Sunday, January 27, 2013

Speaking of creating your own reality....

We've been sick the past two weeks, not all of us at once, Aidan not even once, Andrew barely, Matthew only for 24 hours, the baby for quite a bit this past week (covered in spots right now but barely feverish) and Ryan, well Ryan, she manages to cop it over and over again. 

I'd had three days indoors with a sick baby this past week, and rain pouring down in torrents of Old Testament proportions, but managed to make it until 3Am on Saturday morning when my allergies hit so bad I had to take the antihistamines that knocked me out for pretty much all of Saturday.  When Damon could walk around the house with a feverish baby and four kids bouncing off the walls.  (Don't feel too too bad for him.  He uses the telly as a baby sitter.)   When you look at Louise Hays book 'You Can Heal Your Life, yup, it doesn't take a trip to the GP to tell you I'm exhausted physically and emotionally and need to take a break from imposed deadlines and expectations.  Been doing it my whole life.  Shame I need to make myself sick to take a break.

Aidan has the personality of a Labrador Retriever.  (And the energy level too!)   He never gets sick.  Andrew only for a little bit, when he needs a time out.  Matthew cops it hard for a bit - there ARE viruses and bacteria out there that hit us all - but bounces back quickly.  Ian fights it hard, running around like a happy madman in between bouts of fever.  Nothing holds these boys back.

Ryan revels in her illness.  She burns with fever.  Anger says Louise.  Ryan thrives on having the flu  (or in this case possible viral meningitis but the symptoms are similar).   It's a response to mass negativity and beliefs.  Fear. 

She isn't faking it.  Making it up perhaps, but only in the way that we create our own realities.  She's really sick.  A week ago she fainted.  Fear.  Not coping. 

No kidding.

(Hypothyroidism, which she and I both have, is a feeling of giving up, being hopelessly stifled.)

Ryan spent the last year she was in school limping through the day with a bandage around her right knee.  Her teacher took me aside to tell me that she felt Ryan was in enough pain to warrant a trip to the doctor.  They found nothing.  And yet the pain continued for three terms, pain bad enough to warrant limited PE classses, but also real enough that the teachers gave her an A for effort AND participation!   Experienced teachers believed this child was really in pain.

Which she is.  The knee represents ego and pride.

It stopped hurting when we pulled her out of school.

Just the thought of homeschooling again has this child in panic.  She withdraws to her room.  Lies in her bed.  Stares at the wall.  Or pulls out one of her horse books. 

She is horrendous to deal with.  She picks fights with her brothers.  All of them.  Even Ian doesn't want to spend the time he usually does with her in her room.  I'm not afraid that she is hurting him.  She is pick pick picking.  She is maniacally trying to forget her anxiety by poking at someone else.

I've just had to keep her apart from the twins.

Andrew is going to win a Noble Peace prize.  I've told him that after he wins the Soccer World Cup for Australia, defeating Germany  3 -1 in the final match, leading to many interviews in both languages and a prime spot as sports commentator and writer, when he finally brokers that peace deal between Northern and Southern Ireland and is called upon, as foreign minister of Australia, to come to Palestine and play a soccer game with the Israelis and Palestinians before settling down to Peace Talks that will highlight Australia's role as a major international contender, make the Americans try to claim him as one of their own AND bring peace to the region (cause footy can do that!!)...after all that he has to thank his parents for the privilege of growing up a middle sibling, squeezed in between  younger twin brothers and an older sister with socialisation difficulties. 

"It's a war zone down there," he comes up to tell me yesterday, as I hear screams and shouting from the family room/battle arena.

And then settles down calmly to read his book on his own.

I don't worry about Andrew.

Or the twins either really. 

Ian has this whole world figured out better at 16 months than the rest of us have in a lifetime.  It's not fair really.  He's obviously done this before.  My guess is as a Tibetan monk who needed a bit of a breather.  So he got to come back as a barbarian, with all the loose discipline and morality of our western lifestyle.  He is loving every minute of it.  But deep inside he still knows who he really is.

Sigh.  My boys teach me.

Ryan is teaching me too.  In the sense of what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

And I do worry about her.

I worry about her because her future is all up to me.  I used to wonder why she chose me as a parent and now I know.  My stubborness, my ambition, my ability - or need really - to see things to completion, to excel and exceed expectations, they are what my daughter needs from me. 

They are also what I have been trying to dampen down in my own spiritual search.

Ryan has all the signs of ODD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  I finally looked this up because it seems to be all the rage, everyone at our old school had it, and I didn't think it sounded like a real disease, kinda like diagnosing all the abused and neglected kids with ADHD and then knocking them out with Ritalin, which DOES solve the behavioural problems through sedation but in no way means these kids have ADHD.    And now comes ODD.  Not liking to be told what to do.  Well, yeah, who does?! 

