Thursday, December 10, 2015

Anna's World

I was sitting with BBZ at the kitchen table recently while he was doing his homework.  I picked up a grown up coloring book hoping to find some peace and meditation in coloring.  After he finished his homework, he began coloring with me.  He noticed that I was coloring all of the leaves on the flowers on the paper green, and encouraged me to think creatively and not feel the pressure to make the picture the way it looks in the real world.

I dismissed this initially, then I decided to challenge myself and do just what he suggested.  It's amazing what can be accomplished internally by simply looking at something with a creative eye vs. what one would expect to see.

Going a step further, BBZ continued to encourage me to access my creativity and gave me a blank piece of paper.  He instructed me to write "Anna's World" on the top, and to draw pictures on the paper of things that I find in my world.

Deep.  Seriously deep.  This exercise proved to be much harder than it should have been.

How does one first define their world, and then draw it on a 8"x 11" sheet of paper?  As I struggled to begin with an obvious awkwardness, BBZ continued to encourage me to simply draw my world.

"Seriously mom", he said, "just draw."

So I did.  And this is the result:

I think what I love most about this exercise, is that BBZ knew what each of these things was.  I don't mean that as a testament to my drawing, but rather that he really knows me well enough to know the things that would be in my world.  So from left to right you'll see: N and the 2 boys, sleeping/snuggling in bed, running in the woods, donuts, yoga, dancing on a blanket outside, working and the sunrise/sunset.

I was pretty proud of my little world!  Feeling proud, I figured my work was done, but oh no.  Not even close!

BBZ has been very into writing comics lately.  He loves to read them, and lately he has been writing comic strips, which typically involve superheros and supercows (he's really into cows right now.  It's a little odd and totally adorable!)

So he tells me my next task is to draw a comic strip based on my world.  Geez,  This was really going to be hard!  I was so incredibly impressed by BBZ's ability to create a complete story on a blank sheet of paper.  I don't know that I am necessarily NOT creative, but this exercise definitely helped me see how VERY creative BBZ is.  And it inspired me to tap into this piece of myself now and then.

So this is what transpired from my "Anna's World" drawing into my comic strip story line:

From left to right: Wake up early, while the moon and stars are still out.  Run and watch the sunrise (BBZ asked where I run around here in the mountains and I reminded him that this is a pretend story).  Feed my smiling boys donuts.  Drive them in the car and listen to music.  Drop them off at school.  Put on my super woman cape and "Save the Day"!  (BBZ also reminded me that I don't have a cape.  I asked him how he can be so sure :) )  Get back in my car, pick up the boys from school, listen to music, feed my family a delicious dinner, watch the sunset and go to sleep next to my husband.

The End.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reminiscing - My Early Career Days

I spent most of my run this morning reminiscing about my college years, and my very first years in a real job (as in something besides fast food and retail).

I had just turned 20, and was in my junior year of college.  My friend and I wanted to get part-time jobs, and he found an ad in the paper for a part-time, $10/hour job with no benefits helping people with developmental disabilities at the 150-year-old state institution that stood on the outskirts of our small Missouri college town.

They provided 3-4 weeks of training before we ever spend time with the people we were hired to support.  They taught us non-violent crisis intervention, how to restrain people, how to communicate with people who don't use speech, and how to clock in/out and request time off.  Even with this long training, nothing could have prepared me for the work I would be expected to do.

Many of the people who lived in this institution had been there for most of their lives.  Many of the people who worked there did so after following the footsteps of their family members before them.  Here I was, a young college student tasked with the job of keeping myself and the people living there, safe from themselves and from others.

I was terrified.  I imagine they were required to prepare us for the times when the people living there would have behavior problems, and from the intense training we had to prepare us for that, I figured we would be in an unsafe situation the whole shift, every shift.

That, of course, wasn't true.  While we did need to address some behavioral issues at times, most shifts were geared toward supporting the people who lived there with all aspects of daily living.  I worked in the evenings, so we would prepare dinner, serve the meal, do showers, help with the bedtime routine and do data collection for programs.  My title was a DCA, or Direct Care Assistant.  There were often 2 full-time staff in each group home who were assigned 4 people each, then when I was assigned to a home, I would be responsible for 2-3 of the people on their lists, and would complete all of the tasks related to those people each shift.

There are so many stories I could tell about working in this environment.  Some great, some not so great.  I saw a lot there, and either in spite of or because of this job, I have dedicated my career to working with people with disabilities in a variety of settings.

