Monday, September 28, 2009


     How do you gain control over an unruly child? Or any child for that matter? I've watched a few episodes of Supernanny. Jo has wonderful insight and great ideas. Not sure they'll work for my mentally challenged child. In desperate times, I've employed techniques from the Dog Whisperer in trying to manage Ian.
     "Ian," I say in my calm assertive tone, "Sit."
     "Come here."
     "Drop it."
     "Please play dead."
     I've even made the "schuutt" noise, while administering a fake bite to the flank. Julie thought I was kidding one day when I asked her if a shock collar might work.
     I think gaining control has more to do with yourself than it does with your child. If you aren't in control, you can't expect your children to be.
     Today--I gained control.
     I woke up this morning knowing I needed to clean the house, because my foster care licensor is coming tomorrow to do a home inspection. They always do one once a year when it's time to relicense. So I cleaned like Jesus was coming for dinner. I swept, mopped, dusted, organized, threw out, picked up, scrubbed, and Julie vacuumed. Thanks, Julie. When the kids got home from school, I put them to work too. They did bathrooms, emptied trash, washed clothing, and anything else I felt inspired to burden them with. Tomorrow I will continue, this time focusing on locking away medicines, cleaning products, hazardous chemicals, and covering the window wells. The house must be child proof and safe to inhabit, if such a thing is possible.
      In my fury of cleanliness, I decided it was time to organize Ian's school work. How sad is that? Not that I did it, but that there was enough that I had to do it! He's in first grade for crying out loud. He has spelling words and a dictation sentence, six sight words, one daily bit of busy work off his calendar, his interactive home journal, and five reading books. Shame, shame, shame. When is a kid supposed to be a kid? Pardon me. I digress.
     With Ian's work all orgainized, I decided to make him a helping hand. One for morning and one for afternoon. When we saw Dr. Rope last week, and I informed him that Ian's problems mostly manifested at home, he told me that was my clue. He said that the regular routine of school was helpful to a child who cannot organize his/her own thoughts. So I decided to organize his day for him. If I can enforce it, we just might make some progress. On his morning hand, he gets dressed, eats breakfast, washes hands and face, brushes teeth and hair, and makes his bed. On the afternoon hand, he has a snack and TV time, then homework, then friend time, then pick up toys, and finally get ready for bed. I decided to include some fun items in the afternoon so that he would know that he wasn't getting jipped. He would get his friend time and his play time. And I, hopefully, will have less chaos, and the neighbors won't need to call and complain about "the roamer."
     I am happy to report that the afternoon routine worked flawlessly today. No problems. Ian did try to sneak out of the house a few times after dinner, like eight or ten. He even took the trailer keys to try and start the car. I've learned, from experience, to keep the car keys with me. But because my house was organized and I was still cleaning, I was right there and aware of his every move. He seemed surprised at my newfound speed. He never made it past the driveway.
     When Tawni came home from school, she obviously noticed how clean the kitchen was, because she cooked for herself and--hold on to your butts--washed the dishes! Wow! It's amazing how a motivated mother can telepathically motivate her children. I love it!
     I guess you can tell I'm feeling pretty good about myself today. My house is clean, children obedient and cooperative, lives organized, nobody called me a poopyhead--what a feeling of empowerment. Now, would someone please show me to my bed? I'm too tired to find it on my own.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

