Friday, March 27, 2009

Principal Hired!

Our high school principal is retiring at the end of this school year which, of course, means that we have to find a new one. Some idiotic demented stupid...scratch that.....brilliant person knew that I would be a wonderful addition to the hiring committee, so I was asked to be involved in the hiring process. After some meetings to review applications, check references, compare notes, etc., we interviewed six applicants this past Tuesday. It was almost a 12-hour day of interviewing, touring, eating, snacking, interviewing, touring, lunch, dinner.....a LONG day. I didn't expect so much food to be involved!

In any case, our new principal is now officially hired! He's been in the education business for many moons, and has literally done it ALL! Teacher, coach, principal, name it, he's done it. The thing that really excited us about this guy? He HAS done it all and wants to finish his career with daily interaction with KIDS. For me, that was a big positive. I think that a high school principal needs to like kids more than power. He has a resume and a stack of references that would allow him to go anywhere and do any job in education. But he wants to be in a small school in Southwest Washington and work with KIDS. YOU'RE HIRED!!!

And perhaps even more interesting for me was getting to know some of our other school leaders in this process of hiring. Some of the teachers on the committee were my teachers in high school. All of them have had or will have my children in class at some point. The school board members are all fellow parents and community members that I know to various degrees. The other community members asked to participate are also known to me, in one form or other. I even knew all the students involved in the process. The dynamics of such a diverse group trying to make a complex decision was fascinating to be a part of!! Every applicant that interviewed had positive attributes and it was fascinating to see how different views weigh the different strengths.

Perhaps, most interesting of all, was watching our superintendent interact and lead the entire group. I've never worked with Steve on a project before--he has always struck me as very quiet and maybe a even little withdrawn. I walked away from this process with newfound respect. He did a really outstanding job focusing the group and making sure that everyone had the opportunity to contribute.

In any case, I think we did a fantastic job and look forward to getting to know our new principal. I'm honored to have been a part of this process, and was impressed by the passion that everyone brought to this challenge. Welcome Aboard, Principal Dale Bowen!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Grant's first track meet

So.......Grant had his first meet today. No pole vault. This was an "away" meet and the host school doesn't have this event. Probably not a bad thing, as Grant's not quite ready anyway.

But he ran the 1600 meters (yes......1600 in WA State........its weird.......I know.....), the 800 meters, the 110 hurdles, and jumped triple jump. He came home with three first places and a fifth place. No too shabby! Unfortunately, I was wrapped up with Dane's self-led school conference this afternoon after a long day in the field, so I only got to see him run the 800 meters. But frankly, I was impressed! My original thought when he came off the starting line was that he was going WAY too fast and would never been able to hold his pace. Much to my surprise, he DID hold that pace through the entire race and still had a little "kick" left at the end. He led it wire-to-wire.

And I have decided that there is something obscenely thrilling about cheering your kid on as they run for home. "RUN! RUN! Pick it up!!" Here he was, out of breath at the end of his second lap, giving it his all, and we want more? I think I'd just quit right there. "What? Do I not look like I'm going as fast as I can? You get your fanny out here and try this!!"

Anyway, Grant's attitude is far better than mine, of course. And I'm still very impressed. Who would've thunk that the scrawny little turkey could run like that? Heh. Go figure. I'm excited to see him continue to challenge himself!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

No explanation

There is some history behind the hats. I'm not going to try to explain it. My sisters will "get it." Grant manages to put a "gang-spin" on his. Still......I don't think either boy will ever be seen in them again. This was a one-time photo shoot. :)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Wrestler

These photos are kind of late, but a friend took them during wrestling season and just got them to me. Dane did well as a freshman! He ended up one place out of qualifying for State and, more importantly, really grew as a person during the season. While I'm still nagging him about his low body weight, going from an end-of-the-season wrestling weight to running his fanny off every day at track isn't real conducive to weight gain. He's up to 5'11" and still below 150 pounds. Grrrr. In any case, he seems to know that he is too low, so I will have to trust that it will come up when the exercise decreases. He's eating like a horse, and hasn't been sick at all this year, so thats something to be thankful for. Enjoy the photos!

Grant, the human catapult

For kids in Raymond, their first opportunity for competitive track & field comes in the seventh grade. Grant has always played baseball in the spring on our community rec league(we don't have baseball/softball in our school), but this year, he's decided to try something "new" and he's sticking with the spring sports offering at the school.

