Getting Better In Da Hood

I’m not one for making New Year resolutions these days, but I did have one goal in mind for this blog in 2021 — post more. And here we are, almost halfway through the month, and nada. That changes today.

(Not the “posting more” part, because while I still intend to do that, who knows with me, but there being “nada” on this blog for 2021 changes.)

Off we go.

First, I’m going to address my last post — the one where I admitted to saying one of the cringiest things ever and causing myself not to get the med change I needed at the time. (It’s All Good In Da Hood, if you missed it.)

So, I did end up reaching out to my psychiatrist. Over the course of two days, I drafted an email that I deemed worthy of sending. (I wasn’t sitting there for two days, obviously, but I had to keep going back to it and fine-tune the email so that I made sure I got my issues across without a) sounding cringy and b) sounding like I needed to be committed.) I got a response pretty quickly and then a phone call the next day where we discussed a medication adjustment.

I’m now the proud owner of a bottle of Lexapro. It’s an SSRI indicated for depression and anxiety. (And not to be taken by itself if you have bipolar disorder, because yikes. Works well with a mood stabilizer, though.)

After some time on that, I seriously feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest. I am much calmer, far less cranky/irritable, and am generally in pretty good spirits. (And considering the absolute SHITSTORM going on in the U.S. over the past week, feeling calmer is saying something.) The few anxiety attacks I’ve had have been less intense, too.

While I’m doing better, I am sad to report that BG is not. She has been having some severe anxiety lately, which means a ton of meltdowns. She was bitten by my MIL’s dog, so some of it is tied to that. And then there was Christmas and starting back school, so with all of that bleeding into each other, things have been difficult for her at times.

I talked about it with her occupational therapist last week, and I swear, this chick is an absolute godsend. Her advice has been on point, plus she has been sending me some resources to help with BG and shifted the focus of their last two appointments to coping strategies, identifying emotions, that sort of thing. She’s also helping us find a child therapist. We’re hoping to find a therapist who has experience with girls on the autism spectrum.

I put up some dry erase vinyl sheets in the kitchen/living room area with a visual schedule for different parts of the day for BG. Her OT mentioned how helpful she thought that’d be. And while it is very helpful,  BG thinks that anything not on that schedule means “it ain’t happening for anybody.” I had to run errands after school yesterday and planned to leave shortly after BG got home. (I wasn’t taking her with me.)

“The schedule doesn’t say ‘Target’ on it,” BG informed me. “So you can’t go.”

Lawd.

I went after hanging out with her for a while, which she wasn’t very happy about. My husband said she repeatedly asked when I was going to be back while I was gone. (I’ve noticed a little separation anxiety lately, too.) The child ended up tracking my location on the iPhone Find Me app to see where I was and how long it would take me to get home.

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Now for the boy…he’ll be a teenager in a few weeks. Let me tell ya — little boys can get stinky. Not-so-little-boys? They have a funk that smells like onions and sweaty socks. GAG.

He has been doing well. He got a few video games for Christmas, so that’s his focus right now. He mentioned his bestie starting virtual and having a math class with him, which he’s ecstatic over.

“We get to text each other during the class and make fun of the teacher.”

His face totally lights up talking about her, too, so I wonder if that best friend territory will end up in crush territory for him. She came to his birthday party last year, and it was pretty obvious she was in the latter territory.

My husband is doing well, too. He was recently recruited for a new role in his company and found out he got it. It’s a pretty big pay bump and work he’s excited about doing, so 2021 is off to a good start for him in that respect! We are going to celebrate on Saturday night with steaks and good booze. (At home, of course.)

How is your year going so far?

Where’d The Week Go?

Me: I’m gonna post, post, post even if it’s just using a random prompt.

Also me: A week between posts.

I didn’t realize I hadn’t posted all week until I logged on and saw the date of the last post. It was one of those weeks that went by very quickly. We didn’t go anywhere, but we’ve stayed busy inside and outside taking care of stuff. (Plus binge watched a show after the kids went to bed.) I did a little baking and worked with the kids on some school stuff. The last part was more time consuming than I planned.

Baby Girl was on her new medicine this week. We did a half dose instead of a full dose every day except Friday. It’s an ADHD medication, so obviously its main use is to help with focus, but we tried it with the girl because the doctor thought it would help with her meltdowns. There are some studies that show stimulant meds can help with “emotional lability” in kids with autism and help keep drastic behaviors in check, so it was worth trying.

