Saturday, March 27, 2021

Taking Care of Myself

In the past two weeks, I have been feeling more sad and gloomy than usual. I am a pretty positive person and generally bounce back from gloomy moods pretty quickly (like within hours), but that hasn't been the case recently. I am not sure if I was run down or just struggling with all the changes I see ahead. However, it was time to get me back to a healthy mental state. Thus, we started operation Get Mom Back on Track this week. We started the week off with a beautiful Sunday picnic and walk along the river. Rebekah Anne went all out and packed our "picnic" china dishes. My husband stopped and picked up dessert at our favorite bakery. It was lovely.

We walked our city's labyrinth twice this week. I used to take my littles to walk this same labyrinth when they were really out of sorts. It worked well to help balance them. You are forced to walk slower and just follow the pattern which tends to bring one's breathing and blood pressure down. I also prioritized taking my two mile walks everyday. I always feel better when I get a good walk.

Instead of the more serious books I tend to read, I picked a children's chapter book to read this week, because I just needed a bit of fun and whimsy. I also made it a priority to get into bed by 10 pm and actually made it most nights. Lastly, I added back in my supplement, Holy Basil, which has always helped my mood. I had taken a few weeks off from taking it. I am feeling much more myself this Saturday morning. I will have to keep up the good work of taking care of myself. 

I have started formulating a plan to help Elijah break down the growing up process. We told him that for the next short while, he has to work two hours a day on career exploration, working for Grandma at $11 an hour and working on getting his learner's permit or exploring the bus system. He is also welcome to apply for jobs that we/he finds that might be a good fit. My hope is that adding in a bit of money to his life will help him get used to using his debit card, knowing how much money he has, managing and maybe even saving his money a bit more. I also want him to go back to having a daily routine and doing work that he may not love, but brings him some value (money, self worth). I am not sure how long we are going to do this plan, but we will do it at least until he gets vaccinated. If it goes on for more than a handful of weeks, we will have to increase the hours per day and get him used to more sustained work. 

He did apply for a job at Starbucks this week and has not heard from them. I am biding my time waiting for his standards to come down. I have been told by others that our local chain grocery store is always hiring and really does hire young people with no experience all the time and treats them well. Employees are also able to set their own hours within reason. We rarely shop in the chain store because it is more expensive and has less organics than the other three stores I shop at. He has resisted this store because his estranged sister (Katie) works in the one we frequent most often, plus it is downtown and has an urban gangster vibe. Next week we will be visiting some of the ones out in the suburbs so he can see that many of the stores are newer and nicer. I also saw that two other grocery stores in our area were hiring, and I had heard really nice things about one of them. We visited both of those this week. Elijah liked both of them and was surprised how clean and nice the one was despite it also being downtown. He also appreciated that everyone was wearing their masks properly. He is a real mask stickler and gets very upset when he sees people not following the rules. We have two major industries here, medical and tourism. I pointed out that both stores were on the "rich" side of town and that I had really noticed that the more educated and richer folks in our city who tend to be in the medical world were generally much more compliant with mask wearing. Actually, most of the residents in our city are doing very well with mask compliance. It is mostly the tourists who come in and just don't want to follow the rules.

We treated ourselves to this tart at one of the grocery stores. I realized that we rarely grocery shop as a family, and I wanted Elijah to get a more personal experience with some of the departments. Grocery stores have so many different jobs in them. 

April is almost here. I am ready to say good-bye to March. I always find it one of the dreariest months of the year. 

Lastly, Tim got his first Covid vaccine this week, and I can sign Elijah and Rebekah up on the waitlist on the 31st of March. The waitlist is getting faster now and only seems to take two to three weeks. We are making progress!

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Thoughts of a Mom about Her Special Needs Teen

This post may be a bit of a jumble, because my thoughts are a jumble right now. In fact, I think I will just put my thoughts into bullet points and leave it at that. 

  • Living with a household of people who have executive functioning delays is exhausting (my two sons and a bit from other family members who are just developing or overwhelmed with their lives and need support).
  • Executive functioning skill deficits are especially evident when you are trying to make changes.
  • I feel that I am sharing my brain with three or four other people much of the time. 
  • Many people with FASD have average or above average intellectual abilities, as is true with my son, but still struggle with executive skills, social communication, self-regulation and adaptive skills.
  • All of these qualities are important for adulting and my son struggles a great deal with all of them. 
  • I wish there was a really good online or in-person support group. Even the FASD Facebook support group is mostly a whine fest. There just isn't much useful information on it most of the time.
  • I wish my son could accept FASD as part of his being, so we could openly talk about it without it becoming a shouting match if his special needs are brought up.
  • I wish he could accept outside support in a constructive way.
  • I fiercely love my son and see so many wonderful qualities in him! I wish he could feel and absorb how wonderful he is instead of dwelling on his deficits (yet not admitting that there is a reason for those deficits and that something could be done about it...instead, calling himself stupid or a jerk, which gets us nowhere).
  • How do you help someone manage their deficits without always pointing them out which just lowers their self-esteem and doesn't improve their deficits anyway?
  • Vocational Rehabilitation failed us and I am still mourning that fact. I will get over it soon.
  • Some research for FASD says to take 4 to 7 years off a person's age to get a more appropriate developmental age. 
  • That would place my son at 11 to 14 years old.
  • You certainly wouldn't expect an 11 to 14 year old to work an adult job.
  • However, you would expect an 11 to 14 year old to have constructive days that lead to development.
  • Maybe I should review the development of an 11 to 14 year old boy. 
  • I feel like we have been on a summer break for a year with both of my sons. There has been limited growth and yet...
  • In some ways they have grown a great deal. I see subtle improvements and growth in attitude, work ethic and relationships. But they are small and might not be noticeable to those who do not live with them.
  • Are my current goals for Elijah too big? Do I need to cut them down into smaller bites? 
  • I need to worry less about what the world expects and have more confidence myself.
Like I said, there is a lot jumbling around in my brain. So far, Elijah hasn't gotten past applying for jobs on the Internet and being rejected for unknown reasons. I think the market is flooded with much more experienced people and that he is striving for jobs in companies that are too glamorous or desirable because of their pay and environment. The process is stressing him out so much that it is very debilitating and takes over the day, even when we only spend an hour or two looking for jobs.