I've been bugging him for awhile about what events he planned to attack. Grant is on the quiet side anyway, and at first, I got just a shrug. And then he started to give me a one-word answer, "Distance." I encouraged him in that decision, as he has some very speedy kids in his class that will easily dominate the sprints. And the distance events have historically not been strong for Raymond in the past few years. With Grant's wiry build, I can see him really excelling here, which would be good for him personally, AND his team. A win-win situation.

His brother is a "thrower", but when I mentioned a few possible field events to add to his repertoire, Grant didn't seem too interested. He thought maybe long jump, triple jump, or high jump all might be fun to try.

And then came a surprise announcement two weeks ago. Due to a hefty donation from our local foundation (Thank you, LV Raymond), Raymond would be pole vaulting this year for the first time in.....probably 15 years?? The pole vaulting lane and pit slab were poured 3 years ago when the new track/football stadium was built behind our new high school, but the funds for new mats and equipment have been lacking. Grant's eyes instantly glossed over!! POLE VAULT!!!

Personally, I need to say that the thought of catapulting myself into the air with a very long pole and free-falling from said height is not something that gets me excited. I like to watch it on TV, but I have a very realistic acceptance that I would fall flat on my face if I ever attempted this event. I fall flat on my face enough as it is, but I try to hold those moments to non-spectator events.

But Grant.....he was definitely and instantly staking a claim as a kid that wanted, at the very least, to be at the front of the line to give it a try. Once again, he's not usually real vocal, so if he expresses a solid interest, you have to read that as a jumping up-and-down level of excitement.

Track practice started March 9th, so he's had roughly two weeks. Maybe five of those days he's actually gotten to practice on pole vault. There are only two junior high boys that have opted to participate in this event, and Spencer, the other boy, is over 6 feet tall. The coaches have gotten "certified" at the University of Washington, but there are still some issues with trying to get enough practice time on the event. Grant and Spencer are practicing with the four high school boys that are also "crazy enough" to give it a try. (The crazy part comes with the free-fall after you're over the pole. At least according to the kids.)

In any case, Grant has felt mediocre about his first few practices. Its harder to "get up" than he thought it would be, and the hand-hold on the pole is awkward and different than what he says feels natural. Okay......thats reasonable. And then came a HUGE boost of confidence! He helped at the first high school home meet this week and the WINNING height was 8 foot. Not a great height obviously, but Grant cleared 8 foot, 6 inches in his fourth practice!!! And all the sudden, his doubts in himself started to disappear. He might actually be able to be competitive at this!!

So, as of this writing, he is three days from his first meet. It is still questionable as to whether Raymond will be allowed to vault at this first meet, due to their overall low number of practices on the event. (The restrictions for pole vault are higher than any other event. Good thing.) However, he is a committed human catapult now, and is applying himself to it with gusto. Frankly, I wish the landing pad was bigger. Like a LOT bigger, as my view from the parking lot doesn't look like he ever lands in the middle. And why do we require our children to wear bike helmets, but not helmets for pole vault? Think about that one for me?

But, then again, his smile makes it all worth my "Mom-worrying." He's having a blast! So he will be running a distance event or two, and competing as a human catapult.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Martha Stewart phase has passed...

When we started this gluten-free thing in December, I admit that I was totally desperate for SOMETHING/ANYTHING that might make life easier with Jen. Looking back now, I actually feel bad because the possibility that we needed to go gluten-free had been suggested to us about 10 months previous. I did a brief 6-week phase of wheat-free once a few years back (gluten-free is even more restrictive than wheat-free) and I spent 10 months clinging to the hope that we wouldn't have to go this route. However, when we hit early December, I was ready to try ANYTHING. I have a lot of newfound empathy for people that try bizarre-sounding medical and naturopathic treatments for conditions that are not responding to traditional medicine, as I've now been there!! If someone had told us to soak Jennica for three days in a mixture of red wine and cat poop, I might have been willing to do it at that point!!!

So I jumped into the gluten-free thing with gusto. Fortunately, small gains were seen almost instantly, which encouraged me to keep going. I cooked, baked, fried, experimented, cooked, baked, fried, and experimented some more. I am SO grateful to the thousands of families across the country that are linked by computers and are living this daily life to help our children. There are bazillions of recipes out there, and millions of ways to create virtually every standard dish in a gluten-free/casein-free/egg-free form.