Maybe it was the med or maybe it was just a coincidence, but BG had a fantastic week — only had a few rough moments. And even then, we were able to help her pull back very quickly. A meltdown that would’ve lasted for half an hour was reduced to her losing her cool for about 30 seconds and then settling down. And the losing her cool didn’t involve screaming at the top of her lungs or hitting anyone, either. Holy shit. If next week is anywhere close to that, then yay meds and damn me for not being open to it when the doctor brought it up last year.

LM’s tween mouthiness aside, it was a very peaceful and productive week.

Now for the focus aspect of the medication —

You just couldn't handle my undivided attention ! | Office humor ...

I laughed at this scene, but omg, it’s true. BG’s level of focus was intense. My husband called it kinda scary. This contributed to some of our activities taking much longer than I had planned.

Happy Baby Girl, happy family (but extra busy mom and dad lol).

We had some good family news this week — one of our relatives had a baby and two others announced that they were pregnant! ❤ There has been so much death and other difficulties with family and friends this year that getting those three pieces of news in the span of 24 hours was just wonderful and uplifting.

The kids will start school two weeks from tomorrow. We still have BG enrolled in the 2-days in-person option, but it’s looking like virtual for BG’s age could be a possibility through her school. (It would have been either 2 days in-person and packets from home, as the district was only doing the true virtual option for kids in grades two through twelve, but her small school has a bit more leeway than others.) Hopefully this will happen! We would switch for sure.

My husband and I are watching Game of Thrones. Finally. My brother has been after me to watch it for years. “You love Lord of the Rings, so I know you’ll love this. Just watch it!” I watched 20 minutes of the first episode a year or two ago and thought it was boring, but I decided to try it again. I don’t know why I was so bored before, but I absolutely loved it this time. I was going to watch it on my own since I like to stay up a little while after my husband goes to bed and have some time to myself. But after I told him about the first two episodes, he wanted to watch it, too.

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My husband after I told him everything that happened in the first two episodes.

We are going to the library again tomorrow, and I am hoping they’ll have the books.

How was your week?

Dammit, Meredith

We didn’t end up having our visitor. Gotta say, I’m relieved. I want to help where I can, but I’m glad we didn’t have the exposure. I’m also glad we didn’t mention it to the kids, as they would’ve been crushed.

I’ve been busy today. I sewed 20 masks for my daughter’s school. Since masks are required, our district has been asking people to help out. I donated a bunch to the district office to distribute already, but since the girl may be going in-person, I wanted to make sure her class/school has plenty. I’ve also been getting a bottle of hand sanitizer here and there, so we can donate that to her class, too. The good stuff is finally in stock again. I never thought I’d be so happy to see Germ-X or Purell on the shelves. That watery garbage sanitizer practically took my breath away.

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The girl had an appointment with her neurologist yesterday. Last year she was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, and she has to do yearly visits. She was supposed to go a few months ago, but ya know. She had to have a full body exam to look for cafe au lait spots and tumors, and my husband quickly discovered that BG chose to ditch her underwear before going.

DAMN IT MEREDITH WHERE ARE YOUR PANTIES? It's Casual Day | the ...

(The compression underwear is a new strategy to keep her from putting her hands in her pants all the time. They’re like bicycle shorts and tougher to get into. Sigh.)

My husband said her body was clear of any tumors and some of her spots had faded away. He said the doctor seems skeptical now of whether she has NF. My husband was diagnosed as a kid, so that factored into BG’s diagnosis. She had many of the classic clinical symptoms — large head, small stature, clumsy, freckling in odd spots, and a bunch of cafe au lait spots. Between that and my husband’s diagnosis, that was enough for a clinical diagnosis for her. I told my husband he should get genetic testing done, and if he’s clear, then she would be, too. That would be awesome, as that disease can be pretty awful. (Google if you want, I’m not going to post the pics of the severe cases here.)

My husband and the girl’s conversation yesterday:

BG: Why am I going to the doctor?

Husband: To get a check up for neurofibromatosis. [Details on what it is and the symptoms, including clumsiness.]

BG: Clumsiness? So Mommy has it, too?

Oof.

On other medical stuff, at the girl’s well visit last week, her doctor and I discussed medication to help with the extreme tantrums. They’ve been bad and tend to be more violent lately. (I’ve had my share of bruises over the past few months, and my husband and son have had a bunch of bites.) Her doctor is going to try her on an ADHD medicine and see if that helps. I hate, hate, hate the idea of this, but I’m willing to give it a trial to see if it helps there. It has been a year since we first talked about it, and we opted to wait to see if therapies and another year of development would help (and was also hopeful that the tonsillectomy would since she’d sleep better), but it hasn’t overall. Fingers crossed on that.

