Raising Teens in 2016

Raising Teens

We had been hearing her name a lot over the course of a few weeks: Maria is traveling to Canada for Spring Break. Oh, Maria is so tired from the traveling. Maria loves pancakes. Yea, Maria really enjoyed that movie too.

That sort of talk from my fourteen year old. Every weekend he sleeps in each morning till we notice the late hour and call out. He eats breakfast at 11A and lunch at 3P. I guess it didn’t bother me so much. He was bringing home good grades from honors classes. He’s still going to two hour sports practices each week. I wished he would be more social with friends face to face. During this school year, we noticed a dramatic increase in gaming online with a group of people. They chit chat about their lives, tease each other, tell jokes. But we don’t know these kids, their families, the locations of their homes. This year, my son has spent less time inviting friends over.

One day, he took a shower, came running down the steps and announced he was meeting up with friends at the school. He hopped on his bike and said he’d be back in a few hours. This was before 10a on a Saturday. Who are these people? I later found out SHE had texted him with the invite.

In the weeks that followed, he seemed in a stable, content mood. He settled into a routine every afternoon after school of having a snack while texting on his phone. He reported a bunch of kids were eating their lunches in the science teacher’s room these days, “It’s fun, a nice change from the cafeteria.”  So I started.Raising teens

I guess I was curious and not satisfied with the limited information I was getting verbally from him. I guess I wanted to assess the language used in the texting. And I just wanted to make sure they were not getting carried away with exchanging photos of a certain nature. I read the news, too. I was aware of what was happening in the world of teens and various forms of social media.

Their conversations were sweet — asking about homework, commenting on something that had happened in a shared class, a question about the other’s home life. I peeked in on these exchanges every few days. I felt guilty but justified. My friend supported me, telling me that she too had read her daughter’s phone messages. “So it’s not like the tv movie mom finding the diary under the mattress and then ruining their trust?”  Not in this day and age! Was her response. We need to know what our kids are doing, saying and sending each other.

The end of the year there was a field trip and a dance. There appeared to have been some events that occurred on the bus ride back to the school as well as the dance the following day. She inquired about his reaction on the bus. He explained in detail. Seemed to make sense to me that he didn’t feel like answering a truth or dare question from her friend.

“But why?” she persisted in her questioning. But why, what? I wondered. He didn’t feel like answering.

And later, my son wrote that he was upset, “Could you please let me know things are ok, I need to hear from you this weekend.” I ached inside for him. What happened? Could she write back soon to relieve the suspense?!

That week, he seemed more sullen.  I tried to be the cool, available mom. I waited patiently a few days, then asked, “Hey, I haven’t heard (her) name is a while, anything happening?”

My son replied, “Oh, not anymore. There were some things that happened at the dance. I thought she wanted to dance, then I couldn’t find her. Then I heard she was looking for me. It was messed up. I can’t really deal. I don’t know what she wants. It’s no biggie. We’re still friends.”

I was privately sad and proud of him. He seemed to really enjoy the flirting and the fun. But I respect that he didn’t have the interest for ambivalence.

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Parenting and Sports

Parenting and Sports

Reflection – Sunday

I’m sitting here with a chilled Warsteiner, drinking straight from the bottle thinking about this past week. I’m listening to Mumford & Sons’ Babel.

My eldest went to sleep away ultimate (frisbee) camp this past week. Yup, it was expensive. It was also the only away from home experience for him this summer. Plus, I want to encourage him to remain in sports.parenting and sports

We got a few text messages the first two nights– complaints of how it was not fun, the opposite of what Mom had said it would be, and that it was demoralizing. He wrote he was hating it. My son admitted to feeling troubled over being at the bottom of the heap in terms of skill. I cringe and laugh every time I get blamed for something. How would I possibly know what sleep away ultimate camp is like?  From my years of running track and playing on the tennis team at my small town public high school?!

Where I grew up and when I was growing up, most of us played at the rec level. We did not have tryouts. We did not have club. There were a handful of kids whose parents invested in private lessons. There was a country club in our town and a tennis club in the next one over. But a week long camp at a college where he slept in a dorm room? I felt thrilled that we could give him this opportunity.