Now that we've been gluten free for 100+ days, I've hit my stride. I've found the things that work for us, and have definitely found some things that don't. Jennica will eat some things that even our dogs won't touch. (GFCF mac-and-cheese does NOT resemble what you and I think of as mac-and-cheese, but she loves it, so.....what the heck!!) We've found GF pretzels that are better than Rold Gold. And, best of all, I've learned to CHEAT. No more hours in the kitchen. BETH IS BACK! And Martha Stewart can kiss my gluten-free fanny!!! Heh heh heh. I still have some things to perfect, but for the most part, I'm happy with our current menu of meals. Jen has a broad variety of things that work for lunches and dinners and snacks. Breakfast is still, by far, the toughest. But, bless their cotton-pickin' hearts (wiping a tear here), General Mills has announced that on top of their already-gluten-free rice chex, they are releasing several more GF cereals soon. Let's just hope that the average normal grocery store carries them! Driving 146 miles for Glutino-brand pretzels is a little ridiculous!

Is it rude to torch the apron the kids bought me?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The so-true-that-its-funny gluten-free life!

Okay......Nobody "normal" is going to probably get the rolling-on-the-floor-crying-because-it-is-so-true-that-its-funny humor in this blog, but I'm posting it anyway. These are true-to-life examples of living in gluten-free! (I hijacked this, by the way! All credit to the original author, whoever they are!)

And a note from me: After 90 days gluten-free/casein-free/egg-free with Jennica, I honestly will read labels until the cows come home. Even with approaching it hoping for positive results, I never honestly believed that we would see the astonishing results that we have! She still has bad days........but has improved dramatically and is still improving. For the medical professionals out there that continue to mislead families with neuro-challenged children by telling them that "that diet thing" won't work so don't bother, SHAME ON YOU!!! I have witnessed the living proof!

if you don't remember what crackers are supposed to taste like.
if you actually have nightmares about reading labels.
if you compare all of your food to "normal-people-food."
if you cry when you discover a new way to make gluten-free bread. And call all your relatives.
if you know that Xantham Gum is not for chewing.
if you don't lick stamps.
if your mother is afraid to do the cooking.
if you know that spelt is a distant cousin of wheat, but buckwheat is not related to wheat at all.
if the construction workers working on the house next door to you can EASILY substitute your bread for one of their bricks.
if you burst into tears of relief at the sight of the words "gluten free" stamped on the corner of the Nestle hot cocoa mix.
if you actually KNOW what an anti-TTG and an IGA blood test are.
if you forget to buy bun, rolls, bread, ect. at the store for all the gluten eaters of your family.
if you sold your house to buy groceries.
if you sold your first child to buy groceries.
if you can find "hidden gluten" in food labels in the blink of an eye.
if you've actually suggested cardboard for dinner.
if you've actually eaten cardboard for dinner.
if you wept the first time you tried to make gluten free sugar cookies.
if you accept that fact that cardboard probably taste better than gluten free sugar cookies anyway.
if you weep at picnics, parties, receptions and fast food joints.
if you weep at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
if you've "brown bagged it" to an elegant dinner engagement.
if you've ever driven more than 40 miles to buy flour or a cookie.
if it takes you 4 hours to grocery shop and your eyesight is
if you've ever had to take out a loan to pay the grocery bill.
if you'd gladly pay any price for a pretzel that doesn't taste like
sawdust, or bread that doesn't taste like an old shoe.
if your bread looks like a moon rock and tastes like dried out PlayDoh.
if your bread weighs more than any moon rock could possibly weigh.
if one of your primary goals in life is to create "Fake Oreo Cookies".
if you have actually considered using a gluten-free bagel for a hockey puck
if you hide the gluten-free cookies when guests come over, so they dont eat them.

Mission Accomplished!

Typical to kids with sensory processing issues, Jennica has always had an issue with instant gratification. In the past, not-so-helpful-but-well-meant suggestions for her behavior have included developing various reward systems for positive behaviors that would allow her to "earn" something over time. It always sounded great, but there was just absolutely NO way to put it into practice. She couldn't grasp the basic concept of if-and-then statements, much less some sort of delayed reward. Once again, it was horribly confusing to us with a limited understanding of SPD, as we knew that this was not a child with a cognitive delay. Why did things have to be instant, or not at all?

With increased understanding on our part of her specific brand of SPD, and the vast improvements in her reasoning skills over the past few months due to therapy and dietary changes, we decided a month ago to attempt something that would have been unthinkable as recently as November. We decided to try a reward system to EARN something.

First, I talked to her one day as to whether she could think of something that she would really really really like to have. The instant and emphatic answer? A flamingo. Here is the non-cognitive-delay part........she had seen a stuffed flamingo in a store over a year ago and I refused to buy it for her that day. She has brought it up off and on since, but it has never been a priority when she was asked for birthday or Christmas gifts, and I just never realized how much she really wanted it. Obviously, she never forgot it!!

