Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lilah's babies

This girl is a little mama.  She is obsessed with her babies.  It cracks me up the way she picks them up so gingerly and gazes at them in her arms with her head to the side.  She will hand a baby to me super carefully and slowly and make sure the blanket is all around it and then pat it and say "ohhhh."  I swear we did not teach her this stuff!  The only thing I can figure is that lots of my friends have babies and she's seen mamas holding their babies and taking care of them.  But she's only 19 months old and it's amazing to me that she has picked up on this stuff.  Little tender girl :) 
Giving her bear a ride

Helping the bunny press the buttons
Reading her books
Wearing her baby
Dressing the baby
Loving the baby
Messy hair and painted nails

Putting her babies "nigh-nigh"

Ethie right now

My last post was 2 weeks ago.  I'm so thankful to those who read this blog and care about my little family.  I got  the kindest comments about Ethie and parenting and it felt good to put it out there.
So in the last 3 weeks, we have been implementing a gluten-free/casein-free diet for Ethie-man.  Here is a blog James found that gives another mom's view on why it might be helpful to eliminate these things from his diet.  We've both done a lot of reading on it and talked to several parents who have had positive results with their own kids.  We had gotten to the point that medication was the last thing we could think of to help Ethie.  I was open to meds if it would help him, but I wanted to make sure we tried everything else first.  Plus I do believe that what we put in our bodies has an effect on how we feel, so I believe that this could help Ethie.

In the past 2 weeks, I have not gotten any calls from his teacher or asst. principal (which was a daily thing), he has not been in ISS or suspension (which was also frequent), he has gotten mostly greens and a few yellows (used to be reds every day), and mostly it has been so much more pleasant at home!  I used to almost dread him coming home from school cause I knew the fighting would start.  It seemed like anything I asked or said, his first response was "no."  If he was angry (frequently), his first response was to pick up the closest thing and throw it or say mean words (stupid, shut up, etc).  If he got  consequences, it just escalated.

I'm still not sure if it's the diet, but something has definitely changed in Ethie, and in our family.  When we started the diet, we explained to him that it might help him feel better in his body.  I have been so surprised at how willing he's been to adapt to new foods and eating differently from his friends.  It has been a learning curve for all of us as far as what he can eat and there have definitely been slip-ups, but it's been pretty easy to make him food and I actually feel like we're all eating better because I'm not buying processed stuff any more.  I like knowing what's in our food and feeling in control of what we're consuming.

I also told Ethie the new foods might help him feel better in his heart and maybe that expectation has made some difference for all of us.  But he just seems so much more peaceful lately.  He comes home from school and does his work and we talk and read together and laugh and I love it.  He went back to ask the neighborhood kids if he could be their friend again (after they told him to never come back) and he has played happily and successfully many times since!  Even when he's upset, he's able to say "ok" and move forward.

There are still times that he gets mad at me or makes Lilah cry or acts crazy and wound up, but I remind myself that he is still 6 and he is still a brother and he is still Ethie.  It's so much easier to enjoy him and really appreciate the fun, sweet kid he is when we're not fighting constantly.  He makes me laugh all the time and he is such a sweet brother and so smart and I am just so happy that he is feeling happier.  Whatever happens tomorrow, we are enjoying today.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Our Ethie

Bright eyes, fearless, perceptive, assertive, confident, sensitive, friendly, curious, eager, impulsive, charmer, lovebug.

That is our Ethie and I love him!  He has always been this way and I'm guessing he always will be!  When Ethan was born, I had no idea what it would be like to be his mother.
  In many ways, he is so different from me (see outgoing, confident, assertive) but in lots of ways, he is just like me (sensitive, strong moods, fearless).  I have learned so much from being Ethan's mom, mostly about what I struggle with and how to help him with those same struggles.  Ethie feels things incredibly deeply and has always had a hard time managing those emotions.  He can be the softest, most tender little guy and I've always loved how he can reach people because he is not afraid.  He loves to talk to anybody and lately he has been really into writing notes to everyone.

