Friday, April 24, 2015

Week #3 on Parental Reboot

So we've gone through three weeks of our Kazdin's Positive Parenting Reboot to keep Christopher from throwing a tantrum.  We have learned a couple of important lessons thus far.

1)  We're not done yet.  We've made significant progress.  In fact, I would have been shocked three weeks ago how much better things are now than they were then. But we're still dealing with a hair trigger temper and a quick devolution to 5 year old hell.

2) OH MY GOSH.  If there any indication that positive parenting works and punishment focused parenting does not, it was our own N=1 design last Friday. For some reason, Christopher started off on the wrong foot stealing Bridget's bagel at breakfast.  I told him he would only have one opportunity to earn points that day instead of two.  He screeched and screamed and I took the second opportunity away too.  ((This is a good example of how I had been parenting before))  I realized I had just experienced a brain fart and gave him one opportunity back.  That afternoon, he demanded two opportunities and I said No.  That night, he got mad at us and would only sleep on the ottoman at the end of the bed.  I should have ignored him ((MORE LATER ON THIS)) and instead I tried to engage him.  He gently (but  it still happened) slapped me on the face.  I grabbed his arm and forcefully told him not to ever do that again.  He screamed that I could never be a mother with that tone of voice.  He then became hysterical, screaming and kicking and throwing and sobbing.


I'm giving you that example to show What Not To Do and What We Have Been Dealing with.

He and Dave went to bed elsewhere and I slept with Conor and Bridget.  About an hour later, I couldn't stand it and switched places with Dave.  ((It's a commune around here on weekends))  In the middle of the night, Christopher and I woke up and kissed and made up.  In the morning, he told me that he had been very, very sad the night before.  I had re-read Kardin's book and realized that my approach to take away his opportunity to be good was probably not going to win me mother of the year.  Not doing that again.

3.  Who the heck knew IGNORING was so freaking effective?!?!?!?!?!  He was doing his "No, I'm Not!!!" where he basically refuses to do anything we ask the other night.  So we all left the room.  He was refusing to go to bed and Bridget, Conor, and I just left.  Dave came in about 15 minutes later and told him it was time to brush his teeth and go to bed, and he hopped up and did it.  I SHIT YOU NOT!!!    Right?????  Afterwards, Dave and I just looked at each other and went, "How positively reinforcing is THAT?!"  For us, yes!!  Ignoring is a good thing.  Christopher told me "No, I'm Not!!!" the other day and then immediately backed down.  I will freaking take it.

4.  Three weeks in, we're already starting to taper out the points and rewards system.  He received his fancy new Lego set for being good for 2 1/2 weeks and earning enough points.  Since then, we've run out of treats for the goody bag and we're just sort of doing the practice and points as we need to.  I need to read up what is next.  I don't know, but he's not All Done yet.

So, yeah.  Big steps forward here.  We haven't changed any underlying cognitive processes here. I am suspecting that Christopher is extremely sensitive and instead of directing his pain inward, he directs it outward. I think it means that for most of our parenting, we're going to have to focus on helping him do right instead of punishing him for doing wrong.  That doesn't mean punishments are out.  But it means focusing more on rewarding what we want to do than relying on threats of punishments to stop what we don't  like.

I'd love to hear how you all are doing on your parenting challenges.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Parenting Intervention(s)

So, last Friday we started our first "Parenting Intervention" with one of the children.  Specifically, Christopher, aka Kit (mainly because that's a boatload easier to type, write and text).  So our little moose, Christopher/Kit, is a very sensitive boy.  And he experiences pretty big feelings:  high highs and lowwwww lows.

And when he gets angry (frequently because I tell him no, he can't have a homemade yogurt "milkshake" and instead he can have a banana), he turns into a holy terror.  He screams, he hits, he spits, he bites, he says he hates us, he says we hate him, he goes right up to but does not cross the line of destroying important toys/plates/knick knacks.