     Yesterday was eventful for me. It was a day I'd been looking forward to for seven months. It was the day Ian and I met with Dr. Allan Rope at the Department of Medical Genetics next to PCMC. Dr. Rope specializes in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
     Before the appointment, I was convinced that I needed and wanted the definite, once-and-for-all, diagnosis of FAS. After the appointment, I was so grateful for a lesser diagnosis. I knew that children with FAS had tons of neurological and behavior problems, what I didn't know, was that a true FAS child will have facial deformities, making them as recognizable as someone with Down Syndrome.
     In diagnosing FAS, there are certain guidelines to follow. A doctor will look at abnormal facial features, growth, and problems with the central nervous system. In Ian's case, the space between his upper lip and nose is slightly flat and he has a thin upper lip. These are signs. His throat is short, which is another sign. His pinky fingers are curved slightly inward, and he has a very hairy back, both of which are signs. However, he didn't meet enough of the abnormal features to qualify for FAS. His head is an average size, his height and weight are on the low end but still within normal limits, his cheekbones and nose are not flat, and his eyes are spaced appropriately.
      As a baby, Ian did have sucking and feeding problems and still struggles, never chewing his food and often choking to the point of vomiting. Ian does suffer from poor impulse control--I think there is no control--poor social cues, hyperactivity, attention deficits, lack of empathy--which he is slowly learning--and cause and effect discipline. He also has speech problems and poor motor skills along with vision impairments.
     And with all that, he still isn't bad enough for the FAS diagnosis. Which I can thank God for.
     Dr. Rope taught me a lot in the two hours I spent with him. He reassured me that while some kids who suffer from fetal alcohol exposure have low intelligence, it was clear Ian wasn't one of them. He is a very bright and clever little boy who "probably knows very well how to manipulate his world." So true. Because of Ian's intelligence, he is capable of learning, capable of being taught right from wrong, and developing a conscience. There's hope! It will just take a long, long, long, long time.
     At the end of our visit, Dr. Rope told me that while he couldn't give me the FAS diagnosis, he did know that Ian definitely suffers from his exposure to addictive substances in utero. Unfortunately there isn't a label for that. The CDC is currently working on it, so that children who don't meet the full criteria will still be recognized and can receive help for their disabilities.  They are working on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. In the meantime, he told me to throw around the term "Fetal Alcohol Effects" when dealing with school personnel and (gulp) correctional officers.
     Children like Ian will never be normal. There is no cure for substance abuse exposure. They will be impulsive, using poor judgment, and will often be in trouble. Teachers, friends, family members, and community members need to be aware of this. These little ones don't misbehave on purpose. They do it because they can't help it. But, like Dr. Rope said, they can be taught. It will take time, patience, and knowledge. But I've always believed that it truly does take a community to raise a child.
     Mine is doing a great job.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Personal Jesus

     All children are curious about life, death, heaven and hell. Ian is no different. Several years ago he began to learn about the Holy Ghost. He learned that this particular Spirit can be found in reverent places. Like church. And like most children, he wanted contact. He took it upon himself to find this elusive being, without telling anyone where he was going. After searching the neighborhood for nearly an hour, my husband and children, along with several neighbors, were feeling a bit frazzled. I can't remember who finally found Ian, but I do remember his explanation for disappearing.
     "Ian, what were you doing at the church?"
     "I was looking for the Holy Ghost."
     He continued his unsupervised quest for another year, causing much worry and stress to his family.
     Along with his knowledge of Godliness, he also developed a knowledge of...things not so holy. He learned that just as sure as there was Jesus, there was also a supreme bad guy, aka Satan. Zackary, in a valiant effort to encourage good behavior from his younger brother, would often ask Ian, "Who's team are you on? Jesus' or Satan's?"
     I am happy to report, that with maturity and a few more primary lessons, Ian is now on Jesus' team. He doesn't want to "get arrested, like Satan" or "live down in the sewer." Not sure where the latter came from. It wasn't from me.
     Lately, Ian's new religious fixation is on the second coming of Christ.
     "When all the people are dead, will Jesus come down?"
     "Is Jesus coming to kill the bad guys?"
     "Will I come back to life like Jesus?"
     It's very difficult to explain the finer points of doctrine to a child. It was easier when he just wanted to find the Holy Ghost.
     Last Friday Scott noticed a burned out lightbulb in the family room. He unscrewed it while Ian's eyes followed every movement. The little guy spoke.
     "Jesus is in the lightbulbs."
     Tawni, Scott, and I intstantly looked at him, eyes wide, hands covering the grins on our faces. Tawni asked, "Is He in all the lightbulbs?"
     Scott, mature enough to sense a teaching moment said, "He's the light, isn't He?"
     I was very proud of my little boy. While incredibly humorous, this was evidence that he listens in church. Speaking of which, last Sunday his new primary teachers found me in the hall.
     "Are you Ian's mom?"
     "I am."
     "I'm Brother Fairbanks, his teacher."
     "I'm so sorry," I replied.
     He chuckled and asked, "Is Ian ADHD?"
     I am very grateful to the brave men and women who volunteer their time, talents, and sanity to teach my child. Thank you! There's a mansion of valium waiting for you in heaven.
     Arround the dinner table last night, I announced to my family that we were going to start having family home evenings every week. And that we would take turns with the lessons. These efforts have been hit or miss in the past and Beka let us know how unacceptable this was.
     "I'm the only one in seminary that doesn't have anything to share about family night. It's embarrassing."
     So, to kick off this tremendous achievement, we all went to Frogurt to celebrate. On the way, we listened to the radio. A Depeche Mode song came on and when it ended the D.J. announced, "Personal Jesus, Depeche Mode."
     From the back of the car, Ian screamed the perfect punctuation to our evening.
     "Yeah, Jesus!"

