Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I think I am going to dub this summer.......

The summer of loss.

I just heard today that one of my English cousins passed away.  I have known her for over 35 years, having first met her in the late 70's when my mother, father and I made a visit to the UK and Scotland.  I thought she was a very hip woman, she dressed very stylish and was fun, although her sister in law, the quieter, deaf woman, was more my speed and I tended to latch on to women who I could bond with.  Years later it would prove she was a bit of a manipulative cousin and I would prefer and adore, the more fun loving cousin.

The next trip I made to the UK was with a high school friend and my father, who was British and born in the UK, but emigrated to the US, was living there after he and my mother split up.  My high school friend and I went to stay a month in the UK with my father and spent a lot of time with my cousins. 

When I graduated from high school I decided I wasn't sure college was my cup of tea and I had the traveling bug firmly planted, and I decided to spend 6 mos in the UK with my cousins.  Since my last visit, my cousins had lost their beautiful daughter and my cousin's husband.  So it was just my cousin M and her son J.  J was off working in a hotel so it was just M and I in the country.  She thought and often remarked years later how she felt I was going to be bored in the country.  I was not.  There was a whole host of friends, family, locals, etc., that kept me well entertained.  In fact I had a young flirtation with the produce, or greengrocer, as he was called.  Enough so, that when my cousin J made a trip to the UK, he asked about me, many years later.........blush............ ;-)  I enjoyed my 6 mos and didn't want to come home.  I had an interview with the highest nanny college in the UK, Norland, and I was set to go a year later.  However, in between that time, I decided not to go as I had my first love, and a year makes a difference in a young woman's life.  My dad never forgave me for it as he felt I should have the experience.

Over the years I visited many times with my cousins and friends in England.  I met on my six months stay there, cousins of M and J, friends, etc.  I felt at home and loved each and every one of them.  My father and brother visited during my 6 mos stay there, and my brother married an English woman and lived in the UK.  It was nice to visit my cousins, they never judged me, we had great laughs and adventures and I really enjoyed visiting.  I had another chance to work as a nanny in the north end of London, but I believe I was only going to get $40 a week as the couple's children (met them through friends of friends) only needed a nanny after school hours, etc. so I would have the days to myself.  At that point I was not sure I wanted to have to try and find another job in London on my own, and I wasn't sure I wanted to leave, so I didn't choose to take the job.  I guess I just wasn't sure I was meant to live in the UK and I felt that leaving my mother was also not an option.  I think my poor father was disappointed in me, as my brother ran off and had his adventures and my dad was at sea a lot on ships.  My mother had lived in Guam and Japan so I came from a family who traveled and lived in other parts of the world. I did, I lived in the UK for 6 mos, but if you compared who had lived where, I fell way behind.

I sort of lost touch with my English cousins when I did decide to move to Northern California (which was a step in moving somewhere else, however, I'm still here so I didn't move for a few years and then leave, which my family apparently did a lot).  I got married to Dave and we started a life, they moved to Spain and settled into their house, had their German Shepard doggies and lived their lives.  I did keep in touch by cards and letters, occassionally and then email when they got a computer.  Sometimes phone calls, but the phone was very expensive.  Recently after my brother died we began to establish phone contact again and I made occassional calls to Spain and they called when my brother died and we spoke again briefly when my mother died in May. I meant to call again, but I didn't because the girls were home and they NEVER allow me to talk to anyone on the phone EVER.  So my plan was to call when they went back to school.

On the day they went back to school my cousin M had her first stroke.  At first we were assured it was mild and she would recover.  However, M had traveled (at 87) to the UK for her last trip in June and had seen the UK doctors and then was told to come back in Oct for a follow up, which she was planning.  My cousin J her son, emailed as best he could and kept me posted on her condition.  He said she was doing well, but it would be a long road.  Then on Monday I saw on FB that J's ex girlfriend, R, had posted that she would miss M and about how people come into your lives, etc. I started to feel a rush of sadness and panic, had M passed away???  I tried to get R to post it but she wouldn't so I finally had to send her a private msg where she confirmed it.  I then called J and spoke to him at length yesterday.  M had a massive stroke on Wed and Thurs, had some brain damage and passed away on Friday.

I feel lost, yet once again.  When my mother passed my English cousins assured me there were there for me and always would be and that I was not alone.  I felt comforted and tried to figure out if there was any way I could make a trip to Spain to see them.  I had hope we could meet up and see each other.  I yearned for a hug and a nice chat with M.

