Author Archives: brigid

New Post! How Exciting!

New Post! How Exciting!

Part of the reason I put this blog on hiatus was that Nikola is getting older and I wasn’t sure how much of his life I wanted to make public, especially as he wasn’t able to really give consent. But there’s some stuff going on that I do want to share.

Nikola is 8 now, and he’s in 3rd grade. He’s in the gifted program at the same school he’s been in since pre-k. He loves the school. I love the school. It’s everything that’s right about Chicago Public Schools, other than the funding issues that all Chicago Public Schools have… namely that they lose funding every year.

He also has some of the same behavioral issues he’s had since he was a toddler, namely: screaming meltdown or very loud furious outbursts when he’s frustrated or prevented from doing what he wants to; taking things incredibly personally, as personal attacks, if you, say, forget something or (in the case of people who don’t know him) pronounce his name wrong; lashing out physically; trouble transitioning from one thing to another; trouble dealing with change; some other stuff I don’t remember right now. He also doesn’t like to look at peoples’ faces when talking to them; his ideal hug is one where his back is toward the hugger; he forgets to say hello when encountering someone or goody bye when he’s leaving; he’s extremely literal; he spends much of his time at home completely unable to sit still and sometimes will literally run laps around the room; he becomes very obsessed with one or two things… for years the ONLY things he was interested in was trains and dinosaurs. that’s all. that’s all he talked about or played with; he has difficulty reading emotions like anger and frustration and responds poorly or not at all; more that I can’t remember.

I got a referral from his pediatrician to have him evaluated for ADHD. This involved a trip to the neurologist, who was a little confused as to why she was our first visit and that he hadn’t seen a behavioral therapist first.

You might wonder what’s involved in taking a kid to a neurologist to get screened for ADHD and/or ASD. I was, and there’s very little that I found online that covers it – most info seems screened at ADULTS even though ADHD & ASD are more commonly diagnosed in childhood.

We were both asked a bunch of questions, mostly related to health history. Any blows to the head? Any family history of mental health issues? Any seizure disorder? etc. The neurologist tested his reflexes and had him move his arms and legs around and walk and move his eyes around and follow instructions and basically tested his muscle tone and strength and if he was weaker/stronger on one side than the other and if he could do what he was told and perform certain physical things. He managed to, even if he was clumsy at some of them.

She said she couldn’t diagnose him with ADHD or ASD, but he has markers for both… which doesn’t mean much. She also used words like “high functioning” which… as far as I know are really frowned upon by people on the spectrum. Like, hugely frowned upon. They aren’t used much any more. She also said people on the spectrum are often non-verbal and don’t recognize or respond to emotions which isn’t the case for a lot of people I know on the spectrum. Her knowledge of/attitude toward ASD seemed really out of date. She also said his behavioral issues might just be emotionally immaturity and he’d catch up.

She said her office was sending a referral for a behavioral therapist who can both screen for the issues we’re worried about and also say if he needs therapy for his behavioral stuff. We’re also going to be getting a packet with a bunch of questionnaires for Nesko, me, and two of Niko’s teachers to fill out regarding his behavior as part of screening for ADHD. We’ve yet to hear back from the behavioral therapist, but I know for a fact that department is incredibly busy all the time because they take ALL insurance including state insurance which most medical providers no longer take because the state is over a year behind in paying most claims. If I don’t hear back from them by the end of next week I’m going to start calling every day to see if there’s a cancellation we cram ourselves into. That’s how I was able to get a CBT appointment two months before my first scheduled one. Once you’re in the system it’s a lot easier to get follow up appointments. It’s irritating and a little onerous but I’m glad people with very few options are getting care.

I’m not worried about Nikola having ADHD or being on the spectrum because they’re bad: I want him to be able to get whatever support he needs from us, from his school, from therapists. And if he has an issue, then the sooner he’s diagnosed the sooner we can get that support into place.

I might be blogging this particular medical journey, mostly because it might be helpful to other parents navigating the same waters. I also might wind up taking down or password protecting these specific posts because it might be confidential information… ADHD and ASD are both heavily stigmatized. While I’m comfortable about talking publicly about being bipolar, I can’t make that decision for him.

