An Israeli Kind of Day

I’m on maternity leave at the moment.  This means that I get 14 weeks paid leave, courtesy of amazing maternity rights.  I’m using these precious weeks to bond with Fourth Daughter.  And lose weight.  And clean the house and do laundry.  And finally buy all of my girls underwear – something that usually isn’t exciting enough for our ADHD family to accomplish during the work week.

98 days.  Creating exciting bonding opportunities each and every day is actually very difficult.  The baby also cannot yet walk and say things like “What an interesting palate, I so do enjoy the Expressionists” – so bonding at this moment seems a little like a one-way-street.  I have to factor in car time, stroller time, are there stairs at our destination, are there clean accessible bathrooms (a necessity if I’m planning on starting my morning with more than two cups of coffee).  It can get a little complicated.

Nevertheless, we’ve had a very full and rich few months.  We’ve traveled as a family, we’ve split up and done father-daughter(s)/mommy-daughter(s) experiences.  Baking has happened.  During the pregnancy, I came down with a pregnancy-related liver disease that almost prevented Fourth Daughter from being born alive.  I’m so grateful that she’s here, and it’s made me appreciate each moment with my children even more.   It’s truly been amazing.  Loud, but amazing.

Last week, three Israeli boys were kidnapped.  CNN and the BBC will tell you that they are simply “missing”.  The UN will tell you that they are “Unsure” that the boys were really kidnapped.  The New York Times will tell you that the Jews deserved it.  

The bolded text above is obviously a break from my usual subject matter.  Seems strange, doesn’t it.  Jarring.  This is supposed to be a blog about my chaotic and beautiful family’s shenanigans, what’s with the Zionist propaganda?

Welcome to an Israeli kind of day.  We are rural and urban, young and old, brash and shy.  This diversity is reflective of our land:  Green mountains of the Galilee, cool evenings.  White mountains of Judea and dry winds.  The midnight sky of the Negev desert, the heat of the valley, the saltiness of the sea shore.  The stones of Jerusalem are our heart.  And then our people are attacked and no matter where we might be in life’s narrow bridge, our world comes crashing to a halt.  How can we enjoy even the smallest pleasures knowing that within our nation three families are suffering so terribly?   With too many in the world cackling and pointing fingers, delighted to explain how we deserve to be hunted like rats.

Our family isn’t going to personally search house-to-house, that’s a job for our soldiers.  We aren’t going to demand retribution from the Arabs calling themselves “Palestinians”, that’s a job for our elected officials.

We also aren’t just going to sit idly by, and pretend that everything is ok.   I know that Extra-Ordinary families get it.  We so often encounter people blindly pretending that everything is perfectly all right with the world, while our children are suffering.  And we have to yell, and fight and get creative just to accomplish the goal of making people aware that no, we haven’t yet achieved perfection here.  You can’t have perfection when someone is left behind.

So this post is about me not sitting idly by.  I’m going to do what I can to make sure this doesn’t drop to a second-page story.

#BringBackOurBoys

#BringBackOurBoys

#BringBackOurBoys

 

Shovevah

Fourth Daughter was born on March 25th!  Thank G-d, she is healthy and happy, and not very skilled in the sleep department.  I’m even thanking G-d for that last bit, since I had a high-risk pregnancy and Fourth Daughter was jaundiced.  Alert, active and healthy are all blessings that I’m grateful for.

Which is one reason why I haven’t had so much time to blog.  Or sew.  Or shower.  But it’s Lag B’Omer, the holiday where we light the country on fire and roast marshmallows, and so my older girls are home and happy to take care of their baby sister.

That doesn’t mean I’ve had any kind of break in our ADHD life.  In fact, while in labor in the hospital, the school psychologist called.  I was eager to speak to her, since I had been waiting several months for her to get in touch with me.  The call wasn’t what I had hoped for, since the psychologist had looked at my First Daughter’s grades, spoken to First Daughter’s teacher, and then called to tell me in several different ways that First Daughter was far too intelligent to have ADHD.  With a laugh she said “Why do you think your daughter has problems?”  Which prompted contraction-driven screams from me, because that’s the last thing a hormonal, laboring Extra-Ordinary mom needs to hear.  Which prompted her to respond with the Hebrew equivalent of “Well, I never! Oh my! Oh Dear!” – basically her voice sounded like one of those always-fainting soap opera heroines that just never know what to do with themselves when their husband is cheating, the vixen is conniving, or the evil arch-enemy comes back from the dead for the fourth time.   Since I don’t deal with women who diminish us as a gender, I hung up the phone, and proceeded to focus on bringing my Fourth Daughter into the world.

“Mazal Tov!” yelled one of the bedside nurses, “And may the next one be a boy!”

Really? What makes them think I’m going through this again?

With Second Daughter’s birth, Third Daughter’s birth, and Fourth Daughter’s birth, my prayer has always been for an easier babyhood and childhood than what First Daughter had.  Which produces incredible guilt, which causes me to do a major chesbon nefesh (introspection):  What exactly am I afraid of?  First Daughter rocks, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.  I love everything she is in this world: bright, caring, overly sensitive.  She’s at the age where she and I can have heart-to-heart conversations about Life, The Universe, and Everything.  I’m also slowly getting her into sci-fi; she’s trying to get me to like the latest hip-hop acts.

First Daughter was a nearly two-year-old toddler when we made the move to Israel.  Right away, she entered daycare here, learned to speak Hebrew almost immediately, and quickly earned the title “Shovevah.”  The word in Hebrew translates as “naughty” but it’s really an affectionate term to refer to a little one who is always getting into stuff.  It’s a sign of intelligence.  While all other kids are dutifully taking their naps at the appropriate scheduled time, the Shovevah is running around the daycare and imitating the staff’s directions to the kids about how to lay on their mattresses.   Or during coloring time, when the kids are dutifully picking up one crayon, and coloring monolithic  designs on paper, the Shovevah takes all the crayons at once and makes rainbows everywhere, including on the walls.

