I just remembered something funny from our date night. I had my driver's license out at the restaurant and Akila was looking at it. She wanted to keep it and we had a mini struggle over it. She was looking at it very intently so I was trying to read it with her and explain the info to her. She was holding it tightly and I finally realized she was intentionally covering up some info with her thumb. I moved her thumb and it was the "Sex: F" part of it. I started laughing so hard. I was trying to explain to her what that means and she couldn't believe I said the sex word. It was pretty funny.
Wow, I wish every night could be date night. We do date nights with our kids about every nine months or so. One kid gets to go out with mom and dad, pick a restaurant, an activity and one toy. Michael and I absolutely love these nights as the kids are always on their best behavior and are so fun to be with. Tonight was Akila's date night and she was heavenly!!!!
We went to the Mall of America and she chose Tony Roma's to eat at (with a little planting from mom). It turned out to be a great place as she loves barbecue and chose ribs and ate half of dad's barbecue chicken. Next, we rode rides which I love!! It is great that she and Imani are now tall enough to go on the big people rides. We rode the Timberland Twister (my favorite), the Mighty Axe (Akila's new favorite), the Ripsaw and the Log Chute. It was super fun, Akila and I screamed our heads off!!! Dad watched (he is not much of a rider, well, not one at all).
Then we went to Build A Bear Workshop for the first time and she got a bear. She was an absolute delight to be around all night and it was hard to not constantly be trying to point that out to her and talk about how we would always like her to behave in this way. Of course, we did a couple of times, but restrained a million times. It was an awesome evening and a gift from God to remind us how pleasant Akila truly is when her brain damage is not getting in the way. Thank you Lord.
Well, my earlier post was about stealing, and so is this one. When the kids got home from school today, I had to immediately leave for an appt. with the Neuro-Psychologist to find out results of tests she had done with Akila earlier this month. The kids got home at 3:35 and my appt. was at 4:00 at Children's Clinics. I had my coat on and bags on my shoulder.
Akila ran in the door and started to run up the stairs, with her coat and backpack. She said she had to go to the bathroom but it was very suspicious. I asked her if she had brought her extra coat back from school, she said yes. I told her to throw her backpack down so I could put the coat away. She refused. The sign that she had stolen. I asked what was in her backpack that should not be. She fussed, raged a bit, then said a purse. My heart sank. I thought, she has stolen the teacher's purse. I opened her backpack and was relieved to find a little girl's play purse, still a serious offense, but somehow I was relieved it was not an adults.
The purse does have several dollars in it and Akila of course fumed that I took it away from her. I felt bad for Paris, the young man who was sitting, as I left to hurry off to the doctor. I am still thankful that she has not figured out or tried to steal from a store yet, I know that will happen some day. By the way, did I mention that in all the fuss with Akila, I set my bags down and forgot all the paperwork I needed to bring with to the dr. appt?? I was very happy about that-NOT!
Stealing is what kind of brought us to the diagnosis of Alcohol Related Neurological Disorder (ARND) for Akila. We had always known there had been prenatal exposure to alcohol, but weren't sure the impact. Akila has always had issues with ownership, trying to sneak toys home from friend's playdates, taking stuff from my jewelry box, etc. Then in first grade, she started stealing like crazy. One week, she stole on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Each night we had a talk about stealing, how it makes someone feel, etc. Consequence each night. Thursday night, I told her if she stole the next day, that her beloved blankie (which she was obsessed with) would go in the garbage never to be seen again. She came home on Friday with a ten dollar bill. Most of her theft had been a pencil, lip gloss, etc. So, bye bye blankie. It hardly phased her. I thought this would tear her apart as she was so obsessed with it.
The next week, she was stealing again. This is when I figured out that something was seriously wrong. I talked to the school psychologist who said they normally didn't see this in kids who "had" enough and that they usually saw this in kids who lived in shelters. I did some Internet digging, and learned that this was a common thing with kids affected by alcohol. Having worked in education, I had received some training on FAS long ago, but didn't know anything about FAE/ARND or that kids could have it without the physical features. As I looked at the list of behaviors, I immediately knew Akila had it.
Anyway, she has a pattern of being very cyclical in her theft. She usually doesn't do it much at the beginning of the school year, but usually, right around November when she is getting comfortable with her new classroom and the new teacher, it begins. Sure enough, it seems to have started yesterday. She came home from school saying that she stole some gum from her teacher. At bedtime, I found 2 pencil erasers and a key chain in her pocket which are not hers. She admitted that she took them from someone. A year ago, this would have set me off!!!!! I am in such a better place now to deal with this knowing how her brain processes things like this. She will still get a consequence and we will talk about it. But I now can deal with it so much more calmly. Information is truly precious.
