Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hoping for Help!

Last year Genea started taking performing arts classes at a studio near by. She has been singing, dancing, acting, and most recently, tapping her little feet out for local audiences. At Christmas, the whole studio does a show at our largest venue and this year, it was filmed and shown on PBS stations across the state. So, it's a serious thing.

 She is somewhere in there, I swear!

Genea has gone from a shuddering, soggy, mess of hair to a sort- of confident and brave performer. She gets excited and struggles with a triple dose of overwhelming anxiety but to her, it's worth it to push through and try her best.

Girl can sing. Not just I'm-her- mom- I have- to -say-that sing, really sing. She has a beautiful, sweet voice with a natural vibrato that is startling to hear from a kid. She is starting private voice lessons in the fall, and earned her way to a higher level ensemble group at the studio.

So, am I just bragging or what?

Well, I'm super squeamish about this. My bragging is about to turn into begging.

This fall, the studio is taking a trip to New York City and Genea and I signed up! We will stay in Times Square and spend a lot of time in Broadway theaters. She will attend performance workshops, see a professional show and go back stage. Meet real actors and actresses, and be able to ask questions.

 NYC is an expensive place and the trip, while pricey, is within a reasonable range as far as these things go. The problem is, Genea and I have to have our own hotel room. Most people are sharing rooms, which cuts the cost down by a huge chunk. I guess if anyone has been reading here for a while, it is easy to imagine why we cannot share a room with another mom/daughter. Just Genea's medication list would probably scare the crap out of any regular family, not even considering the ocean front bedding issue. Regardless, it's going to be a LOT for Genea and so far out of her comfort zone she will be able to touch Jupiter. There's no way we could go if room sharing were required- thankfully we have the choice. We just have to pay for it.

*Begging Alert*
(argh, my hair is cringing I dread this so much)
If anyone out there should, you know, think they maybe might want to help out in the financial department here, there are a couple things.

I wrote a tiny little short 40+ page e-booklet about Reactive Attachment Disorder. For the longest time my biggest struggle with Genea was why. Why is this happening, why is this not working, why am I getting this reaction, why why why. I wrote down what I figured out, and threw in some tips, tricks and idea's. It probably sucks. Argh. Anyway.

It's available on It is called Parenting Pandora, Understanding Reactive Attachment Disorder. Written by me, Essie Johnson. It is priced at $12.99 which should result in an $8-$9 dollar donation for our trip. It can be purchased directly from Smashwords for any e-reader and in about a week it will show up on book retailer sites like Amazon, B&N, ibooks, etc.

I got the title, Parenting Pandora, from the Greek myth and not from the ipod app. Pandora was a goddess given all the best qualities at birth. At her wedding, she received a gift  from Zeus. When she opened the box, the evils of the world were released. All that was left in the box was hope.

"But wait Essie, what if I just want to send like, a thousand dollars but don't want your ebook"?
I thought of that! I put up a link to Pay Pal on the top left sidebar hoping for donations.

SO THERE YOU GO! I am sucking it up and doing this, lol. I know people do fundraisers all the time on blogs so I shouldn't be flipping my lid but I AM. I am actually planning to cut costs and take an electric kettle so we can sort-of- cook. I figure I can pack a bunch of protein bars, fruit, ramen noodles and instant coffee which should save us a couple hundred bucks. We are having a garage sale fundraiser for ourselves, and doing car wash fundraisers with the studio for group workshops.

If anyone can help us out it will be SO GREATLY APPRECIATED YOU HAVE NO IDEA!!!!!!!

AND, if you like the book and could link it on your facebook groups, message boards, twitter etc I would be SO happy!
(Click the words not the picture. Surely there is a way to imbed the link right in the picture but I surely do not know what that might be)

Friday, July 18, 2014


Hello Wendy? You won the book, Beauty from Ashes! Yippee!
I have your email address from the comment you left, so will send you a message to get your information.

