Anxiety Overload – Or, The Winter Disappeared

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I have anxiety issues. It runs in the family. Both sides. I have it baaad. It pretty much knocked me out for the entire winter, thus far. I functioned… but I did not thrive. I’m pretty sure my anxiety was only exacerbated by seasonal affective disorder, the good ol’ wintertime blues, social isolation, and such a complete lack of money that I haven’t actually been grocery shopping in two months, and I was very down on my pantry stores before that. Let’s just say we’ve been on a rice and beans diet, folks. Luckily, my kids like both!

In any case, I’ve begun a part time job to relieve the financial strain, and the weather has been so blessedly beautiful it’s unreal (it’s NEVER 50 degrees and sunny and lovely in northern Montana in February!), and I’m starting to get spring fever. Life is returning once again to my little brain, though I’m just waiting for that proverbial shoe to fall and dump four feet of snow and -50 degree weather on us in March.

Schooling? It’s going well, actually! We’re still on schedule, and though I’ve dumped the geography curriculum that was taking too much time, and have modified things here and there, we’re doing awesome! Planning next year already. We’ve breezed though Write With Ease 1 and have moved onto Write With Ease 2. Between that and English Lessons Through Language (which we’ll be finishing this week), I’ve seen a marked improvement in Big Girl’s capacity to process language in her mind. Her reading skills have improved as well. CTC Math was fun – but Anna needs more hands on, so we’ve begun working out of Math Mammoth 3 to solidify her skills instead.

My youngest is requesting to be homeschooled next year, also, which makes me a happy mama. My own dear mother, supportive as she is, thinks it’d be a terrible idea, but I’m all for it.

I’ve taken up moleskine journaling again. Today, they call it bullet journaling, but back in the old school days, it was just ‘hacking’ your ‘moleskine’. I used to use the small 3×5 Moleskines, but I’m rather into the space the larger 5×8 ones provide now, and I’ve added some of the newer hacks that some of the lovely folks in the bujo community have created. I just set up March’s pages last night at work, and I’m ready for a new month!

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Extracurricular.

Since becoming a stay-at-home mom, I’ve found that I’m easily twice as busy and overwhelmed as I ever was when I was working. Somehow, I feel like I do more and accomplish less than ever – and I don’t even get paid for it.

Since I’m homeschooling Big Girl, I’ve wanted to ensure she has opportunities to play with other kids here. The other two get some (although not a lot) of playtime at recess at school, Anna doesn’t get the same chance. I don’t buy into the theory that ‘socialization’ is best done at school, where you’re in class most of the time and unable to talk to one another anyway. But time with other children beyond one’s siblings is important.

And we are still fairly new to town. I have approximately ze-ro friends here, so I have no friends with kids that they can play with, and we have no cousins their age or nearby. So getting her involved in some outside-the-home activities seemed like a plan. In fact, it seemed like a great plan – for all three.

This is how I wound up enrolling the kids in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and 4H. Suddenly, I’m overbooked and have meetings and crap all over the place, and I don’t even know how it all happened.

Boy Scouts:  The Boy wanted to be involved. It sounds great on the surface. But there’s popcorn sales. And oh yeah, that whole… awkward bit about God, and how our beliefs about the divine and everyone else’s in town don’t exactly line up. Not sure yet, how this will go.

Girl Scouts:  Um, I like the program, although it’s a bit…. feely. So many feelings. So little “skills”. And we’re such a small town that the opportunities here… well, suck. There’s a couple Brownies. My youngest would be involved with that. Big Girl is supposed to be a Junior, but they don’t have any others. Or leaders, for that matter. And so… she’s gonna, um, just be an older Brownie. Which is fine because it’s not like she’s actually any more emotionally or academically mature than them, but what about next year?

4H:  Great program. Loads of fun things to learn. Wish it was a leeetle more diverse project types, but there’s a nice selection that should last. The Boy is signed up for two projects – cooking and robotics; Big Girl is signed up for – count ’em! – FIVE stinking projects, because I’m an idiot and allowed it; and Little Bit’s signed up for Cloverbuds, the “younger kids 4H” where they just play games and have fun exploring different things. Next year, she’ll be old enough for “real” 4H though.

And, in other, happier news, Youth Dynamics contacted us for The Boy, and we will hopefully get him some actual services again – like therapy, or mentoring, or both.

In the trenches.