So.....I found a stuffed flamingo online, and asked if that one was what she was looking for. She was ecstatic and said that was exactly what she wanted. I printed the picture, and made her a little poster, with exactly 60 circle drawn on it, representing the 60 quarters she would need to earn to buy this flamingo. (The flamingo was $15.00. This exercise was not just about patting her on the head with a reward, and I wanted to make it as realistic as possible where she was understanding the work involved in actually earning something SHE wanted.) We made up a bunch of paper quarters with velcro on the back, and each day since then, she has earned quarters for certain things that are normally difficult for her. She usually gets a quarter for eating a good breakfast each morning. While this might seem silly to someone else, she doesn't particularly like her GFCFEF breakfast options and we were REALLY battling getting decent morning food in her. This was becoming a big problem, as her blood sugar is very low in the morning and she's a total beast if she doesn't eat some complex carbohydrates at that time. She also earns a quarter when her entire hefty dose of supplements is gone. And she earns a quarter for various other random things that she did willingly rather than fighting us. Much to our amazement, this time it WORKED!!! In fact, it worked GREAT! She has TOTALLY been with the program. She has counted the quarters she had, and counted the quarters she had left to go to her flamingo. It has been a RAGING SUCCESS!!!

And tonight, at last, she earned quarter #60. Unknown to her, I had purchased the flamingo already and had it hidden on our closet shelf. She was SO THRILLED to get her flamingo. She instantly named it "Bisketti." Not sure where that came from, but whatever works. She can call it "Pink Elephant" for all I care. I'm just so thrilled to see her begin to put the crucial piece of life-functioning into place.

Not sure yet what the next reward she will choose is going to be, but this is definitely worth repeating!!! See the photo of Jennica with Bisketti above!

St. Patrick's Day Luck

Last weekend, Mike and I spent an evening with the "Crazy Eight," which is our group of friends that we play poker with, travel with, and a whole host of other things. We always have a great time, and we have developed a great and supportive friendship where everyone is accepted for themselves. We are all so amazingly diverse in some ways, and all so much alike in others. In any case, I'm grateful to have these great people in our lives!!

And this past weekend, the other 7 were kind enough to donate their cash (through Texas Hold 'Em)to ME. MWAHH-ha-haaaaa. See photo of me with my masked leprechaun. I'm smiling "normally" because I had no that he had donned the St. Patrick's Day hat and bandana for the photo. :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tiersten the Thespian

At the first of each month, I give our Day Care a monthly schedule of when girls will be there and not, based upon our family schedule and my work schedule over all. Of course, things always change a bit, but for the most part, I do a pretty good job of planning this way and I mentally do best if I'm able to keep my life planned out about 3-4 weeks in advance. (Yes.......I can say it. "My name is Beth and I'm a control freak.")

Well........this month I missed a HUGE event. Despite the fact that this is scheduled months in advance, I totally missed it on all the school calendars. So.....I thought I had my vacation schedule planned day-by-day, doctor's appointments lined out, a ride for Tiersten to ballet for the day that we would be returning from a doctor when she needed to be there, Day Care alerted when the girls would be arriving on the bus there due to a meeting I had scheduled.....details, details, details. I was SO congratulating myself on how organized I am.

Well......Missoula Children's Theater descended upon Raymond Elementary this week and, of course, Tiersten wanted to try out for a part. I LOVE MISSOULA!! If you are not familiar with MCT, you need to google them and check them out. They have been coming to our school for about 10 years and always do a FANTASTIC job. Both of the boys have participated in years past. Missoula is the greatest answer in the world for small schools that would like to attempt to expose young children to drama, but are going to struggle with the logistics of costumes, set, staging, directing and all the other endless details. Google Missoula Children's Theater and you'll understand their mission and purpose.........They're the BEST!

So again, Tiersten wanted to try out. It was NOT on my schedule and promised to turn my carefully planned week a bit topsy-turvy. But, then again, Tiersten loves this type of thing and we felt that this would be something special just for her to really enjoy. She got a part! And was SO excited to inform me at the end of the audition that she was a chameleon. And then I told her that a chameleon is a lizard, which did NOT thrill her. She got over it......And then she got upset again when she found out that she was the shortest person in the entire play, which meant that she had to come onstage as the very last chameleon. Ah.....the challenges of being not-quite-six.

