Friday, September 9, 2016

Bite Me, Anxiety

The older I get the more apparent it becomes that I have anxiety. I've never brought it up to a doctor and I have not been diagnosed. I always assumed it was just a normal result of my shyness and awkwardness, and a huge amount of effort in my late teens and 20s has gone into overcoming my fears/anxiety and just getting shit done, because I have to be an adult. As a parent I have had to adult more than ever, and it takes a constant emotional toll on me.

Don't like to talk on the phone? Too bad! You have to call and talk to the insurance companies, teachers, assistant principals, doctors, and wait endless hours on hold.

Get white coat syndrome? Too bad! Now, instead of just sucking it up for your doctor's visits (or seeing an accountant during tax time, or any unknown situation) you have to compose yourself for your kids' visits. I've gotten pretty good at the doctor's visits because thankfully my children don't have any physical problems so those tend to be predictable, but those psychologist/therapist visits, SST meetings, Parent/Teacher conferences, etc. are killer. I have knots in my stomach just thinking about it.

But as uncomfortable as I get, I have to keep moving forward to help my child the best socio-emotional and educational support he can get. I say "child" and not "children" because as of late most of these meetings have been for my 7-year-old. He was diagnosed with ADHD in Kindergarten, got a 504 Plan for accommodations in 1st grade, and was tested for gifted placement this summer. I wish I had been more adamant about getting him tested for gifted earlier, but I didn't want to be "that mom" who thinks her son poops out rainbows, so I put all my energy into getting him the services he needs for his ADHD (accommodations at school and behavioral therapy at home). I had actually filled out a gifted checklist when he was in Pre-K, but didn't bring it up to any of the professionals that saw him because no one else brought it up as a possibility, despite the fact that all the teachers told me he was really smart and would do even better if he'd just focus (he was still getting mostly As and Bs), and his behavioral therapist would tell me that he was a little "genius". I knew he was smart and creative,  but "genius" certainly sounded like a prideful exaggeration. Knowing what I know now, it's pretty obvious that he has some overexcitabilities (mainly intellectual, emotional and imaginational - his kindergarten teacher actually said he had an "overactive imagination' and was concerned about his mental health), but I was unaware of the term and attributed most of those characteristics to his ADHD. I wish ALL teachers had more knowledge of giftedness to better identify children at a young age, and so that they have it in consideration when identifying possible learning disorders.

Now that I know a little bit more about giftedness and specifically 2e children, I am more determined than ever to get him a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation so we can get a clearer picture of his strengths and weaknesses and rule out any other issues so that I can get him the corresponding accommodations, fight for an IEP (because of his grades I was told he didn't qualify and received the 504 accommodations instead - so I'm building his case should the 504 not cut it), and get him any additional services at home as needed. So here I am, yet again suppressing my anxiety so that I can call and email all the clinics and psychologists that seem half-way decent and affordable (or at least offer a payment plan) in our city, because I know tomorrow I may be too emotionally drained to do it.

