Saturday, December 15, 2012


Today, I heard a radio advertisement telling men to buy their women jewelry so as to be "your wife's hero." It struck me - is that really our definition?? Our husbands are heroes if they buy us pretty baubles? It immediately made me think of what happened at dinner last night.

We were wrapping up our favorite family tradition - Pizza Night. Every Friday we go to the same mom-and-pop pizza buffet. We've been going there now for over two years, and it's like being with family. Last night, we were gathering the kids and leaving around at around 7:15. I started hustling the kids out to the car while hubby paid the tab and chatted with the owner.

As I was loading kids into the mini-van, a homeless man walked past. I'll be honest, I tensed up. He was older, he looked to be drunk, he was disheveled and sporting a pretty mean black eye. He looked tough, desperate, and not in his right mind. As he was walking past, my husband came out of the restaurant. The guy turned to him and said "Hey, could you spare some change?"

Hubby said "What do you need it for?" "I'm trying to get a bus ticket so I can go apply for a job," the man said. "I don't think anyone's hiring at this hour," hubby replied. "Well, it's for tomorrow morning," the man said.

My husband looked at him and said "I don't have any change, but how about I set you up with some food? Are you hungry?" "Well, yeah," the guy said, sounding incredulous. My husband took him into the restaurant and paid for him to get the buffet and a drink. He asked his name, asked him about his shiner, set up one of the cooks to help him, then paid his meal and told him "God bless you, stay safe" before leaving. And when we got home, he said to me "It makes me so sad. Sure, he got to eat tonight, but he's going to be sleeping on the streets and it's cold and dangerous and I wish I could have done more." He's prayed for the man that night and again today.

I'm proud to have such a compassionate, loving, caring, selfless man as my husband. I told him later that I am so proud of him, to see him be an example of Christ's love like that. He shrugged it off. He'll probably be embarrassed that I'm telling this story, because he didn't do it to brag or boast or show off.

This is why I love my husband. Who he is inside is worth more than a million pretty pieces of jewelry. You can't get true character by spending money. You get it by treating others with decency and value, no matter what. By having respect and honesty and compassion. By shining the light of Christ into this world in action and deed. That's a real hero to me.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Plague of Tics

I alluded to the fact that Geri has some "tics." I sometimes call them "-isms", because some of them seem to be "blindisms" or "adoptedisms", but they boil down to uncontrolled, repetitive behaviors that she has a hard time reigning in. I suspect lots of adopted kids, who have suffered neglect or trauma, have some of these types of behaviors, and I know for a fact that a lot of blind or otherwise disabled kids have them, too. That's without throwing the Autism spectrum into the equation, which is characterized, in part, by the tics.

I wanted to share our experiences with Geri's tics because I think it does two things - 1) gives people in our circle of life a platform for understanding our daughter, so they don't think she's nuts or having a seizure or something and 2) gives a bit more info to people who might be dealing with something similar, as I can share what we have found that works for her and possible interpretations. There's a lot more to these behaviors than meets the eye.

When Geri came home, she had some tics. Over time, with lots of sensory input and PT and sensory therapy and brushies and squishees and redirection from us, that stuff subsided a great deal. However, following her cornea transplant, a lot of it has come back. We've seen this before, actually, that a change in her vision leads quickly to an uptick in tics. This time, it's been fairly marked and dramatic.

She has started rocking again. No, not blasting White Snake in her room late at night. It's more like she's throwing herself against her seat for the sensation of smacking into it. She hits herself in the head. She squeals and shrieks. She pulls at her clothing, flails her arms and contorts. She pulls at her tongue and lips. Shoves both hands into her mouth. Honestly, it can look pretty fricking weird. I suspect that people who see this think she's either possessed or massively autistic/retarded. Maybe they think she's psycho.

Then they think I'm psycho, because my response is to tell her to go pick up my bag and bring it to me. Then I tell her to put it back. Then I ask her to bring it to me again. Then I hand her something to throw in the garbage. Or I throw out something random like "Say 'mommy, I'm hungry.'" and proceed to give her crackers.

Here's what we've figured out about these fits. First, there's always a trigger. It's almost never totally random or out of nowhere. It may look that way, but that's until you decode it. When she's messing with her mouth, it's because she's hungry. Sometimes, when she starts rocking in her seat it's because she wants to get down. Much of the time, it's linked to overstimulation. There's too much input, often visual input, for her to process. Many times, it's linked to a specific frustration, like being told "no" or that she can't have or do something she wants. It's her way of throwing a fit, the equivalent of laying on the floor and screaming and kicking her feet. It just looks a hell of a lot more bizarre.

Geri's sensory system is, to say the least, ill equipped for the world in which she lives. She started off at a deficit, because of her blindness, and then she was severely understimulated in the orphanage. We also suspect that she was quickly moved from almost zero stimulation in the infant room to the highly stimulating environment of six or seven toddlers running around in the toddler room at about the age of three. So after three years of nothing, she got tossed right into the deep end. Blind. She has every right to have a sensory processing deficit, honestly.