The memory that came to mind today is a funny one.  Typically there would be 1 DCA in a group home with 2 full-time, and very experienced, direct care staff.  One day, I was assigned to group home 38 on unit 2.  I walked into the home, and found 2 other staff, but they were both DCAs like me.  We muddled through figuring out who would do what and thought we had it all covered.  Then we realized that we needed to cook dinner.  Here we were, 3 young and very inexperienced staff tasked with the chore of cooking a 2-course meal for 8 hungry men.  We froze up.

Not one of us knew how to cook for ourselves, let alone for a group of 8!  The kitchen sent up a box full of all of the ingredients we needed to cook the meal.  I cannot seem to remember what the meal was, but it included ground beef.  Somehow I ended up having to figure out this meal, so I did the best I could and remember serving a plate of bread with this ground beef concoction poured over the top of it.  I think the best part of this story is that one of the men who lived in this house rarely ate anything the staff cooked.  It was something the team had to address at each mealtime.  Not that night though.  He ate every bite!  I remember recounting this story the next time I worked with the full-time staff of group home 38 on unit 2, and they were not so happy to hear that he actually ate our ground beef whatever-it-was.

Reminiscence therapy is a tactic we use in my current work with people who experience memory loss.  It may seem odd to use reminiscence, or memories, as therapy for people with memory loss, but often a person experiencing memory loss cannot remember what happened yesterday, but can access memories in their long-term memory bank.  We use various items or materials to trigger memories, and it is very therapeutic not only for our participants, but also for those of us leading the activity.

I think that is why I wanted to write this out.  This was just one day, over 16 years ago, that has made a lasting impression on me.  I enjoyed thinking back to this day, which then led my memory to recall other memories from this time in my life.  It was like a small time travel machine took me back to those early days in my career.  I still have so much to learn, and have also come pretty far.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Chicken Pox + Chiggers = "Chicken Tenders"

Lu has a rash on his body from what I figured was something he got into while on our hike yesterday (it is). His teachers felt strongly that it was chicken pox (it's not) and insisted we see a doctor. While in the office waiting, Lu had the following conversation with Nate on the room phone:

"Hi daddy! What time will you be home? Well, I'm at the doctor right now. You know those mosquito bites on my body? Well, they're not mosquito bites actually. They're chicken tenders."

Saturday, August 1, 2015

He swims. He skips.

I am not typically one for new years resolutions, but this year I made a few.  One was to blog once/month.  Yeah, that hasn't happened.

I do miss blogging.  I know that this time with our boys is so precious, and the days months and years are just flying by.  I will look back and wish I had documented it more.  I'll wish I held onto these moments in more ways than juts my mind.  I know my mind can't hold them all!

These boys bring such light into my life.  We haven't done too many extraordinary things since my last post.  We're just living our lives, spending time in nature, nurturing our relationships with each other and growing together as a family.

BBZ has lost so many teeth!  His permanent teeth are growing in, and he seems to look so much more like a big boy than he has in the past.  He seems like a teenager in some ways, yet still a little boy in others.  He had an accident at camp that required 3 staples in the back of his head.  He was so nervous about it, but he stayed clam and handled it much better than I thought he would.

He is loving camp, and loving reading!  We're not as good about ensuring his summer reading as we should be, but he reads in his natural environment so well!  He reads the signs all around, and is interested in how words are spelled.  He was invited to be in the gifted program at his school, which will start in August when he starts 1st grade.  I'm so glad that he will have some extra support to use his mind and explore new ideas.

He insisted on doing sports camp this year, which I was a little concerned about because of his lack of interest in sports overall, but this has been wonderful for him.  He has tried lots of new activities that I don't know that he would have tried before.  He is taking more chances, and learning more things about himself and about who he wants to be in his life.  It's an adventure and a ride that I am so happy to be along with.  Plus, he's starting to tell me that he can go off on his own without me (he's right) and I'm learning when to back off and support his independence.  I love each time he reminds me that he can do it, that he is in charge of his life, and that he can make many of his own decisions.  I just love being a part of his growing up.

And he continues to LOVE to swim!

BBZ at the JCC pool 6/2015

Then there is my sweet littlest boy, LBZ.  I know that all parents think their children are amazing, and I am no different, but I have this strong sense that there is something quite special about my youngest son.  It seems that everything he touches turns to gold.  He loves music and can play the guitar and drums and sing better than most 3-year-olds I know.  He loves to draw, he loves to swim, he loves to play and listen to music, he loves to read words and sound out what words start with and end with.

