Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Call

See this?

This little one-minute event sort of hijacked my week. As you can imagine. This is the moment we learned that this October, Roscoe will leave for a twenty-four month mission to Neuquen, Argentina.

We expected the envelope on Wednesday, but the mailbox held only bills and ads. So I spent that day feeling alternately pumped up and deflated. Then on Thursday I felt irrationally hopeless until I padded outside and found this in the mailbox:

I then spent the day in a useless adrenaline rush that made it harder to stage snacks for a crowd, shuffle the kids to a soccer game, and generally, you know, function. Eight o'clock was the appointed hour for Roscoe's school and church friends to witness The Opening of the Envelope. What you can't see in the video above is the crowd of thirty well-wishers crammed into our kitchen.

So then I spent Friday--still unproductive--awash in Emotions. I phoned Mark's ninety-seven-year-old grandma to tell her the happy news and wept to think of the generations of love and faithfulness that brought us to this moment. My normal absorption with meals, housekeeping, discipline, carpools was eclipsed for the day by a clearer vision of our family's larger purpose in living and sharing the gospel. Roscoe's mission has been a blessing for our family already. And I expect it'll go on.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Taking the Plunge

Yesterday I got a Ritalin-type prescription for Jesse for ADHD. I had reached the conclusion a while ago that this was the right course, but I was surprised as I walked out of the doctor's office by the wave of sadness I felt.  I guess I have always felt that one of my strengths as a mother is to understand and champion my children for who they are. And most of them are quirky and strong-willed. For Jesse especially, I have worked hard over the years to reach him on his level, to love everything that is good and wonderful about his manic little self, and to guide and teach him at his own pace. So I guess taking that prescription felt a little like a betrayal, like pathologizing him instead of embracing him.

On the other hand, this is so, so the right choice. The boy is seven years old and still operates on many levels like a four-year-old. He is finishing his second year of kindergarten and the prospect of a full-day of first grade next year is just a no-go. And I'm so, so tired of managing his behavior on a minute-by-minute level. It's time for him to learn a bit of self-control.

And--this is the most compelling part--he wants to learn those things. He has reached the point where he can see what he should be able to do--focus enough to finish a task, manage his emotions, control his impulses--and he wants to do those things, but he can't. You can see him struggle, try, fail, and feel disappointed.

Case in point: I hadn't said anything to Jesse about medication or ADHD or the purpose of our doctor's visit, but at one point when the doctor was out of the room, Jesse told me that he had had to stay in from recess today because he hadn't finished his math work, and that in fact he missed one of the stories too.  (Don't get me started on staying in from recess as a consequence for a boy who has excess energy.) His tone was sad but resigned. I said, "You know, the doctor wants to give you a medicine that will help you stay on task." His face lit up, "Really??" When we got home, he told Haley, "I'm getting a new medicine to help me stay on task!"

I feel like if the boy is that ebullient about the prospect of help, then it must be right.


More deets for those of you curious or who may be struggling with a similar decision:

~ The way it worked was I got an official bubble questionnaire from the doctor. I filled out one and so did Jesse's teachers. We scored his focus, attitude, etc. The doctor reviewed those questionnaires and said, "Looks like he's definitely in the range for the hyperactivity-type ADHD."

~ She gave me a low-dose prescription, but I guess it's all very trial-and-error. We go back every month to assess until we feel like we've hit the magic combination of medicine and dosage.

~ The medication is a "controlled substance" so filling the prescription is going to be a logistical hassle. Doctor can't call it in, can only give one month at a time, can't re-write if I lose the prescription, etc.

~ You administer the medicine in the morning and it lasts about 10 hours. Enough to get through the day but leave him unmedicated enough to eat a good dinner and be able to get to sleep at night. Apparently it'll totally kill his appetite, so the idea is to make sure he gets a good breakfast before it kicks in and dinner as it wanes and not worry too much about lunch.

~ The doctor said her view is to use the medication as a temporary crutch until the child can mature and learn their own coping skills and work-arounds. Which I love. That's totally my view. Jess just needs a leg-up to make the transition  into first grade. Eight-year-olds suddenly develop such a greater degree of maturity, problem-solving skills, executive functioning, etc. I said, "It seems like once he has experienced being on task and in control, then he'll be able to figure out how to maintain it better on his own." The doctor said that's exactly what  happens. So yay for a doctor who's not advocating for a lifetime of medication. She kept saying, "Let's just keep him on it all the way through first grade."

~ We're starting the medicine now and will continue it over the summer even though many people leave their kids unmedicated when school is out. My thinking is let's get everything totally figured out and running smoothly so he's ready to rock on the first day of first grade.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Twenty-Five Months

I marked it on the calendar, the day came and went, but I still didn't know how to feel about it. According to my calculations, on April 22 Betsy reached exactly the age Haley was when she first arrived on our doorstep.

Watching Betsy advance happily through her sweet baby months has made me grieve all the more for what I have missed with Haley. Mathematically speaking, those twenty-five months aren't much. But they feel like a lot.
About 3 weeks after Haley arrived. 
I always feel that I am still literally one being with an infant, that their birth only widens the gap between our hearts and bodies a bit . And now, even though Betsy is a very independent little lady, she and I are still so closely attuned. I can understand almost every word she lisps, every reference she makes. When Betsy says, "Guck sneak up," Mark raises his eyebrows. But I can tell him, "She's telling you about how a duck walked across our front lawn and she wanted to sneak up on it." I know when she's getting frazzled, when she's hungry, when to distract her, when to reason with her, and when to just hold her for a while.

Her life has had so much consistency. She has slept almost every afternoon and every night in the same crib, with the same blankets, snuggled in by the same people, usually at the same times of day. She is surrounded every day by the same adoring cadre. She spoons oatmeal into her mouth almost every morning. I have watched over her for almost every hour of her life. And the hours she's spent away from any member of our immediate family number just a few handfuls.

No one person knows the full story of Haley's first twenty-five months. She lived with her parents, then her aunt, then her birth mother, then a shelter home, then the hospital, then with us. I don't know how many different places she lived in; she and her mother bounced from one shelter to the next. I know she was often left in bed with a bottle. I know she was loved by her birth mother and aunt. I know she didn't receive food at regular, trustworthy intervals. We assume she saw violence. I believe she was alternately coddled and neglected.

To me, it's so easy those first two years of a baby's life to give them love, consistency, attention, care, nurturing. But for Haley's well-meaning, loving birth mother, those things turned out to be impossible. We've been working to fill the holes ever since.

So now, when I lay Betsy in her crib and snuggle her into her favorite blanket, I often think of Haley. I wish that the love I'm here to give Betsy now could somehow feed Haley. I pray, "Make  it as if I had done this for Haley."