Second Daughter was never called Shovevah.  She always radiated kindness, serenity.  Even today, when her third grade teachers have to send yet another note home on account of Second Daughter routinely forgetting or losing some vital school supply, the note is always prefaced with something like “Second Daughter is such a sweet, beautiful girl, but we do have a teensy problem…”

Third Daughter also earned the title of Shovevah, due to her constant raiding of the daycare dresser and stealing the other babies diaper rash cream.  She did it with a giggle, and the staff learned that while other babies needed a pacifier to calm themselves, Third Daughter required a tube of diaper rash cream, which must have felt really good on her hands.

I liked hearing the word “Shovevah” applied to my girls, their spunky personality.  Then First Daughter was diagnosed, and I began to realize that her ultimate Shovevah activities were actually symptoms of her medical condition.   In my spare time (not often) I would wonder about Third Daughter.  Overall, Third Daughter wasn’t as hyper as First Daughter had been at that age, but there have been issues:  Bedtime is difficult, she’s the only of my girls to continue to sleep with the weighted blanked every night (First Daughter only used it for about 6 months), we’re seeing an increase in the amount of tantrums, and her first grade teacher is reporting that Third Daughter is having concentration problems more often.

So when a friend saw that Fourth Daughter, lying in her crib, had spit out her pacifier, and she politely murmured “Shovevah” to the baby, this time I cringed.  Not again, I can’t go through this again.

But what exactly is it about a repeat tour of ADHD that has me worried?  The truth is that my fears have nothing to do with my kids.  My kids are great.  What worries me is to be moved yet again to the “penalty box” so to speak, of school-parent relationships.

It’s draining to be the parent who makes life difficult for the teacher, principal and other school staff.  That’s where my stress lies – in having to start and continue arguments with people who are regarded by others as good decent fellows.  It leaves me feeling lonely.  It drives me crazy how my daughter’s school uses her diagnosis to get additional funds, but then denies her services. “After all, don’t you think your daughter is intelligent?” is this year’s line used to handle my objections.  If my daughter is intelligent, then she doesn’t need assistance, so goes the reasoning.   The staff must be baffled as well:  They’ve told me that they regard me daughter as “normal” – what more could I ask for?  Why can’t I be satisfied?

It’s funny how “Shovevah” stops being attractive the older you get.  That’s my demon, being regarded as the shovevah parent.  Therefore, there is nothing about my children that should give me any kind of pause.  They are wonderful and perfect and unique, each of them.  We can handle each other, no matter how difficult the outside world gets.

If you haven’t checked out the Facebook page of “A Very Special Needs Resource” yet, I strongly recommend taking a look (and liking their page.)  Lots of uplifting memes, and very interesting articles.  The other day included this article called “The Conversations We Should Be Having About Special Needs” .  Here’s my favorite part:

Three out of four moms of kids with special needs have heard an insensitive remark from another parent. But among moms of typically developing kids (I fall in this group) only one in five acknowledge making such a comment. We may be clueless, unwilling to confess… or what constitutes an insensitive remark may be open to interpretation.

A few things did emerge as clear: Moms of kids with special needs don’t want pity. They do want understanding. They would prefer that a fellow parent approach and ask a question about their child, rather than see her turn nervously away. They don’t really want advice, however well meaning. “I don’t want to be told ‘Your child will be okay’ or ‘I don’t see anything wrong with your child,'” one mom of a child with special needs commented in the Parents survey. “I know they try to make a nice comment but if they are not parents raising a child with special needs, it’s really annoying.

We do have friends out there who understand our daily battle is to be seen and loved for exactly who we are, on our own terms.  Which is starting a lovely little tune in my head… hope you Extra-Ordinary Mommies and Daddies are old enough to enjoy.

Making Pizza

Organization is always a good thing.  Just because it’s not something you naturally excel at, just because the thought of such an exercise has you running for your bed covers, doesn’t mean that it’s not something you should attempt.  Over and over again, even if you do it badly.  There are points for trying.

I’ve decided to replace our signature “Oh-no-what-will-we-feed-the-kids-for-dinner!’ hootenanny hoedown, with a written out meal plan for the coming week.  My friends have assured me it makes mealtimes as easy as pie.  I tried pointing out that I don’t really make pies unless I can buy a pre-made crust, which they don’t seem to have in this country, but I was encouraged to give it a go anyway.  Surprisingly, it actually has been a great solution.  Sure it’s a bit more work, but the result is a reasonable meal with a great presentation – I mean the kind that actually requires place settings, everyone sitting together at the table, and napkins.

However, I’m also a working mommy, and some of my uncomplicated meal plans have required a bit of prep.  Namely, our make-your-own pizza night.  The problem is that the dough needs to rise for an hour before you can split it up into sections for the pizzas, and our beautiful brand-new stainless steel oven is apparently on the small side, and we can only fit two pizzas in it at a time.  So my solution was to call my sweet and capable First Daughter, and see if I could walk her through the act of making the dough in advance.

I’m a good mother, so I prepared her for this for at least two days.  “Would you be willing to help me with dinner tomorrow by making the pizza dough by yourself?  If I call you on the phone and tell you the steps?”

“YES! YES! YES!” eagerly cheers First Daughter.

Day two:  “First Daughter, are you still willing to help me make the pizza dough this afternoon?  I will call you around 5 p.m. to help you…”

“Yes! Eema, I will so make the best pizza dough ever!!!” cheered First Daughter.

So at 5:00 PM (17:00 hours), I called home while holding the recipe in front of me.  If you are new to this blog, I should probably point out that not only does my First Daughter have ADHD, my husband also has ADHD.  I also seem to have quite a few of the symptoms of this disorder, so all of us problem-solving together are quite entertaining.

Me, calling First Daughter from work:  “First Daughter, are you ready to start the dough for pizza?”

First Daughter: “Yes! Yes!  I’m going to start making dough, I’m going to be cooking!  Yes! Yes! Wait, I need to get some supplies – there are broken eggs in pizza dough, right?  I’m getting the eggs now!!”

Me:  “Wait, first let’s try getting all of the equipment out.  Please pull out the plastic blue mixing bowls.”

First Daughter: “Ok, plastic blue mixing bowls- “

Me: “Wait! Did you wash your hands first?  When was the last time you touched the dog?”