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Recovery from Mastectomy and Reconstruction

Recovery from Mastectomy and Reconstruction

Part III

DCIS diagnosis. Mastectomy and Reconstruction.  To tell or not to tell.  When do we share important information. And how do we know with whom to share? I know of someone in my social circle who openly revealed on Facebook her week by week experiences of chemotherapy. BTW, she is doing great. I asked my hubby, “Why would you do that?” A perfectly natural question coming from someone who does not readily solicit support from others. He answered, “To get support!”recovery from mastectomy and reconstruction

I’m thinking of my uncle, childhood piano teacher, high school classmates, and acquaintances from our kids sports teams as my people on FB. Would I want them all to know of my diagnosis? I’m not that type, I decided. My diagnosis of DCIS is to me like having a concerning mole on your upper arm. The dermatologist says, “I don’t like the look of that. I’m going to recommend removing it and sending the tissue to the lab for analysis. Let’s get you in sooner rather than later.”

My oncology surgeon said to me, “Let’s take care of this over the summer.” Shortly after the biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of DCIS in early June, I explored treatment options. I decided on a single mastectomy. My surgeon said, “Just a bump in the road this summer.” The surgeon’s assistant coordinated with the plastic surgeon for immediate reconstruction. She handed me a card: July 1st.

Now to the root of the issue. It’s interesting how little information is easily accessible on the web regarding post-mastectomy recovery. I wanted answers to my questions; I surfed the web, searching. Weeks later I came across this amazing personal story/website:

www.dcismystory.com 

Welcome

As part of my recovery, I feel the need to share my experience:

I checked into the hospital at 8:30A for an 11:30 scheduled surgery time. I went through a few procedures before surgery. I woke up in the afternoon in the recovery area. I was transferred to a private room by late afternoon. I had a soda, then juice, then soup and crackers over the course of 10 hours. I was starving the next morning, I could not wait to order a full blown breakfast meal.

In the hospital the RN staff took my vitals and assisted me in using the bathroom. In the hospital I phoned in my meal orders. In the hospital I pushed buttons to move my bed and to change the channels of the tv. The nurse discussed the drains and caring for them. A physical therapist showed me arm exercises to do ASAP to condition and encourage range of movement. My surgeon visited me and prescribed medications. The plastic surgeon warned me to avoid the raised arms touchdown motion. Yea, no problem the Steelers are not on tv at this time. I felt comfortable having everything and everyone within reach.  I asked if I could stay for lunch. Yes, you can order the hospital lunch and then it’s time to leave. I was a little nervous about returning home. The medical staff was so helpful with assisting, demonstrating, and then asking: Is that clear? The recovery process I was about to experience in my home stretched out ahead – a murky fog.

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What is the Right Dosage of Ritalin

June 20, 2016

We are in the process of determining the right dosage of Ritalin for my kid. We went in for another medication review appointment with a child psychiatrist.  I noted the improvements — there are two. She has been better about taking re-direction and there has been a noticeable decrease in emotional meltdowns at home. However, the non stop chattering, interrupting, and pestering remains the same. Likewise, her teacher noted she still has strong reactions to little things in the classroom to the extent of requiring a school staff person to be called in to help calm her down.  In her defense, the end of the school year can be difficult for a lot of children. It’s emotional.  The psychiatrist discussed things further with me — asking questions, asking for descriptive situations. The doctor recommended a slight increase in the dosage, a slight titration. We would meet for another medication review in a month.Right dosage of Ritalin

The bio-chemistry relationship involved with psychotropic drugs continues to fascinate me.  Could we have a little more of this so that we get a little less of that? A little more chemical input to decrease the behavioral output. I was hoping that once my daughter could pull in the reins on her running thoughts, I would be able to do therapeutic exercises to help her stop, pause, and make a good choice.  Maybe medication is similar to finding a fertilizer that works best on the yard — bringing out the desirable green grass, encouraging new growth, and suppressing the unsightly weeds.