And he loves to skip.

For the last few weeks or so, he skips everywhere.  Imagine for a moment what it is like to be with a little person who skips everywhere he goes.  He exudes happiness and light.  He has his moments like all of us of crabbiness or unhappiness, but overall, he is a ray of sunshine in what can sometimes be a dark and sad world.

LBZ's drawing, 7/1/2015

Like his big brother, LBZ also likes to swim.  He loves all sports and has excelled at every one he has tried.  If he had to choose, I think he would choose baseball, but he also loves soccer.  He has 2 metals for the sports he's tried so far (soccer and baseball) and he keeps talking about when he will get one for football and basketball.  He tries just about anything with gusto, and doesn't seem too concerned about how good/not good he is.  He is out to have fun and enjoy life, and it is beautifully contagious to all of us around him.

So I'm just checking in to say that we are here, we are doing well, and we are enjoying life.  We are taking a nice little vacation this week before the school year starts, so hopefully I'll have some fun photos to share when we return.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Dentist woes, and hope.

In 4/2014, I took BBZ, who was 5, to a popular and busy pediatric dentist office because one of his teeth looked broken. It turned out to be abscessed and needed to be pulled. He also had issues with his teeth in all 5 sections as they define them.  They created a treatment plan that included baby tooth root canals, silver crowns and fillings that would take 5 different visits.   (side note, why don’t doctors explain when a child should go to the dentist for the first time? I follow most recommendations, and the early dental visit was not on my radar, apparently)

This was our first experience with a dentist for one of our boys, so I took their word on basically everything. We did 3 of the 5 visits, and then he just couldn't do anymore. He fell apart during a visit and refused the treatment. I felt the dentist was not patient, and did not give him the respect to be involved in his care. Yes he is a child, but once I asked when he began to cry if she could give him a break, and she said that if she did he would learn that if he cried she would stop, and she didn’t want him to learn that. To me it felt as though she needed to stay on her schedule. They pressed me to have the final 2 areas of his mouth addressed, and finally talked me into doing general anesthesia to address the rest of the decay all at once. I researched it and contacted my insurance company, and determined that this would cost our family more than $1000.

Feeling apprehensive, I decided to wait. In the mean time, I took LBZ who was 2 for his first cleaning without x-rays and they found no cavities.  Then in 11/2014, when I took LBZ for his second visit, they did x-rays and found decay between the teeth and wrote a treatment plan for crowns and fillings, which would happen over 2 visits.  I made the appointments, then cancelled them out of fear of creating the same kind of dental fear my oldest experienced.

I went for the follow-up to LBZ’s visit and they were very pushy about treating the cavities. I held my ground, but they were clearly questioning my choices for my child, and adamant that I schedule the appointments to place the crowns and fill the cavities. It reminded me of the fear mongering that happened in the hospital when I was making my own choices about birthing them.  I made the appointments for the work again to avoid the issue, and then I canceled them.  Frustrated and hoping for another option, I asked around to some friends who recommended a small private dental office that had treated their child since he was small.

I went to that office with BBZ today, and brought the entire file, which included x-rays, treatment plans, behavior notes and all.  This new dentist did the cleaning herself, and they also did their own x-rays. She used a tool to check the teeth for cavities, rather than relying on the x-ray alone. She said that the cavity on the tooth that they hadn't treated yet did not change much since the original x-ray last year, so she wants to watch it and wait. She did not mention fluoride treatment, and said we could talk more about the recommended sealants as he gets more comfortable with her. The whole experience felt calm, and patient, and comfortable.

I do not think that the original office I went to was necessarily wrong, but they treated me as though their plan was the only option, and anything besides that was basically me neglecting the dental needs of my child. The other dentist was not a naturally-minded dentist necessarily, but she was a second opinion, and one that I feel much more comfortable with.

She also has a more laid back approach to meals and snacks. We have avoided juice and fruit snacks and candy since his first appointment over a year ago. When I told her this, she said that people are exposed to naturally occurring as well as processed sugar when they eat meals, so limiting the frequency of snacks in between meals can make a big difference in the longevity of the exposure.  That makes so much sense!  My boys are snackers, too.