First Daughter: “Ok, let me wash my hands, hold on.”  After thirty seconds of silence, First Daughter returns to the phone.  “Ok, I’m ready now.  What do I do?”

Me: “Get the plastic blue mixing bowls out.”

First Daughter:  “I can’t reach them!”

Me:  “Go get your father.”

First Daughter:  “Abbbaaaaaaaaaaa!”

Husband:  “WHAT NOW!?!  I was finally able to read a paragraph!  I can’t even read a paragraph in this house?”

First Daughter:  “Eema needs the mixing bowls.”

Husband:  “Eema’s not here right now.”

First Daughter:  “No – I’m going to start cooking, and Eema’s telling me what to do.  I need to get the mixing bowls-“

Husband:  “Who came up with this idea?”  (Note to self:  Next time also prepare the husband.)

First Daughter (sighing): “Eema’s on the phone now, and she’s telling me what to do and I AM MAKING PIZZA DOUGH!  Now I need the blue plastic mixing bowls.”

Me:  “Yeah, the really big one, and the really small one.”

First Daughter:  “Eema says the really big one, and the really small one.”

Husband:  “Fine.”  Husband rattles around in the cabinets.  “I can only find the really big one.”

Me:  “Ok, so use any other small plastic bowl.”

First Daughter: “Eema says any other small plastic bowl is fine.”

Husband:  “No, I can find the small blue one.”

More rattling in the cabinet.  First Daughter begins yelling that her father isn’t listening to her, and husband is insisting on finding the blue bowl, after all he had to purchase it at some point, therefore it should be in the kitchen.    I complain that I can’t understand two voices at once, and please just pull down any friggin’ bowl.  Husband eventually does succeed in finding the missing blue bowl.

Me:  “Ok, now let’s set the yeast.  I don’t know what it’s called in Hebrew, but there is a small red bag in the door of the fridge, that looks like brown powder.  Take a few spoonfuls and add it to the small bowl.”

First Daughter rattles around a bit:  “Got it.  Eema, if you don’t know what it’s called in Hebrew, how do you know where to find it in the grocery store?”

Me:  “Let’s leave deep philosophical questions aside for the moment.  Once you’ve added the yeast to the small bowl, add a small spoon of sugar to the bowl.”

First Daughter:  “Done!”

Me:  “Now add a warm half cup of water.  You know where the measuring-“

First Daughter: “Yes, I know where the measure cup is.  Ok, done.”

Me:  “Great!  Now the big second bowl.  Let’s add four cups of flour to the really big bowl.”

First Daughter:  [Working and clattering of utensils] “Ok, done! I’m so good at this I can’t believe it!  I’m having so much fun!!”

Me:  “Ok, now this is the part where you might need Abba to watch you.  Now we will need to add the small bowl to the big bowl.  But first, let’s measure out 4 cups of warm water, with the big measuring cup -“

First Daughter:  “Eema, right that I’m really good at this?”

Me:  “You rock.  Now let’s make sure the water is in the measuring cup -

First Daughter: “Done!  I put it in!”

Me:  “What’s done, what part?”

First Daughter:  “I added all the water to the big blue bowl.  Now what?”

Me:  “Which water, all of it?  The small bowl and the full measuring cup?”

First Daughter:  “Yes…. was that bad?”

Me:  “Um… maybe you should get your father.”

[Silence, a bit of rustling.]  Husband:  “Ok, now how do we fix this?”

Me:  “Just add more and more flour, until you have pizza dough.”

So, 2 kilos of flour later, Husband and First Daughter made pizza dough.  And while everyone had pretty thick pizza crusts for their personal pizzas that night (plus a side of garlic bread), for a change we didn’t end up with any waste.

Success!   Now we just have to get the same results, night after night after night.

Are we friends again?

Depression hit me hard a few weeks ago.  So hard, that at 2 AM I fled my apartment and collapsed in tears on our balcony.  What pushed me over the edge?  A mosquito had invaded my room.  The last straw.

All I had been praying for were uneventful nights.  Days were overwhelming with conversational topic-surfing like a meth addict who’s taken the tv remote hostage (does that even make sense?)  Here’s what I mean by it:

Simultaneously:
First Daughter:  “It’s NOT FAIR!!!”
Husband:  “I DON’T CARE!  I SAID SO!”
Second Daughter:  “Look, I made a new rainbow-loom bracelet!”
Third Daughter: “Can I go outside and play?”
First Daughter: “Eema, Third Daughter is wearing my underwear!!”
Me: “How the hell did you figure that out?”
First Daughter:  “Why can’t I have new clothes, nothing fits me!”

Repeat, each and every day, all day.  If it’s not about clothes, it’s about the dog, or the computer, or the blasted rainbow-loom trend that has taken over our house and left little stupid rubber bands all over the place, littering our floor with chokables, just in time for the arrival of the new baby.

Couldn’t I at least get a quiet night- without something poking me and causing me terrible pain for days on end?  The mosquitoes here in this country don’t just bite you and move on.  If you don’t kill them, they keep biting over and over, and you will wake up in the morning covered in so many spots, you’d swear you are a victim of the plague.  No sympathy in my house, since the mosquitoes pretty much target only me.  Everyone else feels quite safe, as long as I’m in the room.

It’s the little things in an ADHD life that push our extra-ordinary warrior families over the edge.

So, there I was at 2 AM on the balcony, lying on the hard tile, and feeling incredibly sorry for myself.  It was just all too much to handle.  It was also Shabbat, so it’s not like I could get in the car and run away to a brand new life, free from responsibilities.  I also couldn’t run to a neighbor’s house – then they would KNOW we were all crazy.  The art therapist had called a few days earlier and confirmed “Your First Daughter is definitely not as well as last year.”  Which I knew.  But to hear it from a trusted partner in the raising of my beautiful first-born daughter, it suddenly became more real.  The medication had been recently changed, and so far we had been seeing good results, but it wasn’t enough to make up for all of the previous blow-ups.  And I was so tired of it all, and no one was giving me a break.