Life does go on and I know that M would not have wanted to live in a wheelchair and not be the active person she was.  She overcame a lot in her life, losing her daughter to a freakish horseriding accident, then her husband to cancer not long after that.  She lost friends and her two closest cousins, H and B.  She still had a great life, traveled to the UK and to FL, and with one of her closest friends, Z, took trips to different places.  I'm glad she isn't suffering anymore, but I'm at a loss to explain her passing so soon after my mother's passing.  I am feeling some sadness for J, as he spent the better part of his life caring for and living with his mother.  I hope he can find some peace (he seems to, but grief is funny that way, you are so busy attending to details in the beginning that it just sort of hits you like a ton of bricks one day and that's it, you are in the stages, till you get to acceptance).

I have fond memories of my cousin, and she was a lifeboat at a time in my life when I was feeling lost and tired, tired from my parents' divorce and being an anchor for my mother at various times in her life till she had grieved the loss of her 23 yr marriage and moved on.  Life became better, but England and my cousins, and their friends and family, became a refuge/cocoon for me during a time I needed it.  I remember lots of special talks during cups of tea in a country home kitchen, walks up and down the lane with the dogs, feeding and mucking out horses, hanging laundry out on the line, going to the shops, going to horse events, dinner out, holidays, etc.  It was a very special time in my life between 18 and early 30's, and I will never forget my memories of those times.  Holidays when the cousins visited my mother and I in Southern CA and my mom as she was so good at doing, mapped out a trip north to San Francisco, Monterey, where we just spent the weekend (and where I bought postcards to send to M to remind her of some good times) and a great holiday one year in Florida.  It was the best times.  I'm so glad that we had them and that we can look back on them fondly, I know M did.  She told her son that she thought of our times fondly. 

I feel very lucky to have experienced some fun times.  M was not a great kid person, she much preferred her dogs and horses to kids, but she had two of her own and she always remembered the girls, she sent them costume jewlery, money, personalized notes.  She never missed a birthday or Christmas.  As my mother couldn't do any of it, M stepped up and did it for mom. I will never forget that.  She was a beautiful, wonderful woman, with a GREAT sense of humor. I have never laughed so hard in my life, when I was with her. 

I guess this is a new phase in my life, no going back to the 'old' times. I'm sure lots of people having lost loved ones, find their way, and I will too.  It seems odd and I haven't yet had a good cry. Dave was home yesterday and we had lunch and ran errands.  Today I just feel sort of numb and I am back to not wanting to do a thing.  I thought I had sort of got a bit past that, but I just feel numb right now.  I want to go back and look at all my pics, but they are stored and I would have to dig deep to get them out.  So I'll go back there in my mind, I do believe I have a journal I found at my mother's and I will read it.  It was fun to remember what happened at the time in my life. Unfortunately I didn't keep it up very long, as I was too busy having fun to want to write I guess.

I know that going forward there will be new memories to make.  I''m ready.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

We had a little respite time...........

LGA went to stay with my friend and her fiancee.  They had her mother and her stepson and his cousin staying also.  Luckily the cousin is someone LGA likes (there is another cousin who also has ADD/ADHD and she asked me if he would be there.  He wasn't there this weekend).  We arranged for LGA to come over in the am and stay the night and then we would all meet up for brunch this am.

My girls as you all know if you've read this blog long enough, do not like to stay at other people's houses.  Even if it's someone they are close to, they do want to come home.  They have a good time, but they always feel better when they are home.  Maybe it's due to their past, and feeling secure.  I always feel my kids are in good hands when they stay with my friend.  She loves them as if they were her own and she takes good care of them.

I started talking up LGA's weekend last weekend when we saw my friend and she suggested it.  I said what a good time she'd have, that we'd all meet up on Sunday.  She rather tearfully asked me the first couple of days if her sister would go. I said she wouldn't be, but it would be a fun time for LGA to stay on my friends' ranch.  There's so much to do there, they have bunnies (always a favorite) and chickens now.  I knew she'd have a great time.  They were planning on building a dog kennel and picking tomatoes (yay, I can finally try out my new dutch oven and I have enough tomatoes to make homemade pasta sauce and freeze some) and I knew she'd have a good time.  So, I started in bit by bit, saying what a good time she'd have.  She was fearful, but by Sat am, she was ready to go.

That meant we had instead of a kid free weekend, half a kid free weekend.  We had plans to take BGA to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/.  If you know me, you know I love Monterey and the aquarium.  We don't go often as it's not very cheap, but we have never taken the girls. I gave BGA a choice of the aquarium or something else to do and she picked the aquarium.  So we planned on the aquarium and dinner after.