Friday, July 29, 2016

ADHD & Gifted

I'm feeling all kinds of anxiousness and euphoria right now, my mind racing, so I want to write this down while my feelings are still fresh.
My 6 (almost 7)-yr old has ADHD. I started getting complaints from his teacher when he was in kindergarten about his lack of concentration, hyperactivity, and "hyperimagination" (her words, not mine). It was a hard pill to swallow and I wasn't necessarily in agreement, mainly because it's such a subjective diagnosis. No tests were done other than questionnaires filled out by myself and his teacher. Yes he's active, fidgety, hyper, and he has a great imagination...but surely these aren't "bad" things. Frankly, they're what make him pretty damn awesome. AND he was only 5 at the time and I know that children develop at different rates, and despite his seeming lack of concentration he was still doing pretty well academically, so (for me personally) to medicate him for being what I consider to be a normal, active, smart child was out of the question.
Despite being told by several professionals that medication was usually the best course of action for ADHD, and being told by his behavioral therapy countless anecdotal of children doing amazingly well after being medicated, I decided that, in our case, the pros simply didn't outweigh the cons.
I'm only mentioning this because I assume if you are reading this, you may have a child with ADHD, or are at least being told that they should be evaluated for ADHD. Maybe you decide that medication is the best course of action, and that's fine. I just want to let you know that in my experience, the doctors may say "oh, your child has ADHD, the course of action is medication" with any second look at your individual child's situation. SO KNOW THAT THE CHOICE IS YOURS. DO NOT FEEL PRESSURED. I cried thinking maybe I was making the wrong decision is being so hard headed, but the fact is my child was having some difficulty but he wasn't STRUGGLING to the point that his social and academic progress was being stunted. So my decision was to see how he'd do with behavioral therapy and go from there.
This past school year we struggled to get adjusted for a couple of months in the beginning of the school year, started to do exceptionally well, and then struggled again to get readjusted after the winter break. His impulsivity and intense emotions resulted in some behavioral problems and several school meetings. --I am such an anxious person in general; I get "white coat hypertension" going to the doctor, or any place where the outcome is unknown, so you can imagine how I feel going to meetings involving my child, where any decision I make can potentially affect him for the rest of his life. As a parent, I know you can relate. Oh the worries we deal with.--  At that time I met with his school to get 504 accommodations for him: extra time to complete assignments, tests, breaks between assignments, redirection, etc. His teacher has been great and he ended the school year loving his class, classmates, teacher, and doing exceptionally well academically.
Because of the fact that he was doing so well despite his ADHD his teacher referred him for Gifted testing, and the school psychologist agreed that from what the teacher, the school counselor and myself had to say, some of his behaviors are characteristic of a Gifted child.
This morning I attended the meeting to go over his scores. He scored high on the Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales and is eligible for the gifted program, which his school does not currently have. While having a gifted child presents it's own challenges, I am hoping that having a teacher who is trained and has experience with gifted children will better know how to deal with, encourage, and challenge him. Unfortunately, his school doesn't currently have a gifted program, but told me they'd be implementing one for the following school year.
If your child is having difficulty in school and you are being told (or it is being heavily insinuated) that your child may have ADHD, I suggest you fill out a quick gifted checklist. It is possible that you're child simply isn't being challenged enough, or they learn differently and the current classroom environment (being expected to sit still throughout the school day without sufficient breaks) isn't conducive for your child. Of course your child could be Gifted AND have ADHD. In either case, I feel that having your child evaluated couldn't hurt and, in fact, getting a diagnosis could open a lot of doors as far as getting your child the resources he/she may need to thrive. For example, if they're diagnosed they may be eligible for accommodations, if they have accommodations they're eligible for the John McKay Scholarship.
It's a lot of information to sift through, and a lot of hours staying awake worrying about what's best for your child, talking to other parents, asking questions in forums, etc. Not every child is the same, not every parent is the same; I hope this post reaches someone who is going mad researching and not finding a story that quite sounds like their child. I hope you feel somewhat relieved reading this story and feeling you can finally relate. I am here for you and will be happy to answer any questions you might have. I know how stressful it can be.

Below are some links I found helpful.
I am located in Miami, so some of the resources I have here may not be valid for you, but feel free to write me if you have any questions and I'd be happy to find comparable resources in your city.
If you are located in Miami, Parent to Parent of Miami has been a great help for me, and provided me with the information I needed to adequately advocate for my son and helped me through the process of requesting accommodations.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How His "ADHD" Suddenly Improved