We have been using time outs as punishment.  And really, it's also been a strategy for him to get ahold of himself when he is truly losing it. Here's the thing though:  as the time outs become more frequent and longer, at some point you have to note that the behavior is not changing.  Our parenting strategy is not working.  ((And for spanking/hitting advocates, the results would likely be the same with just more anger on his part and then more force on ours.  Not a road we're going to travel down))

So I wish we had been the ones to recognize that more times outs, longer timeouts, or more/longer/extreme timeouts (or any punishment)  without a change in behavior means that the parenting strategy is becoming less effective.  But we did not.  Instead this was an observation in the first chapter of our new parenting guru, Dr. Alan Kazdin, developmental psychologist, Yale professor, and author of The Kazdin method for Parenting the Defiant Child.

I have to be honest with you.  While I appreciate pediatrician's parenting advice, as a psychologist, I sometimes think they should stay in their own lane.  So when I find a psychologist who offers applied advice based on 30 years of published, peer reviewed research, who was also APA president (less impressive to me, but there it is), I'm going to listen.

Also, WHOOPSIE DAISY!!!  Although I spend a good portion of my reinforcement theory lectures talking about how punishment only stops a behavior and only positive reinforcement CHANGES a behavior...I FORGOT!!!  Yeah, we professors do that sometimes.

So, what have we been doing?  We have focused on the Positive Opposite of the tantrums ("To ask nicely and to remain calm no matter the answer").  We have ENTHUSIASTICALLY!!!!!!!!! praised every positive practice and every actual "asking" episode.  We have immediately given check marks on his scorecard.  We have provided goodies and rewards for both low level points (one good episode and he gets to go to the regular goody bag) and higher level accumulated points (2 1/2 days of good episodes and delaying reward lets him go to the BIG goody bag).  We have provided goodies for the other kids to get when he does well, which allows him to be the family hero.

In 5 days, he's moved from frequent goat to frequent goody.  He still gets mad and he's still making poor choices.  But he is SO MUCH BETTER.  When he gets ready to lose it, he can handle himself a little better.  When he loses a point or I tell him he only gets to earn 2 points instead of 4 for the day, he agrees with it.

We're only 1 week into this and it apparently takes about 2 months to get the new behavior to become a habit and phase out the rewards, but we are really happy.  It's truly a family intervention.  We are all trying hard to help Kit do well. And he loves the attention he is getting for doing well.  Positive reinforcement is SO MUCH MORE POWERFUL than punishment.

It's exciting to see this in action.  And it's exciting that this is based on both strong theory and a great deal of good research.  This is one of those blog posts I hope can help others make effective changes in their child's behavior.  Leave a message or email if you have more questions.  We'll be updating more about this as we go through the 8 weeks of intervention.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Spring is finally arriving in Charlotte.  We've been spreading mulch and,for the first time, I have successful tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings.  I'm putting out chard and kale tomorrow I'm hoping to start planting carrot, lettuce, beets, and radishes in the next week.

It used to be that I'd start the spring garden over UNC Charlotte's spring break (which is always the first week of  March).  But I figured out last night that it's been years since I've done that.

7 years ago, I had my colon resectioned due to diverticulitis.
6 years ago, I was on bed rest with the twins.
5 years ago, I had 8 month old twins and I was a zombie.
3 years ago, Christopher had  been in the hospital and I was catching up from that.  I think I sprung a little.
2 years ago, Bridget started her hospital odyssey and I know for a fact that Spring sprung the 10 days from when we entered until we left.
Last year, no one was in the hospital, I was still in recovery mode, and it was still cold in March.  I really didn't have the emotional energy for a big garden and I kept expecting that every cough would send us back in the hospital for a week.

Now?  Now, I'm having a lot of fun getting my hands dirty.  Bridget is coughing.  She is actually coughing quite a bit right now.  She is coughing enough that her classmates ask why she coughs so much more than they do.  ((Frowny face))  And she's coughing enough that we're checking her numbers and they are 'ok'.  Not great, but ok.

BUT.  (all my friends have a big but)  We know what to do now.  We have prednisone at the house.  We have a recent history of everything turning out ok without low O2 numbers.

And we have, what feels like, the first spring in a bazillion years where we can hang and play and enjoy the sunshine.

It feels like it's been a really, really long time.