A fellow ADHD mama once described her child’s meltdowns in the following way:  He screams, yells, insults, and five seconds later, when she’s still reeling from the cruelty, he’s genuinely shocked that you are still angry with him.  Yep.  ADHD philosophy 101:  I’ve forgotten it already – so haven’t you?  And while you stay angry, in your perfectly reasonable reaction, your child is confused and hurt.

2 AM on the balcony, under a beautiful starry night, and I want to give up.   Why must I schedule endless appointments with the school and the doctors when everyone just seems to shrug their shoulders and politely inform us that there isn’t a solution.  But that’s the big joke, there is no option to give up, we’re stuck in this mess.  And taking away toys doesn’t work, taking away privileges doesn’t work.  Indulging, punishing, empathizing – nothing works.  Reaching out for help invites only criticism.

My resentment builds, and I’m worried that I’m losing her, my first born.  The little girl who made me a mother, who made me an attachment-parent baby-wearing advocate because she screamed bloody murder if I wasn’t constantly at her beck and call.   And the truth is, when I’m away from her at work, I think about the young lady she is growing into, and I really and truly admire her.  She’s an amazing artist, incredibly sensitive and mature, and extremely bright (in between melt-downs, that is.) But our time together is fraught with so much bickering and anger.  I don’t want to lose her.  A few days earlier, during a calm period in between fire-meltdowns, she asked me “Can we please be friends again?”  And I was still holding on to my anger and refused to answer her.  It was too much to ask for, I thought.  How much am I meant to actually take?

“Come back to bed,” my husband tells me, as he kneels down next to me on the balcony.  “Please.”

I ignore him.  I’m waiting to be rescued.  There’s absolutely no point in giving in and returning to all that pain.  Husband shakes his head and goes back inside.

A few more minutes under the starry sky.  Doctor Who isn’t coming.  Honestly, I never wanted to be that kind of woman anyway, the one who lives vicariously through fandom and fabricated memories because real life keeps beating her down.  The housewife who wastes away into a shell of reactions, because she lost herself a long time ago.    Besides, name a companion who actually survived – and being left in an alternate dimension doesn’t count.  The only ladies who make it through are the ones who give up the fantasy and return to themselves.

Design by Karen Hallion

Design by Karen Hallion

Husband returns again to the balcony.  “By the way,” he says, “I killed the mosquito.  I saved it to show you the evidence.”

A minor-rescue.  I pull myself up, relieved, and return to bed.  Conquer the mundane, and you start to believe again that anything may just be possible.

Ice Storm on Hallelujah Mountain

“Shine bright like a diamond.”  Head-bop, head-bop.

“Shine bright like a diaMOND!”  Head-bop, head-bop.

“Shiiiiiine bright like a diamond.”  Head-bop, head-bop.

I glared at First Daughter, who was plugged in to an mp3 player, while typing away on her netbook.  Theoretically, homework was involved.  I took a deep breath.  Didn’t work.  Took another.  My glare melted somewhat into admiration.  I don’t know if I’ve written about it before, but First Daughter really is quite beautiful.  She was wearing her leather jacket, and looking ultra cool.   Watching her grow into this lovely lady has been such an awesome experience.  She has her own tastes in music, clothes, and that’s fine.  Her glossy dark hair was pulled back from her face, showing off her perfect dark skin -

“SHINE BRIIIIIIIIIIGHT LIKE A DIAMOND!” Head-bang, head bang.

“FOR G-D’s SAKES WHY WHY WHY DO YOU HAVE TO SING THAT EVIL VILE…. THING?!?” I exploded.

Nonplussed, First Daughter looked up from her computer and replied “Music is awesome, it helps me THINK!  She went back to head-bopping and typing away, while I started growing a gray-cloud lightning-storm above her head.

Husband entered the room muttering about “Real music”, and “Paul Simon knows diamonds,” before exiting the other side of the room.

We’re still recovering from the remnants of a nasty ice storm up here on Hallelujah Mountain.  It started off beautifully.  An inch of snow fell overnight, and therefore, school was cancelled since the roads were closed.    We don’t have snow plows here in Israel.  Or maybe we do have snow plows but they forget how to operate them each year.  Anyway, the girls bundled up and made snow angels.  Hot tea was made, warm baths were drawn… it was such a fairy-tale experience that I was actually humming “Tender Shepard” from Peter Pan.  And then the power went out.

Israeli homes are not insulated (on purpose, it helps keep them cool in the summer), and it was a few days of frozen hell.    Despite trying hard to make it work, we were snapping at each other, taking turns tantruming, and panicking as we began to see our breath inside.  Clearing the snow from the stairs to our apartment involved a hammer, a rake and a soup ladle.  No one here had ice scrapers or snow shovels. They must be stored with the snow plows.

As there was no electricity, there was no television. Tensions were soaring.  No phone, no internet, but the big crisis was the non-functioning tv set.  I don’t think ordinary families appreciate how important the television is to an ADHD family.    Television soothes the marathon brain.  It should be covered by health insurance.  We managed to finally escape down the mountain to a bed and breakfast, that thankfully had a large flat screen television.  Snuggled in bed, we let the television drone on and we felt relief.

Once the power was restored, it took a full 18 hours for the house to get reasonably warm again.  A full 48 hours after that to get our boiler working.  We’re still bundling up in multiple layers, chilled from the memory, rather than our current situation.  The puppy has taken to hogging the floor heater.  Really, we should probably start trying to get back to normal.  At least our version of normal.

We can’t be better in times of stress, no matter what the cause.  We can hold each other once the storm passes, and offer apologies.  Love and hugs, kisses and giggles.  Of course, the kids are asking when the next snow fall will happen.  They can’t wait for a repeat performance.  Isn’t that exactly what all parents want to hear – that children only keep the happy memories?

Despite the ice storm, and despite the fact that Rihanna unfortunately is still releasing music, life is pretty good up here on Hallelujah Mountain.  Sure there’s too much noise and chaos.  And yelling.  And be-bopping.  And phone calls from teachers.  And notes from teachers.  And praise from teachers: “Really, your First Daughter is so smart, does it really matter if we implement the IEP recommendations?”  And doctor’s appointments.  And birthday celebrations.  Second Daughter and Third Daughter have begun sewing projects.  First Daughter has started keeping a diary, in English.

