Month: March 2013

Ignoring the things I ought to do

I slept late on purpose. Then I went forward through the day without once consulting my list of things to do. I accomplished one thing, which was attending a church broadcast with my two daughters. We attended by curling up on the couch in my office and watching over the internet. All the rest of the day I did nothing productive. I feel better after the end of this day than I have for most of the week. I am now able to picture how I can enjoy having things to do. Vacation next week may restore me to normal. My mind will become quiet enough that I can use it to write words.

I spent some time today talking on the phone with a friend. She helped me sort my thoughts, which was good, because things had gotten so tangled that I couldn’t begin to write–my preferred brain sorting method. One of the things we talked about was the slipperiness of the human mind and its ability to believe contrary things simultaneously. Mine in particular seems to be pinging back and forth between believing that things are dire and that I’m just imagining all the crisis. I also feel guilty. The guilt is attractive because if I caused the problem, then I can fix it. At the same time I know it is not really mine to fix, nor am I at fault. Humans are social animals. We’re always looking around at others to see what is normal and adjust our behavior. This is not a great strategy when we’re struggling with hard emotions, because one of two things will happen. Either we’ll see someone worse off who is handling things better, and feel like we’re over reacting. Or we’ll see someone who is better off and complaining more and feel justified. When it comes to pain, we feel what we feel, whether or not those feels are proportional to the event.

The best gift today has given me is the ability to see the good things from the past week. Even some of the hard things were good, or will be good eventually. Some of the not-so-hard ones are: This week Kiki got to try on the amazing prom dress she gets to borrow. Patch’s teacher came up to me and told me that the troubles he was having at school have evaporated almost completely. Link decided to spend time teaching Patch how to play a video game so that the two of them can play together. Howard accomplished all of his work so he feels relaxed enough for vacation. Gleek rediscovered playing in the back yard with her friends. The weather was lovely. We’ve collected most of the Kickstarter pledge information so I’ll be able to ship. Howard was nominated for Hugo awards again this year. A couple of letters came in the mail. Several letters came via email. I have pieces of multiple blog posts which will be very worthwhile when I have time to properly assemble them. I got to go with Patch to meet his teacher for next year. I got to go see Patch’s wax museum event where he dressed up and danced a Virginia reel with a girl in his class.

This week was full of good things. Resting today let me see them again.

Hard Things, Anxiety, Schools, and Hope

Sometimes, in the middle of a hard thing, all I can do is remember that I once believed it was possible and keep going.

I tweeted those words yesterday, because yesterday and Monday I could not feel hope. I could logically think through the steps we’re going to take in the next few weeks; the meeting with school staff to establish structures for Gleek, the psychological evaluation report meeting on Friday, the round of therapy that will begin soon after, the probability of medication. I could see all the steps. I knew that they would help, but I had run out of hope. The answer was to keep going, following the logical steps until things get better. So that is what I did.

Today I don’t exactly feel full of hope, but I’m not so wrung and numb as I was. I’m cautious of hope right now because I had so much of it a week ago just before it became apparent that even my stepped up parenting game was not going to bring Gleek’s anxiety under control. I hoped so hard that the extra efforts would work. Instead things got more difficult, which led to an emergency meeting and Gleek taking a two day break from school.

Sometimes a crisis can be a good thing if it serves as an impetus for a course correction. The two days gave me time to emotionally process. They gave Gleek a chance to realize that she really does want to be in school. On Monday I had no clue what could be done. Today I have a new plan to share at the meeting tomorrow morning. More important, I see clearly how very fortunate we are in her current school placement. I’ve had four different teachers tell me that if Gleek needs a quiet space she can come to their classroom. The office staff greets her by name. Any time one of her classmates saw me (more than one classmate, at least four times) they’d say “Tell Gleek we miss her.” The school hosts three classes for autistic children and one for kids with behavioral issues; the staff knows how to manage a child who has curled into a non-responsive ball. The students consider that sort of thing pretty normal. We are so very lucky to not be fighting misunderstanding and hostility while facing down anxiety.

The reasons for hope are many. I’m pretty sure we’ll get there. If I have one complaint it is the fact that we had a month long wait to see the psychiatrist while having to manage crises which could have been avoided if we’d already seen him. Right now we’re in a patch and hold pattern. Howard is holding down the fort on the business front and catching many of the household tasks that I’ve abandoned. The other kids needs have not declined and we’re working hard as parents to keep meeting those needs. Everything else I’ve pared back to minimum so that I have enough flexibility of schedule to drop what I am doing and go spend an hour at Gleek’s school as needed.