Friday, September 18, 2009

Story Time

     I'm back from the land of the surgically stoned. I survived, in spite of Zack and his dire predictions. And with my head cleared of pain meds, I can resume blogging. Did ya miss me? Never mind. Don't answer that. Let's get this post under way.
     Books are a huge part of my life. As you may have noticed, I added a spot for good books on my blog. I'm always on the lookout for something that can transport me from the mundane world of motherhood into a delicious realm of fantasy--even if it is urban. I love youth fiction. I find that after a hard day, my brain feels like oatmeal that's sat on the kitchen counter for several hours. I bet it looks similar as well. Adult books usually have deep themes and gigantic words, complicated issues my mushy head cannot absorb. But youth fiction--it's just right. Not too hot, not too cold, the perfect temperature and consistency, easily digested.            
     Picture books are every bit as delicious as youth books and I have the good fortune of feasting on them every evening, at bed time. There is nothing better than a comfy chair, a fun story, and a small warm body nestled against mine. My arm is always draped across his shoulders, pulling him deeper into myself. I hold one side of the book, while he holds the other. We turn the pages together. First, we look at the pictures, because they tell the story without any words. We take turns guessing about the plot, wondering if we can figure it out. Then the magic happens. My voice is not my own. It becomes that of a frog who is making a valentine for his mommy. Then it changes again, and I'm a shark trying not to eat my teacher. The metamorphosis continues, night after night, story after story. Ian is part of the magic.
     I don't know how many of you have ever tried snuggling a child that can't hold still. And when I say can't hold still--I mean it. Ian's brain does not ever allow his body to stop moving. Even in his sleep, he bangs his head against the mattress so hard it shakes the bed. As a tiny newborn, he hated being swaddled. He hated being cuddled or held. Bonding was difficult because his body rebelled. But I could see in his eyes that his soul craved it. I started rocking him at night. The back-and-forth motion soothed him, although he still wiggled and struggled to be free. Then I started singing to  him. The motion combined with my voice is how we bonded. I got to hold my boy, and he got to snuggle with his mommy. Night after night his muscles learned to accept this routine and after a year, he didn't wiggle as much.
     Ian is seven now. We celebrated his birthday last week. Our rocking time morphed into story time. His body is growing--so is mine--we will have to change chairs soon. But with him against my side, I smell his hair and feel it fuzzy against my cheek. I listen to his questions about the story which always lead to questions about life, and I answer him the best I can. We talk, we read, we snuggle, we bond. And Ian holds still... almost.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I'm Eleven. I'm Supposed to be Obnoxious.