Just thought of one more thing. Akila has horribly dry and ashy skin and she HATES getting lotion on. We have been fighting a lot about this the last few weeks. Her skin is pretty sensitive and we can't use the perfumey or fun kinds of lotion. But tonight, in all my wisdom (yeah right), I put some glitter in the Eucerin lotion and put it on her without a fight. It was a proud moment for me. It probably won't work tomorrow, but I can't ask for too much now can I??
God bless my little girl who loves all things "FuFu" as I call it. Akila is obsessed with all things having to do with fashion. She loves clothing, hair, make-up- all the stuff I could really care less about. Anyway, today, she gets off the bus, walks in the door and wants to go to the store to buy fake stick-on fingernails. I asked her who she saw on the bus with some on and she told me a teenager. I tried to talk to her about how they looked and things like that. She knew I was trying to distract her or throw her off course and just kept on insisting that we go immediately to buy some. I told her we would put them on her Christmas list but that wasn't good enough. I told her we could not go buy some and the tantrum started. There was no distracting or calming her down. I told her she would need to go to her room if she could not calm down and stop screaming, kicking furniture and name calling. She did not listen. She would not go to her room. I then calmly, dragged her up the stairs to her bedroom and told her she could not come out until she calmed down. She raged in there for awhile, eventually came down and went back in on how I should buy her some to make her happy. I "brought" her back to her room and she eventually came back and kind of followed me around giving me what I call, the "Satan look".
We had dance class tonight so I had tried several times to get her to change into her dance clothing but she would have nothing to do with it. It was almost time to go, I got her changed, and then 10 minutes before we had to go, she decided we should stop at Leann Chins for dinner on the way to dance. This is a treat that she loves which we only do once in awhile as it adds up financially. I told her that we could maybe do it next week before dance, if she could control her behavior after school and that her behavior had not been good enough to go there tonight. Tantrums started all over again. I thought we might miss dance tonight (and we did the last two weeks due to my tonsillectomy). We made it, miraculously.
During dance class, I briefly overheard 2 moms talking about bullying in the class and one said she was going to talk to the instructor about it. I tried to talk to her to see if she knew who was doing the bullying but she didn't seem to have a name. I know that over a month ago, Akila called a little girl ugly on the girls birthday. Lovely. Even more lovely since I am the behind the scenes Office Manager for this dance studio which is owned by my best friend. I talked to my friend tonight about talking to the instructor more on how to handle Akila. It's always something.
Many of you have maybe seen the movie "Akeelah and the Bee", it is one of our favorites, of course!! Today is the day after Thanksgiving and a good time to reflect on what I am thankful for. There are many things and by reading this blog, you may not think that I am ever thankful. That is because this blog is kind of my venting avenue, and after a short while, I have found it to be quite therapeutic. I especially appreciate it when people post comments as I then know that people are reading my rants and for some reason, that feels good. Enough on that.
Some of you know this, but Akila is an excellent reader. I am so thankful for this. She enjoys reading and has never really struggled with the concepts. She is also a gifted speller- go figure (Akila is in 3rd grade)!!! She amazes me in spelling, and she seems to enjoy it as well. The really nice thing with this is that it is something we can praise her for -legitimately. I am going to try to post my first picture, I took one of her spelling test from last week. All year, she has usually been getting one wrong which is awesome and we praise her for it. Last week she got them all right and walked in the door from the bus with a giant smile and on a total high. She was excited the entire night from that spelling test-Praise the Lord!!! It is of course hanging up and probably will be all year. If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it. Akila loves it!!! The girls name is Akeelah Anderson, so close to Akila Clark!!!
I am also thankful for my family. Last night, I was laying on my bed with all 4 of my kids watching the Incredibles and I felt truly blessed. We had spent the day at Grandma Kathy's having a Thanksgiving feast (that is what my kids love to call it) and the kids were pretty well behaved. As we are at the beginning of the holiday season, I start to think a lot of my mom and how 3 years ago, she started to rapidly go downhill. As a matter of fact, the day after Thanksgiving is when we were at the "good" Oncologist who told us that mom had already surpassed her life expectancy for her diagnosis, and probably had only a few months left. It is interesting how these dates stick in my head. It was the year after mom died that we figured out Akila has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). I wish we had known when mom was alive as Akila drove her nuts! My understanding and patience for Akila have grown tremendously since we figured out her FASD (and it still needs to grow). I think it would have helped my mom be more patient with her as well. I will stop rambling now. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!! P.S. I also had to post a picture of my kids since I figured out how to upload the pictures! Hezekiah is on the far left, then Akila, Imani with hear arm around Zeke who has the cheesy smile.