And lo and behold ODD is generally diagnosed in households with lack of structure or parental supervision, inconsistent discipline practices and exposure to abuse or community violence.  Bingo.

Ryan has all the signs except for the excessive violence and disrespect of authority figures, the sign that is most obvious, most disruptive and pretty much diagnostic for the disease. 

She has frequent temper tantrums (which is does by withdrawing rather than through violence), excessive arguing with adults, often questioning the rules, active defiance and refusal to comply with adult requests and rules, DELIBERATE ATTEMPTS TO ANNOY OR UPSET PEOPLE, BLAMING OTHERS FOR HER MISTAKES OR MISBEHAVIOUR, OFTEN BEING TOUCHY OR EASILY ANNOYED BY OTHERS, FREQUENT ANGER AND RESENTMENT.  She doesn';t have mean and angry speech when upset or a spiteful attitude and revenge seeking.  She also doesn't throw chairs and furniture down the school steps or curse at her teachers.  She is quiet and respectful.

Ryan doesn't have ODD because she comes from a good home environment.

Here I have been feeling guilty for not being good enough for my children, and it turns out I am just what the doctor ordered (or would order if we could get him/her to believe she had a problem)for Ryan.

The differentials for ODD are ASD including Aspergers, ADD/ADHD, depression and anxiety.  Check, check, check.  And if its ONLY depression and anxiety?!  Thanks, that list really made me feel better!

Treatment for ODD,as it turns out, is learning proper parenting techniques.  The list is a description of our home.  Giving time-outs, avoiding power struggles, modelling proper behaviour, positive reinforcement for good behaviour, offering acceptable alternatives, setting limits and reinforcing consequences, etablishing a daily schedule and routine, sitting down for family meals together, staying calm yourself.

75% of Australian children don't sit down for family meals.  My guess is it is the same in the USA.

I am learning the past two years just how brutal the home environment of so many children is. 

What doctors and therapists for Ryan won't see is the huge amount of work that has gone into managing her behaviour all these years. 

What I can't know for certain is if her behaviours are as aberrant as I now believe them to be.  The list for ODD (and depression and anxiety) might as well be a list for puberty.  And Ryan is 13.  She is my oldest child and my only daughter.  Are all girls this difficult to raise in comparison with boys?  I couldn't say.  All I know is that raising Ryan has been more difficult than all four of my boys combined.  And remember, two are twins.

Could it just be that we have been managing her behaviour appropriately all these years without knowing it?!

Or is she just a normal teenage girl whose mother's expectations are too high.  (This is what I got in Germany and believe I am in for here as I press further for diagnosis.)

I've been reading books about autism and how hard it has been for parents to convince autism experts that their severely autistic children do, in fact, have autism.

What chance do I have for an appropriate diagnosis for a gifted (as it turns out), intelligent, highly functioning child who has been raised in the best possible environment already?

She has no friends.

And the only people who believe me are other parents with children on the ASD spectrum. 

When I see what these parents struggle with every day, how much harder their task is with a severely autistic child than mine is with an incredibly multi-talented Aspergers child, I appreciate the support they show me anyway.

I can work from a place of fear.  I am terrified for Ryan's future.  I am going to have to fight and struggle and push and work to help her find her place in this world.

Or I can surrender to Ryan's world, without a proper diagnosis or help from the experts, and help her learn to live at least partially within ours.  Honestly, her world is better - and safer - than ours.  The only problem is that someone - meaning me - will have to feed and clothe and shelter her her entire life unless I can pull her from her cocoon of comfort at least for periods long enough to allow her to function in ours.

My task is to help my daughter create her own reality.

I'd like to help her create one where she doesnt work from a place of fear and anxiety like she does now, where she isn't afraid to be herself, where she is happy to use her talents instead of hiding them  and where she trusts herself to make friends.

I would have liked a magic key to unlock the mystery that is Ryan.  I have been searching for it with doctors and testing and therapy.

But damn if that key isn't going to have to be one we build ourselves, the two of us. 

Andrew, and the Middle East Peace Process, can thank us later

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Creating My Own Reality 2013

So, yeah, vacation was great thanks.
Smile Ian.  And try to look older.  We might need this shot for 2013.

Except I've been informed I'm not - as a bonafide Aussie - allowed to call it that anymore. 

The holidays rocked, mate.

Said with faux British-American accent with a trace of fake German.

I may have mastered some of the vocabulary but I'm still lost on the accent!

In any case, two married couples, with eight kids, sharing living arrangements for an entire week, minus electricity and running water.  And we're still friends.

It's been the best summer vacation - eh hem - HOLIDAY - that I've ever had.  (If only I could figure out how to post the pictures!)