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DELUGE

DELUGE

I think Niko’s getting sick (again) which is unfortunate because he’s on the tail end of an irritating cold and only has one week left of school and would like him to actually attend school for the entire week. But he’s been extra cranky and tired lately, and last night there were… problems.

I woke up at 2:30 in the morning (why does that time even exist. why. WHY.) because I thought I heard someone banging on a door. Who could it be? Was G watching a movie just loudly enough I could hear it? Were the tenants upstairs having (another) emergency that could only be solved at 2:30 (alarming!!!)? Was it someone trying to gain entry? The banging droned on, accompanied by moaning. It was very zombie-like and I was more than a little creeped out. I put my glasses on, which always makes me feel more secure, and went to investigate.

It was Niko.

I opened his bedroom door, which was neither locked nor stuck, and he stumbled out.

“I peeeeeeed my paaaaaaaaants a liiiiiiiiiitle” he sobbed at me, which was a LIE because he peed his pants A LOT. He stumbled into the bathroom, sobbing, and unleashed a torrent of additional pee (HOW BIG IS YOUR BLADDER, CHILD?) and then stood there crying, the back of his pyjama pants and shirt both soaking wet.

“Alright, take your clothes off,” I instructed him.

“I caaaaaan’t take off my clothing, it’s too wettttttttt” he wailed at me and then tried to fight me when I started peeling it off him. I honestly considered cutting it off of him, just to get it off and done with, since he’s outgrowing them and they only have a few wears left anyway and they’re all pilled and nubbly, but figured that would only traumatize him further. I got him naked and herded him back into his bedroom and helped him dress. He was still crying, loudly enough that Nesko came to see what was going on. Niko was upset about standing around (???) so I told him to huge Nesko, and he did, walking over to him and hugging him and leaning against him and almost drifting off again. His bed was soaking wet, including one pillow, and everyone was tired. So I just stripped everything, brought Niko into bed with us, and left the making of the bed for later.

Niko snuggled right in and slept until 9:45. He usually wakes up around 7:00, so that was a big lie-in. When he woke up, he complained about smelling “a big stinkness” and admitted it was him. I gave him a shower, which he cried and yelled through. He wasn’t too keen on breakfast, or lunch (which was pizza! what?), and has spent literally a total of about 4 hours (so far!) having tantrums and crying and yelling and waving his arms and legs around and kicking things today, which is about 3 hours and 50 minutes longer than he usually has tantrums on any given day.

He spent, literally, half an hour yelling and crying and kicking and flailing various limbs and lying on the floor and repeating over and over that he JUST NEEDS A DAY OFF and he’s TOO TIRED and he CAN’T WALK FOREVER and he JUST SERIOUSLY REALLY NEEEEDS A DAAAAAY OFFFFFFF WHY CAN’T HE HAAAAAAVE ONNNNNNE. Did I ask him to clean the bathroom? Wash dishes? Fold laundry? Go grocery shopping? Take a long walk? Do many jumping jacks? Join the Foreign Legion? No, no. Gentle reader, I instructed my thirsty child to walk down the hall to his bedroom and get his water bottle so he could have a drink. In the time he spent thrashing around about THE UNFAIRNESS OF IT ALL, he could have gotten the bottle and drunk it dry, twice. He did not handle it well when I pointed that out to him.

Today’s not too fun. Here’s hoping tonight and tomorrow are better.

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Spins A Web, Any Size…

Spins A Web, Any Size…

For those of you who’ve been following along for a while, Nikola has a baby doll named Baby who he dotes upon and loves. He “changes her diapoh” and “cleans her dirty BUTT” and tucks her in for a nap and feeds her and burps her and celebrates her 1st birthday about one a week, complete with “cake” and “wrapped presents” (random crap he drapes paper or t-shirts or tissues or something over) and a card that he makes for her.

Lately, Baby has been displaced in his affections by… Spider-Man.