I feel so much better about the state of their teeth.  Sure, they will both likely need some kind of treatment in the future, and I hope that she is patient with them when that is necessary.  I have a strong feeling that she will give them the time they need to feel comfortable, which is what personalized care looks like to me. Even if they don’t have fancy TVs in the lobby or cartoons on the ceiling.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Letter to BBZ's Kindergarten Teacher

Dear Mrs. M,

Thank you so much for all you have done for BBZ, and for our family, during his first official school year.  Thank you for being a key part of establishing what I hope will be a strong desire to be a life-long learner.  Thank you for seeing all of the things we love about him, and recognizing his talents and his areas of improvement.  He has really enjoyed this year, and I know it is because of you.  He will have many more years of school, and many more teachers, but you will always hold a special place in the hearts of our family, as someone who encouraged him, challenged him, had high expectations of him, and loved him in our absence.

So thank you for being such a welcoming aspect to his schooling career!

Have a wonderful summer with your family!

Anna and all of the Z Family

P.S. I hope you will have our LBZ in the fall of 2017!

Last Day of Kindergarten 5/2015

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It just keeps getting better. (and LBZ is 3.5!)

I often hear parents say that they miss when their kids were little.  I don't.

I love reminiscing about when they were small.  When they needed me so much.  When my breasts were their biggest comfort.  But miss it?  I do not.

Each time my boys do something on their own that they needed my help with yesterday, something inside me just bursts with pride.  Look at him!  I had to do that for him, or with him, just yesterday!  My boys are growing less and less in need of my help, and I love every single minute of it.

Because each and every day, life with our boys keeps getting better.

BBZ is so tall!  He is growing out of his clothes faster than I can keep up.  Something will fit him fine, then 2 days later, his little ankles are showing or his arms seem 3 inches longer.

LBZ is coming into his awn as well.  He sometimes becomes frustrated with himself, but with some encouragement, he will persist to master his challenges.  He is a sweet and simple soul.  He needs very little to feel fulfilled and satisfied.  I love that about him and hope that he continues to possess this trait as he grows into a young man.

BBZ is doing so well in school.  He qualified for the gifted program, and we are so proud of him. I know most parents want their child(ren) to be special and grow up to do wonderful things, and I suppose I do too, but doesn't that seem like so much pressure?  What I want for both of my boys is for them to grow up to be exactly who they are, and to be completely comfortable with that.  If BBZ enjoys the extra challenges the gifted program offers, then we'll take it.  He has been struggling with talking too much in class.  We hope that the extra challenges will help with that, but that's no guarantee.  We just keep pushing on, and are so proud of the young man he is becoming.

I love the way he shows his gentle heart and empathy for those around him.  We took a short weekend trip to the Lake of the Ozarks in February, and decided to hike near one of the caves before we took a tour.  As we walked down some stairs to the entrance to the cave, BBZ asked how people with disabilities would be able to access the cave.  I'm so proud of him for noticing that!  Then I explained that there are some places that just cannot be made accessible, and how disappointing it is that some people are able to enjoy this type of recreation and some are not.  Then we talked about another cave we visited that was accessible, and how people with disabilities can still do the same things we do, just differently.  Or in this case, at a different cave.

These boys.  They sure do have my heart.
We have been spending a lot of time outside.  I still haven't posted about my incredible love for running.  I'll have to get around to that sometime.  We just started a new challenge called 30/30 where we will hike 30 trails that should take about 30 minutes each scattered around our community.  The picture below is from our first one, which took much longer that 30 minutes with two curious boys in tow.  But we had a great time.

N loves to hike and be outside, so he was really excited about this challenge.  Spring is around the corner, and spending free time outside, unplugged and close to nature is such a wonderful way to stay connected to the Earth.

BBZ asked us on our way home from the hike, "why do people who are Jewish take their holidays so seriously"?  It isn't a surprise that he asks something like this, considering where he went to preschool and where I work.  Jewish holidays and traditions are about all he really has been exposed to since we don't really practice religion at home.  So I explained the Jewish culture, and also the importance of Christian holidays to those that practice them.  We talked about God, and nature, and encouraged him to continue to think about religion, and philosophy, and to always seek to answer his curiosity about why we are here, where we came from, and what we can do to bring positivity to the world we live in.

Then we listened to a great new song that thanks God for the beautiful world around us.  Or maybe that song prompted the question.  I can't remember now :)

These boys bring so much joy to our lives.  Seeing them grow is like happiness wrapped in a big present that I get to open every day, multiple times each day.  I get to see them do something new that they needed my help with yesterday.  What a wonderful way that is to spend this life.  And it just keeps getting better and better and better.