I've been meaning to write about my son's diagnosis of ADHD and how stressful it has been on me, but have been waiting for the passage of time to write a more in depth post. I wanted to track his progress, hoping that there would be improvements with behavioral therapy. But it didn't seem to be working. It certainly wasn't any miracle cure. And the truth is, I was an emotional wreck. Every time the teacher came to the car to tell me about something else Sebastian did at school I wanted to cry inside. I cried out loud plenty, too. And there was a lot of yelling and screaming because I'm not patient enough with him. I was conflicted by my feelings that children should have more freedom of movement in class and not be expected to sit still all day, and by constantly being told that he can't concentrate, that he can't focus, that he's too hyper, too imaginative, that if he's not medicated now so he can focus and get good grades he'll be drawn to the bad kids, and he'll get into drugs and crime, etc. These are actual things told to me by his behavioral therapist.
I was conflicted mainly because I wasn't convinced that he in fact has ADHD, and even more because I was being told by his behavioral therapist and the psychologist (who he met only once) and insinuated by his teachers, that he should be medicated. In fact, I was told by the behavioral therapist ON THE FIRST DAY that behavioral therapy does not work without the aid of medication.
Every visit she made (once a week) she spent more time talking to me, telling me anecdotal stories about other clients who have improved drastically with medication, than actually spending time with him. After MONTHS of this, I had finally had enough and told her I didn't want to hear more of her stories. I had already told her on our very first visit that I wasn't considering medication at this point because I wanted to see if he'd improve with the therapy, incentives, positive reinforcement, etc. She had the nerve to tell me I was being very oppositional and that she wasn't the one who brought up medication blahdiblahblahlies...luckily I had a friend over who heard the whole conversation and agreed that the woman was putting words in my mouth and that she had in fact brought up medication. Anyway, after that she stopped talking about medication and started actually doing activities with my son to work on focus and concentration. To her surprise, he can in fact sit still and do work if it's something that interests him. He'll sit and play checkers with her, he'll do his puzzles, draw, read, etc. He still wasn't doing great at school though, and I'd get constant notes home about him playing in the bathroom, not doing his work, doing handstands in line, etc. Then all of a sudden, last Tuesday, the teacher brings him to the car at pick-up and tells me that "he was EXCELLENT today, I mean PERFECT, he's another boy, bring this Sebastian back tomorrow"  - Whaaaaaat?! - I was ecstatic. His dad and I thought about what we had done differently that day that he would behave so drastically different. The ONLY thing was that we gave him two hard boiled eggs in the morning. We wake up very early to take my husband to work, so instead of waking Sebas up earlier we'd make him a peanut butter sandwich to eat in the car. But, we ran out of bread last week so Ramon made him two boiled eggs instead. Since he did so great at school, we decided to try it again. Lo and behold, again the teacher tells me he was perfect at school, did all his work, behaved, remained seated in his chair! So for a week now, he has been eating two hard boiled eggs in the morning (and I've stopped giving him peanut butter sandwiches altogether) and yesterday he was chosen as Student of the Week. He is just so crazy proud of himself right now and we're trying to keep the momentum going so he feels incentivized to keep up the good work. The fact that he's doing so well all of a sudden tells me that he does not have ADHD. Maybe it was a lack of protein? Some vitamin or mineral imbalance? I don't know. I'm no doctor. But I know how to make observations and I know my kid. I truly hope he keeps it up and his behavioral therapist can close his case (her own words after telling her of his success at school).
Now, I have no doubt that there are kids out there who have real ADHD, who may need medication. That is your decision to make, and if your kid is doing great on it I'm happy for you and your child. But if you have ANY doubt about the diagnosis and have qualms about medicating your child, do some research on your own. Do not blindly do it just because they say so. Once they decide the child has ADHD (which is an incredibly subjective diagnosis based on observation), the treatment plan is medication. They had me feel guilty about not wanting to medicate my child. They had me second guess my decision. But I'm glad I stuck to my guns with the support of my husband and my mother. For now the hard boiled eggs are working for us (I've also read that taking eggs OUT of your child's diet might improve ADHD-like symptoms, so you really have to find what works for your child). I have also talked to his doctor about giving him Omega-369 supplements which have been shown to improve concentration. I will update on his progress again in a few months.
Please share your own ADHD stories (whatever they may be, medication or not). Let's support each other with whatever our decisions. After all, we all want what's best for our children. <3

