Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mothers and Daughters

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She is not so little anymore...

Abby and I are very close. She is very open with me and willing to share and talk about almost everything. And what she doesn't share, she knows that I know anyway! I tell her, someday we will sit down and chat about all these things, when they won't feel like such a big deal to her.

It stresses me out that she may be leaving our house soon. She is accepted to three different Universities, one being three hours away from home. It is her choice where she decides to go and I think she feels ready to be on her own, but knows that the cost of moving away is something she really needs to consider. I know that she would be fine.

It is hard as a mother to let your children go... and yet, we always remain mothers to our children. Hey, I still call my mom up for advice or ask her to come see me when I really need her support... and she always drops everything and comes to me.

There is a song on the radio right now that I call "our song". Abby rolls her eyes at me, with a smile on her face.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Zoe's Assessment

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Zoe has improved tremendously since the school year started. She really does have the most amazing teacher, who adores her and know exactly how to deal with her.

I met with the teacher today, to go over Zoe's individual program plan for Kindergarten. Zoe has mild/moderate developmental delays, but her teacher believes that with some extra help, it won't take much for Zoe to catch up with her peers.

The main issue that Zoe has is focusing and sitting still. They use a weighted bag or fidget toys for Zoe, and the good thing is that the teacher explains to the children that each child is different and needs help in different areas, and this is one of the areas that Zoe needs help in, so sometimes she gets to use these items, just like another child may get to use something else that works for them. No child is ever pointed out or made to feel different. They continue to use these aids into grade one as well.

Zoe is also learning about personal space and keeping her hands to herself. She has improved in this area as well, with consistent reminders.

One thing they do in class when a child makes an inappropriate choice or hurts someone, is that child has to sit alone for a bit and think of a way to make the other child feel better (restorative justice). Instead of just saying "sorry", which often doesn't mean a lot, they have to interact with that child they hurt, by doing some sort of activity together. I am going to try this at home as well!

Zoe responds well to words of praise. If she is told she is doing a good job, she will continue to do a good job. Everyday, she asks her teacher, "Can I tell my mom that I was good today?" and the teacher will say yes, or no, and give her the reason why.

I have said before, how this girl keeps us constantly laughing. When she is good. And when she is bad (we are often covering up our mouths so she can't see!).

Yesterday, Silas stepped on Zoe's legs.

Zoe: (yelling) "Aaaaggghhh! THAT HURT!"

Me: Zoe, please talk nicely.

Zoe: (whispering) "Aaaaggghhh! That hurt..."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Back at home

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Lilah's surgery today went very well.

We were lucky that the case before hers was bumped, so we arrived at the hospital and she went right in. We were able to get home by noon.

Lilah amazes me. We were given a prescription for pain killers and she says she doesn't need any pain medication because she is not in pain. At least not enough pain. This all stems from her anxiety and high tolerance of pain, so I may have to force her to take some yet!

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The surgeon said this fat injection went much better and they got the fat into the areas that they wanted it to go. There may or may not be a third injection, depending on how this looks when the swelling goes down. The surgeon did laugh a little, when he said finding some fat on her skinny, little tummy was not easy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Surgery Tomorrow

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Tomorrow Lilah has another day surgery for a fat injection under her eye.

She always handles her surgeries really well, but it is still never fun. They are injecting more fat to continue to fill the void under her right eye, where her cleft runs. These fat injections should also help when it comes time to revise her nose.

So please send up a little prayer for our girl tomorrow morning. This little one goes through a lot.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Last Semester of High School

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It is an exciting time in our house. Abby has entered her last semester of high school.

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She will soon be 18. Legal. An adult.

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The grad dress has been bought. A photographer booked. University acceptances are coming in.

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She has loved high school, but I think she is ready to move on. And I know that she is prepared to be an adult. I am sure there will be some lessons learned along the way! But we are so excited to see where she will go...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

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What is love?

Silas: "A hug."
Zoe: "Something you want to eat."

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My family is special because:

Silas: "We are happy."
Zoe: "Because I love them."

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I am happy when my family...

Silas: "Shares."
Lilah: "Helps me."
Zoe: "Gives me supper."

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How can I show someone I love them?

Silas: "Dance and sing for them."
Lilah: "Hugs and kisses."
Zoe: "Draw them a picture."

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My favourite love story is...

Silas: "Jesus' story." (This one melted my heart! Less than a year ago, this little boy was bowing to idols.)
Lilah: "Sleeping Beauty."
Zoe: "The Little Mermaid."

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Three things I love are...

Silas: "Spiderman, the Power Rangers and fish."
Lilah: "Chinese New Year, giving things to people."
Zoe: "Mommy, Daddy and my WHOLE family!"