After a whirlwind week of practice, today was their first performance. Did I mention taht this is a MUSICAL and that it was cast this past MONDAY??? I honestly don't know how Missoula does it!!! Every year I watch in awe as 50 children dance and sing their way through a one-hour performance with 4 days of practice!! Its truly a FANTASTIC experience.

Tiersten's final performance is tomorrow, and then life will resume as normal on Sunday. Missoula Children's Theater will drive away with the scripts, scenery, set, costumes, make-up, and their two staff members to their next week's location, all packed into a little red truck. What a terrific experience!!! Tiersten has had a blast!

Second verse......same as the first.......

Somehow, I had a mental picture that two weeks of un-appraising was going to give me time to re-organize, attend our doctor's appointments, do some computer updating, and a whole host of other things. I mean......TWO whole weeks!! It hasn't quite turned out that way and, ready or not, its time to add my career back into the schedule.

I can honestly say that, at this point, I'm not quite sure how I'm going to accomplish the things that now need to be done on a weekly/daily basis, and still have time to appraise. But the other option (no $$$) isn't acceptable either. I've never been in this position before. Every working Mom has to make some time management decisions at some time or other, but I've never been in a position that no matter HOW I managed my time, I still came up short. I've always been able to adjust something to somewhere else, prioritize a little here or there, and still make sure that everything got done. Now, short of living entirely without sleep, I keep coming up short on hours in the day. Obviously, it will work out one way or another, but it's going to be a challenge.

Both boys are happily buried up to their eyeballs in track & field. Personally, the thought of spending two+ hours each day trying to heave a metal ball into a sandpit farther than you did the last time, run faster around a circle than the time before, or catapulting yourself as high as possible into the air with a piece of pipe are not appealing to me. But I'm glad that they are able to knock themselves out enjoying these activities. Whatever works and I can appreciate the satisfaction that it obviously brings to them.

Tiersten landed herself a part in a play this week, and had her first performance this afternoon. More on this later.......

And Jennica has put almost 900 miles already this month in the suburban. I feel bad for her, as this is nobody's idea of a good time, but we needed to cross some final bridges before finalizing our current course of action for her SPD. We are now offically buried in a twice daily vision therapy program, once daily auditory therapy program, on top of the occupational therapy that is formally done once per week, and informally done 24/7. The neurology-head-honcho-guru has placed his blessing on our path, and has looked at us frankly and said that we are dotting every "i", crossing every "t" and leaving no stone un-turned. The doctor's appointments will now drastically decrease for her, other than the weekly OT, as the "deciding what to do" phase ends and the "doing it" phase progresses. The planning is over, and the real work now begins. And in the past 90 days, Mike and I have become experts in food allergy testing, vitamin/mineral supplements, applied behavioral therapies, metal toxins, rashes, visual processing, auditory processing, insurance coverage, and the lack of insurance coverage. We are pharmacists, chefs, therapists, psychologists, disciplinarians, coordinators, and.......oh yeah....parents. And in the next 60 days, we have to get very knowledgeable about the educational system and how we're going to approach it for a diagnosis that is known to exist, but won't be an officially-recognized medical diagnosis in the DSM until 2012. In other words, we have to convince the educational system to functionally support our daughter's educational needs based on functional need only, because her medical diagnosis will not be a legally-accepted diagnosis for another 3 years. Fortunately, this isn't a huge deal or unheard of. There are a lot of kids in the school systems that receive some additional help without a diagnosis, but you have to word it correctly and know the lingo. Its a little bit odd to be dealing, not only with an unofficial diagnosis, but with a diagnosis for which there is no Ronald McDonald House, no telethon, no insurance payments, and almost complete disarray in the medical community as to what they're going to do with these kids. The community of neuro-developmental disorders, which include ADHD, SPD, ODD, OCD, and Autism, are absolutely exploding with children. And yet, there is still little support except from within the community itself of families who carry the common thread of knowledge growing out of the day to day trial and error of dealing with these beautiful children living in a brain that processes differently than "normal". Whatever normal is.

And so I find myself at a point in life where I'm not sure where my path is leading. At the end of this two weeks, I feel more lost than I did before it. How do you ever know.......REALLY know........that you're making the right decisions and spending your time in the most productive way? Both for yourself, and for everyone around you?

I just posted a sign in our house that maybe best sums up the way I'm trying to live my life right now. It says: "Life itself is not the destination; it is the journey." One day at a time........

