Monday, July 28, 2014

What am I?

Being a mother to two amazing boys through adoption sometimes presents some unique challenges. We are lucky to have an open adoption for my older son with frequent contact with biological family. My younger son, however, is another story. His adoption is considered open because his birth/first mother knows who/where we are and vice versa, but that is where the similarity stops between my two boys. Sadly, we don't have any real ongoing contact with Max's biological family. One day we hope that will change.

Lately, Max has been very curious about his origins and we, frankly, don't have a lot of answers to give him. The genealogical data provided by his bio-mom on the forms she filled out in the hospital is sketchy, at best. Max wants specifics! Like me, Max has a gift for mimicry. He likes to take on various regional accents and pretend he is from that area/country. He is especially good at Scottish and Jamaican accents, with German following closely behind. It's very funny!  We had a joking conversation that he could be Scottish, German and Jamaican in decent. It's not completely beyond the realm of possibility.

No, it's really not that important to know our exact ancestry (we are American, first and foremost.) I say "our" because I was adopted as an infant too and didn't have many details about my background until I met my biological mom when I was in my thirties. Even she didn't have a complete picture because she didn't know my bio-dad's side of the family that well; so I turned to genetic profiling through Ancestry.com. The results of their DNA test were fascinating! Now, Max really wants the same information. He isn't even 8 years old yet, but he has a powerful need to know about himself.

I remember studying people's faces when I was a child and wondering if I could be related to them. Who knew? I could have walked past a biological relative on the street and had no idea! All my friends looked like their parents and siblings. Sometimes strangers would comment, "Oh! You look just like your Mother!" and sometimes that comment would make me happy, but more often I would be irritated. (No I don't. Not a bit.) Amusingly, I studied my bio-mom's face when she first sent me photos (we found each other via the internet) and I sort of saw a family resemblance from photos of both of us when we were teens, but now? I don't think we look at all alike. I found that sort of disappointing. Ha! Maybe I look more like my bio-dad's side. Who knows.

The point is, Max wants to know. He wants details! We talked about him taking the same DNA test that I did through Ancestry.com and he is eager to try it. It's not cheap, so I may make this a Christmas present. We'll see. I'm just as curious as he is to see the results!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Kickstart THIS! ?

While I like to keep my Facebook page on the lighter side, this space is where I come to be real. The reality lately is we are drowning in debt. Much of that debt is medically related. When you have a child with special needs that weren't fully diagnosed until said child was struggling and slowly drowning in anxiety and pressures at school, you find you have a lot of catching up to do.

Instinctively, we adapted to many of our son's quirks and limitations here at home. We never looked at things that way, before his autism diagnosis; that we were adapting. We were managing and learning to be good parents at the same time. He was getting by ok, so we thought. If we had known how much he was struggling, we would have gotten testing and accommodations MUCH sooner. We just didn't SEE it. He was and is our brilliant, handsome and challenging child. That hasn't changed. How we approach certain things, accommodations at home, and adding supports has made a substantial change for the positive in his behavior and ability to cope. Changes at school were long long overdue. Our mistake was in assuming the personnel at his school knew what they were doing. They didn't.

So changes were made/forced and our boy was moved into a new school environment. And he flourished. Getting him there was a major challenge. Since our local school district was too busy assuming Tyler's issues were OUR fault and kept pointing fingers at us, we had to go outside the system for help. We got our own child education advocate, a plethora of testing from a neuro-psychologist, a new psychiatrist (purported to be the best child therapist in the state), tried multiple medications until the right combo was found...it was a months long grueling effort but it was all worth it in the end. Tyler is now where he needs to be. For the moment.

But...ongoing therapy with bills from 2 therapists, medications, hospital visits, adaptive technologies, and catering to a child with multiple environmental sensitivities has taken its toll on us, financially. Insurance doesn't cover much, sadly.

So I found myself thinking. I've been involved in multiple fundraisers over the years for neighborhood kids and children of friends who were gravely ill.  Having a child with a life threatening illness is a horrifying circumstance. I have always gone out of my way to support charities and friends when ever I could. But what about kids with chronic and life-long illness of other sorts. Cancer is something we can work to cure, but what about mental illness or neurological damage like autism? It's not something you can cure. [Sorry Autism Speaks, you are on the WRONG track.]

Plus, there is a certain stigma associated with mental illness. You don't often see fundraisers for that. Why? We are looking at a lifetime of ongoing medical expenses. What makes neurological damage or a chromosomal abnormality so unworthy of charity?  History. We are trying to overcome centuries of mistaken impressions. People with mental illness aren't "crazy", or possessed by demons, or an embarrassment to their family (but that is how they were treated in the past and right up to current day.) It isn't shameful to have problems with your brain! We need to stop acting like it is.

 So I am still thinking. Can I do a fundraiser? If the dude looking for help to make his potato salad can start a Kick-start campaign, would it be wrong to do something for my son? What would people's reaction be? I know a few folks close to the family would really raise some eyebrows over my idea, but they are super judgmental about everything and everyone. No winning there. But in general...what do YOU think of this idea?

I wish I had more readers so I could take a poll. But seriously, how "sick" does a child need to be to deserve an outpouring of well-wishes, sympathy, support and, yes, a fundraiser?

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Mother of a teenager??!

