Answers to the ADHD Question

It is always nice to have your opinions about your child validated by an objective professional. I was happy to comply with Hansei’s request that we have Alex tested, but I seriously doubted that he really did have ADHD. He is distractible and full of energy and hard to handle sometimes, but ADHD? At the same time, though, I wondered — did his behavior just seem normal to me because I’m his mother and that’s how he’s always been? So I am grateful to have a definitive answer to the ADHD question.

And the answer is that while he does exhibit some tendencies of ADHD, they are mild, and do not require medication. The possibility that behavior-altering medication would be recommended or prescribed was probably my main concern. I would have been willing to try almost anything else, including a strict diet, before going there. I am not against medication, and I do believe that ADHD is a true disorder and there are instances where medication is necessary and helpful. I guess what I have a problem with is the suggestion that I should medicate my child just because it makes life easier for his teachers.

We spent some time discussing possible “accommodations” to make learning easier for Alex — things like sitting in front of the class where there are less distractions, giving his hands something to do while he is listening (squishy balls), and allowing him to move around to expel energy. I have the results in both English (for my own records) and Spanish (to give to the school), which is nice.

Alex also took the WISC intelligence test, and came out on the “high average” end. He actually scored higher on the 2 components that are more inborn, and lower on the 2 components that are learned skills, which the counselor said is totally normal for a kid his age. In her words, “He’s very smart, and he’s only going to get smarter.” I wonder if this might explain some of his behavioral problems? Kids do tend to act out more when they are bored.

One thing the counselor asked Alex to do during the testing was draw a picture of his family. These drawings are then analyzed (kind of like dream analysis, which I have never put much stock in). Anyway, here is what Alex drew:

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And the first thing you notice about the picture is that all the legs are super long — actually, Alex and Stephen are more proportional, but Rusty and I have unnaturally long legs. Anyway, according to the experts, children who draw really long legs are trying to tell you they need more stability in their lives.

Interesting, no? I like to think that Alex is saying, in his limited, 7-year old way, “Enough already!” If you know anything about our journey the past 7 years, since Alex was born, you know that we have basically been through one transition after another. It always seemed to me that Alex took it all in stride, but I have also wondered often over the past several years if there would be emotional and behavioral repercussions to all our moving around and changing course mid-stream. This drawing gives me at least an inkling of the answer to that question and helps me recognize that providing stability and security is of utmost importance to our children’s health and development over the next few years.

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The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 13

Week 13 is about minding your words. Read the challenge here.

Being mindful and intentional about the words we speak, especially to our children, is so very important, and also so very difficult. At least for me. I’ve had this challenge tucked away in the back of my head for awhile now, but even though I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to “mind my words,” I still find myself slipping up so often.

If you read the challenge (click the link above), you’ll notice that Shawn asks, “When was the last time you said something you wish you hadn’t?” Um… how about tonight at dinner when Stephen spilled an entire cup of milk all over the table and the just-cleaned floor because he was trying to take a drink while we were praying? I won’t lie — I yelled. I was harsh, much too harsh. He cried. I grumbled while mopping up the spilled milk that my soup would be cold by the time I got to eat it.

I yell a lot as a parent. More than I thought I would. More than I want to. I don’t like being a yelling mom, but all serious efforts to kick this habit have been met with epic failure. I’ll commit to not yelling, and I’ll do really well for a day or two, and then all of a sudden, BAM! Something will happen and I’ll lose control and start yelling. Like tonight.

Several months ago, I discovered a blog called The Orange Rhino. The blogger is a mom who challenged herself to go 365 days without yelling at her kids. She is currently on day 482. Wow! I am simultaneously impressed, inspired, and incredulous. Is it really possible to not yell at one’s children AT ALL? Apparently so — this woman at least has done it for well over a year now! And her website is chock-full of helpful advice and tips on curbing yelling — from a real mom with real children (4 boys!), not just some “expert” with a lot of letters after his name.

week13Shifting gears slightly, but still in the vein of minding your words… one of the things I did for Rusty this year for his 40th birthday was compile a “Rusty in 40 Words” list. I tried to use words that really captured the essence of Rusty — who he is, not what he does. It seems a simple exercise, and it is, but it was actually harder to come up with the list than I thought it would be when I began. I had to be selective and mindful (there’s that word again) since I was only allowed 40 words! I’m sharing a photo of the list here as a positive example of what “minding your words” can mean.