Which is where carrying my diaper bag around comes in. There are lots of ways to deal with a sensory problem, depending on the nature of the problem itself, and "heavy work" is a good one. Moving, lifting, carrying, pulling or pushing something heavy provides tons of proprioceptive input that stabilizes and calms the sensory system. It releases endorphins, which give a kick of feel-good to the brain, and gets some of that energy worked off. When she is spun up, it's the best possible response. It also calms and focuses her almost immediately to be given a simple, easy-to-understand task. When she's feeling loopy, it seems to ground her and give her a sense of purpose that settles her mind to be given something to do. I kid you not, telling her to throw something away for me can end a fit instantly.

And, to be honest, I'm already seeing the tics begin to subside. If we were consistently using brushies and squishies it might be moving faster, although I somewhat doubt that. She doesn't respond to the brushies and squishies as if they are helpful. One of her therapists told me that, in the world of sensory integration, you can tell if you are doing what your child needs because they respond happily. "If she's smiling, you are giving her exactly what she needed." When I brush her, she just seems to tolerate it. But as soon as I hand her something heavy and tell her where to take it, she grins from ear to ear.

So, if you see us out and about and I'm pulling all the chairs out from the table and making her push them back in, there's a reason. And it's not just because I'm some sadist who likes to give her child a Sysiphean task.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Only I Manage This...

What other adult gets tested for whooping cough twice in a four month period??? Seriously. This is the second time in a short while that I have come down with a crazy chest infection and ended up at urgent care. Both times they've had to test me for Pertussis because my cough was so bad that it sounded like that! sigh.

I'm still waiting on test results to find out if that's what I have. So here's my PSA... don't smoke, kids. I smoked for 13 years, total. I started at the tender age of 13, stopped for about two years when I got pregnant with and gave birth to TJ, then picked it up for another year before quitting for good. I smoked heavily, often times clove cigarettes, and I believe I am paying for it now. Every time I get sick, it goes straight into my chest and takes hold. Don't smoke, kiddos. Even if you quit, you'll pay for it later.

In other news, Geri's eye is healing very well. The new input seems to be getting her spun up, but that has been settling down recently and I'm happy about that. I'll have to write more about it, because I think there's some useful info in this whole story to put out there. But not tonight.

For tonight, I will leave you with this fun image from food shopping today...

Yoda and Luke go grocery shopping...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Diet Update

Thank you, all, for your encouragement and advice after my first post about this. It was scary to make a big change to something as fraught as our diet, and I was scared, so your kind words helped a lot.

Don't try to act innocent, soy!
I'm pleased to report that all is going really well. I was very very worried about how Geri would do, with her feeding issues, and I'm a little ashamed now that I underestimated her so much. I was scared she would reject all the new foods and convinced she wouldn't tackle all that chewing, but I was so wrong. She's munching on meats and veggies and fruits and doing great. I have to cut it into smaller pieces for her, but that's to be expected. Sometimes, she gets a little overwhelmed because she forgets to swallow what she's been chewing and then her mouth gets too full, but event hat turns out okay. Gross as it may sound, she just spits the mass out on her plate and then takes a little bit of it back fro round two. With all the feeding issues, our family has utterly nasty table manners, but oh well. It works, and that's what matters.

In addition to all the great input I got from y'all, I also got a chance to pick the brain of one of my favorite therapists from Geri's old feeding group. She gave me some tips and idea, and also pointed out something very important for our miss Mera. Many moons ago, when Mera's dairy intolerance first cropped up, we figured out that the culprit is not lactose, but dairy protein. What I didn't know is that soy protein is almost identical to dairy protein, so if someone is intolerant of dairy protein they will find no relief in switching to soy! Well, crap... that takes that soy yogurt off the menu. Just as well, it was runny and Mera wasn't impressed. But it leaves me with a conundrum... how to replace yogurt? And should I even bother? I could use almond milk yogurt, but it tastes weird and has a bizarre consistency. I could use sheep's milk yogurt, but it's $3 per cup! I could use coconut, but it's super thin. I could thicken it with protein powder, but that usually has whey in it and that's a no-go. I'm thinking I might just let it go.

The therapist also recommended I not take Geri down to 100% carb free. She pointed out that carbs are essential for processing protein in the body, and that they provide complex sugars that give longer lasting energy than fruits. She wants to see Geri on some amount of whole-grain carbs. Honestly, I was never really thinking of going totally carb-free. I just wanted to reduce it a whole lot and I figured shooting for none but knowing I can't control everything would land us at an actual reduction closer to 70%. I aim high, knowing I'll never make it but figuring that will get me closer to where I need to be. Does that make me a pessimist? At any rate, I bought some quinoa and I'm working more barley into the mix.

Another thing that the feeding therapist suggested was adding a probiotic to both girls' diets. I can't believe I didn't think of that, since I used a probiotic when Mera's dairy thing first popped up. She said it's a god idea when making a diet change to add a probiotic to keep everything working properly and your immune system functioning during the change. I found a dairy-free kids probiotic powder at King Soopers, so I'm working it in for both girls.

So, what about results?? Without going into too much disgusting detail, it's working. Geri's moving again, and since I dropped the soy I have seen some improvement in Mera. They both seem to be moving their bowels more regularly and with less difficulty. TMI, I know, but at least I'm not posting pics or something. Stroll on over to STFU, Parents and this won't look so bad.