On the bright side -- My husband was struggling to put up crown molding in our hallway which was only partly done when we moved in years ago. I suggested that we have Elijah give it a try, since he has remarkable visual spatial skills. Sure enough, he had the crown molding up in a matter of hours. It isn't perfect or professional, but with a bit of caulking and paint, it will be more than good enough for me. We are paying him 11 dollars an hour for the job and looking at others that he can do.

Salem was very eager to help. She is such a curious kitten.

I got my first Pfizer vaccine this week, because I am a caregiver of a medically-fragile adult. That is a huge relief. I get the second shot on Tim's birthday. Tim is now on the county's waitlist. I hope they will call soon. Now I need to get the rest of my family signed up as soon as they are allowed. We might just have a vacation this summer after all.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, March 13, 2021

One Year Later ...

If you had told me on March 13, 2020, what the next year would hold, I probably wouldn't have believed you. Yes, I was aware that there was a pandemic brewing, and I was actively stockpiling food and toilet paper along with the rest of America. But I never would have predicted that it would change our lives so much. I had never heard of Zoom anything. I never thought that my adult son's brain injury day program would be closed for most of a year or that my daughter would spend hours and hours taking dance classes on Zoom in our small 9 foot by 8.5 foot guest bedroom. She has very long legs and I can't tell you how often she kicks the That my sons' medieval sword play group would be cancelled for a year. It is held outside, so I thought it would be back in session quickly; but it still hasn't officially returned. (One parent started a small group outside last weekend with mandatory mask wearing at all times. We were there and my guys loved every minute of it.) Oh, and the physical separation from friends -- I so miss the sound of teenager laughter ringing through my home. However, it truly hasn't been all bad. Life is a journey and there are different chapters in it. This chapter has been quieter and centered around home.

We have learned so much from this experience. My family is resilient, more flexible than I thought, and strongly bonded. We have a pretty good time all on our own. We renewed our enjoyment of nature and hiking. We instituted family movie night on Fridays with takeout dinner most of those nights. It is anticipated all week and will probably continue even when the pandemic ends. We took up new hobbies and the adults read more books. We binge watched National Geographic shows, The Crown, any and all British murder mysteries and Call the Midwife. We got projects done, reduced our belongings dramatically (and are still working on this one) and started gardening. We adopted two cats, bringing our tiny clowder to THREE. We certainly didn't waste our time whining that life wasn't the way we had planned it would be. We adjusted and thrived. 

With the vaccines starting to roll out with some real speed, the world is starting to open back up. We are not ready to rush out into the streets just yet. We have worked way too hard to stay safe all this time to take unnecessary risks in the eleventh hour. But the end is in sight. My mother and stepmother got their vaccines this week. My husband has been fully vaccinated for more than a month. I am on the list for level 3 (because I am caregiver of a medically fragile adult), which is being processed now. Hopefully, I will have my shot in the next few weeks. Tim is level 4 and the rest of my crew is level 5. It is possible that we will all be vaccinated by the beginning of June. I can't wait!

This week, Tim and Elijah held a Zoom class at Tim's brain injury program. They taught everyone about medieval sword play and did lots of demonstrations. I was struck again by the realization that Elijah is a natural born teacher. He instantly figured out how to reach everyone through Zoom, answer their questions, explain everything on the appropriate level and make them feel included. It was a lovely thing to watch. I do hope in the coming years That he finds his place in the world. I know he will; it just is going to take lots of time, faith and a lot of pushing guidance.

Elijah has applied for a few jobs in the last two weeks. He is concentrating on high-end grocery stores right now (because he wants to work where masks are highly respected). He was rejected by a few, but one of his applications hasn't been kicked back yet. He is also working more for Grandma. She has lots of yard work for him to do. Lastly, he is starting to think about learning to drive. I am not sure he is there yet, but his mind is starting to think about it on a routine basis. I need to constantly remind myself that we do not have to follow the world's timeframe and expectations. I see so many sad stories about FASD young adults whose lives unravel into nightmares. I think so much of it happens because they and their families give in to the world's demands to grow up in a certain amount of time. Slow and steady, we will get him to adulthood and in one piece.

The bottom pictures are from a few months ago, but I don't think I ever posted them. This was a fun photo shoot in the River Arts District. There is a bit too much going on in the background, but it was an interesting location. 

I am going to reveal my daughter's first name today, since I need to start working on her transcript on my blog. I like to have their real names in those posts. Her name is Rebekah Anne.

Rebekah Anne is enjoying her college course (Art Appreciation). It is a bit more heavy in reading than she expected and she is a slow reader, but she is pulling an A in this online course. She is signing up for another online course this summer. She finishes her high school Sign Language on Tuesday, and her Latin and English IV courses are well on their way to completion.  

I can't believe my baby girl graduates at the end of May. What an incredible journey it has been. 

Blessings, Dawn