Nesko’s parents had a mini-family reunion and I got to meet like 50 people who were total strangers to me and mostly didn’t speak English (I am monolingual) and that wasn’t terrifying or awkward for me AT ALL and I made lemon cheesecake and turtle bar cookies and rice krispy treats and they were all big hits so yaaay. But Nesko’s culture has this thing where it’s common for visiting adults to bring presents, candy, and/or money to the kids they visit. One of Niko’s scores was a pretty big Spider-Man toy with a Spider-Copter or something. Spider-Man is his New Love and he’s been taking Spider-Man to bed with him and cuddling him and toting him around.

DID YOU KNOW: Spider-Man likes bacon, and he likes sausage, but he hates ham. Steak is ok, but pancakes and eggs are right out. His favorite breakfast consists of a croissant, donut, banana, and potato (??). We went out for breakfast the other day and Niko ordered a pancake for himself and a plate of bacon for Spider-Man. Niko set Spider-Man on the seat next to him and fed him bites of bacon and afterward he requested two lollipops… one for him and one for Spider-Man. (Niko also scolded me for being rude and mean to the waitress, so I explained to him that I was ordering a BELGIAN waffle, not a BELCHING waffle.)

Let me tell you what kind of parent I am: knowing that he was making a bold grab for two dum-dum suckers for himself, at the cash register, I said yes.

In the car, driving to Home Depot, Niko crunched away on his sucker and then piped up “Since Spider-Man isn’t really REAL, can I just go ahead and eat HIS lollipop TOO?” I said yes, of course.

In other news, we’re repainting Niko’s room and it’s taking longer than expected. He’s sleeping in our room while we paint. I hope we get done soon. Really. Seriously. And that he transitions back to his own bed quickly and easily.

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Advice From A Five Year Old

Advice From A Five Year Old

We were at the playground the other day and one of the kids there… well. He’s a bit of a dick. He’s 7 or so and enough of a bully that the other kids have completely turned on him. It came to a fever pitch a few weeks ago when every single kid on the playground (maybe 10?) cornered him, chanting a name-rhyming-taunt. His behavior hasn’t improved since then, and has included stealing Niko’s shoes, shoving him down, and slapping him on the back of the head in passing. One of the most difficult aspects of this is that 1) his mom doesn’t do ANYTHING about his behavior other than mild “now now, CHILD’S NAME, that’s not how we act” (when, uh, obviously it is?) and 2) Niko gets along with that kid’s younger sister and likes playing with her.

So anyway, most recent playground outing, those two kids were there with one of their babysitters (and their babysitters are much more hands on and disciplinarian than either of their parents) and Older Kid was being a real terror including chasing people around and kicking them. Like, kicking them in the chest/arms, aiming for their heads. Babysitter pulls him aside and starts trying to reason with him. “You shouldn’t kick and hit your friends!” “Oh, it’s ok, he’s not my friend.” “So you were just… you were just attacking him? Child’s Name, that is NOT right.”

It was at this point that Niko butted in, all concerned.

“You know, Child’s Name, if you weren’t so HORRIBLE all the time, maybe everybody wouldn’t HATE YOU.”

While true, that’s not really an appropriate thing to say, you know?

Later on, that child tried to join in an impromptu soccer game. The other kids ignored him entirely as he chased them around, tried to hog the ball, and bragged about how long he’d been playing soccer on a team (again, he’s S E V E N, it’s not like he can possibly have been playing THAT LONG), eventually breaking down in tears when everybody managed to keep the ball from him. Every single kid in the group was one he’d physically harmed that day, as best as I can tell with no provocation whatever.

It’s kind of hard to watch. It’s like watching someone repeatedly bashing their head against a brick wall trying to get through the wall when there’s a door right there. Unlocked. Not even fully closed. Just push it open. I don’t know why he acts the way he does… is he acting out? Terrible at reading social cues? Ignorant? A massive entitled jerk? He’s in a Gifted school, so at the very least he… uh. Takes standardized tests well. I just don’t get it. And it’s hard to watch my kid deal with that, with him, with this out of nowhere aggressive and hurtful behavior. He wants to teach that kid how to be friendly and have friends and get along with everyone and I don’t think there’s any seven year old on earth eager to take social lessons from a five year old who insists his REAL name is Raptor because he has TOE CLAWS and IS A RAPTOR, DUH.