I tried not to examine each blade of her existence. Yet, I wanted to carefully keep note of behaviors improving, antics remaining the same, or difficult ones increasing in frequency. We had a little of each. What a relief to have fewer emotional meltdowns over for example, “Please go play outside, it’s nice and sunny and your brother wants to practice his drums in the playroom.” Still the same ones of non-stop chattering and nonsensical arguing. And then the last one. More stealing and sneaking behaviors– taking notecards from my desk, emptying out brother’s emergency inhaler (placed on his bedside table), and climbing onto the counters to reach an item on a high shelf. I even tried out this one because I doubted her abilities. I climbed up on the countertop. I remained on my knees to account for her 42 inch height and reached my arm up high. Yup, it was doable. It was totally possible to reach the now consumed 8 pack hamburger bun package. Silly me for placing it there, for thinking that our family of five could have Sloppy Joes later this week. Instead we had pasta with meat sauce, a tangy BBQ flavored meat sauce.

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DCIS Treatment Options

DCIS Treatment Options 

Part II

Ever since I got the voicemail. I feel different — my outlook is different, I breathe differently.  My doctor’s nurse left a message informing me to come in the following morning with my spouse to discuss the findings of the biopsy. We knew this meant the cells are not benign.

Everything was different now. I had been struggling with identity issues related to being a stay at home parent and unemployed. I had been feeling depressed. I had been feeling concerned about my life goals. Now, I’m not yearning for anything. I’ve moved away from a feeling of wanting to take inventory, wanting to move forward, wanting to accomplish.  I don’t feel that way anymore. I feel that would be indulgent– to want. I feel a strange calmness.

After I heard the message, I went through something. Nothing amazing or poetic, I didn’t see a different spectrum of lights or an amazing palette of colors or hear angels trumpeting. I just went through some typical Kuebler-Ross stages on and off, quickly, and out of order. I blamed myself for increasing my alcohol intake to a daily drink in the past year. I blamed myself for not running weekly and feeling lazy about working out. I felt anger about worrying so much over family members, so much that I had developed cancerous cells. I hoped and prayed that if my prognosis is good I would make significant changes to my diet and lifestyle. I got weepy looking around the schoolyard at dismissal time. I hoped to have many years of waiting for my 6 year old to be released by her teacher, to watch her classmates disperse to the field, parents, and play structure. I didn’t care about finding employment or my identity again. I knew what I wanted: to live and to be with my kids. It was a long night.

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Mammogram Results

I had my annual mammogram done mid-May. I started going in for yearly ones in my late 30s; I’ve done the routine many times now. Yes, I know you will call me if there are concerns.

I got the call two days later. The radiologist saw something that was apparently not visible in the  year before– she had compared the films. I was instructed to come in for a more detailed mammogram. I returned later that week. This time the focus was on my right breast – a few specialized images were taken. The technician waved me over to look. In the magnified film of my breast are 5 white dots. Teeny tiny round dots, likes ones a finely sharpened white pencil would make.  A few together and two scattered. My initial reaction was: how did they see those in the one taken during my first appointment?  The radiologist came in and explained the dots are circular in shape, there are only a few, they were not noticed last year and appear to be new, and many women in their aging develop breast calcifications. All of these factors are not red flags. However, she continued, one time she let it go and her patient developed cancerous cells a year later.  Again, I was urged to continue with another more detailed procedure. I agreed to a biopsy for the following Monday.

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Isolation as a Special Needs Parent

Isolation

We went camping with 12 families over the long holiday weekend. We were invited to join this large group for a three night trip. We had not gone camping for a while — my youngest not able to handle the usual activities of hiking, quietly sleeping with others in a tent and appreciating the outdoors. So initially, I was ready to spend just one night with her, ready to pack up our belongings and drive back home if necessary. Instead we decided our family would join the others early Saturday and return home late Sunday night. We all wanted this to work out.  I know the names of all the parents and kids. I can identify the makes of the SUVs and vans they all drive. I can closely guess the grades the kids are in and the professions of the parents. Yet, I really don’t know most of these families that well. What I did find out during that weekend was that in our group, about ten households had an issue. I came to this awareness from listening to a parent of each family unit describe something troubling going on with their child — behaviors, medical concerns, mood disorder and social issues, sexuality, and learning problems. We all had children with special concerns. We all needed to seek professional help for our kids. I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I saw my daughter in a different light– a more gentle glow. And my hubby and I relaxed a little. We were not going to stand out, we were not so different from the others. All those times we suffered behind our closed doors, disturbances were occurring in the privacy of other homes.