     It hasn't taken me long to realize that even though I started this blog as an Ian outlet, I can't write soley about one child when I have three more. They are each unique people with quirky habits and humorous faults. Today you get to hear about Zack simply because he is on my brain, and in my face.
     "Hey, Mom?"
     "I bet I can make you say blue."
     I raised my eyebrows, indicating acceptance of the challenge. Zack's face brightened and he began. "What color is my shirt?"
     "What color is the grass?"
     "What color are my shoes?"
     He was ecstatic. "See! I told you I could make you say black!"
     I rolled my eyes and said, "Uh-uh. You said you could make me say blue."
     "HaHaHaHa!"  He was rolling on the floor in triumph. "You fell for it!"
     Indeedy weedy. I fell for an eleven-year-old's joke.
     Zack's humor knows no bounds. He relishes the sarcastic, the put-down, the repetitive, and the gross-out. After multiple offenses in the space of ten minutes, I told him, "You are being obnoxious. Stop it."
     "But I can't stop."
     "Why not?"
     "Because I'm eleven. It's my job to be obnoxious."
     All too true.
     In addition to Zack's amazing sense of humor, he also owns an uncanny ability to remember fine details, directions, injustices, and dates. Too bad it doesn't include his homework. Two weeks into school and he has been unprepared each day except for one. I finally had to ground him last night.
     "I don't know how else to get through to you. Homework is important. How are you going to handle junior high if you can't make it through elementary?"
     "But my friends distract me and then I forget."
     "Who is in charge of your brain? You or your friends?"
     "The alien in my head."
     Nothing is serious to him. He loves being a kid. He loves playing and talking to himself and teasing his siblings, not to mention his mother.
     This coming Friday I have a simple, out-patient, surgical procedure taking place. Even though it's small potatoes, I still worry. Who wouldn't? Zackary, with his great tact and wisdom asked me, with a gleam in his eye, "What if you never wake up? What if--something goes wrong--and you die?"
     He did not ask this out of concern. I could tell because he was laughing, and as my face took on an expression of horror, his voice rose in volume and pitch.
     "What if--you bleed to death!"
     "What?" he laughed.
     "Enough already!"
     He's done this to me every day since Saturday.
     But when the sun goes down and the humor and chaos clear, I feel soft, warm lips on my cheek, and arms that will someday be strong, encircle my waist.
     "What's that for?" I ask.
     "Because I love you."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Spoiled Rotten

     When Ian wakes up in the mornings, I can tell within ten minutes what kind of a day we are going to have. He's either "on" or he's "on one."  Saturday was the latter. My eleven-year-old, Zackary, saved his mowing money and went to the store, bright and early, to buy a remote control helicopter. Upon his arrival at home, the pestering began.
     "Ack? You wet me use it? Pwease?"
     "No, Ian. I bought this with my own money. It's special."
     "No, Ian."
     "You are mean!"
     It was just the beginning. During chore time, while Ian was washing door knobs and Zack was dusting, I heard, "Meanie, Zack! Big fat meanie! Meanie poo-poo!"
     "Ian, you need to talk nice to Zack. No name calling."
     "But he won't share!"
     "He doesn't have to," I explained. "It's his special toy. You have special toys. Zack has special toys. It's okay for him not to share."
     To Ian, who is used to ruling the roost, this was intolerable. He was incapable of wrapping his brain around this kind of restriction. His behavior escalated with his frustration. The verbal taunts turned into outright bullying. Deliberate acts of terrorism and mind control landed the little prince in a time out. Biting his mother did not help his case.
     Scott and I were planning on taking the boat to Jordanelle that afternoon and we were taking the boys with us. I hoped, with the distraction of fishing, Ian would forget about the forbidden helicopter. We got in  the car and buckled up. Unfortunately, we stopped for gas. While Scott filled the boat and car, Ian took his cast to Zack's head. It's like getting hit with a rock. To Zack's credit, he didn't retaliate or even cry, although I'm sure he wanted to. I banished Ian to the back seat by himself. As we entered the highway, I realized I couldn't see Ian's head. He slid so far down in his seat that his seatbelt was around his neck. He didn't care. All he cared about was being able to reach Zack with his feet so that he could kick him. I moved Zack to the front, between me and Scott. By now the whole thing was feeling almost comic to me. I glanced back in time to see Ian slither over the seat and buckle himself right behind Zack... again. The kicking resumed. I put my arm behind Zack to protect him, while Scott decided to jump in with a distraction.
     "Hey, Ian? How 'bout if I sell Zack for you?"
     "Do it now!" shouted the determined demon.
     "I can't do it now. I'm driving. I'll put an add in the paper when I get home."
     Scott continued, "How much can we get for Zack?"
     "Two dollars!"
     "That's it?" cried, Zack.
     I jumped in. "I think we could get two hundred thousand for Zack."
     Zack looked at me in gratitude and smiled. He was enjoying this little game.
     "Sell him, sell him!" cried Ian.
     Zack turned around and looked at his little brother with a wicked grin. "You can sell me. But I'm taking all my stuff with me."
     I'd like to say that the fight ended there. We played musical chairs once again, this time with Ian wedged between me and Scott. That proved to be the best seating arrangement. Why it took so long to figure out I do not know. Mental fatigue I guess. Once at the reservoir, we enjoyed a reprieve of approximately two hours, until rain drove us from the lake. But Ian is like an elephant. He never forgets. We'd just turned onto highway 40, heading towards Heber, when a small voice spoke from the back.
     "Ack? I pway with yours hewicopter?"