UPDATE: 11/04/2015
It's been almost a month since Sebastian suddenly started behaving and concentrating at school! While he still has occasional mini-meltdowns at home if he's tired and cranky and doesn't want to finish his homework (he falls asleep in the car after picking up Papa from work), he's doing really well overall. He's working mostly independently, doing great at school (school work and behavior), and being pretty darn polite at home. So proud of my big guy. I've decided to get him an Omega 3 supplement, which is supposed to help with concentration and is said to help with ADD/ADHD symptoms. I bought this one because it was what I was able to find with the recommended 3:1 EPA/DHA ratio and has a lemon flavor which I'm hoping I'll be able to put into a smoothie so he'll drink it happily. I'll keep you posted on his progress and if I notice any difference in him after taking the supplement for a while.
Here's a referral code if you decide to go with this one, or find something else you like on this page. $5 off for first time customers :)

* We haven't been given him eggs everyday and he's still doing well. Thinking that maybe the problem was gluten I gave him sliced bananas with peanut butter one evening and IMMEDIATELY he started getting really hyper. Another day for breakfast we gave him a ham and cheese sandwich and he did really well at school that day. So in his case, I don't think it was gluten, I don't even think it was the sugar. The peanut butter has a lot less sugar than other things he eats and doesn't cause that kind of reaction in him. We've switched to a natural peanut butter, but he doesn't like it so I can't really compare the difference to tell if it was the peanuts themselves or some ingredient that was in the JIF peanut butter that is not in the natural kind. Wondering if anyone else has noticed their child getting crazy hyper after eating peanut butter.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Rock That Body

As a tall and lean young woman I had the body that a lot of women strive for. But the grass isn't always greener on the other side. I actually wanted to be curvier because those were the women I thought were beautiful. While women worldwide were cutting bread out of their diets I was going to the kitchen any chance I got in between meals (and I ate plenty already) to stuff my face with bread. I guess I can be thankful for my great metabolism, because it didn't work. It probably wasn't until I stopped trying to gain weight, and my boyfriend at the time (current baby daddy and long term partner) and his mother would feed me chuletas, mofongo and all manner of fried foods non-stop that I started gaining weight. And then I got pregnant and gained more weight. I had wider hips, bigger breasts and I felt sexy! AFTER giving birth though, I had the soft jelly belly and stretch marks which I didn't love, but I didn't let that stop me from wearing my bikini to the beach.
8 months postpartum

It wasn't until after my second pregnancy that I was more self-conscious of my belly (and belly button). I had diastasis recti (see previous post) and my belly was more protuberant with looser wrinkly skin. I was mostly self conscious of my belly button and bought myself a high waist bikini to cover up all that jazz. It's been almost 3 years since the birth of my second son and it's been a year of consistent yoga practice. I've seen progress in my flexibility and strength and I look forward to the time I have carved out for it, whether it be 15 minutes one day or an hour another day. I have now started taking morning walks with intermittent running to prepare myself for a hypothetical future marathon. And while my belly isn't flat and I still have a bit of that gap, loose skin, stretch marks, and I struggle some days more than others to love it, I am proud of my body for going beyond what I thought it capable of. For that I am so incredibly grateful and I am excited to see what else it can do. It's been a process, but I'm still learning to stop comparing my body to its pre-pregnancy state.
I am participating in the #MySwimsuitStyle  challenge to promote self LOVE, not self loathing, with María José Ovalle of Very Busy Mamá and sponsor Miraclesuit. Yesterday I pulled out the kiddie pool for my boys and decided to try my old low-rise bikini bottom. I might have to buy a size bigger because my butt crack was showing, but I'm done hiding my belly!  Join us by posting your own swimsuit selfie and let's make a SPLASH this summer! You can post to your Instagram, Twitter, FB and make sure to use hashtag #MySwimsuitStyle. Let's enjoy our summer no matter what shape or size, and in whatever swimwear you feel comfortable!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Diastasis Recti & Other Fun Postpartum Goodies

June 2014 (why I didn't post this last year I do not know. I suppose I was waiting on something to finish it, but enough waiting):
After the birth of my second child I had a diastasis recti. I didn't know what it was at the time, but I distinctly remember trying to get up out of bed and seeing a fleshy bulge protruding from my abdomen between my belly button and sternum. I thought it was gross and weird, but figured it was normal for a postpartum body and that it would go away on its own as my body healed.