WELL THANK GOD I HAVE ALL THE PARENTING ANSWERS AND MY CHILD IS PERFECT, AT LEAST.

In other news, we’re finally repainting Niko’s room over the holiday weekend. We have all the paint and supplies, including spackle. We’d been putting this off because we want to gut his room, upgrade the wiring, and install soundproof insulation and possibly refinish his floor but… if we wait until we have the money and time to do ALL THAT it will never get done. So we’re going to screw the wall back to the stud where it’s pulling away (yaaaay hundred old buildings wooooooo), spackle everything up, and slap some paint on. It’ll look a lot nicer when it’s done.

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Big Announcement

Big Announcement

Just wanted to take a moment to say I have a big announcement, something really ground breaking and earth shaking.

I’m getting married.

“But Brigid!” I can hear you exclaim, “you’re already married!”

I know, I know. I thought I was too!

But very soon, I will be marrying an old friend, Elliot.

“But Brigid,” you continue, “Isn’t Elliot married to someone already?”

That was my question, also! But apparently Nesko and John (Elliot’s husband) have secretly married EACH OTHER and now Elliot and I must wed.

Nikola and Beka sit at a table, talking.

Nikola and Beka discuss the upcoming nuptials.

Nikola and Beka spent the day together and decided that they are siblings. Niko is the big brother and Beka is the big sister and Baby (you all remember Baby, right?) is the baby sister, and Elliot and I are getting married.

They discussed the wedding in detail.

Beka is going to be the flower girl, and Niko is going to be the ring guy. You know. The guy with the ring. And Elliot and I are going to get married and I’m going to wear a big fancy dress. I might get turned into a bear at some point, in fact it’s pretty much assured that I will be, but don’t worry! Beka will turn me back and then I will be A PRINCESS. I’m not entirely certain how I’m going to break the news to Nesko but apparently he’s been playing house with some dude so whatever to him. WHATEVER.

Beka and Nikola read a book.

Beka and Nikola read a book.

Niko and Beka had a really good time. They get along well together and of course it’s always great hanging out with Elliot (my future husband, remember) because we’re nerdy in a lot of the same ways and can really dig into super dorky stuff. The kids spent hours playing together. At one point Baby fell on her head and broke her head and all her bones stuck out, so they took her to the doctor (but only after she finished eating her breakfast) and Niko doctored her by cutting her head off and examining it and then putting it back on. They also played Barbies (they are equally interested mostly in playing with the baby Barbies), played with big tunnels, drew pictures, ate pizza, and stuck googly eyes on a bunch of stuff.

Playing Dress Up

Playing Dress Up

At one point, Niko got upset that Beka had a princess dress and he didn’t, so he put a bucket on his head as a hat and became a watermelon salesman and sold her a watermelon for one coin. As it turned out, it was an enchanted watermelon and everyone it hit in the head turned into a watermelon princess. I… got hit in the head a lot. Maybe I’ll craft myself a watermelon themed wedding dress.

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As Promised, Princess Dinosaur

As Promised, Princess Dinosaur

Niko’s been watching some Princess movies recently (“Tangled,” “Cinderella,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Brave,” etc) and also talking with a friend of his who is very keen on Princesses in general. He’s been practicing drawing Princesses for her because she’s more interested in that than in dinosaurs and he’s trying to branch out a bit, and also talking about Princesses… including describing a show that he wants to see. It is a show about Princess Dinosaur.

“Is she a princess who is a dinosaur, or is she a princess who rides on dinosaurs?” I asked.

“She isn’t either of those things,” he explained. “She is a princess who travels back in time to STUDY dinosaurs.”

Which, I mean, if “Dinosaur Train” can feature dinosaurs who travel through time to study other dinosaurs, certainly there’s a market for a PRINCESS, perhaps with a cuddly animal companion, who travels through time to study dinosaurs as well? I’ll press him for more details and share some drawings with you as I can.

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The Worst Thing, The Best Thing

The Worst Thing, The Best Thing

Niko’s been sick.