We got a bit of a late start to drive to Monterey so we arrived around 1pm.  We'd planned on 12, but it all worked out ok.  We saw many things in the aquarium.  The most famous exhibit is the Sea Otters, which I love to see.  Unfortunately my otters were off display till March 2013 as they were renovating the habitat.  That sort of bummed me out as I would have rather have waited till we could see the otters and visit another time.  However, we used full advantage of our time, touring each part of the aquarium, seeing deep sea fish, seahorses, jellyfish, penguins, sharks, turtles, etc.  It was fun, but also hard to keep up with BGA as she raced off ahead.  Since the aquarium was packed, we had to ask her to slow down and wait for us.  Luckily it was cool in Monterey (in the 60's! Considering where we live inland it was in the 90's, it was so nice, weather wise) and I'd given BGA a bright color sweat jacket, so she was very visible. But a few times we had to ask her to not run ahead.  There are usually lots of people from the European and Asian countries, so it was pretty packed on a Saturday.  Members come a lot as well, and for what we paid, we wished we had memberships.

BGA got to touch starfish, and kelp, but refused to touch the crab in the display.  It was a bit funny as the person who was doing instruction kept trying to get her to touch the crab and she wouldn't.  But we really enjoyed having one child to take on a special trip, where there were no fights or tantrums, etc.  I feel bad about that, but really we needed respite from LGA.  She's been throwing down some major tantrums/fits as of late (see Back to School Night's previous post) and it's no fun.  BGA, however, not really having been on her own was a bit nervous and anxious (gotta love ADD meds) and she chatted.  The.whole.way.there.  Seriously non stop.  One of her questions was, "what is a wharf and why do they call it Fisherman's Wharf?"  And went on from there. 

Eventually she enjoyed the day and we did a bit of shopping, after the museum, although not much as Dave's not really up to a lot of walking these days, so he mainly waited for us.  He's been riding his excercycle so his legs were good, his back was sore from the 2 hour drive to Monterey. 

We decided to stop at Bubba Gumps for dinner as it was after 5 and we knew we had a 2 hour drive to get home.  Now, some of you, well, ok most of you, probably don't know...........I am not a fan of the Bubba Gump movie. I'm just not. I love Tom Hanks, Sally Field and Gary Sinise.  I just am NOT a fan of the movie.  So BGA and I did some browsing in shops while we waited (Bubba Gumps in on Cannery Row) and then ended up in the candy shop.  My phone died so by the time we got out, Dave was at his table.  He didn't tell me what happens when the waitress comes to the table.............she starts asking you questions from the movie.  I knew some of them, but man, it was not up my street.  BGA of course, LOVED it.  She has not seen the movie, so she guessed and of course some of the quotes are on the table, so she had fun saying them.  I really think this kid could be an actress some day, she really gets into it and it was really cute.  We looked around the walls and read the quotes to each other.  It was so much fun to do this un-interrupted and not have jealousy or fits erupt.  I seriously enjoyed this restaurant experience with BGA.  She told us over dinner that it was the best day ever and she really enjoyed herself.  She wants to come back. I think we'll come back but instead of the aquarium, we'll drive down the coast, when the girls have their one week fall break next month.   

Dave and I felt bad, but we both agreed there would have been no way we could have taken both girls at this point.  We really needed the respite from LGA.  I can be honest here and admit it.  If you've raised or are raising a special needs child, respites are really important. I had had one when my mom passed away in May and I spent a week and a half on my own handling her estate and then Dave got one when the girls and I spent 18 days for mom's funeral and working on her estate.  But there's something about one child, that makes a difference, especially since back to school has been a bit rough, lately. 

BGA woke up singing at the top of her lungs, she really had a great time and even though we got back late, and we talked again the whole way home till BGA crashed in the back seat.  Today she was in a good mood till we got to the restaurant and picked up LGA.  I think she was a bit jealous.  I don't think she thought LGA would have as good of a time as she did and she's very protective and demanding of my attention and didn't like it shifting to LGA.  She did recover well, but it took her awhile.  We struggle with the jealousy and fighting the girls do over who gets attention.  It's always been this way.  The girls are so insanely jealous of each other.  LGA desperately wants her sister's attention and BGA doesn't want to give it.  She's getting closer to the teen years and wants some independence. So then LGA gets mad and doesn't know how to handle it and becomes aggressive. LGA asked me, which again reminded me of all the girls have been through, "I go home with you mommy? I want to go home with you."  I had explained she would stay one night but I guess she thought we weren't going to take her home.  Poor girl.  Just shows how fragile their attachment can be at times.  LGA was happy to come home.  My friend said, "do you want to come back next time on your own or with your sister?"  She said, "with my sister."  But I think she needs this independence and it's good for her to go and come back, on her own.