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Roamer

     In every neighborhood there is a child. A child that is shoeless, unsupervised, and dirty. A child that rides around on a bicycle without a helmet, playing russian roulette with traffic, and making people wonder if they should call child protective services.
     I am the mother of such a child.
     When Ian was two, he became an escape artist, rivaling Houdini. One night, I awoke out of a sound slumber with the dreadful feeling of something being wrong. I immediately checked on my children. Ian was not in his bed. Nor was he in the house. I found him in the backyard, barefoot, ankle deep in snow and perfectly happy. It became necessary to install his doorknob backwards so that I could lock him in his room at night to prevent these occurences. My husband installed latches at the tops of all the doors in an effort to slow down the rate of escape. We did everything we could short of barbed wire and electric fences.
     These efforts are no longer effective. Locks can be picked or broken, windows opened, screens shredded, and tired parents manipulated. What Ian wants, Ian gets. And he wants to be free. He hates boundaries, those invisible fences that prevent him from achieving true joy. He also doesn't understand the reasons behind the fences. His brain doesn't function on the same wavelength of other children his age. I can reason with him and have a good heart to heart, where he nods in agreement but never makes eye contact. And three minutes later, my wise words forgotten, I will see him screaming away on his bike, helmetless, down the middle of the road.
     Yesterday, after school, Ian wanted to play with Aiden. "I can ride my bike?"
     "Honey, you lost your helmet. I can't let you ride your bike. It wouldn't be safe. But how about if I give you a ride?"
     "I'll go get my keys. Just hold on a sec."
     It took about four seconds to get my keys. I walked back into the garage and... No Ian. I ran out to the driveway in time to see him pedaling for all he was worth down the sidewalk. At least he wasn't in the street. I hollered to him, "You are making a bad choice!" He turned his head, so I knew he heard me, and pedaled faster. I jumped in the car and sped after him. He got to Aiden's, dropped his bike and made a dash into the open garage. I pulled into the driveway just as he was trying to let himself in. He wasn't even taking time to knock. He didn't make it. I might be nearing forty and overweight, but I can move fast if I need to. I carried him to the car telling him, in a calm but assertive tone, that I was so sorry he made this bad choice, because now he wasn't going to play at all. For the next hour his screams were heard across the state and all of Utah knew I was a "poopyhead." It was a long afternoon.
     I live in a wonderful neighborhood where Ian is blessed with many guardian angels.
     "Polly, I thought you'd want to know that Ian is riding his bike in the middle of Edenbrook and someone almost hit him."
     "Polly, Ian is on his way to the high school."
     "Polly, I just saw Ian on his bike and he doesn't have any pants on."
     Well, it's his wiener.
     Last week, during a search and rescue, I found my little boy at Heather Weichers house. Rebeka babysits for Heather frequently, but Ian has never been there. The poor woman came out to the car and said, "Oh, I was wondering who he belonged to. You're his mom."
     "He showed up at my door and asked if he could have a snack."
     For all you mom's out there, I do not need to explain my embarrassment.
     At church last Sunday, Wendy Reeder approached me laughing, "I need to tell you something funny."
     "Ian and Brad showed up at my house the other day and Ian said, 'We need to play here. There's construction at my house.'"
     Again, embarrassed. I did explain to Wendy what the construction was. It was Ian and his friends, scattering Scott's tools all over the backyard and wrapping the trees, bushes, and playground in yellow twine.
     I don't willingly let my child be the neighborhood hobo. So if you see him wandering, cruising without a helmet, or begging food, please know that his mother is not aware but will be along shortly to find him, unless of course I've managed to escape.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Humping Biting Pooping Wonder