Friday, March 06, 2009

The lavender dress

Jennica and I dropped by Fred Meyer yesterday after therapy. They carry her very favorite gluten-free pretzels, so we stop there pretty much every week to refill the stockpile. Its usually a pretty in-and-out sort of trip, but this week, I'm on vacation, right? So we wandered deeper into the bowels of Fred Meyer.

Of course, we ended up in the little girl's clothing section. Both the girls are growing like weeds, and since Jennica has decided that she is no longer willing to wear jeans (long story), they're both short on pants at the moment. While I was checking out the clearance rack, Jen became buried in a rack of frilly Easter dresses.

The first dress she brought to me was about a Size 14, and was a red-and-white floral print. "Mommy.....can I get this dress? Please??? Please please please? Isn't it be-YOO-ti-ful?? Please please please?"

I convinced her that it was way too big for her, and was pleasantly surprised when she drug it behind her (literally) back to the rack and hung it up. Hmmm. She does't even do that at home.

Pretty soon, she came back with a very frilly solid lavender dress in a gauzy chiffon-type material. Brown eyes wide.....she LOVED this dress. "Mommy...."

I said, "No, Jen," before the begging even started. It was about a Size 10, and I just wasn't in the mood to buy Easter dresses.

She gave me quite a spiel, and in a detached way, it was fun to listen to her blossoming vocabulary as she stated every redeeming quality she could think of about buying this dress. When she was done, I very gently said, "Maybe another day. We're not shopping for dresses today. Can you put it back and then come look at pants with me?" I promptly turned my back on her as an attempt to end the conversation.

Pretty soon, I heard a little voice again, "Mom." I turned back around and she was WEARING the lavender dress over her leggings and t-shirt. She had actually taken it off the hanger and pulled it on right over her clothes. Funny as she looked, my sense of humor pretty much escaped me at that moment. I know I was hissing, ""

"First, I want to see if it twirls." And she proceeded to spin around, right there in the clearance aisle, to see if the dress would spin.

And then, much to my amazement again, she took the dress off voluntarily, helped me put it back on the hanger, and we hung it up and moved on. No temper tantrum. No fit. No meltdown......"I WAAAAAAAANTTTTTT the dress!!!!" None of that. Once again, hmph. Progress.

I really wished I had taken a picture of her in that dress with my cell phone. She did look SO cute. But don't tell her I said that.

Sensory-seeking vs. sensory-defensive

Okay......I've mentioned on here a few times that I was going to get around to explaining the ins-and-outs of SPD a bit more. Many of you "regulars" here have asked some great questions and, to be perfectly honest, most of you are already far ahead of the average population if you know that SPD stands for Sensory Processing Disorder. So in a hugely-simplified format, here goes.....

Sensory Processing Disorder is exactly what the name says--a glitch in sensory input and how it is processed by the brain, to such a degree that it makes overall life functioning difficult.(Remember.....we all have sensory issues to some degree. Our ability to cope and function is the key.) But there are about a gazillion ways that SPD can manifest, and it is very individualized.

There are two basic extremes to SPD. Sensory-seeking is on the one end, while sensory-defensive is on the other. An individual that tends to be sensory-seeking is one that generally has a diminished sensitivity to input, and therefore, increases activity and sensory input in order to "sense" it fully. (I that sentence about five times and maybe it will make sense. No pun intended.) These tend to be your kids on the playground that are always wanting the swing to be pushed higher, they want the TV louder, they dance on the dining room table, they run around in the rain with no coat on, they dig into finger paints with gusto...always seeking MORE input.

Sensory-defensive is the other end of SPD. These are the kids that tend to hide under tables in noisy classrooms, tend to be clingy, can't stand tags in their clothing, cover their ears from loud noises, don't want their hands dirty, and sometimes don't even like to be touched or hugged by parents (even in infancy). These children are consider to be very sensitive, obviously, and don't want strong input.

Now.......a huge portion of SPD kids fall in between the two ends of the scale. In fact, many of them will send "mixed signals" which creates total havoc with diagnosis if you're not working with someone that understands how the brain reads sensory information. Sensory-seekers are often poor at judging when enough is enough, so they overload themselves with too much high-end activity and end up under a table somewhere with their ears covered trying to regain some balance, which looks like a sensory-defensive kid, right? And a child that can typically be sensory-seeking might be sensory-seeking in virtually every manner.....except that they have a tactile issue on their hands and can't deal with weird/slimy/sticky substances. Once again, if they are evaluated on a limited basis, they will appear to be sensory-defensive.