LGA started in the minute we got back in the car to go to Target for some items.  There puppies/dogs/kittens at Petsmart and so we went over to look at them, Dave headed back in to the Electronics section of Target.  When I didn't want to get any of the animals from a local rescue, LGA became insistent over a kitten and had a hard time letting go when it was time to go.  She started in with the fits and I thought, "here we go again.........." but she stopped herself and just stomped her foot. We got off easy there, but in Target, she wanted to spend the money that my friend gave her (and I let her bring her piggyback money in case my friend and her mom took her anywhere to spend it) for working so hard.  She had $4. She picked some trading cards that were $1.99 each, so I had to explain that there would be tax.  Luckily she had enough change to cover it.  She was happy but there was more foot stomping and arms folded, chest extended, when I explained she could only get 2 pkgs of the cards, not 3.  I thought 'whew, we got away with foot stomping this time.'  I was mistaken.

We came home and I took a nap.  I had had about 4 glasses (I was thirsty) of iced tea for dinner.  That doesn't bold well for me if the tea is strong (it was, and good).  So I was up till 3am and couldn't sleep.  So I wanted a nap. I barely made it through brunch as Dave woke me up at 7 so we could get BGA bathed, ourselves ready, get gas, etc.  So I slept for a bit on my bed, till I heard LGA complaining about something, her earring, I think.  She's got some sensory, I believe and sometimes her earrings bother her so we take them out and give the ears a rest and put them back in.  Of course it was a huge emergency and even though she saw me sleeping away, I hear, "Mommy you up?  Mommy my ears hurt.  Mommy you take out my earrings?"  So at that point, napping was futile because the OCD brain of my daughter takes over and she won't rest till it's fixed. 

Then there was som arguing about Nintendos (we let them play, but LGA has a hard time turning off Nintendo even though she's been given several warnings, which is making us want to limit the Nintendo time) and some more foot stomping and more fit throwing behavior for LGA. By this time we'd decided to go to dinner and I had to get to LGA's level and remind her that her restaurant behavior has not been good lately and if she did not want to behave we would be getting our order to go.  Nintendo playing would also take a break..  She got it, and for the most part did well.  But there were some pre tantrums and I again had to remind her of the consequences.  But we managed a good dinner and some laughs, like it used to be.  I believe reminding her of the consequences, and outlining behaviors will help.  I hope so, but it's never an easy journey, the one we're on.  I'm sure other meds will be added, and it will be something we will need to do this year, I'm just not wanting to put  her on any other meds yet.  But I think she obviously needs them.

I have seen all around the blogs this week about respite for parents of special needs kids.  It's very important.  We haven't had it, and I have not really asked for it, nor do I feel comfortable with my kids staying with anyone I don't know.  So the result has been the only respite time we get is when the girls are in school and Dave is at work, I am home.  Dave is back to having Mondays off, so we can spend some time together before school, but now he's back to working Tues-Sat.  I hate when he works Saturdays as it means I have the girls on my own and by week's end, LGA's exhausted and cannot hold it together.  She acts out in many ways, till her body can relax from the stress of school.  It's trying and I'm usually ready for Dave to come home.  Although the 18 days I had them all on my own I got very used to parenting by myself, so I think this time when he starts his Saturdays up again, it won't be as bad.

So that was our weekend............pretty good one, if I do say so.  I could stay in Monterey for a long time. I definitely want to go back. BGA loved it, loved being near the ocean and we all enjoyed the cooler temps. 

I'll try and post my phone pics if I can upload them.  Last few times I've posted they've been really small and I need to find out how to upload them to my pc.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Back To School Night...........

Back to School Night was last night at our new school.

It went well.

We really liked how the school put on Back to School Night.  They had everyone do the pledge of allegiance and they had kids singing the National Anthem.  We also had the principal, who is new to the school, go over the policies, etc., then the Assistant Principal spoke (she's young it would appear and spoke like a mile a minute).  We also had a visit from an astronaut, who lives in our area and went up in space on Discovery in 2009.  He's running for Congress (found that out later) but it was nice to hear him speak and the kids were mesmerized (not just ours, who were, in LGA's case, a bit antsy).