     Yesterday morning, after hitting the snooze button multiple times, I rolled out of bed, stretched, and shoved my feet into my flip flops. Time for junior high carpool. I ran a brush through my hair and scrubbed my teeth. As I was exiting the bathroom I happened to glance down and realized I wasn't wearing any pants, not even the pajama kind. Well that just will not fly in a car full of teenagers. Later that morning I picked up the cordless phone to make a call and for the life of me, could not figure out how I was supposed to text on this monstrous, foreign-looking object. Duh.
     There was a reason for my dementia. It's called grief.
     I couldn't write about this on the first day of my blog because it was too close to the surface. It's still painful but I'll grit my teeth and muster my courage and give it a shot.
     Black Jack.
     No, not the game, my dog. My wonderful, dorky, pubic-haired Schnoodle. Sunday was his last day with us. About ten o'clock that night he went to his new home. I'd like to say I handled it well, crying just enough to look beautiful in my sorrow, but I'm a terrible liar. The entire hour prior to his departure, I cradled him in my arms while sobbing into his curls. He licked the salty tears and snot off my face, enjoying the treat, not understanding one whit what was about to take place. That made me bawl even harder. By the time his new owner arrived, I was a blubbering, red-faced, swollen, snotty mess. I couldn't pull myself together. It didn't matter that his new owner was my best friend who just lived down the street, all I knew was that my feet were going to freeze at night without my fur blanket to keep them warm.
     Black Jack's leaving was a long time in coming. I knew back in May that he would have to go. On May twelfth--Mother's Day--Ian was hospitalized for a massive asthma attack. Following this trauma, I took Ian to see his asthma/allergy doc.
     "Do you still have the dog?" the doctor asked.
     "Yes," I admitted sheepishly. "But this one is hypoallergenic and Ian seems to be fine..."
     Dr. Gourley was shaking his head. "He's not fine. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog to an asthmatic."
     I love dogs. I grew up with them. Poodles, Huskies, Collies, mutts and strays. Love them, love them, love them. My first dog after I got married was Tank. He was a Pomeranian who worshipped my husband and pretty much hated everyone else. After his demise Scott surprised me with a beautiful American Bulldog. Tinkerbell. Every so often in life an animal comes along that is different than other animals. There is something special and unique that draws you to this creature. Tinkerbell was such a dog. She had a magnetic soul. She was only with us for two months. Ian's allergies were so bad around her that he would break out in hives all over his body. When she left us I layed in bed for three days, unable and unwilling to function. After my three days of mourning I refused to wear anything but black for the entire week. I am going to admit something now that I am not proud of. It's something I have a lot of guilt about.
     I resented and blamed Ian for my loss. He was the reason for my sorrow. If it weren't for him, my precious dog could have stayed. How shallow is that? When I realized that Black Jack would have to go, I told myself it would be different this time. Ian didn't ask for asthma or allergies. It's not his fault. He loves dogs every bit as much as I do. What it is is one of life's injustices. It just happened. The night Black Jack left I knew it was time to stop looking at my losses and start counting my blessings instead. I have many blessings. The best ones are my children. Tawni, Rebeka, Zackary, and  Ian. No pet is better than them. So with eyes that tear up occasionally--but remain clear--I am choosing to look for the good, and I'm finding it. Although my feet are cold.