In other news, we have a BIG THING coming up. It's very exciting, (it's not Oprah though) and I have a few things going that might be interesting. How's that for vague?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Beauty from Ashes

The subtitle to this book is "An Eyewitness Account of Haiti's Tragic Earthquake", written by Melanie Wright Zeeb.

Tragic indeed. 

As did many others, I followed the news in horror. I knew several people who adopted from Haiti and had met their children. It was terrible to imagine all the families around the world who were waiting somewhere in the adoption process but had not yet brought their children home. The process of adoption was already arduous, but became near impossible once the buildings that held records were reduced to gravel and dust.

The author was employed by God's Littlest Angels, an orphanage outside Port-au-Prince. Children were placed there by parents who either intended to come back for them, or wished for them to be adopted. Ms Zeeb was responsible for updating adoptive families with photos and information about the children. Following the disaster, they were of the few who still had communications, and helped tell the world of the devastation.

The book focuses on the children- all of whom survived-  and the difficulties and concerns in trying to keep them safe and alive. Haiti was already a hard country where it was difficult to meet life needs. A good example given by the author is simply water.  Before, to have running water, one had to pay a company to deliver it by truck. After, there was no way to know what would happen. Had the owners of the business even lived? Were the trucks intact to make deliveries? Were roads passable? Was the water source clear?

The author develops strong visuals for readers describing the actual earthquake and it's aftershocks. She states the ground was constantly moving to the degree that people experienced motion sickness. It went on for weeks with the earth moving a specific direction, so that some things moved and others did not.

Readers meet many of the intended adoptive families. We learn of the incredible logistics in trying to legally evacuate the children and the constant uncertainties. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll stop here!

The book is highly detailed and concise.  The author concentrates on the effect of the tragedy on children of the orphanage, and spends very little time on the horrors many of us saw on TV. I think that makes is a safe read for most people.

So! Details!

Beauty from Ashes: An Eyewitness Account of Haiti's Tragic Earthquake
An Eyewitness Account of Haiti's Tragic Earthquake
Written by Melanie Wright Zeeb

AND since the book was given to me I would like to pass it on! To win this copy, leave a comment with your email address and I will draw a name next week. Hmmm, lets say Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Deciphering Facial Expression

Boring post title, interesting information.

Researchers set out to discover if teenagers with attachment disorder process facial emotions differently from teenagers with secure attachment. This study was done as part of  the Attachment Adoption Adolescents Research Network (AAARN), an international project focusing on attachment representation in adolescents and their parents.

( a handy sort of organization to know about, which I did not).

That seemed interesting. I never thought  differences in attachment vs. lack of attachment might be linked to how the person interprets facial expressions.

After a whole lot of testing and evaluating which I did not understand, they discovered that the attachment disordered group processed facial expression more slowly and with less accuracy than the control group ("attached" teenagers).

They also found a variety of "significant" deficits in the group with attachment disorder. Most of these are probably not a surprise to anyone who lives with it. Anyway, here they are:

executive function attention
processing speed
visuospatial abilities
cognitive flexibility

They concluded that the deficits were a result of the way the group processed facial emotion. Being slower and less accurate with defining facial expressions seems to hinder other abilities.

The article relates how different attachment styles are shown to involve different area's of the brain. There are visible differences between anxious, avoidant and insecure attachments that can be seen in activated brain regions.

So, they concluded that attachment patterns shape social emotional processing.

Of course, that led me to a pant load of questions!

Could kids with Attachment Disorders (AD) be taught to interpret facial expression?

In working with kids with Autism, a big area of focus is cuing in and interpreting facial expression. Usually, a therapist starts with flash cards of faces with the intention of eventually using real faces. I wonder if that ever becomes 'natural' for the kids. Like, do they see a face and automatically know? Or is it always a 2 step or more process? Would the same work for kids with AD's?

The origins of Autism and the causes of Attachment Disorders are different, does that matter?

If one were to teach a child with AD to more quickly identify emotions, would the other areas (attention, processing speed etc.) improve? The authors of the study seemed to link them.

Since different areas of the brain are involved in different attachment styles, could there be therapies targeted some day to the specific sub-sets? Would that be SO FREAKING AWESOME?