Monday, March 09, 2015

First Family Skiing Trip

Yes, it was expensive.  It's probably one of the more expensive vacations we've ever taken.  But that, my friends, is not saying much.  We camp.  $50  day for lodging and food for a family of 5 is "expensive" to us.

But I am telling you right now, it was worth every penny.  Our condo/hotel was one of the, um, less fancy ones.  But the view was amazing. This was the view when we arrived.

This was sunset.

And this was sunsrise.

These are the kids enjoying the pool size hot tub (WHOOOAAO!) in the bathroom.

But what about the skiing?  Wasn't that the point?  Yes.  Yes, it was.  So, let's talk about me for a minute here.  When I rollerblade, I prefer flat spaces and going  UP hills.  I hate, hate, hate going down hills at any rate of speed.  So when my ski instructor took me down the bunny slope at breakneck speed (not really, but it felt that way), I actually had to stop him and tell him that I didn't think that skiing was going to work out for me.  Yeah.  That is exactly how lame I am.  The bunny slope scared the bejeesus out of me

So, I took many, many deep breaths and we did it again.  Much slower with with me pizza wedging from side to side all the way down.  And I did that again and again and again and again.  On the freaking bunny slope.  They stopped actually checking my tag on the way up the "Magic Carpet" moving sidewalk because I did it so many times.  Apparently, an old woman with a bright pink ski jacket stands out on the bunny slopes.  

Oh, yes.  For those  of you not on Facebook, I fired Dave as my teacher when the first thing he did was take me to the top and show me how to do a "Hockey stop."  I don't know much, but at that point I knew I needed to learn Pizza and French Fry.  

So on Day 1, I foolishly thought I could take a Green Run.  I probably could have done it with someone who wasn't as advanced as Dave. But Dave is a naturally very, VERY good skier.  And when I wiped out just getting off the chair lift, he froze like a deer in headlights at the Mac Truck in a pink ski jacket coming down after him. 

Day 2 was A LOT better.  It was a lot warmer so the snow was very slushy, which real skiers don't like but Bunny Slope experts who hate speed LOVE!  I learned to turn and traverse the slope.  I did parts of a green run that did not require a chair lift.  I made many people's day when I wiped out several times just standing there on my skis.  The best was when I put on my skis and promptly fell on my arse right in front of the family deck.  I turned around to see who was watching me and 4 people immediately began to look for birds in the sky.  I'm a professor.  I can tell when the audience doesn't want to be called upon.  

I'm really looking forward to going again.  But my goal, at this point, is to become a master of the green slopes.  I am not, at this point, aiming for anything higher than that.  

But what about the kids? Well, the kids had a great time.  Here they are getting fitted for the Sugar Bear School.  

They all passed Level 1, beginner on the first day.  However, the twins were red-shirted part way through Day 2.  Christopher  had the skills but not the confidence.  Bridget had the confidence but not the skills.  The instructor said all we need to do is keep them out on the slopes at this age, and they'll be fine skiers eventually.

Conor, on the other hand, is a natural just like his dad.  He passed Level I on day one and Level II on day two. The instructor said he was very good and with a bit more practice would be ready for the BLUE runs.  That's intermediate, folks.  Conor can pizza and hockey stop and generally be a very good skier.  He, too, wiped out on his first chair lift (and Dave did, too, a zillion years ago) so maybe that's common.  But Conor had a blast and I think, this may be one of the sports he's really good at.  

I have to be honest, and Conor agreed, dance class, where they tell you to focus on this body part and have it do that sort of thing is exactly the sort of skill that help when you're learning any new sport. I am so proud of him, I can't stand it.  Really.  He is amazing.  

And finally.  Feet. Imagine a duck's foot and you will have a good idea what my feet look like.  I was  very concerned that I would not be able to fit into any ski boots.  Apparently, though, I am not the only duck who likes to ski.  I will be honest with you:  my feet are rarely happy.  But when I took off my ski boots and put on my F'uggs (Fake Uggs), my feet have never, ever been happier.  Good to know that I can wear ski boots and my feet can actually be happy, too.

We're already planning our next ski trip.  