Saturday was getting to be a very long day. I was quite thankful when Ashley came to get the kids just after 4:00 to take them to a movie and dinner. When they returned, it was very interesting to hear Ashley say that there was a noticeable difference in Akila's behavior from late last spring when she brought them out, to now. I have been feeling the same thing. Although, I usually feel that about every 3 months, Akila's challenging behavior has progressed and she is more difficult to deal with. I think this will be the pattern for the rest of our lives. One of the things that can drive us all crazy, is Akila's loudness. If anyone has figured anything out to get children like this to stop yelling, I would appreciate any suggestions. Akila is quite sensitive to smell and sounds, but is the loudest child herself. Go figure.
Today, Akila was at Anna's apartment getting her hair braided for nearly 4 hours (it didn't take quite that long, she had breaks to play with Amari). Needless to say, it was rather peaceful at our house this afternoon. It is always fun to pick Akila up as she is very excited about the new style she is sporting. Remember, Friday morning she was raging and violent over wanting a new hair do. So tonight, at bedtime, she lost it as her head is a bit sore from the new braids. Bedtime was not fun. She was on an emotional roller coaster, upset about her hair hurting, upset about not wanting me to leave her room, upset because she wants fake fingernails for Christmas, and on and on. She was practically manic. I didn't know if I would ever get out of her room. Thankfully, I did.
Hello everyone. Today is day 5 post surgery, and I am starting to come back to life. Pain is still pretty substantial but the meds help- especially at making me tired. Yesterday morning was an interesting one. Michael got the kids off to school all week so I could sleep and I could hear he was having a "fun" morning with Akila (most are like that-actually, they have not been as bad since we started the Melatonin). She came into my bedroom and stood by the foot of my bed demanding that I comb out her hair and put new braids in it- a minimum 3 hour project. I said we would do it this weekend and that there was not time before school. This was not an OK answer. She started to lose it, and none of my words were going to calm her down. She raged, hit my legs with her teddy bear, spewed many hateful words and finally left as I just lay there dead to the world. It was a very peaceful way to wake up. I learned today that dad then had it out with her about wearing shoes to school-we are very demanding parents.
Today, she is having a hard time because Imani is at a friend's birthday party. I was laying on the couch (which I have been doing a lot) telling her we would have a friend sleep over next week for her. Of course, she does not understand next week. It was nearly time for her to leave for tennis which she did not want to do as she was too upset. She stood next to me on the couch raging about everything and nothing. I eventually had my eyes closed and my hands over my eyes (trying to stifle my headache) when she started yelling at me to stop looking at her. I asked her if she wanted me to look at her (since I wasn't) and she raged that she didn't want me to look at her. I said I wasn't which made her rage more. It was really fun. She obviously just needed to get some emotions out and had no idea what she wanted.
Anyway, I am very thankful that Ashley, a previous co-worker, is coming to get the kids tonight to take them to dinner and a movie. It will be great for them to get out as they have kind of been stuck in the house all week with me. I am ready to feel better. I must say a big public thanks to Emily for watching my kids all week until Michael got home from week. She is truly a blessing in our life!!
The tonsils are gone, and a whole bunch of pain has been left in their place. It went very well, Akila only came into my room 2 dozen times or so last night, but it was fine. She is a child who is very obsessed with all things medical. She is extremely loving and caring when someone is hurting. I was telling my nurse yesterday who gave me my IV, that Akila loves IV's. She has to have them once in awhile when she gets dehydrated. She gets bouts of vomiting about 3 or 4 times a year, and about once a year, we can't get it under control and end up in the ER. She loves it. When we go to regular Dr. appointments, she begs for shots and throws little fits when she can't get one. It makes it very easy to take her to the doctor.
I just also need to mention how much I love Melatonin. Kari Fletcher mentioned it briefly in a training she did a few weeks ago and I had never heard of it. Akila has always had a very difficult time winding down at bedtime. We do bedtime by 8:00 p.m. and she was always up til 10 or 11. This is partially why we rearranged our bedrooms recently. Mike and I are now in what was once our sun room so Akila could have her own room. Anyway, I researched the Melatonin, ran to CVS and got some the next day, and Akila has been sleeping within 15 minutes of bedtime each night, and has only once gotten out of bed and went right back. This has changed our lives in the evening, it is so much more peaceful. Praise the Lord. Thanks for great advise Kari!!