Is the slow processing of other peoples emotions why the kids seem so oblivious sometimes?
Is it why my daughter is so ever-lovin' histrionic? She overplays it because that's the only way she identifies it in others? Maybe she thinks that's the way it is for everyone?
Is it part of why she is so hyper- vigilant to her environment? She doesn't pick up cues from people as to 'the mood of the room' so she obsessively studies what is happening instead?
Could that be why she always tries to dominate the room with herself? She can't identify a mood so she inserts the mood of her choosing?

Though the study was done on adolescents, I am guessing it applies to younger kids as well. I don't think puberty flips a switch that cuts off social- emotional processing, though I could be wrong.

And what causes it? Is it their brains are too overloaded with fear to access the sort of 'higher order' things? Is it because the cause of AD is lack of care and so they don't learn faces in infancy from adults? What else am I not thinking of?

This is the official study:
Attachment Patterns Trigger Differential Neural Signature of Emotional Processing in Adolescents
Authors are listed at the top.

There is a TON of good stuff on this site. It's just a tad overwhelming for those of us without forty seven doctorates in neuropsychology. A smidge. Ahem. Yeeks.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This Mother's Day

Yep, another Mothers Day went by where I qualified for celebration. Me, and like, a billion other people. In the past, the day has sucked so bad that once I actually announced a do-over. Then the do-over also sucked and I came upon an important life truth. Mothers Day means, go bug your father. And make him take you somewhere.

This year though, was so good it is going in the Hall of Fame. They can argue for 97 years about who gets to be the first name on the marquee. I'm serious. They were great. 

When I got up Genea had made me- as she called it- Breakfast On The Couch (instead of Breakfast In Bed). She took so much care setting it up. She got out a big casserole dish to use as a serving tray. The main entrĂ©e was Cherie-oos ala Honey de la shoobie Nut. She had a little cup with milk, another cup for sugar and the spoon. She had gone to the trouble of digging out my favorite cereal bowl- how she remembers stuff like that I just don't know. I haven't used it in years.  Anyway, it's an awesome bowl because its tiny at the bottom therefore the cereal doesn't get all mushy and disgusting right away, and she set it all up with an empty coffee cup to be filled upon my rising.

She made a couple art projects too. One was a big flower in my 2 favorite colors. The other was 2 paper flowers in a paper vase with a poem.

Roses are red,
Grass is green,
I hope on Mothers Day
You're treated like a Queen.

So much cute! She told me her Occupational Therapist helped her with that one. I knew I liked that woman. A lot.

Teena wrote me a book. It is hilarious what is important and notable in the mind of a 9 year old.

"A Mom is...."

A Mom is someone who lets you watch your favorite Minecraft videos, even when she says it is the voice of the devil. Which it is not.
(that man's voice, makes me want to stab out my ears with a knitting needle. Stampy? Something like that)
A Mom is someone who takes you to the lake and swimming in the summer.
A Mom is someone who lets you stay up late sometimes on weekends.
A Mom is someone who lets you take gymnastics and piano lessons and even watches you do the recitals.
A Mom is someone who notices when you are responsible and rewards you with things like hugs and a KINDLE!
A Mom is someone who sometimes makes your dad do the dirty work, like when she makes him clean the cats' poo!
A Mom is someone who will love you forever and ever!

It was a great one. OH YEAH- and they got me a red velvet cheesecake! One pound per hip per bite, it was fabulously delicious. And, their Dad took them out for a few hours. Perfect.

So, if your Mother's Days have always been a sucktacular chaos fest like mine, there IS hope!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Meds Like Candy

I contacted Genea's psychiatrists office and let the nurse know we were having some issues.

This is not a seamless process. Her psychiatrist used to have a local office but moved across the state. Now we do "tele-med" with him, and our visits are a live video consult.  I requested an increase in our Awesome Med. Then the nurse calls me back to tell me what he prescribes. Here's how it goes:

1. I call and leave a message for the nurse stating clear details
2. She calls back to verify everything I just said
3. Nurse calls the doctor and leaves a message
4. Doctor calls nurse back
5. Nurse calls me back to tell me everything the doctor said.