First we had Christmas.  Then Damon's bday on South Bank where we FINALLY rode the Big Wheel above Brisbane.  (And came off seven to eight minutes later asking ourselves WHY we actually chose and PAID to lock ourselves into a small, enclosed glass container swinging precariously 60 meters in the air with five children, all of but two - and the one year old doesn't count - turns out are afraid of heights!  Ah, the memories.  Good times, those!)  Mexican food.  Chocolate desert.  Nice couple from Harvey Bay who turn out to be counsellers and end up telling ME to SURRENDER, that Ryan is FINE, and that our spiritual journey together would be a hoot to watch.  From Harvey Bay.  Oh and good luck with that.  Namaste!

Just imagine her a little taller - and uh yeah, you'll get the idea!

New Years Eve AND New Year's at White Water World and Dreamworld.  Cause the parks are empty then.  A  New Year's tradition started.  Because who wants to wait 90 minutes in line to get onto a ride that plunges you straight down into the earth at breakneck speed when you can do it in 5?!  UH, no, thanks Andrew, I did it ONCE so that we can say we did all seven terror rides.  But just because it was on Dec 31 does NOT mean you get to tell me that I owe it to you once a year and need to do it again the next day.  I am NOT that....uh....that....ambitious.  And no, I am NOT letting you get on it yourself.  What about that nice Tunnel of Terror again.  Where we get to speed off backwards before going vertical and THEN dropping again vertically.  Uh, hey, did I actually think I LIKED that one?  And why did it take me two more days and three more rides to figure out it wasn't so much that I LIKED it the first time as it was that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and I was happy to have SURVIVED it without cursing.  (Note: did not curse on big vertical drop either but did emit scream of bloody terror that only stopped by telling  myself that it wasn't going to last forever, that if I had survived that last delivery with Ian I could do this, and ...hey, that's a lot of thinking for a two second drop!)  No problems doing anything upside down.  Get a little nauseous on the spins, but keep reminding myself I am not pregnant with twins, and that helps LOADS!  Most painful ride in the park?  The Big Red Car in Wiggle World.  Really folks.  30 minutes in line to get on the slowest car ever and go in a circle and sing songs.  Okay Ian liked it.  But the rest of us have either been to Disney -It's a Small World - or done the Pirate Ride in Europa Park.  And the Fairy Ride there.  C'mon Australia, you can do better than THIS!  Note to self:  Just because you get nauseous on the Wiggle Boats does NOT mean you are pregnant with twins.  Or pregnant at all.  Get onto that vertical drop again just to be sure.

Whaddya mean, I don't look like a one year old?!

And then we went camping.  Highlight for Ryan was stumbling upon our first poisonous snake.  Alone.  Lowlight for me was not being there with her to see it.  Panic and silliness aside, it was a red-bellied black snake, and yes, it apparently glared at her, but then glid into the bushes while she stood there shaking.  She still doesn't see that the worst is over.  She saw a poisonous snake.  She stood still and it left  her alone.  Ryan remains oddly unreassured.  And I am still bummed I haven't seen one.  Honestly, although the rest of the world believes we are crawling in poisonous spiders and snakes and swimming regularly with the most dangerous creatures on earth (and we tell you this to keep the faint of heart think the animals are scary, wait til you get a load of the Medicare system!!!) the truth is that most suburbanites go their whole lives without seeing even one poisonous snake.  Or even a nonpoisonous (but really big) python.

Why Ryan doesn't feel lucky is beyond me.

(I never did tell the kids that I discovered - on the last day there - that sharks sometimes swam up the river system we were swimming in.  Sometimes its better just not to know.  We were in shallow water most of the time and blissfully unaware.  Thought I would keep it that way for the rest of them!)

Aidan and Matthew now have shorter hair.  Ian has hair.
Tracey and Kita then introduced Ryan and myself to the Eumundi, a hippy town on par with Nimbin or Ithaca or Eugene.  I fell in love and found my soul.  Something I will try not to bore you with too too much in the future. 

Ah heck, who am I kidding.  My soul is fragile, this world is harsh, and I am a brave brave girl for facing the harsh ugliness of other people's negative energy.  I have the energy to create my own reality.  In fact, that is all we ever do.  And if I create it based on fear and anger, then that is what I will receive. 

I did okay with this for about four days after coming home.  I was peaceful and loving and kind.  I was gentle with the kids.  And Damon.  And myself.  We made New Year's posters with resolutions such as "be kind" and "be joyous" and "create your own world."  With sparkles.  Laminated and hung on the wall.  We kept up all the Christmas decorations.  And made an altar out of things that were important to us.  Like Jesus.  And Buddha.  And little bits and pieces of Grandma.  (Well, things she had given us really, but bits and pieces of sounded better.) 