Well, I am going in bright and early tomorrow morning to have my tonsils removed. I am not looking forward to this for several reasons. The obvious one, PAIN. I'm not a big fan of pain. I had to have 1/2 of my thyroid removed in September due to a silly nodule on it, and they say this goofy surgery is going to be 10 times as hard of a recovery, due to the pain. Great, looking forward to it. But, I am also a bit anxious about the kids and how my recovery is going to affect them. Akila is quite addicted to me and I don't think I will have any patience to be around her for several days. Emily (our old sitter who is now like a dear family member-who also got engaged yesterday-congrats) is coming over each day to watch the kids until Mike gets home, but I know Akila well enough to know she will not be able to leave me alone. I pray that I will have the patience to deal with her if I need to (if-ha ha). I also pray that Mike will have the patience to deal with the kids pretty much alone each night.
I went to school and had lunch with my girls today, brought them Pizza Hut pizza from Target. I got there a few minutes too late and they had already gone through the line and gotten sloppy joes. But they didn't eat the school food (of course), we all ate pizza. Then after school, I asked each girl individually if they had any surprises in school and they both were able to say that I surprised them at lunch with pizza. At dinner, I asked the girls what they had for lunch for daddy's sake. Imani said "pizza", Akila said "sloppy joes". I asked Akila again several more times, and she kept answering sloppy joes. I asked her if that is what she ate. She had to think for several seconds, then answered pizza and remembered that I had been there. Her memory issues are sporadic but are thankfully not one of her major problems. They just pop up like this once in awhile.
Imani's piano recital was lovely yesterday, and thankfully it was only about 35 minutes. Imani is a great pianist and seems to really love it. Right before it started, Akila was beginning to lose it! The recital was at 3:00 and this is typically the time when Akila will start to fall apart if she is going to (miraculously, she doesn't every day- there are blessings everywhere). She made it through the recital while bouncing on Michael's lap, I thought the pew might break. During the refreshment time afterward, she was totally hyper and not listening. We were suppose to leave it to go out for Hezekiah's birthday dinner, at Olive Garden, his choice. The entire car ride, I was saying to Michael that I thought maybe Akila and I should go home as she was obviously losing it. He said, no we will do this as a family and I will just take her out to the van if need be. Well, I'm glad he decided that. It was a rough meal, she went to the van only once, but was close several more times.
After getting home, I was able to spend nearly 3 hours coming weave out of Imani's hair. My back was aching big time by the finish of that project. Now I just spent 2 hours braiding it tonight (my children are African American so it takes awhile to do their hair-especially since I am not and have had to learn how to do their hair, and am not very fast. The good thing is you don't have to do it for about 2 weeks). Of course as I was just about finished with Imani's hair, Akila came upstairs and started throwing a fit wanting me to do new braids for her (I did hers last weekend). I explained that wouldn't work but that we would next weekend That was not good enough. Crying fits followed which I tried to head off. I took a break from braiding and tried to distract her, but there was no going there. So I finished braiding Imani's hair with the volume turned up on the TV so we could hear it over the screams. One of the hardest things for me in dealing with Akila is in watching my non-affected kids have to put up with so much junk. It is amazing how patient they are and how they rarely hold grudges. I am sometimes still mad and turn and they are playing with her after she just smacked them really hard. They all 4 teach me so much.
I have spent the good part of today cleaning our mudroom. I noticed yesterday that the floor was really sticky and I asked Michael if he knew of a can of pop exploding in there. He said yes, Zeke had dropped one but he had wiped it up. Then today I noticed that the walls are sticky, as is the closet door and as I looked closer, everything in the entire room has been sprayed with pop. Michael said he didn't think it was the one he had helped Zeke clean up as it didn't really spray. Shortly after this conversation, Akila came in and said "Mom, I'm going to tell the truth. I "accidentally" shook up a can of pop and sprayed it in here." I said, thanks for telling me (as I fought the urge to yell like the psycho mom I can be). I had her help me to clean it for awhile as we talked about why it was a bummer that she did this.
Unfortunately, it was Sprite-which is invisible. I wish it were a Diet Coke so I could see where to clean. I'm still not done, have mopped the floor 3 times and it is still sticky. Of course, if I was more organized it would not be as major of a clean up. There was junk everywhere in there (bike helmets, nebulizer supplies, boombox, phone books, etc.), just lying on the floor. Coats hanging on the wall hooks have to all be washed. Thankfully we are going out for dinner as it is Hezekiah's 6th birthday today (after Imani's piano recital).
Wow, it is true. Once you're starting to "get" FASD, you see it everywhere. I went with my friend tonight to see the movie, Martian Child, and she eventually was annoyed with me as I kept saying, "He probably has FASD- he has a lot of the symptoms." Not to mention that I couldn't stop talking about the FASD conference and all I had learned. It is hard to understand if you don't have a child who is affected or have not been reading up or going to trainings. My mind is spinning.