I found myself about to write that I hope we’ll stabilize before the challenge coin shipping hits, so I guess I do have some hope. I also hope that this hope will not be completely smashed like the last round. That counts as a meta-hope. Knowing that I have hope is both relieving and frightening. I need to stop thinking about it right now. I know the plan for tonight and tomorrow; that’s all I need for now.

One foot in front of the other until we’ve arrived someplace else.

Meeting at the School

It is never fun to have an hour long meeting including the principal, two teachers, and the school psychologist when the subject of the meeting is “How do we help your child cope with school in a way that does not place a huge burden on already overburdened school staff.” Short term interventions are still to be devised. Long term plans (already in process) include meetings with psychiatric professionals and weekly therapy for awhile. At some point I may outline some of these interventions because the shape of them might be useful to others. Right now it all feels a bit raw and I’m tired of crying.

Not fun at all. Just in case you were wondering.

Willpower is a limited resource

I’ve been extremely focused in the past few weeks. I have appointments to keep, assignments to get done, and deadlines to make. In addition I’ve been deliberately shifting some of my parenting tactics to meet the shifted needs of my kids. All of this requires my attention and energy. I run out of both long before I run out of things that require them. This is the reason that I’ve been culling all the non-essentials out of my schedule. I have enough hours for them, but I must conserve my energy against a surprise draw. Conflicts show up without consulting me to find out when it might be convenient.

The good news is that the term finally ended last Friday. We are done with the last scramble to get things turned in. Patch has a big report due next week, but then we’ll have Spring Break, a whole week with no new school things to track or react to. It will be a good thing, especially considering I tend to land on the shores of Saturday gasping for breath and needing the extra space. After the break I think things will be better. We’ll all be rested and ready to tackle the seven weeks to the end of the school year. Or so I hope.

Things feel pretty good right now. I’ve had a nice slow Saturday during which I got some things done and not others. I still have Sunday ahead of me before I plunge into Monday. Hopefully I can stock up enough rest and willpower to last me through next week.

Thoughts on the Kickstarter Close

Howard’s challenge coin Kickstarter made far more money than we ever expected. In the next month we need to pay to have 14 different coins printed and we’re likely printing at least 1000 of each type of coin. This is a crazy quantity. As soon as we have coins in hand, I’ll be shipping out over 2598 packages. We’ve already got some people signed up to help, but I’ve only begun to figure out what the process looks like. At least my test shipping supplies arrived today. I can begin to figure out the best methods to pack coins into packages. Then I have to figure out how to stage the work, how to schedule the work, etc.

There is also the accounting. I don’t know yet how much of that money has to go to coin printing, to shipping supplies, and to postage. I know it will be enough to fund the printing of Body Politic and the almost overdue reprint of Tub of Happiness. I am not going to have to carefully pinch pennies and chew my nails to make sure we can fund book printing. This is a huge gift. Beyond that, I don’t know. I don’t know what future complications will come. By June it will have all settled out, just in time for summer conventions.

For tonight Howard and I will just look at the huge expression of trust and enthusiasm that we’ve been given. It is amazing and humbling.

Things I need to tell myself while facing diagnosis for a child

First: Realize that you have a battle to fight with denial. You really want to be imagining things. Any time things are normal for a while, you will doubt the diagnosis, doubt the need to seek treatment, decide to just let it all slide for a bit.

Second: You will grieve when you finally hear a doctor confirm what you already knew, but wanted to pretend wasn’t so. It feels more real when said by someone else. Then all the denial washes away and you have to know that your child will struggle with this, perhaps all her life. And it isn’t fair. It isn’t what you wanted for your child, but it is now fact.

Third: You will react to any behavior from any of your other children which mirrors the disordered behavior. Watch that.

Fourth: Diagnosis is a tool, a lever you can use to shape the public school system into something that will work for your child. Make sure it stays your tool rather than being used against her.

Fifth: It is going to be okay. Really it is. Remember the inspirations you’ve had. It’ll probably all settle down before summer.

Sixth: Don’t get so absorbed in the difficult things that you forget to see the wholeness in your child. Consciously think of the strengths she already has that will carry her through.