BTSN started at 6pm.  By the time all this was over it was close to 7.  We had the principal, announced, a half hour to meet the teachers. Of course there was an argument as to who to go see first.  We picked LGA's class, which of course made BGA mad.  I asked her to not interrput us and to let us talk to LGA's teacher, and let LGA show us around the class.  She surprised me and stood at the door and only talked to us when she felt it was getting too late to see her teacher.  I was pretty proud of her as it's hard for her to stay silent, sometimes, and not be in the mode to 'direct' the situation.  I believe this will take her far in life, however, sometimes it's just plain frustrating when you are trying to talk to people and she constantly tries to interrupt.  We have been over this but for some reason, neither girl can wait their turn. If I ignore them they just get really persistent.

We made it to LGA's classroom, and LGA showed us around, we looked at the pics of each child on their work, and discovered there appear to be a mix of kids, some older, some LGA's age.  There is one downs boy and possibly girl (not a big deal, I was just trying to see what kinds of kids are in her class so when I have to talk about behaviors and why certain kids act the way they do, I can explain if I know what kinds of kids are in her class).  Some appear to be older, which is why she's probably having issues in school with various kids.  I was happy to see they have about 6 computers they use, and the teacher explained that LGA goes to 'stations' for work and moves around a bit.  I liked that the kids focus on the heavier subjects in the am and have PE and the lighter subjects in the pm, when the teacher feels they have put out the most effort and are tired, etc.  Very true.  Teacher is older (looks to be in her 60's) and she had some great tips on how to do homework with LGA.  Basically they use a chart taped on the student's desk, a number chart and ABC chart and they work with the child on adding and subtracting, by using the chart and going back 3 numbers or forward 3 numbers, etc.  LGA had this chart in kinder and first and we used one like it.  It really helped her.  Teacher also feels she has a processing disorder so I will need to read up on that.  As well as the OCD (which we knew she had).  Teacher felt that by having the teachers take her to the cafeteria and help her pick her breakfast (all kids go when they get off the bus for breakfast. And frankly trying to get her ready in the am is no picnic for Dave, who does it each day, so skipping breakfast at home works out better) and then sending a snack (I didn't realize how late her lunch is, at other schools it was earlier) helps her focus without adding any additional meds, or upping her dosage, etc.  This has been a good help so far.  We'll see how it goes as we go through the school year.

When we finally made it to BGA's classroom, the teacher was tired and done for the night, but she still greeted us warmly, and made a joke (she's got an interesting sense of humor).  By that time (almost 8) I was really tired and needing some dinner.  So was LGA, as she constantly was into stuff in the classroom, so trying to listen to the teacher and get info was hard to do.  But the teacher really got BGA.  I have had to go in each year and explain to the teachers what BGA's issues are. I have had to do this for 4 yrs.  Well, last night, this teacher listened, but had plans and compassion for BGA.  She shares freckles all over her arms and face, and so does BGA.  But she got what makes her tick.  She said BGA is trying so hard to fit in and have friends and that she stops herself if she shouts out so others can have a chance.  That she thinks BGA is very bright.  She supports her playing the violin (which we signed her up for this week).  She listened to her anxiety about test scores and she said she would accomdate that.  We talked about peer issues and specific issues with one particular student. I really don't want to post what the teacher said about it, but it was hilarious and had us laughing. We talked about test scores and how Dave and I told her in front of the teacher, that we don't care about numbers, that as long as she's at grade level (and she is bright enough to stay at grade level so this was not an unrealistic expectation) we were happy with whatever else she achieved.  It was a good conference. 

At the end the principal came to get the teacher, and we got to talk with her briefly.  Both principal and assistant are female and it turns out the principal asked BGA's teacher to come teach at the school for this class.  So it's a tough class but the teacher said she liked challenges.   So we came away feeling positive for the first time in 4 yrs about where our kids were going to school.  It was a good back to school night.