Damon and I snuck out one night after putting the kids to sleep and watched Les Mis.  It rocks.  We have decided to choose our friends only amongst people who "get" Les Mis from now on. (While we're handing out Academy Awards, what about one for the make-up artist who managed to make Hugh Jackman look like a dirty, ugly convict with bad teeth?!! Really, is it fair that that man can do EVERYTHING well?!)   I thought of Victor Hugo and  his portrayal of suffering - and I thought of my experiences in the last year.  Maybe I DO need to treat some of what I witness with the same air of detachment as I watch a movie.  My heart can bleed for poverty, ignorance, addiction and abuse in real life just as in Les Mis.  But I can't let my soul be broken by it any more.

We create our own realities.  All of us.  And I can bear witness and I can empathise and I can lead by example.  But I cannot be broken by the suffering of others.

So yeah, I'm working on getting rid of the guilt this year.

There are still wallabies in Australia.

My heart broke when Aidan came home from his first day at his new school and told me that the bad kid had asked to be his partner and he had said 'No.".   My heart literally hurt.  But the sad lesson we have taken from this past year is that, while we are all equal in the eyes of God, in that Namaste kinda way, while we may want to love our neighbours as ourselves, we also owe it to ourselves to choose our friends wisely.  Let Aidan empathise when he is old enough to know his own values.  For now, he needs to make his own, wise choices and leave the empathy for those whose choices are not as wise to the teacher.  Ouch.  Still hurts though. 

But I have a wise friend who told me that everything strong comes from something broken.  And a faint memory of a movie recently where a character tells his son that a heart isn't anything until it is broken and mended. 

My heart will still bleed for that boy - and for others like him who don't have the advantages of me and mine. 

But it is healing. 

Let's see what reality it can create for itself - and for us all - in 2013!!

(Oh dear.  Was that another spiritual sojourn?  So sorry.  So sneaky of me too.  I honestly didn't know it was in there.  Really.)



But I am a soul on a powerful journey.

Now if only I could figure out how to get those pictures onto the internet!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Be Back Soon!

We're off! 
Everytime we pack for a vacation I wake up that morning and can't believe we've done it.
I thought the move from Europe here was my last big hurrah, that that was all that was left in me, that it was time to settle down and act like normal folks because, well quite frankly, I just don't have it in me any more to keep moving.
 I remember the moves all through uni, when I had teen and twenty-something year old guys willing to lug my sofa up four flights up stairs for free pizza and beer.   (Thanks Pete, Thanks Mark!)  Hiking up a mountain in Alaska with everything we needed for the night on our backs and sweating through cotton in the snow.  The skill of packing all you need for a week in Port-au-Prince into a backpack  during Peace Corps.  (Three pairs of tiny undies, two tiny cotton minidresses, bikini, bugspray, flashlight and a water bottle.)  The move into our first home in Connecticut.  Damon and my Dad U-hauling it all out to Arizona.  Damon, my Dad and I packing it all up again two years later to move to Europe.   Selling it all out of the back of a U-haul with a 3 month old baby and a 2 year old.  France.  Germany.  Going away to Italy - or just about anywhere, take afternoon playgroup for example - with newborn twins. 
The move here required the to-sell pile, the to send on the container pile, the keep for October at the farm in case it snows but give away before we leave because we don't need cold weather gear in Brisbane pile, the don't need in October but need when we get there so don't put it on the container pile pile, the take it if we have room to save money but we can leave it at the last minute pile (this included bedsheets and the like), the to stay with Wolfy pile, the pile for stuff to give to Anita, for Lori.....and I did it mostly alone while Damon was scanning files into his computer that last morning.  Still a sore point.
Then there are the logistics involved in space and place.  What fits and what you need to get to when and where.  Hotels.  Flights.  Immediately upon arrival.
 I was going to write a book about the international travel with kids.  But I don't think I have it in me.  Yet.
Lately I've realised that my Aspergers traits - the organisation, the thinking five steps ahead - are what allow me to do all this.
How do I do it, people ask. 
Uh yeah.  Turns out you were right Dad.  I'm not wired like the rest of you.  (Turns out you're not either.  Big shocker there, right?!)
In any case, we did it.  Survived the latest packing job.  The house is clean.  And tidy.  The bags are packed.  We have camping and sleeping gear, food, cooking and cleaning gear, clothes, swim gear and rafts, sports equipment, board games and books, my writing and Ryan's sketching.
I could break it down further if you really wanted to see how my mind works.  But then you wouldn't be able to sleep at night either!
Shame is that I didn't suddenly aquire a skill - or patience - for techie stuff - when I chose a label to define myself.  So that I'm still me.  And can't figure out how to get those darn Christmas and New Year's photos downloaded from Picasso onto the blog.
I'm hoping a miracle occurs when we are away camping and that it will all correct itself when I get back.
You maybe got THIS one, God?!
Bigger miracles HAVE occurred in my life. 
We're packed and ready to leave, for instance.
And Damon can't find where he put the thyroid medication.
Some things don't change.
Which is good. 
Still trucking, still moving, still not giving in!
See you when we get back!