Afternoon Parenting Battles

First there was the battle of the Mythology assignment. Link gave me many reasons for why he didn’t need to do it: talking about Greek gods made him uncomfortable, the deadline was today, he’d already done enough work to rescue his grade from an F. I listened to his reasons and recognized them as “Do Not Want,” so we focused on the other assignment first. Also due today. I sat next to him as he wrote two paragraphs about faith in humanity and the holocaust while the history teacher sat at his desk, patiently staying late so Link could turn in the assignments before the deadline. We tackled the Mythology assignment too, and completed it.

Link was not done with homework. He still had some computer homework and an essay, both of which must be completed before the end of the term on Friday. Once home, we had a lively discussion about how and when we would tackle these projects. I favored “let’s just get it done” and Link favored “I’ll do it tomorrow.” We found a compromise. I call victory because, while the negotiations were tiring, they never became hostile. Link never tried to make me into the bad guy and he could see that I was applying pressure to help him. Conflict without acrimony, definitely a win.

Link was not the only one with homework, Patch had a small pile of his own. The moment I mentioned it he began bouncing around the room like a hyper squirrel. Again and again I brought him back to the task at hand, refusing to let him get distracted by the many things which were suddenly fascinating. Eventually I held him still, stared into his eyes, and pointed out what he was doing. There followed falling on the floor and moaning because all of the work was impossible. It wasn’t. He knew it wasn’t. I pointed out that he knew it wasn’t. Then I gave him a little mini-lecture on the value of being able to tell when something feels impossible, but is actually easy to accomplish. He didn’t get it. Instead of facing his stresses he keeps using humor to deflect them. Humor is a great coping strategy, but he needs to learn how to wield it in a way that does not frustrate people trying to help him. Thirty minutes later the ten minute long project was done.

Then it was time to detach Gleek from the computer to begin bedtime. Any time I have to redirect her I get “one sec” or “I need to do one more thing.” Left unchecked, Gleek will one more thing herself through two hours of continued play. I don’t want an angry argument. I would really love for us to move smoothly through the familiar steps of bedtime. But once I got her off the computer, she had snack and began reading a book. Then comes the struggle of getting her to put down the book to brush teeth and go to bed.

None of the afternoon battles were big arguments. I stayed calm and treated each one as a teaching moment. They were chances for my kids to learn self-management and for me to practice patience. I’m grateful I had the emotional reserves to stay in the teaching zone. Though I think I’ve earned my fatigue this evening.

There are signs that the lessons are beginning to stick. After I came upstairs from wrangling Gleek off the computer, Patch said “Is parenting hard sometimes?” I answered that yes it was. Patch nodded.

End of term is Friday. Patch has caught up on his overdue work and now we only have regular work to do. Gleek is having a light homework week because of field trips. We’re finding our way through.

Some Days I Get to be Professional

This morning I put on my professional person hat for the first time in about two weeks. I’ve been swimming in parenting during that time, but things have finally stabilized. (I hope.) The next round of focused parenting begins with a doctor’s appointment on Friday, so I have a window of opportunity to get some work done. I began with layout for The Body Politic. The cover is mostly done and I’m beginning to tweak the pages.

I also looked at my calendar and realized that Writing for Charity is coming up in just over a month. This is a great event where you can pay to attend classes and get manuscript critiques. All of the proceeds from the event go to charity. I will be helping teach two classes in the morning, but my attendance in the afternoon will be spotty due to some family obligations. (Of course there are conflicts. This is the year when every single event has a conflict and forces me to choose.)

Just two weeks past that is The LDS Storymakers conference. Word has it that the conference is almost sold out. I will be present all day both days of the conference.

My professional brain has re-emerged. I have hopes that my writer brain will soon come out of hiding as well. At some point I need to get back to writing fiction.

Stepping Up My Parenting Game

Life comes in cycles of wax and wane, ebb and flow. I take the same approach to parenting. Sometimes I’m sticking close to my kids, helping them with homework, actively teaching, enforcing chores, etc. Other times I’m much more hands-off, allowing them to struggle and fail a little so that they can grow by learning independence. I thought I was in a median stage of the cycle where I was somewhat involved but also allowing space for growth. Then, in the space of four weeks, three of my children demonstrated clearly that they need me to hang close for awhile. They need me to be actively monitoring homework, affirming their worth, helping them be responsible. So I had to shift gears and rearrange my task load.