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Up where they walk, up where they run, up where they stay all day in the sun. Wandering free...Wish I could...Part of that world. -Ariel

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You may notice that Lilah didn't answer all the questions. The minute she is put on the spot, her anxiety rises and she tries to answer what she thinks you want to hear, not what is the truth (this causes a lot of lying on her part). Her hands were fidgeting, she swayed as she talked and she took forever to come up with the answers she did and needed much prompting.

You may also notice that Zoe's answers revolve around food a lot, she is still very concerned with where and when the food will come and that at some point I may not give her enough. And mermaids, because she wants to be one. But she loves her family and her life.

Silas answered every question quickly and efficiently.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Year of the Snake

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This is Silas' first Chinese New Year with his family. I am guessing that his celebrations of the New Year in China were much more exciting then they will be here! We won't be setting off firecrackers, sending lighted lanterns into the air or making homemade dumplings.

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It may be the year of the snake, but we only have our blow up dragon and the littles are excited when we turn it on and it lights up for them.

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Tonight, we are headed to a traditional Chinese hot pot restaurant to kick off Chinese New Year. Silas still has a deep sense of loyalty to China, and anything Chinese. When we say we are going to eat Chinese food, he cheers and yells.

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Over 1.3 billion people in China and millions of Chinese around the world celebrate the first day of the Chinese New Year – February 10, 2013 – today. It’s the most important of Chinese holidays, kicking off a celebration that lasts for 15 days and culminates with the Lantern Festival. Each year is associated with one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. For 2013, it’s the Year of the Snake.

Festive dance parades are held featuring colorful dragons or lions, ceremonies are held to pay homage to deities and ancestors, children receive money in red envelopes, gifts are exchanged, extended family members visit each other, and there’s more traditional feasting.

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Gong Xi Fa Ca!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A bit of Psychology: {Discipline}

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After a bit of a long wait, we finally got back to the Psychologist this week.

There were some issues that I wanted to talk to her about, even though I knew what her answer would be -- we have to get her to an anxiety free state first! -- I wanted some ways to deal with some of the issues we have been having.

We have been consistently doing our yoga and massage and warm buddies. When we don't do these things, Lilah will ask for them. So even though she may not recognize her pain, on some level she knows that doing these activities make her feel better.

We go through spurts, where we have a great week, she is cooperative and we get along without the constant battles. And we have rough weeks, where everything, everyday is a challenge with her. I have been trying to teach Lilah to take some responsibility in what she needs to get done in her day. The simple things, like cleaning up her toys and room. Brushing her teeth. Getting her hair done. Getting dressed. Packing her school snack. Eating her breakfast. And practicing her violin.

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My girls are in afternoon kindergarten and it is a challenge almost every. single. day for Lilah to get these done in time. My instinct says she is purely being stubborn. She would rather play. I can see her watching me, to see if I am noticing that she is not doing her jobs. And she recently started manipulating Silas into being distracted, so that he also, will not finish his jobs and she won't be the only one to get into trouble. Anxiety always equals defiance and control in everything.

So we tried a few different discipline techniques. None of which worked. And I was feeling extremely frustrated, extremely drained and emotionally exhausted. I wanted to give up and honestly, didn't care about what the outcome would be for her in the future.

We tried letting her not do her jobs and then when lunch time came (when she would jump up to the counter to be fed like Zoe and Silas), she would not be fed until her jobs were completed. And if those jobs weren't completed by the time we had to leave, she went without lunch. This did upset her somewhat, but not in the way she usually reacts with the screaming... I will explain more about what the Psychologist said about this below.

We then tried having immediate consequences. Time outs, when her jobs weren't done on time. (Our time out spot is our stairs, where the littles can see us at all times). She would get very upset, as usual, when put in a time out. But every step and every job was a struggle, because she was working herself into a very anxious state, starting to shut down, not be able to think clearly and then not caring, whether the other jobs ever got done. The Psychologist agrees that the consequences do need to be immediate, but that it was time to try some new techniques.

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There are some signs that a child is dealing with anxiety. You can see it in their physical state. The worry lines in the forehead. The lack of balance. The fidgeting with hands and clothes. The unevenness in their shoulders. And the colour and shininess of their skin. And (this was a new one for me) a distended tummy. And anxiety constricts the voice box. Which I hadn't been told before and it makes total sense. Why, when we talk to Lilah and ask for a response, we can barely hear her answer us, it is always in a whisper. Another thing that I had taken as stubbornness, but now realize this was one thing that was physical. Also, that when her anxiety rises in situations where food is involved (which we had HUGE struggles in) she likely feels emotionally full and physically can't eat.