Once again, this is an extremely simplified version of SPD, but might give a little bit of insight into the basic degrees of what SPD can look like. Jennica tends to fall on the sensory-seeking side of the scale, but this varies from day to day, and is affected by a ton of outside influences. And, of course, now we know it is also highly affected by her diet.

And as you read this, keep in mind that I didn't touch on any factors of what auditory-processing disorder, visual-processing disorder, or any of those subsets look like. Overwhelmed yet?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

New photos of the gang

I'm just posting new photos of the kids!!! Both boys are in the process of transitioning from wrestling and basketball and into track season. I am so proud of their academic and athletic accomplishments--all while helping out here at home with whatever needs doing at the moment. Tiersten is also academically ahead of her class, loving ballet, and she probably has the toughest road right now, since so much of our attention is focused on getting Jennica's therapy schedules and diet stabilized. It's really not fair that she sometimes has to fend for herself a little more than she would otherwise, but all families with special needs children deal with constant issues of time and balance. Particularly during the "high-focus" times of trying to find routine. And then, last but not least, is Jen. I should have posted the photo of her glaring at the camera. :)

To all four of you: I'm so proud to be your Mom!!!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mistake on top of mistake

Okay.......I blogged yesterday about Jennica's consumption of a bagel on Friday morning. A regular bagel. Full of gluten. And the following rash and beastly behavior. Due to the rash, she licked her lips all weekend, which resulted in chapped skin around her mouth. Lovely.

Anyway, since chapped lips are generally rather slow to heal and they really DO look nasty and she's been picking at them a bit and I really don't want them to turn into a bloody mess.......last night at bedtime I put some carmex on her. Due to the sensory feel of stuff on her lips, she doesn't tolerate it well, so she didn't end up with very much. And part of it ended up more on her left cheek than on her lips.

This morning, she woke up with her lips and mouth area covered in little red dots. Sigh. I went back and double-checked the little carmex container and there is nothing specifically there that is known to me to be a gluten-containing substance but, obviously, SOMETHING in the carmex kicked off a reaction. She's out of school this week anyway due to some teacher training and basketball tournament, so she's just been hanging out here with me all day.

Sigh..........some days this truly is exhausting. Even when I THINK I know what I'm doing, we find out a different ingredient that doesn't suggest gluten, but DOES contain gluten. (Like caramel color, or EDTA, or everything in the world that is rolled in gluten but not required by the FDA to disclose raisins). The cosmetics products are truly a nightmare. We've switched her over to gluten-free/casein-free soap and shampoo, etc. but she really needs to be using GFCF soaps at school/day care also. We haven't even started that battle yet, and I'm not sure we will. Is it really realistic to expect her teachers to follow her around THAT closely all day to make sure she is using soap we have provided? Maybe I'll change my mind at some point, but at the moment, that sounds incredibly invasive to me. Talk about being "the nightmare parent"........

So I guess carmex is off our list.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Some answers for ME...

I don't talk a lot about myself here on this blog. Most of my life centers around my family and their activities, or the appraisal business. As a typical Mom, I tend to measure my success based upon them, rather than my personal achievements. I always kind of figure that "my time" will come again when the kids are gone. Until family is my priority.

With that said, I will admit that in the past year (particularly in the past 3-4 months), through Jennica's trials and tribulations, I've gained a lot of knowledge about nutritional impacts on the general health of the human body. I took a nutritional course in college, and I thought I had a pretty good understanding before now of how important nutrition can be. However, I wasn't living it and I didn't truly understand the ramifications of foods and vitamin and mineral deficiencies upon everything we do. In fact, I admit to be totally and completely annoyed in the past by people that "preach" naturopathic treatments. I wasn't against naturopathic medicine in any way. I just didn't necessarily embrace it. In some cases, I still don't. But through Jennica, I'm becoming a believer in "integrative medicine," where conventional doctors work side-by-side with naturopaths, therapists, and nutritionists to develop "whole body" plans for their patients. reading about nutritional treatments for children with neuro-developmental disorders and becoming aware of the depths of success far beyond conventional medical treatments for the same conditions, I started seeing and noticing things in my own life that I had refused to recognize before now. For example, my exhaustion, that I had simply chalked up to having four active kids and being self-employed with little time for relief from our wild schedule. My joint pain, which comes and goes but seems to be worsening over time. Could it all possibly be tied to my diet? Could I be allergic to foods, just like Jen? Could I have vitamin/mineral deficiences that were causing my symptoms? I decided that I wanted to know.