(a side note, they asked me to fill out an opinion survey and I was all like, HELL YEAH this is great! I'd rather tele-med than go on a vacation to see the castles of Ireland! Its SO GREAT! I want to do all our appointments like this!  Actually, I don't care for it. However I am not about to lose access to another child psych!).

Anyway, I would love to know where are all those doctors who hand out pills like candy because I have never met one. Seems I'm forever reading crap about that as news. Nobody wants to "throw a bunch of pills" at my kid. We have a hundred hoops to jump through and that's okay.

He recommends a small increase, as I thought he would, then wants to see her in a week.

At that appointment, he asked me for an example of the explosiveness. The other day, Genea was sitting at the kitchen table taking her medications. She stopped in the middle to ask me if she could try on her summer clothes to see what still fit. I could have told her "yes, after you finish" in a therapeutic parenting way but really, she had screwed around so much already,  I told her instead to focus on her medicine. Besides, I put out the girls summer clothes a week earlier.

At any rate, the explosion came. Screaming, stomping, banging, throwing, crying and general hysteria, so I sent her to her room to calm down. When she returned to the table, within mere seconds she had another shrieking fit when I told her to finish up instead of refilling the cats water dish.

So, he increased her anti-anxiety medication too, and wants to see her in another week. So far, no significant changes for bad or for good.

It's a good thing I'm not working right now. I don't know how parents with paying jobs do it. She has had 4 medical appointments in the past 2 weeks, but she is not alone! Her sister has had 2 as well. Not to mention my contact lenses have turned to crust so I had an eye doctor appointment today.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bipolar Every Day

There is never a day where we can predict, upon waking, what mood will strike. It could be fun and silly, or wails and shrieking. The only way to find out is to get up.

It would be great if Genea could submit a scaled number prior to going to bed. (1) being awesome and (10) being the hardest, she could give us a slip of paper saying tomorrow will be an (8).  Surely someone could invent an app for that. Along with the alarm in the morning, a number would flash on the screen. Grit your teeth, today is going to suck! Or, get your giggles ready, tomorrow is scheduled to be a (3)!

Bipolar Disorder is never something we can forget about. No relaxing with a day off. Even when Genea seems stable we have to watch, try to anticipate, and wrap our daily choices around predictable triggers.

She's had a rough few months and I'm struggling with what to do. She takes a medication that she started about 2 years ago. This one medication has made an immense difference. While other meds have helped, they typically fade after about 3 months and lose all "power" after about six. This has been the  one that has helped and kept going.

The recommended top dose is 6 milligrams and she is currently on 2 mg.  If I call her psychiatrist and ask for  an increase in dosage, he'll probably go to 2.5. Being as this is the one and only thing that has worked long term I feel like I should be hoarding the increases. 7 more years until she turns 18 and can legally make these decisions for herself, for whatever that's worth. If I'm crawling across the desert with one big sip of water left, should I wait until I am almost dead to drink it? Or should I use the last of it to push me on a little further than I could have gone otherwise, even if that means I might run out too soon?

Of course a medication increase is not up to me. However when I describe recent changes, that is most likely what her psychiatrist will do. I'm not interested in, god forbid, adding another medication. It's a tremendous gift that Genea's psychiatric team considers me a deciding part of the package. I read so often about parents who are rigidly told, instead of consulted.

The nature of Bipolar Disorder is how it cycles. The current low that we're in has been going a little over four  months- and 3 months is typical for her.  She should have pulled out of it by now. I thought she was on the upturn for a week or so until the violence returned just recently. But sometimes the lows ebb away on their own. Well, not often. Ok, maybe once. And it's possible I miscounted. Somehow though, despite 7 years of this, I hold on to hoping. Probably stupid.

Am I letting her brain damage itself? Marinating in neurological chemicals equivalent to pouring gasoline on a burning building? Is it better to increase an outside chemical with potential side effects that may or may not have long term effects?