Lilah is now being encouraged to self soothe. It is important to know that we still want to do some of this for her, but as she gets older and isn't always around us, she needs to know how to recognize her anxiety and try to calm herself in these situations. I am teaching her to massage herself. Rub her forehead, when her head hurts. Rub the back of her neck, when her neck hurts. And while she rubs these spots for her to say to herself... My name is Lilah. My name is Lilah. My name is Lilah. I like my mommy. I like my mommy. I like my mommy. I am pretty. I am pretty. I am pretty. I am loved. I am loved. I am loved.

We can also use a hot or cold cloth to soothe her or put on music to change the dynamic in the house.

So how do you discipline a toddler who is dealing with anxiety and trauma?

Calmly. This will be a challenge!!!

With physical touch. Also, a challenge for me!

Lilah does need immediate consequences, but nothing is going to work unless she is in a relaxed state first.

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So it was suggested that we have a little chair that she can go to when she is feeling anxious -- which will be me telling her when she is feeling this way, since she doesn't recognize it yet. This little chair should be near me. She will sit in her space and I will sit down in my own space and we will sit together -- but apart-- quietly for a few minutes. When our time is up, I will call her over, rub her back and I will remind her that we have rules that need to be obeyed and that when these rules aren't obeyed there are consequences. Also, that HER special little chair is not a time out and that she is not in trouble right now, but that when we are done sitting quietly and calmly, that those rules will need to be followed. We will be using a timer for this, so that she knows that when it dings, the time is up. This is still somewhat like a time out, except that mommy also gets a time out and we do it together. Sometimes we need to repeat our time outs... long enough that she can converse and hear what is being said.

When asked by the Psychologist if she ever forgets to do her jobs... she said no.

When placing the toys into the sand table, she picked the same items she always picks. Three little houses, some miscellaneous people and some other cute objects. She still mixed up all her family members, including extended family members into the three different houses, showing she is still confused about family dynamics and where she fits in.

Object constancy:

Object constancy is very interesting! So in Lilah’s case, the objects (mother, caregivers, even places and familiar things like blankets or toys) that should have been constant in her life kept changing. She probably wanted to attach (I think all babies do) but would have been confused and frightened (we know she’s very bright/aware, and would not have been unable to process all the changes, either consciously or subconsciously). Throw in some physically painful experiences, and it’s easy to see how traumatic her first year would have been. It seems to come down to trust – what should have stayed the same and provided love and stability didn’t – and so she’s afraid – probably (on some level) that we will disappear too. Shutting down is self-preservation.

Lilah doesn't have me in her yet. She hasn't had that strong mommy attachment that should have taken place in those first six months of her life. Now at the age of five, and with her anxiety and trust issues, that attachment takes a lot of work. The Psychologist says she is attached to me, she can see it in Lilah's actions and body language, but she does not trust that I always love her or will never leave her. This will take some reassurance.

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Sensory Issues:

Our senses are a powerful thing. And smells, sounds, music, etc. can bring forward unexpected emotional responses that we can't explain. There will always be triggers for her. Hopefully, as we work together, she will learn to deal and recognize these times.

The Psychologist has decided that she would like to meet Zoe for an assessment and then to work with the two girls together for a couple of weeks. She believes that a strong bond with these sisters would be very benefit to Lilah and her feeling of belonging in this family. I am not sure where this will go... the girls already act like twins. They rely on each completely and are very bonded.

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Silas is 5

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Today, is Silas' first birthday with us as a family. Today, Silas is five.

Since the first day we got Silas, he has been obsessed with marital arts and anything Power Ranger Samurai. So that was the theme of his party.

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We invited a couple of his little friends over for a Power Ranger Training Camp, led by our very own black belt Samurai Master -- Daddy.

The boys had to complete six stations.

1. "Careful" - walk on a plank over an alligator pond.

2. "Teamwork" - sort coloured balls into bins labelled by colour.

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3. "Help the good guys" - find the injured samurai's, and bandage them up.

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4. "Defeat the bad guys" - knock down stuffed animals with bean bags.

5. "Strong" - use swords to hit oncoming fireballs, red balloons.

6. "Final Challenge" - training with the black belt master samurai.

I didn't get any photos of the the board breaking and kicking... I had to run out and get Abby, who was at a basketball tournament.

After each station, each boy was given a prize to add to his loot bag and received a medal at the end. They also had their own water bottles to drink from during their training.

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The party was a lot of fun! We finished up with cupcakes and fruit and many presents.

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Happy Birthday Silas!

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