Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 78

Wednesday November 3, 2010

When I think of Nina here is what comes to mind: amazing, loving, beautiful, smart, strong, funny, giving, goofy, resilient, sassy, sweet, adventurous, stunning, tender, strong-willed, people-pleaser, wondrous, observant, playful, willing, exquisite! However, above all Nina is brave! She is the bravest person I know and I know A LOT of people. The strength and grace in which she handles herself in all of the madness is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Today, Mendy got to see Nina's brilliant strength and will in action.

After breakfast, we went to the imaging center to have Nina's updated MRI taken. We checked in and unfortunately it took well over an hour before we got called in for anesthesia. While we waited in the lobby, Nina didn't cry. She played on the ipad, talked to us, listened to our stories about her infancy and toddlerhood, asked questions about Teddy's early childhood, laughed at our goofy attempts at entertaining her, and waited patiently. Then when it was time to go in she didn't cry or fuss. The anesthesiologist was awesome and the staff at the imaging center had heard (ha-ha) about us and our protocol for giving Nina anesthesia. Mendy and I laughed at the thought of the medical community chatting about that Rosy-Mama-Bear and her requests :) At least I didn't need to explain myself. Within seconds, Nina was out and the MRI went without a hitch. Although Nina cried intensely during recovery, by the time we go onto the freeway she had fallen asleep and took a nice long nap.

I loved watching Mendy's reaction to Nina's strength. She commented on how formidable she was and how many adults fail to respond with such resiliency and courage. Mendy's assessment was spot on! Every time I start to wallow in self-pity, all I have to do is look over to my side and see how brave my girl is! That is sufficient to kick my ass into gear and pull myself together!

While Nina finished her nap and Mendy watched over her, I went and picked up Teddy. I should have known it was going to be a rough afternoon when he scowled at me, "You're late!" I was 1 minute late to be precise. I had noticed over the past month that Teddy's anxiety had begun to spike again. In general, his behavior over the course of September and October had been deteriorating. He was easily irritated, quicker to anger, more learned helpless about his schoolwork, and overall a punk. He talked back, refused to comply, and quick to say mean things. In fact, Linda and I had just talked about these behavioral manifestations on Sunday night and she had suggested that I should re-establish as much of my routines with him as possible. She was right! Prior to Nina's illness, I was both the kid's primary caretaker. I was the one that fixed Teddy his breakfast and helped him get ready for school. I made his lunch, dropped him off, volunteered in the classroom, picked him up, arranged playdates, came home and did homework with him, and prepared dinner. Bottom line, prior to the illness, I was his routine.

However, that all changed August 19th. I took Teddy to his first day of school, but after that, Todd had been in charge. Our sweet boy is responding to all of these changes. He knows his life has been turned upside down. He is living through this nightmare as best as he can but he is still only 8 years old. After speaking to Linda, I realized how essential it was for me to resume my role with him. Consequently, I have started taking Teddy to school again, picking him up, doing homework, all the things I had previously done in his life.

Teddy is naturally a kid that is either hot or cold, there really is no middle ground, although I have been working on this since preschool. I have to keep reminding myself to not lose my patience and get angry myself because he is only a little boy responding to his environment. But's not easy...I'm running on empty myself so I have to constantly pray for self-control and most of all patience and love!

After we arrived home, I fixed the kids a snack. Our routine is that Teddy gets to relax a bit (30 minutes or so) before we do homework and then he gets to play and hang out the rest of the evening. Teddy decided he wanted to go ride his bike for a bit and see if he could find Katie. While Teddy played outside, I mixed Nina's chemo into a spoonful of pudding and brought it to her side. The sweet girl moaned under her breath, opened her little birdie mouth, swallowed and then chugged down a cup of water. "That's yucky!" Mendy shook her head in amazement, "Baby girl, you rock!" Nina does rock, rock indeed! Approximately 45 minutes later, I called Teddy in to do homework. Mendy and Nina were playing Wii when he came in. What proceeded next was nothing short of WWIII!!