He hasn’t been take-him-to-the-doctor sick, but he has been two-severe-colds-in-a-row, miss-almost-two-weeks-of-school sick. His coughing-till-he-vomits has been way less than previous sicknesses, so either he’s growing out of that or he… just wasn’t that sick. I don’t know, but dang am I glad he only barfed once, although he did it all over a pillow that I made BY HAND and stitched BY HAND out of fabric I selected personally years before he was born. And it’s not the kind of pillow you can wash (too big, wrong kind of fill) and it was VERY soaked in barf, so… I put it in the trash can. GOOD BYE PILLOW.

So that’s the worst thing. Not that I had to throw out a pillow (although I miss that pillow. sniff.), but that my poor sweet baby has been so tediously ill. It’s really not fun being sick and starting to feel better enough to feel antsy and then feeling sick and ill again. He’s been a trooper through the whole experience, though, and hopefully we’re in for healthier times.

The best thing recently is that Niko has kind of leveled up in his art. He’s been bugging me lately to copy the art on some dinosaur flash cards he has, and then after I do so he critiques me heavily. So the other day I was all DUDE, DO IT YOURSELF and he was all I CAAAAAAAN’T and I was all DO ITTTT DOOOOOO ITTTTTTTTTT JUST TRY and he did and it was really cool! He impressed himself. So he’s been copying pictures HIMSELF and it’s super interesting to see what he picks up on as important details, and he’s started adding more details to his dinosaurs… which are essentially really stylized stick figures. But now they are really stylized stick figures with crests and feathers.

He also, and this is even more cool, has started making little still lifes and dioramas with his dinosaurs and plastic trees etc and then… drawing those scenes that he has made. That is absolutely the best and most awesome thing he’s been doing lately.

Well, other than coming up with Princess Dinosaur, but that’s a topic for another post, I think.

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Happy New Year! It snowed.

Happy New Year! It snowed.

I haven’t been posting too much to my blog recently because nothing really exciting is going on other than HA HA HA the most boring, tedious, developmental issues possible. Temper tantrums! Lying! Separation Anxiety! Not sleeping through the night! WHO CARES! Who wants to read about this bullshit? Ugh, nobody. So life’s been both boring and frustrating and I didn’t want to just unload complaints all over this blog.

Our Christmas was very nice, and very laid back. My parents, brother, and brother’s girlfriend came over on Christmas Eve since Nesko had to work on Christmas Day. We set out a spread of crackers and crudites and dips and cheese, a bunch of cookies, and I made shredded Buffalo chicken in the slow cooker. My mom brought up a spanikopita she made. It was way nicer than trying to plan, coordinate, and juggle a big sit down dinner. We even ate on paper plates.

Our New Year was equally laid back. Nesko had to work New Year’s Eve but got off earlier than usual. We ordered pizza and watched movies and spent New Year’s Day sitting around the house… minus the grocery run I made Nesko take because we were low on food and it was snowing heavily outside. I was worried there’d be a run on groceries and since we only had one roll of toilet paper and that’s one of the first things to go in Blizzard Shopping, I had The Fear. Two days and about 8 inches of snow later, we’re snug and warm in our house. Nesko has shoveled the sidewalk four or five times, and we unleashed Niko to wade around in snow that reached up to his hips.

Nikola In The Snow

Nikola In The Snow

Nikola’s school is on Winter Break right now and we were both really looking forward to sending him back to school. But the forecast for Monday is about a million degrees below zero and I don’t feel comfortable having him walk half a mile in that, so I might keep him home. We’ll see what happens.

How’s the weather by you? Any snow? Anything unusual?

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Pulling Teeth

Pulling Teeth

Cleaning house with a four year old is like pulling teeth, if the person whose teeth you’re pulling keeps jamming the pulled teeth back into his bloody gum holes while also running around the room naked and screaming fart jokes at the top of his lungs. It’s kind of an exercise in futility is what I’m saying. And it’s the reason we don’t have a Christmas Tree up yet, because Niko’s been promising to clean up his toys for two weeks now with zero follow through… or he’ll clean up a thing and then get distracted and start playing and then toss the original cleaned thing all over the floor along with a fine layer of shredded tissue paper and also a bunch of mashed up Pringles crumbs or something else nasty. “Why don’t you help him,” you might ask. I have tried! And I either end up doing all the work SOMETIMES WHILE HE WORKS TO UNDO IT, or else he gets mad at me because I’m doing something wrong and seriously pissing him off and throws a fit. Either way, almost nothing gets done except we both get hostile and gassy.