Link was first in this cascade. He needed to have several important conversations with me and with Howard. Then he needed me to require him to do some English assignments that he was trying to ignore out of existence. Ignoring work is not good for him, he knows he should not do it. He feels bad about doing it because he can see failure in it. Yet sometimes he doesn’t see how to just sit down and do the work. I have to corner him, require him to face the work, and then suddenly it gets done. This time around part of the process has been talking to Link about the process. I’m showing him the tools I am using because someday I’ll turn these tools over to him. We’re pretty close really. He is getting more mature every day. But he’s not there yet. The transition to high school will open up a new social world for him and I know there are even more conversations coming. Right now for Link I’m tracking his school work through this last week of the term to make sure he gets things turned in. Then I can back off on homework for awhile. I’ll need to stay on alert for when Link needs to talk.

The second child to need help was Gleek. Her needs manifested about two and half weeks ago. It is going to take a while to completely sort because consultations with behavioral professionals are necessary to help me sort out her anxiety. We’ve assembled a stop-gap system to try to keep things at manageable levels for Gleek and her teacher. I’m paying close attention to make sure she eats healthy meals. I’m tracking to make sure she gets daily exercise. I’m also tracking all of her homework to make sure that she is ahead of schedule rather than feeling like she has to scramble to catch up. All of these things help her to be reassured and reduce her ambient levels of anxiety. She still spikes into upsets, but not as often and not as far. All of this is still settling and has not yet become routine. I’m still actively observing to figure out what needs changed, how things could be changed, if there are better options. I’m also noting how changes affect the shape of her struggles, because that information will be useful when we have appointments with the doctors. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe I’m just running around so that I can feel like I have some measure of control. I don’t think so. I think my steps are logical. Either way, I’m watching, thinking, observing, and hovering closer than I have for the past few months.

Last week Patch came to my attention. Sorting his emotions about life changes is a beginning, but I can see that there is more to do. He needs me to teach him how to identify his emotions and acknowledge the not-happy ones. He needs to feel in control of his life or to accept that some things are out of our control and we can be happy anyway. He needs me to track his homework and help him stay ahead of it because being unprepared is a huge emotional blow to him. So his teacher and I are writing notes in his planner. I’m sitting with him to enforce homework. And his bedtime has become a sacrosanct time except for the direst emergencies. He needs that quiet snuggly time to talk about the things in his head.

Through all of this both Gleek and Patch’s teachers keep saying things like “This is a pretty intense program.” It is all I can do not to laugh. The quantity of work to track for these two kids is minimal. Compared to the quantity of things I track daily across four kids and a business, it is nothing. However I can see how it would feel a bit much for Gleek and Patch when they’ve got other emotional things going on. So I’ll track for them, probably to the end of this school year. Of course by “track for them” I mean that I’ll require them to sit down with me and their homework planners every day. I’m using this time to actively teach them how to track work, and mostly that amounts to making sure everything gets written down. Because brains can’t hold everything.

I suppose I should count my blessings that Kiki doesn’t have any particular emotional or educational needs right now. She is sailing through very responsibly toward the end of her senior year. However I fully expect there to be emotional waves in the weeks to come, because the end of high school is a big life shift.

I’m hoping that this is the week when I can settle in and let the parenting shifts start to feel routine. That would be nice.

Rest and Replanning

Howard sent me home from church early. “Go sleep,” he said over my protests of a post-church meeting. He informed the other committee members that I would not be there and that I would be unavailable for any committee work until May. I came home and slept as ordered. Ninety minutes later Howard woke me up to eat food, after which I slept for another three hours. This is a measure for how sleep deprived and worn out I’ve gotten over the past couple of weeks. I was on duty every minute of every waking hour either managing something, planning to manage something, or preparing so that managing would be easier the next time around. In order to help Gleek and Patch I’ve had to seriously step up my parenting game. Other things have to go. I can’t do it all. I will break.

Excusing me from committee work is part of that effort. Howard did it for one committee. I emailed for the other. I’m pulling in on the internet as well, reading less, visiting fewer places, conserving my energy for things that matter. All of this reconsidering led me to rearrange my plans for
Strength of Wild Horses. I’ll still be running a Kickstarter for that project, but Angela and I will do the art creation and book layout first. When we’re all ready to go, then we’ll run a Kickstarter to fund the printing costs. Once I made the decision it seemed obvious to me that this is a much lower stress way to arrange the project. I wish I’d seen it two months ago.

Having removed some things from my schedule, I also have to add something: exercise. It got lost somewhere and I need to put it back.

The last two weeks required lots of emotional energy. I’m hoping this week can be more calm.