As long as you can hide under the covers every once in a while – who wouldn’t want a life like this?

sheldon

Outbursts

“You are sooo getting spayed!!!” I screeched at the puppy (now a officially a dog) who had assumed an extremely inappropriate position involving my leg.

“Ooh, eema, she’s hugging you,” said Second Daughter.

“THAT’S NOT A HUG!” I shout back.

“Why?” asked Second Daughter.  “Why is that not a hug?” said her sweet innocent voice.

“Nothing, never mind.” I snapped.  We’re a religious family, and we don’t talk about these things.  Actually, it’s more that we spend most of our time in complete denial, assuming that these kind of conversations will only appear at pre-scheduled times, with the comfort of holy texts and authorities on hand to actually convey the message.  An absolutely ridiculous approach, one that I’m ashamed I ever supported.  Our whole community should be ashamed, and most of us are, as newspaper articles continue to expose instances where minors where sexually abused, and where community authorities worried more about how to hide the problem, than how to solve the problem.

But how do you draw the line?  Where do you start? We’re all walking around with our heads hanging, but no one has any idea of how to actually effect change.

And in our family, what we talk about and how we talk about it, is never planned.  We all react:  One person screams, which causes the other person to scream, which causes the other person to cry.  One person gets over the anger, and another is still reeling, even hours later.

“Eema, why are you angry?  Do you not like hugs?” asks Second Daughter, so innocently.  She’s always like that.  Everyone in this house yells back and forth at each other, and none of the anger ever seems to stick to Second Daughter.  She is such a delight, such a comfort, and I’m so frightened about what it’s like for her growing up in a house like ours.  Second Daughter deserves a stay-at-home mom, warm oven-baked bread… and other touchy-feely stuff.

My parents have always insisted that I’m a terrible mother, and that my children are harmed just by my being present in their lives.  They believe that the ADHD diagnosis is just an excuse to cover up for my abysmal parenting skills.   Good parenting, in their opinion, involves expensive clothes, the latest toys (or else the child is deprived) and a large home in America.  Most of the time, I ignore their judgments, and I am incredibly grateful for the different life that we are leading.  But there are other times,  even happy times, when their barbs come back to haunt me, and I get concerned that we aren’t making the right kind of home for our kids.

We’re doing the best we can, and I do know that the outbursts of anger are also matched by the outpouring of love.  At least we have that, if not ongoing serenity.  I hope that when they become adults, if they recall and judge the chaos, at least they also remember the fierce hugs and declarations of affection.

I take every ounce of strength I have, sit down across from Second Daughter, and focus on her.  “I love you,” I start.  “And I’m sorry for yelling,” I add.  I then launch into an explanation of why puppy dogs shouldn’t be allowed to hug legs, where new-born puppies come from, and how an operation is in the dog’s future.

———

“DO I LOOK LIKE I FELL OFF THE TURNIP TRUCK?!” bellows husband.

“WAHHHHH,” yells First Daughter, “I don’t even know what a turn-up truck is!!  EEEEEEMAAAAAAA!!!”and starts off yet another melt-down.  Although perhaps the meltdown started earlier when First Daughter started peppering us with questions that made absolutely no sense, resulting in the argument where my husband felt a need to declare his aversion to root vegetables.  Or maybe it’s all the school’s fault, with First Daughter being confined to a hard chair for too many hours.  The experts say that triggers should be identified and dealt with.  Maybe it was the Cocoa Pebbles for breakfast.  I must write a complaint letter to Post.

“First Daughter,” I tried to start, “Sometimes-“

“IT’S NOT FAIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! WHY IS EVERYONE ALWAYS YELLING AT ME?! WAHHHH!!” and she’s off to her room.  We live in a small apartment (though quite nice by Israeli standards).  Her screams were heard throughout the entire place, and probably down the block, for the next hour and a half.  What are you supposed to do during a melt-down anyway?  We usually wait until the child has returned to reason, and then have the conversation about what could be better in the future.  Which is a bit of a silly conversation, in my opinion, since First Daughter has no control over the outbursts anyway.  Telling her to do better in the future is a hollow line.  She wants to do better in her future, she really does.  And when the house is quiet and I can think clearly, I can appreciate everything she is.  Her beautiful determination, her brilliance, her joyfulness.

There have been a lot of these meltdowns lately, much more than we can endure.  And the school phone calls are increasing.  I think I need to find a better neurologist…

———

Third Daughter will not be outdone.  She is a fierce little warrior, who thinks if everyone screams, she gets to scream too.  Second Daughter prefers not to participate when First Daughter goads her, but Third Daughter will battle.  Third Daughter will talk back, and her words aren’t the best in English, but she has a lot of them.

“THIRD DAUGHTER TOUCHED MY STUFF!!!” shouts First Daughter.

We groan, and hope we can hide from this request for parental attention.  Really, who cares if stuff is touched?

“Owie,” cries Third Daughter, as she bursts into tears.  Now we have to interfere.  Maybe if we had done something earlier, Third Daughter wouldn’t have gotten hurt.

I pick up Third Daughter in my arms and run to my bedroom, leaving First Daughter in the front room with her Father yelling at her not to hit her sister.  Third Daughter isn’t really injured, but no one should be expected to shake-off a slap.  Why does she have to aggravate her older sister anyway, doesn’t she know how fragile she is?  Probably not.  She probably only understands how fragile she is, just at almost-six-years old, and not allowed to touch things that interest her.  It’s not fair.

———

And throughout these past several months, Fourth Daughter has been making me incredibly sick.  Throwing up each morning, blood-pressure drops, bouts of flu without the aid of decongestants.  There were days when all I could do was lie in bed, not having enough strength to give my kids a clean home.  And the perfection dreams are returning:  For the large nursery with flowing curtains, rocking chairs and bumper pads:  Serenity.  Which is not us, and never will be us.