So I found a really great naturopath, in the process of looking for a new naturopath for Jennica. She's easy to talk to, she's funny, and she instantly grasped what I wanted to accomplish. A whole bunch of blood later, I got my results. Today.

I'm wildly allergic to everything under the sun that is related to dairy foods. Yogurt/cheese/whey/casein/milk/lactose.........that whole entire food family. AND I'm horribly allergic to cane sugar (which is going to be the real killer for me). I'm also suffering from a really severe B12 deficiency, and a pretty standard deficiency of Vitamin D. Otherwise, I'm actually a VERY healthy person.

So, believe it or not, I actually learned today how to give myself Vitamin B12 shots. I've given shots to dogs and horses for years, so it doesn't really bug me, but its still a little weird to give myself shots. The dairy and sugar will have to be eliminated from my diet. Totally. I might have to have a grieving period for pizza. And don't give me any BS about "cheese-less pizza". Pizza without cheese is NOT pizza. Just let me grieve......

But my new friend and doctor is pretty convinced that my joint pain and exhaustion is all treatable with correcting my diet and re-building my vitamin deficiencies. All in all, I got off rather easy. I still get to eat chocolate. And very shortly, I should be bouncing off the walls with newfound energy. I'll keep you posted....

Sunday, March 01, 2009

I QUIT.......temporarily.........

This past week turned into an appraisal-marathon with one goal in get all pending reports out by the end of the business day on Friday. (I almost made it.....I had to take a break for a change-of-sports meeting at the school at 6:00, and then hit the computer again and completed the last one about 9:00 pm.) The reason this goal was so crucial is that I am now officially on vacation! For two whole weeks!!! WAHOO!!!!

I came to the realization about 3 weeks ago that I was running myself into the ground. Physically and mentally........I was on "empty". So, rather than just feel sorry for myself, I decided that it was time to make some decisions about resolving some issues. The answer was to take a lengthy vacation in early March, and do some really creative scheduling to maximize the time away from appraisals and still accomplish something productive. Hence, we have five doctors appointments scheduled for Jen in the next 10 days. Part of the appointments being done like this is just sheer coincidence that some of the specialists we've been trying to schedule just happened to fall into place in early March. And the other part was deliberate since I'm going to be off. I also am going to spend some leisurely time working on computer data exports and spreadsheets to prepare for some appraisal regualations that are set to change on April 1st. (Ah.......the joys of working in a declining economy where all the major players are placing the blame on someone else.)

Of course, I didn't exactly anticipate that Jennica was going to scale the kitchen walls on Friday while I was in the shower to feed a craving for a gluten-filled bagel. She is usually so incredibly good about respecting her dietary limits that this was totally out of the blue. Despite catching her munching about halfway through, and immediately giving her digestive enzymes, which are supposed to help her digestive system in case of an "accidental" ingestion of an allergen.......within about 30 minutes her neck was covered in little red dots, which slowly spread up her face and turned her into a radish. I don't understand why we didn't see rashes BEFORE we removed gluten from her diet, as she was just as allergic then, but we sure see them now. She got through the day at day care okay......but the behavioral impacts were raging by Friday evening. After 2-3 weeks of really drastic improvement, we plummeted back to sensory dysfunction in a hurry. She has been raging and screaming ever since. This morning, she couldn't even tolerate the physical sensation of a hairbrush. This afternoon, she is tactile/vestibular sensory-seeking to the utmost. She's stripped down to the panties and running around the house enjoying the feel of the air on her skin, rolling on the floor, climbing to high places.......anything she can do to gain input. I honestly hadn't really noticed that her sensory-seeking behaviors had subsided until now! And, oddly enough, her outbursts of rage today have been followed by tears of remorse, which pulls at my heartstrings. Its AWFUL to hear her crying, "I'm so sorry, Mommy! I'm so sorry! I don't want to yell at you!" I can only chalk it up to the fact that, after a few weeks of feeling like the world was "right", it must be so hard to feel so out of control again. And all over ingesting some wheat flour from a bagel??!!?? Its mind-boggling!!! But we're living it!!!

So, out of necessity, the white board is back out to get through a simple meal. Visual reinforcement.....visual visual visual. She will improve, with a best prediction of about Monday evening or Tuesday morning. Until then, we bite our tongues and be patient. And try to remember that she's out of control, and she doesn't like it either. Punishment would be like punishing an alzheimer's patient for forgetting things.

I'm going to enjoy the next two weeks. To the fullest. I might even take a nap. Or two. Or three. And sit and drink hot chocolate. And maybe even turn on the TV. :)