He always finds the babies or youngest kids where we go and he adores making them laugh by doing funny things.  He loves to make Lilah laugh or help her with something or read to her.  He is so smart and he loves learning.  He has always been above grade level for reading and math because it is interesting to him.  Lately he's been reading chapter books on his own and in bed at night and I'm so glad he likes to read!  He also loves to play with his friends, especially Laylah who is in his class and also lives in the neighborhood.

I'm so thankful he and Laylah get along so well because he has lost most of the other friends in the neighborhood.  Ethie has always had a hard time with his aggression and knowing when he's being too rough. He loves getting attention and sometimes will provoke someone just to see what they will do.  Needless to say, he  has always had a hard time with playdates and friends and even though he loves friends, he has never had very many because they are afraid of him.  As his mother, this makes me so sad!!  He has come home crying so many times and told me that the kids won't let him play with them anymore because he is mean.  We've talked to his friends (and parents) together and he's written notes, but he still has such a hard time knowing what's appropriate behavior.  He can tell me what he should do, but in the moment his impulses are too strong.

He has especially been struggling with his behavior at school this year.  He got a new teacher in January and he has tested her to the limit.  He jumps off his desk, walks around the room, pokes kids, pushes, shoves, refuses to do what the teacher asks him to do.  Poor woman!  She is a new teacher, so highly motivated, but I think she has no idea what to do with Ethie.   So she calls the assistant principle who keeps him in school suspension or calls me to come pick him up or let me know that he has been suspended for the next day.  From 1st grade.  Aaaah!  He is also this way at home, so I am continually trying to keep him busy so he doesn't get bored and in trouble, restricting privileges or enforcing timeout when he does get in trouble and then managing the inevitable temper tantrum that comes with a consequence.  It is exhausting, highly emotional, and no fun.

Like I said, I had no idea what it would be like to be a mother.  I would have never dreamed that my child would be "that child" in the classroom, since I was too quiet and shy to even talk at school!  I never imagined that I would lose my cool and scream at my child.  Or lock myself in the bathroom and sob because I didn't know what else to do.  Or have to apologize to all the moms on the block because my kid had been mean to their kids.  Or take my kid to a counselor or psychiatrist.  Or wish I could just run away and not have to be a mom anymore.  Or seriously consider homeschooling.  Or put my kid on medication or special diets.  Or feel so completely lost about how to help my own son.

I always said that placing Hannah for adoption is the hardest thing I've ever done.  That is still true, but I think it's a little ironic that being Ethan's mother is definitely the next hardest thing I've ever done.  I've finally figured out that children don't come to us to provide entertainment.  I think my expectation when I became a mother was that my children would make me happy.  They would do wonderful, cute things to make my life better.  Wrong.  They do wonderful, cute things all the time, but mostly I'm the one trying to help them be happy and make their lives better.  I'm trying to figure out how to teach them that being kind and good will make them happy while I'm struggling to be kind and good.  I am most happy when my children are happy and when I know I am doing my best to be the mother they need me to be.  I think that's all I can do right now--just keep working on myself so I can try to help my Ethie.

This year has been especially hard with James gone all week and busy on the weekends because I feel so alone and inadequate as a mother.  I keep praying that our situation will change soon so that Ethan's life will be more stable and so that he will have a dad in his life every day.  But for now, we're doing what we can to make it and maybe even learn something from all of this.  In an attempt to feel like I'm doing something, we've started Ethan on a gluten-free/casein-free diet, because I've read lots of stories about it helping kids like Ethie.  So far he's had a good week (no calls from the school, yay!) and he told me the other day, "Mom, I think the gluten's helping!  So now can I eat normal?"  But I think we'll stick with it a while longer while we also consider medication.  He's got some ADHD/ODD (oppositional defiance) stuff going on, so we want to give him as much help with his brain and his body as we can.  

Ethie and I have this little thing we do.  We point to our eyes, then cover our heart, then point to each other.  He showed the psychiatrist the other day and told him, "That's what my mommy and I always do."  So if that's what comes to mind when he thinks about what he and I do, I think it will be okay.