Even now, when she’s wiggling in my tummy as I type, Fourth Daughter is insisting she’s also going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Waiting Room Mama

I was sitting in the waiting room last week, hoping I wouldn’t have to fight off too many people in order to enter the doctor’s office.  America has got waiting rooms down:  You sit in a padded chair, reading a magazine, until the lovely scrub-clad secretaries call out your name.  You close your magazine, stand and follow the lady who is politely holding the door open for you to enter.  No such thing in Israel.  Sure you have appointments, and sure there is a posted order of who goes when, but there are always people who insist they have to go before you.  They claim they are really sick.  Or that they left their baby in the car, and really need to hurry (I swear, that one happened to me a month ago.)  Or that they just have a small question.  And you can’t simply tell them, “No thank you, please wait your turn.”  Unless you agree, they literally push you to the side and shove their way in front of you to the doctor’s queue.  And if you have a good doctor, he or she barks at them to wait their turn.  But doctor’s have their own issues and problems, and sometimes they find it easier not to argue.

This clinic at least installed an American-style “Take a Number” kiosk at the entrance, so I had good reason to be hopeful.  Unfortunately, my appointment was with a doctor who had elected not to bother with the kiosk system, unlike the others in the practice.  Joy.  I sat down in a hard chair, sans magazine, and got ready to run to the open door at the time of my scheduled appointment.  Another mother was sitting a few seats away from me, and she seemed to have a rather unruly boy.  His teeth were a little big for his small face.  He would get real close to his mother’s face, about 1 inch from her face, and yell “Uhhwahhh!” and then pull back about one foot from his mother’s face.  And then he would lean in and yell the non-word again, spittle falling on his mother’s nose.  And again.  By the mother’s facial expression, she didn’t seem to find this behavior too outrageous.   After this occurred about three times in a row, the mother quietly told her son that she found the behavior bothersome.  After about ten times, the boy got bored and proceeded to stuff himself in a tiny plastic car, more meant for a two-year-old, than his eight-year-old self and proceeded to come within half an inch of knocking into several other people.  The mother wiped her face, pulled a magazine from out of her purse and began to read.

I became so angry at this mother.  Can’t she control her child?  Doesn’t she care about the comfort of the others here who have to endure this obnoxious boy? Name a nasty thought, and I had it.  Simultaneously, I knew this family was one of the tribe, not just the Jewish one, but the extra-ordinary one as well.  The mother was the best expert on her child’s behavior.  She needed support and understanding, not criticism and judgement.  But there I was, pissed off and annoyed that this child was not playing by the rules, disturbing my space.

My doctor’s door opened, I checked my watch and it was a few minutes after my scheduled appointment time, so I bolted in before anyone else could.

I’m tired.  I’m tired of all of the tantrums, and screaming fits.  I’m tired of worrying about what other’s think.  I’m tired of expecting notes home from the teacher, and I’m tired of having to make excuses.  Sometimes things are great, and sometimes it feels like nothing works, like nothing is ever going to work.    Morning tests are great, afternoon tests are almost always failed.  School suspensions and expulsions are probably in our future, and there really isn’t anything I can do about it.

And then, there are my other daughters, who continue to thrive and achieve well beyond what First Daughter has accomplished.  How can I start interacting with normal, when it feels like my entire parenting career has been about navigating the pitfalls of an ADHD world.  Second Daughter has shown an amazing talent for sewing, in addition to her ongoing talents of kindness, friendship and serenity.  Third Daughter just started first grade, and diligently does her homework, and genuinely enjoys school.  Second and Third Daughters are enrolled in an after-school swimming club together, and separately in a science class and a ceramics class.  The go happily and enjoy every moment.  It’s hard to be completely happy for them, without thinking of the experiences that First Daughter never had, couldn’t do.

I’m tired and sad, looking at all of their baby pictures, and remembering when my biggest concerns were about which diaper brand was going to chaffe their tushie less (yes, I was one of those mommies.)   I’m not getting enough breaks either.  Parenting an ADHD child is constant stimulation, constantly having your attention dragged to a million and one places, and your special child insists you look at this, and this and now this.

I should be grateful, and most times I am.  My children are healthy.  We can afford to provide nice clothes and shoes for them, as well as good food and the occasional outing.  My children are also incredibly well behaved, given everything they’ve been through.  But sometimes it’s just too much.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that waiting-room mother, and wondering what her home life is like.  Does she actually love that little boy whose mere presence was making everyone else so angry?   Is she proud of everything he has accomplished?  Does she prefer to withdraw from the world, already over-stimulated at home, looking forward to nights in front of the television when she can just do absolutely nothing?  While her other mommy-friends indulge in “Mommy time” by going out with friends, going out to dinner with their partners, taking in a show, does she politely decline because she just can’t take one more adventure? Is she tired from school-battles and cruel judgement? Does her heart just melt when she looks at her precious boy?

I know my heart melts at the thought of my girls.  We used to co-sleep when they were all babies, and emotionally, I’m still not use to them being in separate rooms.   It is worth it all, I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.   My girls, all three of them, are such joys, so beautiful. I can see this even through the exhaustion.   And I daily thank G-d for bringing them into my life, and letting me get to witness the beautiful human beings that they are becoming.

Back to School

Right now, I’m hiding in the tv-room.  It’s actually a computer room, not a tv room.  We no longer subscribe to cable, nor own a tv.  Despite this, a neighbor has announced our house “unholy” because of the rumored presence of a television set, which reportedly featured *gasp* “The Little Mermaid.”  Distressed by the screening of immodest fish, she has forbidden her children from coming over to play.  So they bleat pitifully on my doorstep asking for my children to come out, since their idiot mother won’t let them cross our threshold.  But it’s all a rumor, I don’t own a television!  Forgive me, I’m a little sensitive.

Anyway, why I’m hiding:  A hallmark moment going on in the kitchen.  Husband is helping First Daughter and Second Daughter with their homework.  At the same time.  Because school starts again tomorrow, after a long holiday break, and of course homework should be done at the last possible minute.  But don’t worry – my ADHD husband is here to the rescue.  I shouldn’t tease, I know I would be no better, which is why I ran away to the not-tv-room.  At least he has some courage and is doing the parental duty.