Friday, March 06, 2015

We're Going Skiing

For the first time as a family, and as a first time in my life, we are going skiing.

The reason this is a big deal (beyond the obvious that watching an old lady--me--learn to ski is going to be very funny) is that during the worst parts of the financial woes of the twins in daycare, a minivan payment, and no raises, we fantasized about what we would do when we had $2000 extra per month to deal with.  Yes.  Those of you with children know what I'm talking about.  Those of you without children just re-upped your birth control.

In all honesty, we still have substantial debt to pay off.  I'd like to pay it off as quickly as possible and live as spartan as we've lived before to use all that money to pay down the credit cards. And for the most part we are (Stitch Fix, Ipsy, Club W, and Lakeview Farm Fresh Milk Home delivery excepted).  FEEL FREE TO USE THOSE LINKS AT  ANY POINT!!  :-)

But the ski trip is a Real Splurge.  And something that, while we can currently afford, would normally be used to make another big payment off those cards.

I. Don't. Care.

I would rather take another month to pay off a credit card and have a family experience when all our kids still like us. We are incredibly cheap in hundred different ways (homemade bread and yogurt are two).   I want to see my children romp in the snow, learn to ski, and basically spend quality, active time together.

We'll take a few years skiing  in the NC mountains.  And then when everything is paid off, maybe we'll check out skiing in Colorado or Utah. Or somewhere extra fancy.  Really, the extra fancy is  not  nearly as  important  as the short time we've  got together before  our children are gone out in this world.

Feel free to wish me luck, but refrain from saying "Break A Leg" because  I think that's a real possibility!!

Monday, February 02, 2015

Taking a Breath

This morning, I just really need to catch my breath for just a moment.

Since Christmas, I have been exceptionally busy with two conference submission deadlines, prepping a new graduate class, and two respiratory infections with the squirrel.  I have three peer reviews I am working on, two of which are late.  (JoAnn and Ann--I swear, I'm finishing them up today and tomorrow).  I've worked every weekend and most nights and I'm not sure I've had one whole day where I wasn't up early (5ish) and working late in over 3 weeks.


The house looks like it's been invaded by a fraternity.  Shaun the Sweep is afraid to come off of his docking station.  It's so messy that I thought a cat paw playing with a fake snow ball was a bug.

And poor little squirrel.  She is having a rough time.  She had her second respiratory virus over the weekend.  We had some crap ass numbers on her O2.  Sunday morning she was in the low 90s and upper 80s until she had her treatment and coughed up some stuff.  She's going gung-ho most of the day and then she crashes and her lungs catch up.  We sent her to school this morning, but I wouldn't be surprised if she didn't come home early.

And she's really, really not liking school right now.  I'm really  glad we decided to "Red Shirt" the twins.  And really, that is what it is.  We recognize their academic potential and feel like we'll help it better by letting them have a bit more time to mature.

((A good deal of time spent staring off into space))

Ok.  I am really struggling with how to write this. I have things I need to "journal"/blog about, but I feel protective about both Christopher, Bridget, and their wonderful teacher (Oh, btw, The  Daily Beast says blogging is dead. Sucks to be me, I guess)  I want to share information about the struggles and triumphs of the twins, and I am very protective that someone will place the responsibility on their teacher, when in fact, I think what we're dealing with is normal (or maybe not) kid stuff.

We are working closely with their teacher on some of  their struggles (particularly Bridget's) and we're all on the same page  with the same goal.  We also imagine that what may be our goal: "Oh, we're red shirting them; if they don't do well we aren't bothered" could cause our teacher to be poorly evaluated "What  do you mean two children didn't do well.  What kind of teacher are you!?" Right???  That's not fair to her!!  So we're all documenting our choices and working together to make sure everyone is fairly evaluated.

But little squirrel is having some problems.  For the past three weeks, she has been HYSTERICAL about going to school.  Monday mornings, especially, she gets into a hysterical crying spree.  And this isn't a fake cry. This is red, splotchy face, snot coming out the nose, nearly inconsolable hysterical.  And it's about math.  Kindergarten math!!  1+1=2 math!!