I lost the pregnancy weight pretty quickly (more quickly than with my first pregnancy) but didn't feel ready enough for any real exercise (other than dancing around my living room with my babies and doing kegels while washing dishes) until about a year postpartum. My mother gifted me a Mother's Day Groupon for one month of unlimited exercise classes. I went as often as I could before it expired and was feeling much tighter, more toned, and more energetic. I felt good.
But due to happenings and stress of life, buying a home (and all that entails), taking care of two young boys, work, etc. 6 months passed and I hadn't worked out at all in that time. I had been extremely stressed with house hunting and some financial troubles that I had palpitations, shortness of breath, felt my heart was going to stop while I slept, traveling pains, pinching and sharp pain sensations on my legs, arms, chest, etc. I honestly thought I was going to die. I was convinced I might have thrombosis and that a blood clot was going to travel to my heart and I'd die. The stress of not only finding a house and saving what little money we had, but now also worrying about my health, only made the symptoms more intense and more frequent. My fears were somewhat alleviated when I went to the doctor and all my blood work came back normal and I was told it was most likely stress related.
Once we FINALLY moved into our new home I was happy and relieved to be in our own home and most of the stress subsided and symptoms decreased. I went to the doctor again and they did more blood work to make sure I didn't have some autoimmune disease or lupus and was told I was "the picture of health". But I was still pretty sedentary and wanted to get back in shape. I was eager to lose my jelly belly and started doing my friend Kate Victoria's Yoga for Abs & Core Strength as well as sun salutations every morning. I was feeling really good and eager to add more to my routine, but when I enthusiastically posted a plank challenge to my Facebook page, a friend commented to make sure I didn't have diastasis recti, because if I did, plank was a no-no! "Damn-it!" I thought, "I DO have that!"
Finally I knew what that fleshy bulge was. I did the diastasis recti test and saw that it had closed some on its own but was still just over 2 fingers wide. Determined to lose the gap and get back to my ab workout I did the exercises in the above video (you can find plenty of diastasis recti exercise videos on YouTube). It has been 2 months of doing the exercises on a daily basis and I am now at 1 finger width at the belly button, the rest of the gap is even less. It is no longer technically considered a diastasis recti, but is still an abdominal split so I am careful to avoid certain yoga poses (mainly the deep back bends like camel pose) and am still weary of traditional ab exercises. I don't want to inadvertently undo the progress I have made, and have the muscles bulge out or, even worse, a hernia. I will continue to strengthen my core with the diastasis recti exercises and doing kegels to strengthen the pelvic floor.
When I asked Wendy Powell when would I be in the clear and could get back to my regular ab workout this was her reply: "It's not so much about getting an 'all clear' as having a core that is stable + can withstand the intra abdominal pressure when you exert yourself for any activity. Remember too that the stability / firmness of the mid line connective tissues is actually more important than the width of the gap" and sent me this helpful link: Mutusystem
I feel that my core is pretty strong and stable thanks to daily yoga, and Bikram hot yoga which I've been doing this past month (avoiding the back bends and not pushing myself too much on the twists) so I feel okay with slowly starting to do some of the traditional ab workouts. I look forward to seeing progress and will update here in the future. I hope this post will be helpful for anyone dealing with diastasis recti or who had it and wants to know "what now?" Please feel free to share your story or post your questions here.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Letter of Encouragement #1

My 5 year old son is seeing a behavioral therapist as per the indirect recommendation of his teacher (she recommended I speak with his pediatrician, who referred me to a child psychologist, who recommended the therapist). I will get into that in depth in another post at some point.
Anyway, the behavioral therapist lent me a book which was part of a course she took many years ago during her training: Active Parenting Handbook by Michael H. Popkin, Ph.D.. Today I came to a chapter discussing the power of encouragement and building on the child's strengths, and one of the "family enrichment activities" is to write a letter of encouragement to your child. I absolutely agree that putting something in writing carries extra weight and may be something he can keep with him and look at in the future if he needs a reminder of how wonderful he is.