Flammable matches have been brought out to assist with counting,  because we have misplaced the counting chips.  First Daughter is greatly stressed with how boring her homework is.  She doesn’t know what 6×7 is, she won’t know it in five minutes, so why does she have to answer the stupid question anyway.  “Why can’t I have a calculator?”  she whines for the umpteenth time.  “BECAUSE I SAID SO!” replied the courageous parental unit.  Meanwhile Second Daughter is dutifully counting out matches, and quite proud of herself that she can count as high as 50, which has absolutely nothing to do with the math question she was trying to solve.

“Don’t TALK TO ME!” screams First Daughter.

“You had two vacation weeks to do the assignment,” replies husband.

“I SAID DON’T TELL ME ABOUT IT!” screams First Daughter.

Husband has joined me in the not-tv-room.  “I need chocolate,” he says.

Back to school.  Such relief from a wild and crazy summer.  We traveled overseas to two countries (the US and Canada), several different states, braved Disney World, Universal Studios, wonderful loving relatives and grossly insensitive relatives.  Relatives so bad that my soul felt like it was getting ripped apart.  So traumatic and terrible that I cried in First Daughter’s arms on many nights.  After we returned home to Israel, it took a few weeks to recover and spiritually put myself together.

I need to make some decisions about what we are exposed to, our tender extra-ordinary family.  It’s been important for me to teach my children to be honest and express their feelings,   It’s been important for me to teach my children not to put up with bullies.  These lessons need to be consistent, and I will have to teach by example.

School is such a relief from an undefined and chaotic summer.  School has assignments and achievements, a regular schedule, school uniforms.  Every morning you have a reason to get up, teachers to impress, friends to talk with.  Sometimes an ADHD child gets over-efficient and tries to impress the teacher and talk with friends simultaneously.   But problems aside, it’s so wonderful to have definition to your day.

There are rumors that the school is even going to provide special needs services this year – something they were unsure of last year.  Despite the fact that they are obligated by law to do so.  “We’ll see after the holidays,” was the standard reply, but the rumor mill has been circulating that the art therapist will return to the school, and I’m choosing to be hopeful.

“I need you to sign this,” says First Daughter, and hands me several papers entirely in Hebrew.

“What does it say?” I ask.

“It’s my homework, you have to sign that I did it..  Eema, it was so much!  I had to write a million words, and then hundreds of math problems – what do they want from us?!?”

Why do I have to sign a homework paper, attesting to the fact that the child did the homework, when the completed page should be a sign enough… shouldn’t it?  Is it just me who finds that a bit odd?  I’m swimming in forms I need to sign for the three girls, all different, and none of them stapled together.  It’s just easier to sign away, rather than deal with logic.  I sign the papers.

“Thank you.  I love you,” says First Daughter.

“Love you too kid.”

You had me at “Waffles”

The popular wisdom is that puppies can greatly enhance a family with special needs members.  Children learn valuable lessons in responsibility and become better well-rounded people.

Fact: Dogs poop.

The latest and greatest experts advise that extra-ordinary children can connect with animals in an incredibly deep way, well beyond their bonding capabilities with fellow humans.  Various after-school specials and television dramas demonstrate this accepted fact, usually via a Lassie-Timmy kind of scene where the extra-ordinary child who of course can’t resolve 2+2, nevertheless advises a resident veterinarian that the dog is really trying to tell them all about an impending tornado that will strike at exactly midnight.  Which will precede a nasty alien invasion.

Fact: If you fill your kennel with well-crafted rubber toys, the dog will prefer dirty underwear.

Adding a spaz puppy to an ADHD home exacerbates symptoms.  I couldn’t find this bit of advice on the internet, but now that it’s happened to us it seems glaringly obvious.  Routine, order and tranquility are the treasured jewels of an extra-ordinary home.  Insert a puppy, and you have new things to scream about, new messes to clean up, new fights to break up.

Dogs also drive you to distraction, literally.  While I was incredibly stressed these past few weeks from all of the chaos, third daughter figured out that I probably wouldn’t have time to find out that she has secretly been bringing a baggie filled with sugar and a plastic spoon for lunch each day.  To be fair, the other children did try to warn me about this, but I chalked it up to name-calling and tattling.  The secret has exploded all over the cheap faux-leather couch and broken tiled floor.  Which will mean ants.  It’s a good thing that dogs are great vacuum cleaners, but the excess of sugar is probably going to result in vomit later in the day.

First daughter, meanwhile has decided to make a schedule, of who deals with the dog and when.  She’s not the kind of ADHD’er who has trouble with organization, nor has she ever had trouble forgetting responsibilities.  She’s the kind of ADHD’er who has lists about lists, underlined, checked and marked with highlighter pens.  Stacks of this-n-that (and heaven help whoever moves her this-n-that).  Items are stored in drawers, wrapped in plastic baggies inside bigger plastic bags and pencils are meticulously counted.  She even has fixed her doorway with an alarm system:  Should her sisters dare and tiptoe across the line, blood-curdling sirens erupt from First Daughter’s throat.  Amazingly effective, even the dog is cautious about entering.  Unless she spots underwear on the floor.

So, all this brings me to an amazing book that I just read, which all ADHD families should read.  It’s called “The Explosive Child.”  One of the commentators on this site, Cara, first recommended this to me several months ago.    It’s amazing, did I say that already?  I don’t love it because it contains secret wisdoms to resolve our issues, I love it because it’s just such a comfort to pick up a parenting book, and recognize your own family experiences.  That doesn’t happen often to ADHD families.  By the first few pages, with the waffle episode, I knew this book was meant for us.

Jennifer, age eleven, wakes up, makes her bed, looks around  her room to make sure everything is in its place, and heads into the kitchen to make herself breakfast. She peers into the freezer, removes the container of frozen waffles, and counts six waffles. Thinking to herself, “I’ll have three waffles this morning and three tomorrow morning,” Jennifer toasts her three waffles and sits down to eat.

Moments later, her mother and five-year old brother, Adam, enter the kitchen, and the mother asks Adam what he’d like to eat for  breakfast. Adam responds, “Waffles,” and the mother reaches into the freezer for the waffles. Jennifer, who has been listening intently, explodes.

“He can’t have the frozen waffles!” Jennifer screams, her face suddenly reddening.

“Why not?” asks the mother, her voice and pulse rising, at a loss for an explanation of Jennifer’s behavior.