Three days of posts in a row. B-)

And Now We Know

Some of y’all who have been following this blog over the past few years know that our parenting experience with Baby Girl has been challenging in ways. We kept waiting for her to outgrow certain behaviors (I can’t tell you how many times we were told it was all a phase), but that never happened. At the end of last year, BG’s pediatrician referred her to a specialist. We saw a family PA prior, and she always brushed us off about BG’s issues. The pediatrician found the behaviors alarming, so she referred her to a specialist and also got the ball rolling to start speech therapy and occupational therapy. The specialist didn’t seem very concerned about the meltdowns, though, and thought she has ADHD. The appointment was very short, though, and when LM was diagnosed with ADHD, his doctor took several appointments to come to that.

We decided to get a second opinion. We wanted to meet up with the folks from her school before summer ends with a better idea of what was going on so we could all be on the same page and develop a game plan.  We expressed our concerns with the new doctor in the initial appointment, and he said he wanted to do a thorough evaluation to look at different possibilities for what was going on with her, but that he was primarily concerned about autism. 

Over the past couple of months, BG saw the psychologist several times, we did a shit ton of questionnaires, and he talked to her preschool teacher. On Friday, we got the results. First, he agreed with the other specialist and said she does have ADHD. He came to that conclusion after spending more than 10-15 minutes with her (which is what the other specialist did, sigh), so we were comfortable with that. Next, he said that she also has high functioning autism. He spent about an hour going over the tests and stuff and showed us how everything supports his diagnosis. The doctor said that it can be tough to diagnose in gifted younger girls, but that she was a textbook case of a little kid with HFA.

I was surprised. I knew autism was a possibility, of course, but still didn’t expect it. And I was flabbergasted at first on how she would be considered a textbook case. She can be very outgoing and chatty when she wants to be, she can be very charming, she doesn’t stim (or so I thought), she made a couple of friends at preschool last year, and she isn’t terrible with making eye contact. She has such a feisty and mischievous little personality, too. BG just has a real spark to her.

Granted, there are “buts” to some of those things. Like, she can be outgoing and chatty, BUT it’s usually her talking on and on about the stuff she’s into. And with her friends, she told me how she doesn’t play with them at the same time, but switches up depending on who will do what she wants. As far as eye contact goes, sometimes she does okay and sometimes she doesn’t make it at all. Like last week when she and I met with her teacher, BG talked excitedly about her birthday for a few minutes, and then wouldn’t make eye contact with her teacher at all, would barely speak outside of “yes” or “no” questions, and talked in the flattest voice ever. It was like someone flipped a light switch. She can be in her own little world a lot, though, so it’s hard to say that when she doesn’t make eye contact (or doesn’t maintain it well) that it’s because of a specific reason.

Aside from not having any of the severe behavioral issues that BG has, LM seemed to be a better fit for that when he was tested around age 7 or 8. My husband, on the other hand, later told me he wasn’t surprised at all and said he knew she had autism, that it’s obvious, and it was just a matter of getting it diagnosed. I don’t remember him ever saying that before, but okay. He also pointed out that LM was also chatty and charming when he was younger, which I guess I had forgotten since he is now a moody tween. At his theater camp, he wouldn’t even sit with the other kids…he wanted to sit by himself and look at his Pokemon cards. I asked why and he said, “None of those kids will be in my class next year, so why should I try to be friendly with them when it doesn’t matter?” As an introvert, I can relate so hard, but as a mom, c’mon, kid!

When I brought up that non-textbook stuff with the doctor, he reminded me that it’s a spectrum disorder and that girls with it present differently from boys. Being outgoing can be normal, he said she does stim (but it isn’t obvious like hand flapping would be, but he considers the nail biting, skin picking, and licking stuff to be stimming). He also said girls like her are excellent as masking and can come off as being “normal,” which is part of why it can be tough to diagnose.

All righty, then.

This has been quite a year for her. She was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder this year, she has been in speech and occupational therapy all year, and now this. It has been a lot, but I am SO glad we are figuring things out and getting her help. She’ll also start therapies for social skills and helping her learn to cope better (thereby reducing the meltdowns, I hope). The doctor said doing diagnosing her early and adding in those extra therapies now will make a world of difference down the road.

And, oh…remember how BG often acts like she can spell or read a lot? She didn’t hold back for the doctor, who said she tested as reading on a second grade level.

Yeah.

This is long enough, but I have a lot more to say — especially regarding the stuff the diagnosis explains the hell out of — so I’ll tackle that in the coming days/weeks.