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Giving Advice, Getting Advice, Wanting Advice

Giving Advice, Getting Advice,Wanting Advice

Reflection

I am listening to the new Radiohead album. It’s layered, moody, and sophisticated;  I play it every day while I sit with my pen and steno pad. I listen a little. I write a little. I think some more. I write some more. I listen some more. My initial reaction is conflicted. The music critics are lauding it, so I attempt to be patient and learn.

My therapist has told me it is time for the next move. She is no longer gently nudging me and giving me support around my household needs. She tells me I have lost too much of my identity. She says my kids keep getting older and I am not progressing. She points out that addressing my social isolation, identity voids, and personal interests will be better served with experiences outside the home. She reminds me that my volunteer activities were not satisfying. She tells me I am missing out. Basically reminding me that the world has continued to spin and I am stagnant. I have actively job hunted for over a year and remain unemployed.  She tells me that by our next appointment I need to meet with the Admissions Counselor at the local university to explore Master’s Programs. In our last session, I felt she was pushing her agenda. I returned home and cried my eyes out. Do I really need for someone to decide what is right for me and tell me what to do?  I don’t want to get another Master’s; I don’t want to return to school. Instead I am signing up for a six week series of writing workshops this summer. So there.

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Starting on Ritalin

Starting on Ritalin

Week 9

We started Ritalin the beginning of this month. “You’ll know within two weeks if this is working, it’s pretty fast acting,” said the psychiatrist. I am strangely excited and encouraged. Why can’t most difficult situations have a fast acting response time.

Last weekend my husband took the boys and the dog to stay in a cabin. One night, two days away, four creatures not around the house. Just the two of us left behind to deal with each other. The pair that has had difficulties tolerating and enjoying each other. We had a delightful time.

 She had been on the medication for four days. We had tried another ADHD medication, a non-stimulant, for over a month and the only change we saw was irritability. Uh, no thanks, could we take that off the plate? So here we are, going into week 9 after that initial medication evaluation and trying out Ritalin.  Our doctor told us that most kids respond well, most respond quickly, and most experience only a few side effects. Since our medical specialist informed us that her heart murmur is in no way a reason to avoid stimulants, we received the green light to proceed with this category of medications.

Starting on Ritalin young child

Changes could occur from a pill

Off they went with a frozen pizza, sodas, Fruit Loops, pancake mix that requires only adding water, dog food, one change of clothes and toothbrushes. Not my choice of foods, his idea. Not my idea to pack so lightly, his choice. Have fun! I yelled. I braced myself for endless difficulties of being with my daughter. It’s not pleasant to feel this way towards your child. Sometimes I need to be nudged, if not pushed into certain situations. I really don’t think of myself as overly cautious. But I’ll admit, I am not eager to enter an arena of battles. I know that  I need certain circumstances to be in place to make me deal with a problem.

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Parenting and Partnering

Parenting and Partnering

Reflection – Friday

I’ve had this CD on repeat — Lord Huron’s Strange Trails. I am drinking a glass of white wine, a Pinot Gris I bought to use in a pasta recipe I will tackle in a moment. But for now, I wonder about having guidelines for us.

I cannot see her playing in the backyard; I had asked her to play in the driveway with her toys. Can you say something? I ask my spouse. I’d like for her to follow directions.

He sighs. “It’s just that you’re so restrictive with her.  She’s outside, she’s playing.” He shrugs for effect.

Wait, what? Come again? Could you repeat that? I laughed and said, “Yeah, whatever!”

There are so many guidelines that I put into place when it comes to her. It’s true. Where she can play, with what exactly, in sight, certain amount of time and so on. Why? Because I have learned with her, that if I give an inch she takes a mile. And if there aren’t any guidelines she will do as she pleases– at the risk of safety and civility. It’s my job to keep her alive and well-mannered. 

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