Daughter I've been a fan. ;) Great line here--"slo gin fizz works mighty fast when you drink it by the pitcher and not by the glass."

Two, Ryan Adams.

I love most all things Ryan Adams. Eric bought me tickets as a Christmas gift to see him at Moore Theatre in January but we were in Disneyland so had to sell them! bummer...

Anyway, "Two" is a great tune---
"I've got a really good heart I just can't catch a break. If I could I promise I'd treat you good."

Another Ryan Adams song that rocks--Everybody Knows.
"you come to me when I'm thinking like a cannon ball shooting out of a cannon."

16 Days, Whiskeytown.
Love the violin off the top and the richness of the lead singer's voice (who happens to be RYAN ADAMS--if I have my facts straight Whiskeytown band disbanded nearly 10 years ago).
"Can't sleep when the bed sheet fights it's way back to your side"

How about this "vibe?"

Son's Gonna Rise, Citizen Cope

Here's a good song to end on--my pastor did a sermon series around the holidays last year and each week he'd have the band end the service with this song...

"So take these words and sing out loud because everyone is forgiven now...'cause tonight's the night the world begins again."

Actually, since it's GNO---THIS is a great song to end with...

"gonna take your mama out all night..."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

With Arms Wide Open

Each night Olivia asks me what position she should fall asleep in. And then I hug her. She says she wants to fall asleep in the exact spot where I snugged her last. This is our nightly ritual. Tonite's position was "arms wide open" so when I go in and kiss her one final time before I turn out my light I can give her another giant hug. Here she is fast alseep in her trundle bed in tonite's position...

While we certainly have deep challenges, I believe Olivia is one of the main reasons I am on this learn to love without limits, let go completely, and embrace this life...with arms wide open.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thank you

I thank you all that have offered support, comments, & special thoughts today after my latest post about me/Liv. I am so touched by your candor and friendship. From your insightful post, b (I know how deeply you love your mom and what a role model she has been to you your entire life and into raising your own four kids) to the beautiful, spot-on quote, AD, to the well wish, Car, and to the other emails and phone calls I received today regarding this post. S, you were so candid and thoughtful in your approach and your thoughts are always welcome. My parents spent more than an hour chatting with me from across the ocean trying to help me sort through it all. And then there's dear Eric. Stuck in the middle, just as helpless, equally vested, and desperately wanting to make everything right for his family. Please know how grateful I am to you all. And more than that, please know that I am listening. And I am working on what a major role I have in the chaos and anxiety. You are all true friends, good souls, and I am so glad you're in my life.

Monday, March 10, 2008

What are we going to do, Mama?

Helpless little Olivia asked me this question tonite. I had no answer. I was as broken, distraught, and lost as she. She was lying in her dark bedroom and I was sitting alongside her as we spent another night speaking amidst the shadows and trying to figure out how to make the chaos stop. Olivia had just melted down again after she noticed I'd moved something off her floor and placed it on her bed. Out broke another world war. Just this morning Eric laid out the three main rules here at Wilkinson Manor and wrote them on the kitchen blackboard, "Listen First Time, Don't Talk Back, Show Respect." And he then outlined what our agreed upon consequences were if the girls broke the rules. First-time out for as many minutes as your age, second- lose computer time, third- lose dessert. Tonite Liv suffered all three consequences and then I had to start the cycle again with a second time out for another 7 minutes. Finally she stopped ranting and was sent off to bed. With a very heavy heart. So there I sat at her bedside with an equally heavy heart.

The evening had been so lovely. Eric worked tonite and the girls and I ate dinner in bed and watched Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. I was excited for a peaceful bedtime and had wanted to write a short, light "blog/journal entry" about what we've been up to before heading off to bed. I was going to write about the darling American Girl's Fashion Show we went to benefiting Children's Hospital. About the "camp out" the kids had in the family room on Saturday night. About the "paint with the Easter bunny event" at my client's pottery studio benefiting bereavement camps for kids. About the "dance party" and sleepover the girls had over the weekend. About a fun Saturday lunch shared with friends.
About another client's yummy chocolate dinner (coconut, white chocolate, hazlenut truffle!!)
About Audrey's initiation into cheer club--earlier tonite Olivia was making up a club and Audrey wanted to join. Liv told her it was a cheer club & that Audrey needed to know a cheer to join. Moments later Audrey made one up, One step forward, one step back, give yourself a little clap. "Am I in?" she asked.

But, the night spun out of control. again.

"I do not know why I can't listen, mom. I want to. My head tells me to and then a small voice tells me to do whatever I want. I don't know how to make it stop. I want to. I don't like making you mad and I do not like getting in trouble. I want to cry so much. I want to make it go away. I want to tell you over & over again how sorry I am that I do this all the time. I do this every day. I know it's not you. I start it and then you get mad. Then I feel bad and then you feel bad. I don't know how to fix it. What are we going to do, mama?" Her plea was pathetic. It was so sincere. So desperate. And I felt as helpless as she.

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10. That was what came to me--calm down and trust God. I shared this with Olivia. I told her that it will be OK. I told her that I promise to help her and that I will never break a promise that big. ever. I told her that God instructs us to be calm, sit quietly, and trust Him. To know that He is bigger than us and He put things in motion and can make things work for good. I told her that God chose us to be mother and daughter and that I commit to her that all will work out with us. She thanked me. She told me how much she loved me. And I kissed her tear stained cheeks and she fell fast asleep. And I wept. Right there in the darkened bedroom. And finally I was still.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Memes Totally Rock. My Mom Included

Through my dear friend Carrie I learned what a six word "meme" is ( a way to sum up your life in six words) and then she "tagged" me to create my own meme. More details below on how it started and how to play...

For now, my meme(s!)

I'm more like a 1950's dad. (briefcase. scotch. slippers, newspaper. dinner. bed--never happens but sounds good...)

Black. white. and pink all over. (I am SO black and white- either in or out. love it or leave it. As for pink~ I simply love all things pink!)

Crazy. crazed. bliss. blessed. mamahood. madness. (sums me up)

I'm as neurotic as my dog. (understatement)

I don't play by the rules (case in point---you're supposed to have one meme to sum you up)

how do you smell the roses? (my journey to chilling...)

I spend my days managing expectations (such is the world of PR)

I'm a dog with a bone (If I'm onto something, look out!)

No more laptop in our bed (husband and counselor banned it entirely)

Fear of death can kill you (Amen)

My kids behave better than me (enough said)

Clutter and chaos make me crazy.

Alice the dog makes me Zen.

I need to get to work!

Here is the low-down on Memes...

The story was recently featured on NPR.

Here are the rules:
1. Write your own six word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4. Tag five more blogs with links
5. Remember to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!I was tagged by Carrie

I'm Tagging:
Rebecca, Mara, Karen, Sarah, Kira