I know I'm biased about what I believe about Bridget (and Christopher) so I have to back up a bit. And make some confessions.  First, last summer, we took  the twins in for "testing" to make sure it was a good idea to put them in the same classroom.  For instance, there are going to be natural comparisons between twins about their performance.  Both of them have strengths that the other doesn't.  Is there such a difference we should  be concerned about putting them in the same classroom?  We told them they were being tested to figure out where they should sit for kindergarten.
The results were good and fine.  Christopher's scores put him close enough to Talent Development that I won't be  surprised if he gets in later.  Bridget's scores put her in "average to high average" except for one scale.  She scored 99th percentile in Fluid Intelligence, which means she picks up new things very, very quickly.  That  last link is why we think Bridget is going to be a lawyer some day.  She's always working out the logic of something and is not afraid to share her views on any and sundry topic.

But math requires sitting there and thinking and working and struggling.  At least it does for me, and I was and am very good at math.  It's funny that her teacher says that if she shows Bridget blocks  of color for math (2 red and 1 white), Bridget can make answer the question instantaneously.  But 2+1 on a math worksheet  is not as easy for her. Yes, it has occurred to us that she may have some "differences in learning style" that we might need to address.  And if anyone wants to share some parenting experience on this, we'd love to hear it!!  I don't know how I'd live without step-ahead parent mentors.

So this morning, when she was just losing it at 6 am just over the thought of going to school, I did a little Mom coaching.  She's so tiny that I can actually still scoop her up in my lap, hug her tight and she's not much bigger than a cat. We talked about how easily she learned to ride a bike and how hard, actually, it was for Conor to learn.  We talked about how Conor cried when he was learning to play the piano because it was so hard and we'd told him about it  being hard to ride a bike at first and he had to practice and then it was easy.  The same is true for Conor now and piano playing: he plays well now but he had to work at it.  She may have  to work at math before it's easy.  

I told Bridget that I was really smart because I worked hard not because it was easy for me.  ((I was one of those kids who actually did study in high school.  Everyone else I know said they never cracked a book and got all As.  I meanwhile studied over breaks!!  "Smart" was never easy for me)) I told her that I had to work hard at math and a lot of times I didn't understand it, but  if I thought it was like a puzzle I could figure  it it.  I told her (true story!) that Daddy didn't well in high school, and it was only in college when he met a girl who studied a lot that he became "smart" because he worked hard (studying with this girl, dontcha know). We talked a lot about how people think "smart" means it's easy when really "smart" means it's difficult you work hard.

It's funny that on their spelling tests, Christopher can get 3/11 and could not actually care less.  Bridget, on the other hand, gets 9/11 and she wails at how horrible she's doing. IN KINDERGARTEN!!!  (I should note at this point that even though Christopher scored close enough on his tests that TD is not out of the picture, he'll do just fine repeating Kindergarten)

I don't know.  I'm not a Kindergarten teacher.  Is 2+1 obvious?  Or at some point, do you actually  have to think?  Is she frustrated because it's not as quick for her as she thinks it is for other people and thus she's giving up?  Or does have a  learning difference we ought to address?  (Her quickness at the different colored  blocks makes me think this is possible) Can't we just Let It Go for this red shirted year and worry about it next year?

Parenting is hard, y'all!!

Parenting twins is hard.  Parenting when you've got clever children is hard. Parenting clever children who are having problems is hard. Parenting in a house that looks like it's on Fraternity Row is hard.  Parenting on broken sleep because you keep making sure the pulse oximeter is over 90 in the middle of the night is hard.  And parenting when you get a shot of adrenaline at midnight because it's actually 92 is hard.  Parenting, when your entire heart is hanging out in three different people at an elementary school, is hard.

God(dess), I love those children so much.

Taking a deep breath. And going to go review some papers now.

Friday, January 16, 2015

All Better

I know the only people reading a blog on a Friday night are goobers who don't have plans  beyond a few glasses of wine and a family movie on Netflix.


This is your tribe, people.