The ending was not so good.  LGA was so done by then.  She couldn't keep it in, she was hyper to the max.  She's regressing a bit (not sure if it's due to kids' behaviors in her class) and is learning to throw a fit to get what she wants.  I'm SO not allowing this.  In BGA's class she wanted a book, we said no, that it wasn't her class or teacher and she was not going to have the book.  LGA started the fit and the teacher gave in and let her have the book.  Then when we get to the restaurant we chose to dine in (they had pizza at BTSN but we wanted a meal and didn't figure it would take long and our custom has been to eat dinner after and discuss teachers, classrooms, kids, etc., pros and cons) LGA throws a huge fit because BGA called dibs to sit next to me.  Enough to where the waitress asked us if we wanted to go sit in the back, where it was quiet.  This is a new thing for LGA. She always had good restaurant behavior but this is the 2nd time we've taken her out where she's thrown an out and out fit in the restaurant.  Even the young adults at the next table were staring at her.  It didn't seem to embarrass her at all.  So.............rethinking taking her to restaurants for the time being.  I am sure we need to add a mood med to the mix, but I'm not wanting to go there yet.  So we did not end on a good note. We will see what kind of day she had, because by the end of the week she's done. 

LGA is going to spend the night at my friend's house on her ranch, tomorrow.  This is for LGA, because she enjoys it there and my friend's step son will be there.  There are chickens and dogs and bunnies and stuff for her to help with and do.  This is also a respite for us from her and we kind of need one right now.  I hate to admit that, but it's true.  We will all meet up for brunch on Sunday.  I'm hoping this little break will be good for LGA and for us.  LGA is interested in the earth and she will have a blast.  It will be good for my friends to show her things and have her help. 

But I would have to say that this has been the best Back to School Night we have had in over 4 yrs, and that's a plus. I hope we have landed at a good school for the girls.  The teachers seem supportive and to get the girls, and that's important.

Here's to hoping we have a good school year.  :-)

Check back here Monday and hopefully I'll have some pics to share with you.  You know, just to lighten it up around here some.  :-)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Today is FASD Awareness Day............

I have not spoken on the blog very much about Fetal Alcohol, other than to say that LGA has it.  If you had asked me if I would have adopted a child with FASD, (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) I would have said "NO WAY!"  That was one of the specific things I didn't want to have in an adopted child.  However, we met the girls and my heart felt a pull towards LGA.  She was a very sweet, sweet 3 yr old girl.  We were quite taken and didn't hesitate to take them at the disclosure meeting. I think we got as far as the car and trip home before we'd decided the girls would come home to us.

Fast forward 4 years and life is SO much different.  The sweet little 4 yr old is gone.  In her place is a confrontational, tantrum/fit, argumentative, sometimes defiant, 8 yr old.  She struggles to learn as her brain 'skips' and she can't retain the information she learns.  There has been great discussion on various support boards, about retention and why children can't learn.  I was told that for LGA it means her brain skips and can't retain info, so a lot of repetition is needed. LGA has a whole host of issues, including ADHD, OCD and probably some sensory issues.  She may have some mood disorders, I'm not sure, so getting her tested this year is probably in order.

Life is hard living with a child like this.  She is "special needs."  and in our first years I was naive. I only thought she had some speech and some learning issues. I didn't read about FASD.  I should have, but I just can't go there sometimes.  It makes me sad to think of what she faces, what we face with her.  One friend's mom who has some experience with this, at a gathering, when told that LGA was FASD, just uttered an "OH."  Like "wow, hope you knew what you got yourself into."  We didn't. Now we know what it is and are experiencing it full force.

I have something to share with you that I have not shared with too many people. I hesitated on whether to post it but I am going to share anyway.

A few months back, around March, my mother and I shared a conversation one morning. I thought I had shared about LGA with mom and that her birthmother drank alcohol when pregnant with her.  But mom had some dementia, and she didn't really remember that we might have discussed it.  As I talked about LGA and some of her issues (I think I was telling her about her special ed class and that's what led into this conversation) my mother shared a startling truth with me.

I had always known my mother smoked with all of her pregnancies.  At that time she told me, the doctors were just finding out about how much cigarette smoke affected the fetus.  This was the 60's by the way, so long before a lot of research was being done on the effect of cigarettes on fetuses.  I was a preemie baby, born early and with some issues, enough to land me in the NICU for a month or so after I was born. I was 3 pounds 2 oz.  I had eye issues, and had eye surgery at 4.  I always get a cold in my chest, and get bronchitis.