As soon as he saw that Nina and Mendy were playing Wii he started to whine and complain. "That's not fair! Why is it that all I do is work and work and work and Nina just gets to sit and play?" I ignored him and walked into the kitchen with his backpack in tow. I took out his homework folder and asked him to sit down. That's when the fun started! He threw his hands up into the air, fully exasperated, as if I were asking him to do calculus or solve some awfully complicated physics problem. I explained the instructions for the math sheet and started prompting him to complete each problem. The thing with Teddy is that he is a brilliant child (not just saying that because he is my son!) but he is lazy as the day is long and he despises homework so he doesn't pay attention. The lack of attention results in careless mistakes, which then requires him to make corrections, which then leads to bigger and badder tantrums!!! You see how the freaking cycle of doom continues!!! Aghh!!!!!!

So....per usual...he wasn't paying attention so he made some mistakes. I pointed out that he needed to fix a few things so he got angrier. This happened another two times. Finally, I made a number line to help him avoid the mistakes he was making but instead of seeing this gesture as me being helpful, he took it as an insult and declared that I didn't know anything about teaching! That was it! I told him we needed to go finish his homework upstairs in his room because his histrionics were disturbing everyone down stairs and that I wouldn't help him further until he was calm.

He marched upstairs, full of rage and proceeded to engage in a 30 minute rant about how I was the worst mother in the world, how I was ruining his life, how all he wanted me to do was leave him alone and that I didn't understand a thing! I just sat on his bed, quietly, and periodically reminded him that once he was calm we could proceed. Intermittently, he would calm down for a millisecond and ask if I could leave him alone. Each time, I 'd remind him that I would leave once he was fully calm for at least 30 seconds and once we had discussed what was making him so angry. This would send him back into a fit of rage. All the while, I knew my friend Mendy (the child clinical psychologist) was downstairs taking notes, ready to give me tips. For years, I have told the families I work with that everything I teach them and ask them to do with their child, I do with my own. For the most part, I believe parents doubt that I actually practice what I preach. Hopefully now folks believe me :)

Thirty minutes later, Teddy fully calmed down and plopped himself down next to me. He was flushed, nose snotty, eyes red from crying. He got his blotchy face right next to mine and said, "I'm sorry I yelled at you mama!" I reached over and gave him huge, long hug and told him I forgave him and asked him if he was ready to talk. He nodded so we discussed what had made him so mad and how we could solve it. He explained that he didn't like the number line because that is not how they do it at school. We agreed that he didn't have to use it, but that in the future all he'd need to do was calmly decline my suggestion and that I would in turn not be insulted or bothered. He also complained that homework was boring and that he hated it. With this one, there really isn't a solution. I explained that he was  big kid now and that homework would be a part of his life for at least another 20 years, hopefully longer, and that he had an incredible brain that he needed to feed with knowledge. We also talked about  how he can't use the replacement behavior of asking for a break or asking to be left alone as a way to avoid discussing what is bothering him. I added that part of growing up into a being a healthy adult is being able to discuss your emotions and brain storm solutions with trustworthy people. He quipped by saying, "Well, I'm not an adult. I'm just a kid now." I recognized that he was still a kid but that being a healthy adult doesn't just happen over night; it's a long process and as his mom I was committed to helping him be the best man he could be. He nodded, for once conceding the validity of my point.

Teddy is an extraordinary child. He has been my biggest challenge but his also my biggest reward. After a full on battle, we had an incredible discussion that was productive for both of us. Then then crawled into my lap and kissed he softly on the lips, arms wrapped around my neck. He then said, "Mama, lay down on the bed." I laughed and plopped down on my back. He laughed and said, "No, lie down on your tummy so I can give you a massage." This time, I just smiled! I rolled over, and he proceeded to plop his skinny tushy onto my waist and then began to massage my back. I closed my eyes and thanked God for Teddy! He is a treasure, the most golden and precious of treasures, even if at times I want to ring his scrawny neck :)

After my massage, I went down stairs and checked in with Mendy. She applauded my efforts, especially my capacity for staying calm. I told her we needed to get a stiff drink and she laughed! I wasn't kidding :)

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