When will I learn. I must banish Cheetos from our lives. Yesterday morning, when trying to get the kids ready for school and myself ready for attending the FASD conference, Akila decided she should bring an entire bag of Hot Cheetos to school. I rarely buy Cheetos but someone shared some with her on the bus on Monday and she was begging for them and I used them as a reward. Dumb mommy. Anyway, I said I would put some in a baggie for her to take and have at lunch but she insisted on the whole bag. I explained why that would not be a good idea (inside fully knowing that she would be eating them on the bus, in the hallways, etc.) and that she could only bring a baggie. This was not good enough for her. I told her it was her only choice and tried to change the subject, distract her, ask her about the bump on her head or the cut on her leg (she is completely obsessed with all bumps, bruises and scraps)- but there was no heading this rage off. It was the worst one she has ever had. I just stood there watching her, thinking "I am going to this conference today no matter what Girl!!! I need it to deal with you better. How am I going to get you on the bus in 20 minutes." Yes, 20 minutes. Doesn't sound long, does it? But it really is when you are dealing with a child in full rage mode. She was whaling at the top of her lungs, on the floor screaming, kicking over furniture, shouting very hateful things, etc. I was worried that I might not be able to calm her down enough to get on the bus. Right as it was time to go to the bus stop, she finally conceded and would go with the baggie of Cheetos instead of the entire bag, but left out the door with a huge attitude saying that she hates me. My neighbor, Kathy (the lady who I have adopted as my mom), arrived right before this to watch Zeke before his bus came (so I could leave for the conference). She saw Akila's attitude and tried to hug it out of her. Wish that would work.
Needless to say, I was very relieved that she went. I went to the computer very quickly and sent her teacher an email warning her of our horrible morning and saying I hoped it would not spill into her day (yeah, right-dream on Barb). On my way to the conference, I had to call my friend Juli to vent about my morning (and it was only 8:00 a.m.). As I told her the story, she said to me "Isn't Cheetos what she called the police over a few years ago?" Ah, my memory sometimes blocks things out. In 1st grade, Akila came home from school and someone on the bus had shared Cheetos with her (what's up with this kid on the bus and Cheetos-I should look into this). She wanted me to go to the store immediately and buy her some. I told her no and she of course protested. About 20 minutes later, I received a call from the Mpls police saying they had just received a 911 call and had a hang up. I apologized and went to talk to Akila. She said she called the police because I wouldn't buy her Cheetos. I don't think I will ever again. Lock me up.
My first entry, I am so nervous. First a disclaimer, a writer I am not. I will not even attempt to proof my entries or use good grammar-hopefully this thing has a spell check or you're all in for a treat. My husband, Michael, and I have 4 adopted children. Akila who is 8 and in 3nd grade, Imani who is 7 and in 2nd grade, Hezekiah who is 6 and in kindergarten and Zeke who is 5 and in High 5 Preschool. Akila is my alcohol effected child, she has ARND. Our children are African American and we are white. We got them all between 5-10 weeks of age, none of them are related by birth.
So, basically we have 4 children, ages 5,6,7 & 8. Yes, we are a bit crazy. I think this blog will probably focus on our (or should I say "my"-as I doubt Michael will do any posting, although he is welcome to) challenges with Akila. Obviously these challenges involve the entire family.
Yesterday, I attended a FASD conference in St. Paul which was excellent!!! I learned a good amount of stuff and made a few connections. It is quite overwhelming to sit in the audience and listen to the true facts of FASD and how many of our children we are actually screwing up. It is also motivating and I can feel the Lord in the last two or so months nudging me into greater involvement with the FASD movement. I am learning as much as I can to see how I can fit into it, and how it can fit into our lives. I know a fit will become obvious shortly. Prayer is a powerful thing and I can feel the Lord working in our lives big time right now.
Anyway, I think this is enough for the first post. I will write one about a Cheetos incident I had yesterday with Akila shortly.
My name is Barb and I am a teenager at heart who is married to Michael, an Accountant. We have 4 adopted children, Akila-12, Imani-11, Hezekiah-10 and Zeke-9. I am a youth worker by profession but currently staying home attempting to manage our household. My hope for this blog is that it will help me to avoid cleaning my house (I actually don't need help with avoiding housework) and give me some serenity (I do need help with this). My oldest child, Akila, has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and that is what I will focus on in this blog.
Here are a few books that I found helpful on FASD. I also put the link for the lockbox that we have liked the most for locking stuff up. We have one with meds in it, one with knives and scissors. I like that it is electronic and I don't have to use a key. Each of my kids has their own as well.