So as mom and I were talking, mom shared that she consumed alcohol while pregnant with me.  That she didn't know about the effects of it.  She told me that my father, who was a merchant marine and away at sea a lot, happened to be home more during her pregnancy with me, otherwise, (and here is the kicker) she would have been drinking more while pregnant with me.  WHOA!!!!!!!!!!!  I totally did NOT see that coming.  Really, she had NEVER shared that she drank alcohol while pregnant with me.  This totally explains my brother's life.  I know now why his life was the way it was.  I think my poor mother, who was feeling guilty about his life and death (she had nothing to do with it, could not have prevented it but was convinced she could have prevented it) also realized what she said and realized what it meant for my brother (and possibly me, but I didn't want to upset her so I didn't delve further, but I really wish I had had this conversation when the girls first came home).  I had no way of knowing that she consumed alcohol while pregnant with me so I shared what happens when a woman is pregnant and consumes alcohol during pregnancy.  I never knew.

So as I raise my daughter who also had a birthmother who consumed alcohol during her pregnancy with her, I wonder if that is why she was placed with me.  I wonder if I was chosen to raise her because of my own background?  I started looking into my own school years.  I do not in any way know how much my mother consumed.  I started to think back on my school years and what subject I had issues with - Math.  I had a very hard time with Math.  I never took algebra, I never took trig.  I didn't like sciences at all, yet I liked English and always read from the time I was young.  I wonder if I have ADD?  I have noticed in later life that I have a hard time focusing on one thing (if I had work on projects for example) and getting started, but I would always get it together and finish.  I am a procrastinator.  I started looking hard at myself, and then my mother became ill and I shelved it to take care of her and everything that needed to be done when she passed away.

I think I have some understanding of what LGA struggles with.  I don't know how I felt about it at first, if I had to say, I'd probably sum it up to surprise.  There was some anger at my mother over the years when I couldn't get pregnant, when I suffered early onset of menstruation, and then a full hysterectomy 8 yrs ago.  She felt guilty about that but we talked and I told her it was what it was, and we had to move on.  She didn't know what is known today.

But it makes me feel closer to LGA, closer to what she goes through. I have gone back to my childhood (I should dig deeper but I'm not ready to yet) to examine what I was like as a kid. I too, threw tantrums and fits, but was ignored, so I eventually gave them up.  I too, struggled in Math.  Do I have other issues?  I'm not sure.  But I know that I have shared with her some of my background, that I think we share this 'disorder' as it's called, and that when I adopted LGA, I had no idea we did share it.

The path for a FASD child is a hard one. I don't know what LGA's life will be like. I don't know what her future holds.  All I know is I love her, even when she frustrates me due to this disorder, and the OCD, possibly sensory, and other issues she faces. But we share something I never knew we did.  I have appreciation for the struggles she faces every day of her life.  I strive to parent her some days when it's really difficult.  But I remember that conversation with my mother and knowing what I do about FASD, I wonder where I fit as an adult, on the spectrum.  I wonder how I did not know..........all these years.  I love my mom and I know that she did what she did without knowing about the effects it had on her children. I don't fault her for it. I wonder how many other children of the 50's and 60's are out there whose mothers consumed alcohol while pregnant with them.  Perhaps more research needs to be done.

We struggle every day to meet LGA's needs, to know if we are doing enough.   We will continue to fight for her every day of our lives.  We will advocate knowledge to birth mothers about drinking during pregnancy.  We will continue to struggle during the hard times and appreciate the good times.

A quote I saw on FB today:

It's SO true.  Please support awareness of this disorder.  You just might find surprises along the way (as I did).  Hug your special needs kids extra hard today.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Labor day weekend........with travel..........

This past Labor Day weekend the fam trucked (literally, van and truck) down to S CA to finish clearing out my mother's place for the last time.  It was bittersweet.  We left Thurs night and came home on Monday pm.  Dave took Tues off (yes!) and it was nice to have him home.

There wasn't as much stuff to clear out this time, although we had our share of trash to the open dumpster on Sat.  I had hoped we could take a trip to Sea World or the Wild Animal Park but we just couldn't fit it in. However we got some pool time in.  Till a kid pooped in the pool and the whole pool had to be cleared out.  On a day that my high school friends and their kids came for a bbq.  Oh what fun that was.  However, the girls stayed in the sauna and slept really well that night.  :-)

The drive down on Thursday night was interesting.  For some reason it took my spaced out mind a bit to realize if I had the girls turn off their movie, they would sleep. I didn't do that till LA, when it was two hours from San Diego county.  SO............they did not get to sleep till 3am!  They slept till 9 when we had to wake them up.  It was a hard drive at night and I can say that I officially do not like driving at night anymore.  There was construction at night the whole way down.  Not as much traffic as people had not officially started their Labor Day weekend. 