Our living room is currently reasonably clean (Nesko even took all the cushions off the couch and vacuumed them because he is my hero) with a few small things needed to make it Decorating/Company ready. Or it was. And then I spent most of today 1) making cookies and 2) cleaning the bathroom and Niko seized that opportunity to scatter toys all over the place and pull a bunch of leaves off my house plant and scatter them around the floor.

I guess he’s just most comfortable LIVING IN A GOD DAMNED FILTH HOLE OR SOMETHING.

Anyway, I was cleaning the bathroom today and got all done except for taking out the garbage and sweeping/mopping the kitchen floor. I took a break to take a shower and then run to the store so the floor could dry before the sweeping. The bulk of our cleaning products are currently stored in a plastic milk crate in the bathroom and I shoved them out into the hallway outside the bathroom so the floor under it could have a chance to totally dry and then I hopped in the shower. The thought flitted briefly through my head that I should perhaps put the cleaning supplies someplace else, someplace Niko couldn’t get at them. But I banished that thought immediately. HE IS FOUR, I scolded my baser instincts, HE KNOWS BETTER.

I was wrong.

I am a fool.

I need to trust my baster instincts.

I took a lovely shower in a clean bath tub, got out. I went into my bedroom to get dressed and discovered a crayon in the middle of my bed. I called Niko in to put it away and when he took it from me, I noticed that his hands were cold and wet.

“Your hands are gross and wet,” I said. “Did you have an accident? Did you make a mess?”

He hesitated and then said “YES. I did make a mess. But it was on ACCIDENT. It LOOKS like it was on PURPOSE but I ASSURE YOU it was ON ACCIDENT. I did not do it on PURPOSE.”

I noticed that his pants were soaking wet.

I walked, naked, into the living room to take stock immediately. And internets, it really did look like he’d made the mess on purpose. The coffee table was covered with wooden trains, soapy water, and wet play dough. Also: remnants of his lunch, and soaking wet tissues. Do you know what happens when playdough gets soaking wet? It turns into gooey snot, super slick and gross. And it was smeared all over his trains and the table. and he’s tried to clean it up with foaming hand soap (taken from the crate of cleaning supplies), tissues, and half a bagel. Why use a bagel to clean up a mess? I don’t know… because he’s four?

That’s my answer to every baffling thing he does, by the way. “Because he’s four.”

The playdough smeared into the cracks and crevices of his trains was bad enough. Adding the water made it even worse. But squirting the foaming hand soap everywhere? Goddddddddd. And he apparently dropped the bottle and cracked it, leading to even greater messes… stealth messes… messes discovered later.

One of my big parenting things, one of my personal parenting rules I try to follow, is to not yell at Niko when he tells me that he’s made a mess or had a problem– especially if he comes to me to tell me about it or ask for help. This is a hard rule to follow because it’s so, so tempting to give in to anger and holler, or to ask WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR or WHY DID YOU DOOOO THATTTTTTTT (because he’s FOUR, duh) or remind him that YOU KNOW BETTER THANNNN THISSSSSSSSSS. I am, of course, not perfect with this. But I try. And the main reason I try is that I WANT HIM to come to me when he’s made a mess or has a problem. Because quite frankly, I’ve seen how he handles cleaning up his own messes (it is TERRRRRRIBLLLLLLLLLLE) and while I know that he’ll get better at physically wiping up spills, the messes he makes will get more complicated as he gets older. And I want him to feel comfortable coming to me for help when he’s older and his messes include failing classes, crashing cars, STIs or unplanned pregnancies, anything like that. I want him to feel comfortable coming to me for help, knowing that he can count on me to support him.

Which, of course, doesn’t mean that I protect him from consequences. I cleaned up his table mess and I’m cleaning up his trains, but those trains are going into time out for a while. I want to be able to help him, I want him to turn to me, but yeah… he’s going to be dealing with consequences. That’s another parenting goal of mine, a guiding rule.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got these pliers and somebody needs to clean these torn up leaves off the carpet.

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