“I was going to have those waffles tomorrow morning!” Jennifer screams, jumping out of her chair.

“I’m not telling your brother he can’t have waffles!” the mother yells back.

“He can’t have them!” screams Jennifer, now face-to-face with her mother.

The mother, wary of the physical and verbal aggression of which her daughter is capable during these moments, desperately asks Adam if there’s something else he would consider eating.

“I want waffles,” whimpers Adam, cowering behind his mother.

Jennifer, her frustration and agitation at a peak, pushes her mother out of the way, seizes the container of frozen waffles, then slams the freezer door shut, pushes over a kitchen chair, grabs her plate of toasted waffles, and stalks to her room. Her brother and mother begin to cry.

If you are an ADHD with the hyper-organized type, you’ll notice a few things about this story that ordinary crowd doesn’t.  The child made her bed.  She then looked around the room to make sure everything was in order.  The waffles were counted to be six, and therefore were divided evenly in half, and days were allocated for each segment.  The ordinary crowd probably read the above and thought that Jennifer doesn’t know how to listen to her mother, and should be taught a-thing-or-two.  But extra-ordinary families get it:  The special child with overwhelming days has crafted a routine as beautiful and fragile as a spun glass bauble, and it was almost destroyed when the waffles ran out.

And the rest of the family is swept along for the ride, fearful of the fall-out from shattered routines. In our house now, not only is the dog not being walked regularly, but schedule violators are reprimanded at frequent intervals.  A little ironic actually, though I’m hopeful that we can reverse the situation so that eventually the dog’s bowel movements will be scheduled, and the violations reduced.

It will get better.  It’s just difficult right now, because the situation is new.  Plans are being written and re-written, and eventually, we will settle on a coping mechanism that works for all of us.  The children are loved, the parents are loved, the parrot is loved and even the dog is loved – though the parrot seems to have her own plans about that last bit.

Teacher’s Revenge

The blogosphere is all aglow with end of the year parenting anxiety.  If you thought the kids were excited to be out of school, that’s nothing compared to the parents elation.  No more projects, no more parties, no more homework, no more grind!   Mommies are passing out their triumphs like jello shots:  honor rolls and grade bragging, end-of-year parties and dance recitals, cakes and final field trips, summer camp dates and tuition, who needs new shoes, who needs a new bicycle, who has so much to do to get ready for their family vacations…

I don’t know many ADHD families that are celebrating at the moment.  Even in a good year, when breakthroughs and accomplishments are abundant, the end of the year is the time for judgments, via the handing out of the report card.  All those special moments of challenges set and met, don’t amount to a hill of beans as far as the report card is concerned.  The report card tells matter-of-factly how much your child deviates from the accepted definition of normative.  I’m sure that a good teacher would know how to finesse such a delicate situation, and despite low grades (at least low compared with children who don’t have any challenges), might be quick to point out the special child’s highlights.  A good teacher might even enjoy such a task, understanding what an amazing opportunity it is to state in writing that the human experience is so much more dynamic than numerical scores.

But we didn’t have a good teacher this year, at least for most of the year.  For a few short months we did have an amazing substitute teacher, while the home room teacher was on maternity leave.  Thank G-d for this wonderful woman whose greatest gift was simply her willingness to believe the best was possible with all children, including mine.  The permanent teacher is no such gem.  The permanent teacher’s primary concern was with her own comfort levels, and her own intentions.  As any special parent can tell you, this is a very poor mix with our amazing children, who constantly test and challenge our expectations:  Am I setting firm rules in the best interest of my child, or just because of my need to be in charge?  Is there a strong enough benefit by enrolling my special child in extra-curricular activities to justify the tantrum that occurs each day in response? What tools does my child need to succeed according to the best of her ability? What an amazing world it is, to watch an extra-ordinary child grow.  But for the person who doesn’t like the pillars of their expectations shaken, a special child is an irritant.

And the homeroom teacher has exacted her revenge.  While the substitute awarded First Daughter a report card full of A’s and B’s mid-year, this teacher has seen fit to hand out to my child only C’s and D’s.  And one of the grades is a D-, clearly an indication that she could have held back my child if she wanted to.  It’s not possible for a child to make an A in mid-year, and finish the year with a D-, not unless something terrible happened during the year, and of course such situations would require a phone call.  Grades for classes not under the direction of the homeroom teacher were not as melodramatic.  Mostly A’s and B’s.  First Daughter was heartbroken over this report card, crying and wondering what she did to make this teacher give her grades like this.  “I thought I studied, I thought I was doing really well, I’m a good person, I don’t deserve this.”

And yet again, I’m having to tell my daughter that sometimes the world lets you down.  And sometimes authority figures have way too much control and can really mess things up for you.  She hears this way too much, and I’m saddened at how often things don’t seem to go her way.  What adult would gleefully face the world each day with such a pattern of disappointments, and how can we expect a child to, let along a child who already finds tasks deemed “basic” to be a daily challenge.

I shared this story with a friend of mine, whose son also has ADHD.  She told me that she received a notice from her son’s school:  If he agreed never to come back to the school, they would give him a passing grade.  If he insisted on returning to the school, however, they would fail him.  Presumably, if he returned, they would also commit to make his school life a living hell.

I’m so mad I could scream.  I’m so mad at the bastards in the world who insist on punishing extra-ordinary children.  Especially here in Israel, where schools receive extra funding for every diagnosed child, theoretically to provide said child with services.   To accept that responsibility and then employ the worst kind of incompetent… it feels like theft.

It shouldn’t be so difficult to love these beautiful children.

For all the special families who are reading this,   I wish you an easy out-of-the-box summer, with bike rides and frog-catching, an abundance of computer time and slow family dinners with lots and lots of vegetables.  Oh and if you really want to liven up the mix, just take your first opportunity to add a brand new untrained puppy to the family.   They say that puppies are great for ADHD families, because after all, aren’t we just so talented at putting up with random piles of shit?

Here’s the sweet latest addition to our family:  Gallifrey. She’s a lot smaller in real life, it’s that Time-Lord technology that makes her seem larger than life in her pictures.

Gallifrey

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