I found myself thinking about Tyler's upcoming birthday in the wee hours this morning. He is going to be 13 in December. A teen. I know several mom friends of mine felt very strongly at the thought of their babies turning 13. For me, it kinda happened already. In my mind, Tyler is already a teen and it happened very abruptly. Almost overnight, in fact.

See, Tyler's 12th year started out really tough. He wasn't even attending school by the time December hit. He'd finally hit a wall and could no longer find a way to cope with his autism and ADD on his own and manage to fake his way through the school day too. But I am not going to talk about that struggle. He is in a new school situation and finished the year with all A's and B's on his report card. He is a superstar!

No. That was hard and contributed to his sudden maturation, of course, of that wasn't my ah ha moment. It was the week we bought new beds for the boys.

Let me rewind a little. OK, a lot. I can't recall if I've spent much time talking about Tyler's sleep issues here in my journal. From the time he was an infant, it's always been something. It began with colic, reflux, and lactose intolerance. Then he couldn't sleep flat on his back. Then came the struggle to keep him in his crib. That boy could climb out of anything! Then came the night terrors and sleep walking. We had a 3 gate system, at one point; a gate in his doorway, another in the hall and a third at the top of the stairs. Late one night we caught him just before he walked right out the front door.

He spent the majority of his first few years sleeping in the bedroom with us. Attachment parenting, yeah yeah. Sure. We liked to call it that. It was trendy. But really, for us, it was necessary. We just never knew what he'd try next. His toddler bed just stayed in our room so we could hear and react faster when he woke up. It helped us get some much needed sleep too. But then the day arrived when he was just too big for his little toddler bed. Now what?

We made a big deal over him moving into the twin bed in his own room. He was very excited. But by bedtime, he couldn't shut himself down. We had an established bedtime routine. Teeth, a couple stories, singing and back rub. He would relax and start to nod off, we would tip toe away and he'd jerk awake in a panic. Oh boy. We were sure we'd done it to ourselves. Oh, he was attached alright. So much so, he couldn't fall asleep unless one of us was there.

We tried everything. Finally, we just took turns sitting in the room with him until he was asleep. Sometimes we managed to get into our own bed and get some sleep. Sometimes. But he almost never slept for the whole night. When he woke and found himself alone, he would come looking for us. Or he would sleepwalk and we'd find him lost somewhere else in the house.

Finally, out of desperation, we would take turns lying down in bed with him and pass out. We were so so tired. When he got too big, there wasn't enough room for me in his little twin bed anymore. John made a nest on the floor for himself and that was it. Since I wasn't physically able to get up from the floor, John spent most nights sleeping in with Tyler. I would find them in the morning, both on the floor all cuddled up.

When Max arrived, it fell mostly to me to care for him at night, and John slept in with Tyler. Now it was Max's turn to share the bedroom with me. He only slept in his crib for naps. At night, he was in with me so I could handle late night feedings, diapers and so on. John needed sleep so he could function at work. We adapted.

We expected the situation was temporary. Eventually Tyler would grow out of his anxieties and sleep on his own at night. Right?

No. 11 years later and now Max was also sleeping in a nest on the floor with Daddy in Tyler's room and Tyler was sleeping in his twin bed. They were BOTH looking out for Tyler at night. Little Max had become his big brother's keeper. And I had my nice king-sized bed to myself. Not that I WANTED it that way, mind you. When John went out of town, both boys would move into my bed.

It wasn't ideal, but it was working.

Then, suddenly, once Tyler's school issues were resolved, we'd found a good doctor, and he was on the right medications, he asked if he could move his computer into his bedroom. It was a small thing. He and Max had shared the dining room space for years. It was a computer, art, homework room and almost never used for actual dining. I was so used to the boys sitting side by side in front of their computers...the thought of Tyler off into his room alone was...weird.

The boys were fighting more often, Tyler had a new friend who was a little older and HE had his own space, and Ty was outgrowing that little twin bed FAST. So it was decided. We cleaning out the room that was designated as "Max's room" but had turned into more of a dressing room and storage space, I went new bed shopping at those excellent Memorial Day mattress sales, and John ran Ethernet through the walls and installed a jack in Tyler's room (he needed the bandwidth for gaming and we didn't want him bogging down our wireless network.)

The new beds arrived, the boys' rooms were rearranged, thoroughly cleaned, organized and Tyler's computer and desk made its journey down the hall to its new home in Tyler's room. No more room for Daddy and Max's nest. Nope. He had a big new bed and a nice new workspace with a nifty navy rug to protect the floor. We held our breath. Tyler hadn't slept alone for almost 12 years.

He went to sleep in his new bed, alone, and didn't come out until morning. And just like that, overnight, I had a teenager. His room was HIS ROOM. No one was allowed in without permission. He became fiercely protective of his privacy. He still sleep walks, but now we just lead him back to his bedroom and he closes the door in our faces. Heh heh. That's my boy.

See? I have a teenager. OVERNIGHT. Quite literally. Do I have my husband back in my bed now? No. *laughs* His nest is now on Max's floor. But I don't expect it to be there long. I think Max's transition to having his own space will be much less painful. I don't think I'll be waiting until Max is 12 before I get my bed buddy back.

Then again...I do snore. Maybe that is the REAL reason I sleep alone. Ha ha!