Being a mom is hard work. I think every mother out there can agree that the word ‘easy’ doesn’t really have anything to do with motherhood, or parenthood, or children at all. Kids have a knack for taking more time, more energy, and sometimes even more love than you have to give.

Being a foster mom, or an adoptive mom, is like that too – but on steroids. All kids have problems. This is true. But some kids – mine, for instance – have more than their fair share. And while it’s also true that life isn’t fair, not even a little bit, foster-adoptive kids are, through no fault of their own, playing by completely different rules than ‘typical’ kids. Things are harder – for them and for the parents. When things get ugly, they’re uglier. They do things that completely defy logic and reason. They don’t respond in ways normal kids would – to anything you do. Their world and ours are so completely different that in some cases, it’s like parenting aliens.

Yes. Aliens. I’m pretty sure my kids are from Mars.

My girls have lived with me for four years. Four years, and I’m still left shaking my head in wonder and despair when some behavior I thought was outgrown suddenly pops up out of nowhere, because somewhere, someone or something triggered some reaction.

Like Big Girl. For years, she struggled with boundaries. She was a thief of many things – candy was always a target, as is often the case with children – but other things, too. Housekeys. Dry erase markers from school. Permanent markers. Lip gloss from other kids’s backpack. My jewelry. Money from someone’s purse. My iphone. Gum from the store. Etc. Etc. Etc. She saw something she wanted and wasn’t allowed to have, she stole it.

Since adoption, she’s made a huge leap in progress in overcoming that. Huge. Which is why it was so baffling when she suddenly took off with my nail polish and hid it under her bed. And some pens from my desk (which she is not allowed to touch), hidden in her closet. And peanut butter – a whole jar of it – stolen from my mother’s house and hidden in the bathroom. And another jar of it – another new jar – hidden under her bed.

Ah ah ah!  Isn’t that last bit some sort of food hoarding behavior?

Maybe. It’s not uncommon in foster-adoptive kids, at all, especially those coming from a background of neglect.

But in her case, I don’t believe so. Though many of her exploits were, indeed, based around snacks and treats, they were never things freely available to her, and it extended to many other things – the keys, the jewelry, the lip balm, etc. I’ve never associated the stealing and hiding of the food items with hoarding. Most kids who hoard food are less discriminate about the foods they steal, and they tend to actually horde it – hide it, save it for later. They hide leftovers from lunch, or sometimes take things out of the trash to hide for ‘later’. They hide whole plates of dinner to save for ‘lean times’, always worried about food not being available when they’re hungry.

Big Girl doesn’t do that. She steals and eats what she wants, and hides the ‘evidence’. She’s not saving it for later – she’s avoiding confrontation about her behavior. It’s never anything she’s allowed to have – like the candy in the jar on the table – it’s always something that’s off limits.

Big Girl’s problem is less ‘food hoarding’ and more ‘impulse control’. She’s ADHD, so impulse control is a major problem for her in many areas of her life. She’s constantly touching things or playing with things or taking them without even thinking about it. It just so happens that often, things she wants are food related. Due to some other stealing issues with other kids, we’ve instituted a flat ‘no stealing’ rule, and it applies to everything – food or otherwise.

In case you think I’m a psycho who locks the refrigerator and never lets her kids eat between meals (although, actually, I have locked the garage freezer with the ice cream in it, but that’s because my dear dear son completely thawed it out twice getting at the ice cream in the middle of the night and I couldn’t handle the loss of all that food going to waste) – I have to see some dishonesty type behaviors to define taking food as stealing. Hiding the evidence under your bed is indicative of stealing. Just getting yourself a peanut butter sandwich without permission is not. But if you start lying about it, then things change. Taking something you were specifically told not to touch, or sneaking into someone’s room and raiding their stash is stealing – eating candy out of the family candy dish is not.

Consequences are stiff – loss of electronics for two weeks. Two weeks from the date of the last theft, that is.

Two weeks is huge, but it’s a number I came to after much trial and error. With my kids, too short, and it’s a mere ‘inconvenience’. Too long and they forget what the problem was to begin with. And in my house, they actually don’t get a lot of spare ‘electronics’ time anyway, so a week wasn’t quite enough to feel the effects. Two weeks seems to be the magic number in my house for this.

Big Girl is not thrilled, but she didn’t cry much about the loss of the MP3 player she just got returned to her. (It’s been missing since our move, and I found it last week.) She knew the consequences, and she still played the game. Tough love is hard – but more than anything, these kids needs consistency.