This is my first letter of encouragement to him:

June 6, 2015
Dear Sebastian,
Yesterday when I took you to the playground I was so proud of you for standing up for that spider. You showed so much empathy and determination to do what you know is right. I just love how caring you are. I know it is frustrating when others don’t seem to listen or understand, and not everyone will, but when you speak what is right some people will listen and take your words to heart. When you walked away, that same boy who had kicked the spider decided to protect the spiders! I saw him play with another boy, placing sticks into the sand saying “okay, now we’re going to save the spiders”. Your actions made a difference, Sebas! Great job J

Mommy and Daddy love you so much

Mind you, at the park his behavior wasn't stellar. The reason behind his actions were just, but he screamed and cried bloody murder when the boy kicked the spider. He had a fit and yelled at the kid, wagging his finger at him "you have no right to kill spiders!" (which I'm quite proud of). At one point when another kid said he was going to kill spiders (to intentionally push my son's buttons), my son punched the kid in the stomach. I didn't see that happen, but as we were leaving the kids were yelling that Sebas had hit one of them, so I stopped and asked Sebas what happened. I asked if he had hit the boy and he said "YES! He said he was a spider killer". I told him that it's good he's trying to protect the spiders but it's not okay to hit, and I sent him to apologize to the kid who just kept running away with his group of friends, ignoring my son. So I called him back to me so we could leave. Hey, at least he tried to apologize. Since I had lectured him a bit about not hitting I didn't want that "bad behavior" to be the thing he remembered.

When he finished reading the letter his eyes lit up, "Thank you!" and he hugged me tightly around the neck. When I asked him what he wanted to do with the letter he said "let's hang it on my wall". 
I highly recommend you notice the good aspects of your child(ren)'s behavior and put it in writing. It will make their day, and their pride will make yours. I plan on writing many more of these and would love to read any letters of encouragement you have written or will write to your child(ren).
Sebastian, the Animal Activist

Friday, March 27, 2015

Little steps, taken consistently, will take you far

Working out when you have small kids at home can be hard. If you're like me, you never have much time for yourself. Of course you could lock yourself in a room for some quiet meditation, but then you'd be leaving the kids free range of the house, and, as all parents know, that can be a disaster (or tragedy) waiting to happen.
So I usually pull out my yoga mat in the middle of the living room while the kids are playing or watching T.V. and try to get in at least a few sun salutations, some diastasis recti exercises, and some poses from the Instagram challenges...key word: TRY. As soon as that yoga mat comes down my two year old comes racing over, making circles around me Bobby's World style. *Sorry kid, I need this mat.*
Sometimes I can use his help, though. Little kids come in handy when you're trying to stretch; a little extra weight can be the difference between being perpetually stuck at a 30 degree angle and actually touching your toes. So be sure to request their assistance as needed.
My kiddos like to make a game out of me exercising and run past my legs as I do some scissors or leg lifts, or wriggle their way under me as I do downward dog.
But there are some positions/routines/flows which I just can't do with them on top of me.
So as much as I'd like to spend a good hour stretching and working out, working on poses and breathing and really getting deep into some stretches, and seeing daily progress, I just don't have that kind of time or patience to dedicate to it with two Mamma's Boys lingering.
But I've been doing yoga for about a year now and looking back at pictures and videos I can see the difference. Hell, I can FEEL the difference, and I haven't even dedicated that much time to it (though I have been consistent). I am so pleasantly surprised by some of the progress and when both my boys are in school I look forward to dedicating some more time to yoga and seeing/feeling bigger changes.
If you've ever seen someone doing a handstand and thought "Damn, I'd love to do that" followed by "I'll never be able to do that", start now! Little by little, but consistently, work on your stretches, work on your upper body strength, work on whatever it is you want to achieve, and a few months  ... a year ... five years down the road, instead of having done nothing to work towards that goal and still not being able to do a handstand (or whatever it is you want to do), you can look back at your progress and be amazed (even if you still can't fully do that handstand).

A year ago I did not think it was even possible for me to support my weight on my forearms.
This was a definite breakthrough.
I never had much upper body strength, so this right here is something I never thought I could do.
Let alone this! I still can't hold it very long, but #babysteps