I find myself glad I stalled signing her up for extra performance lessons in May. When her control cannot be relied on inside the house, I do not let her participate in extra things outside the house. That's always been my criteria anyway. We might do short term, inexpensive activities where if she has to miss or if she blares symptoms over a metaphorical loudspeaker, we can back out, social damage minimized.

Between the ups and downs are periods of reasonably expressed emotion. Its hard, almost as hard as the severe parts, to see balance. Because if it's in there, where does it go? Where the fuck does it go?

Then of course there is "the line" conversation I have with myself constantly. What line is this crossing? Is this a RAD thing? A  puberty thing? Is is Bipolar or that she's 11 or that she's sick or tired or what?

And the other line of my own making. Who am I to sit here with the luxury of my (presumably) logical brain thinking up all this shit to worry about? The child needs help. Get her the goddam help.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rerun with good reason! Cart Crashers Unite!

I'm re-running this post from 2011. Seraphinalina came back all these years later and added a comment. It's just so freaking funny I have to share. Payoff is at the end.

There is this one little thing that I really love to do. I love it so much I almost look forward to it. It is a little strange though. But I'm guessing if you read here you are getting used to the strange. Possibly you even expect it. You are no stranger to strange.

This might be a little more strange than the normal strange.

It might even be unhealthy. But I'm not exactly known for my consciousness on that subject. I eat cheetos and even go without sunscreen.

I love, I would even say I LIVE, to smash grocery carts.

Okay! I warned you!

I mean, the satisfaction I get from shoving that fucker across the lot to crash into the cart carrel, wow, I'm getting worked up just thinking about it.

There might be a chance I have a touch o' The Crazy myself.

I spend my time and my money in the store. I lope out to the parking lot with my kids jumping and whining, after having dragged them through the store jumping and whining and being demanding. I tell them to get in the car while I put our crap in the trunk and without fail there is an argument. I mean, what? the? hell? How do 2 such short people manage to fight with each other about something so fucking simple as getting in the damn car? Just get! in! the! car! There is nothing to talk about! Simple process, open door, sit your ass down, mouth closed! Squabbles always ensue and I want nothing more than to smash something.

(Though I have to admit, even when the kids are nowhere near me I still smash carts). (I must have leftover frustrations). (Keep your sassy comments to yourself there, lol!).

I slam the trunk of the car shut. There is minor satisfaction in that, however I drive a Pontiac. There is no heft to the trunk and so very little sense of release. In high school I drove my parents old 1970 Chevy Caprice. Now that's a car with some heft, a car that could sleep 6. You had to  put some muscle into pulling the doors closed or slamming the trunk. Anyway. I digressed.

So I drag my cart away from my car, having already scoped out the nearest return carrel. My pupils start to dilate and I can feel a surge of blood pressure rising. The corners of my mouth twitch but I try hard to resist smiling. I don't want all the other customers to see me. It would look weird.

(I resent places that have plastic shopping carts. You know who I am talking about *Target*).

Ideally I would find a carrel with several carts already in it. Empty ones are still noisy but less disruptive. There is no domino effect of watching the other carts scurry and lurch forward. I line that fucker up from about 5 feet back and tense my muscles with all the strength afforded to me by having a 6 year old child who still loves to be carried. Then BAM! I send that cart flying across the parking lot! SMASH! It bangs and crashes into the carts already returned and hurls them forward as well, the noise sounding like a repeating echo. Banging into the sides of the carrel, metal shrieking on metal. Yikes! People are startled and look over, surprised at all the noise I have made. Some even look disapproving. Oops, heh heh heh. My daughter Teena calls out from the car "Wow Mama! That was coooooooool"! I think so too. Ahhh.

Okay, I can't be the only one. Right?

Original post with comments is RIGHT HERE

This here is the payoff! Watch the link! Go potty first!

Seraphinalina adds this:
I saw this film at a festival in Germany and thought of you. :)
KILLER KARTS is the link to the original but I *think* I also downloaded and copied it here... maybe...



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