So, yes, I am feeling very relieved.  We talked to the pulminologist today and saw  the pediatrician.  And it appears that, indeed, last night's hellish bad numbers were the trough.  And Bridget  is getting better.  After she and I both took a long nap this afternoon, her  numbers are *stellar*.  Either the prednisone kicked in or she coughed up that big loogie of a lung bugger that was blocking her airways.


And now that the crisis is over, my family is annoying the freaking hell out of me.  I have been so freakingly freaking effed the freak stressed this week.  I've had little sleep and accomplished less work in a time of the school year when I need productivity and smart thoughts to be shooting out of every orifice.

Of course, I had to focus on the Squirrel.  I wanted to be there for her.  But we're out of the woods. And I want them all to STOP YELLING and BE QUIET and CLEAN UP and Let me have a moment to myself. DO THEY HAVE TO EAT EVERY DAY!?!?!

5 minutes.  Just let me have some peace and quiet and healing for FIVE FREAKING MINUTES.

And now you see why, after being Super Mom for the last 5 days, I will never, ever, ever, ever win Mother Of The Year.

Bargaining with Pulse Oximeter Numbers

I've noticed a trend among mother' named Anita with crazy curly hair.  Ok Me. This is all me.  This all crazy me.  This is all crazy me and why people with mild anxiety should not have data producting instruments that can freak them out.

So when Bridget first gets sick, I worry because  her O2 numbers start to hang around 96. I generally consider this a "B grade" amount of oxygen. I'm a professor. I think in terms of grades.  I prefer As.  I'm a professor!  As I tell my undergrads, Bs are not a problem, but I also know it's not typical for her and something is going on in her lungs.

Then as she starts getting sicker and her  numbers get lower, I get so excited when I see  a 96.  When 96 makes me relieved instead of worried, then we have  problems. That's when I turn into some kind of reverse auctioneer trying to will her numbers higher.

Can I get a 95? 95? 95? Sold at 95!  At least it's not a 94.

Oh, I see a 94.  94? 94? 94? 95!!! Oh, back to 94.  And holding.  Well, we're still above 93.

Oh, I got a 93. 93.  93. 94. 93.  93. 93.  96!!! 95!! 94...93.  93.  93.  At least it's not 92.

And so on.

Sometimes I try to sneak up on the numbers.  Usually this game is  going on during the night and I'll close my eyes for a few minutes and then sneak a peak.  This is good when I spot a 94 or a 95 and pretty adrenaline shooting shitty when it's a 91.

We are doing all the right things we can do at home.  We started prednisone at the right time, definitely not too soon and definitely not for shits and giggles.  Yesterday was great.  Bridge had lots of energy and great numbers.  And she wasn't coughing much. ((Cue the foreboding music.))  I had to teach last night and just before I left she had a coughing fit that caused some 80s to show up on her pulse ox.***  ((again, haven't seen that since the last hospital visit))  Dave texted me in class that her numbers  were all high 90s!!!  ((He is  not a crazy, curly headed, slightly anxious woman))

She was in bed by the time I got home and when I checked her numbers they were an extremely steady 93.  When asked how he could explain the discrepancy from the texts and the numbers, Dave shrugged and said "You?!"


She spent more time in the low 90s, even with all my reverse bargaining.  This morning when I woke up she was hanging in the upper 80s and low 90s.  We did a full treatment at 4:30 am an now she's back asleep, ironically at 96.

I'm not excited about that number (Still!!  So difficult to please) mainly because it's  the max now, not the min.

I don't know what's going to happen.  We've never been here before. We've either started the prednisone in the hospital or used it when there was no need.  We are definitely doing the right things here at home.  I just don't know what's happening inside her lungs and whether her funky hypsersecreious asthma doesn't give two flying fig newtons about that extra prednisone  as it fills her lungs with gunk.  ((That is what I think happens when she stops coughing for a period of time.  The gunk is  filling up her the bottom of her lungs and causing atelectasis))

And now you know.

Still hanging at  96.  Sold!  To the whackadoodle mama in her Hello Kitty pjs.

UPDATED: And as is what always happens when I'm bargaining/bidding, the numbers are still going down and I should have locked it in at that better price.  I'm sure there will be more updates in the future.

***Please!   Someone draw me a pulse ox!!