I was disappointed as I had paid the realtor to have someone clean mom's house.  Well, I can see I overpaid.  The walls of her mobile home (which is the old fashioned paneling) were dusty.  Mom lived in a condo previously to buying this mobile home (to be near her sister and her sister's husband when mom retired).  It's a nice double wide and has everything original.  Mom made no improvements other than to put in carpet when she bought it, so the original carpet is there.  Full of dust, and poor LGA got sick. I fully believe she's allergic to dust.  I know I am.    Poor Dave had a hard time sleeping as we all tried to find comfortable places to sleep (sleeping bags for the girls, air mattresses and a full size bed).

We got the place spiffed up enough to sleep there and then spent Friday running some errands and getting the girls a portable DVD player they could watch movies on as the only tv left was not an analog one and I had cut cable in August.  We spent the pm in the pool then headed to a local bbq place that had lines out the door the whole time we were there.  We took full opportunity, the girls and I, to share the places we ate on our previous trip, with Dave.  Saturday we packed and put stuff in the trash.  Sunday was intended to be a pool/bbq time with my friends but poor Dave got sick with a stomach type of bug so he stayed home and 3 of my high school friends and I and their kids, all girls, hung out at the pool.  It was nice and easy to see them again and we picked up right where we left off. It was a nice easy day that I really needed. 

Monday was the hardest day.  Dave and I woke up at like 4am, as we were just ready to go home.  My cousin and his friend helped Dave and they loaded up the furniture.  I felt like one of the people you see on tv or in a movie, where they are leaving a house for the last time and they go through the house room to room (mine was also to make sure I got everything as I constantly felt stuff was out of order and that I didn't know where it all was).  I stood in the living room and said a silent goodbye and talked to my mother and brother and said, "remember the happy times we had here."   Goodbye house that I only lived in 3 years, but always came home to.  A set of grandparents bought it for their 20 yr old grandson. I have no clue what their plans are for it, but I know that it's really more 'old person' style than a 20 yr old would want.  However, the woman in the complex office told me that he had been living with his grandparents so maybe this is his shot at freedom.  The neighbors across the street were not happy with me and hoped he was not a 'partyer.'  Dave said, "Maybe he's a geek and he's lived with his grandparents and now has his own place and he'll be quiet."  Sure hope so.  So we drove away and I cried and when we got on the grapevine (the long stretch of moutainous highway that connects S CA to N CA) LGA said, "You miss grandma a lot, huh Mommy?"  Yes, kid, a whole lot.  The ache is less and I don't cry as much.  But leaving and knowing I will never come back to that place as home, was really hard.  I didn't think it would sell as fast as it did and was planning on staying in it when I came back for my high school reunion on my own next month.

So a part of my chapter with my mom and brother is over.  I feel mixed feelings about it.  But it is what it is so I'm moving on.

Luckily school with the girls has occupied some space in my head.  I am feeling positive we made the right move for BGA.

She came out on Thurs when I picked her up, really excited (as she seems to each day).  She can join cheer or choir (old school does NOT have that).  She can join student council (old school doesn't have it) or play an instrument.  She's learning the school song and she gets to read the school announcement over the loud speaker.  She's learning the school song.  She has a friend from the old school.  I gave the friend a ride home today as she lives near the school.  It was so cute to see the girls walking out together today.  The girl named A, told BGA that she could have gotten a ride from her other friend but she chose BGA instead.  The girls have known each other since first grade.  I told the girl I am more than happy to give her a ride home.

LGA seems to be settling in better this week, and not as angry.  So I hope that is a good sign too.  

We had a pretty good time as a family for the weekend, and the girls always want us to be together as a family so they behaved better, they were more secure knowing that both of us were there with them, but as always, they were glad to come home.  It never changes wherever we go, they always want to come home.

So, on to the next chapter in my life.  I'm working on the list of stuff I wanted to do and hoping some of it comes to be.  For now, I'm going to kick back a bit and not push myself yet.  The summer was hard and now I just want to go with the school year and routine, await autumn (my fave time of the year) and the holidays. I'm ready for comfy sweaters, boots and jeans, and some jewelry creating.  I'm ready for crock pot dinners and hot cocoa.  Pj days.  And possibly a new puppy/rescue dog to train as a therapy dog. 

I am not as sad as I was, losing my mother.  I remember things I had forgotten, certain memories, and am ready to move forward. I know there will be good and bad days, but I will continue to move forward. 

So on to Back to School night next week, Spirit Week and possibly I will volunteer for the PTA at this school.  We'll see............I'm still scoping out the parents to see if I will fit in (or want to).