Recap of the Past 2 Weeks

It feels like a million years since I last wrote. But it’s really been only two weeks. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • We finally got to meet with the counselor at Alliance to go over the results of the ADHD and intelligence tests that Alex took. This is really worth a post in and of itself, but in summary, while he does have mild tendencies toward ADHD, it was not anything the counselor felt warranted further testing or medication.
  • We went to see “Star Trek Into Darkness,” and it totally rocked! Best movie I have seen in a long time — I absolutely love what they have done with the series reboot! We had to settle for the 3D version, which I usually try to avoid because it makes me sick to my stomach; however, this time, I barely noticed after awhile. The technology must be getting better.
  • Neill and Julie stayed with us for over a week, and we thoroughly enjoyed their company. We took them up to Papallacta one day to soak in the hot springs, and Neill helped Rusty do some work on our Land Rover. They headed off to Columbia, their next stop on their round-the world venture, last Monday.
  • We had our friends the Yorks over for one last meal and round of Dominion before they headed back to the U.S. and their new life there. We will sure miss them!
  • We celebrated our 14th anniversary with a two-night stay at the Black Sheep Inn, in a truly lovely part of Ecuador near the stunning Quilotoa Crater Lake. Also worth it’s own blog post. The kids stayed with Josh and Julie and had so much fun they didn’t want to leave! Stephen actually started crying when we pulled up to the house to pick them up, and it wasn’t because he missed us.

Okay, so that was all just the first week. Last week, we finished a 2-month stint of focused language classes. After all the craziness of the past several weeks, I am honestly looking forward to taking a break from Spanish studies for awhile. It was all I could do to get through that last week, and now that it’s over, I want nothing more than to just curl up in my bed and hibernate away from the world for at least a week with my Robert Jordan book (now on #3, with 11 to go). But, well, I’ve got these 3 kids that need to be fed and clothed and educated. And Rusty left on Sunday for the jungle and the first medical mission of the summer, so it’s all on me for the next few days.

I’m hopeful that as life slows down some over the next several weeks, I’ll have more time to devote to writing and some other projects. I’m actually going to be guest-posting on 2 other blogs in the next couple of months! I’ll be sure to link those up here once they go live.

May 19th

Well, the day is finally over. We had a full house this evening with all the Operation Ecuador missionaries, including several new interns. Our house was full and LOUD with kids running and playing and the adults visiting and playing cards. The singing was amazing, the curry buffet was delicious, and the birthday cakes (for Rusty and Josh) were yummy too. It does my heart good to see people enjoying themselves in our home.

And to top it all off, today, some new friends arrived to stay with us for a few days. They are Neill and Julie, of OverlandBirds.com. They are currently in the middle of a 2-year trip around the world in their Land Rover Defender! They started in England, came down through Europe and Africa, and then shipped their car to South America. You can read all the fascinating details on their blog (click the link above). Rusty began corresponding with them a couple months ago and offered them a place to stay when they came through South America. They are excited to sleep in a real bed again for a few days and have a place to wash all their clothes, and Rusty is enjoying “talking shop” about Land Rovers and hearing all their amazing stories.

I know the wheels are turning in his brain, now more than ever, figuring out how we can do something similar — someday. Someday when our kids are older and we are independently wealthy — ha! I’ll admit, there is a part of me that finds the whole idea intriguing. And another part that can’t get past thinking what a hassle all those border crossings and car shippings must be! I told Rusty awhile back that I didn’t think I could do a “round the world” trip in the Land Rover, but I might consider a trip around South America. So, who knows? Maybe in 10 years or so, we’ll set out on our own continental journey.

It’s fun to dream about, anyway!

The Birthday Blues

Tomorrow is my husband’s 40th birthday. All day long, as the depression has been trying to creep in, I’ve been tying to push it down, ignore it, hope it’ll just go away. I’m not depressed because he’ll soon be 40. It’s just a number for Pete’s sake, one more than 39, one less than 41.

I think I feel bad because I just don’t do birthdays well. I’m not good at pulling off elaborate parties or even buying that special gift that’s sure to surprise and delight. I get frustrated trying to buy gifts for my husband, to be perfectly honest. He’s one of those people that either just goes ahead and buys what he wants when he wants it, or he has such a specific and specialized wish list (i.e. tools or electronics) that I’m uncomfortable buying them without his input — I’m afraid I’ll buy the wrong thing. What usually ends up happening is Rusty just decides what he wants and goes out and buys it and we say, “Well, that will be your birthday present this year,” which is really — lame.

And then there’s the whole problem of how we celebrate his birthday in a place where we just don’t have that many friends yet. I mean, we have lots of acquaintances, but few close friends. Today, we were talking about Rusty’s 33rd birthday, which we celebrated in Japan, surrounded by so many close friends, just a little over a month before we found out his mom had a brain tumor and the whole course of our lives was completely altered. Rusty still looks back on that as one of the best birthdays of his adult life. It was an awesome party, and it was awesome because of the people who were there. And I can’t gather all of Rusty’s close friends for a similar party to celebrate his 40th — they are too scattered, and it is logistically impossible. And knowing I can’t recreate that makes me sad.

We are hosting the Operation Ecuador monthly Praise and Potluck in our home tomorrow, and it is going to include a curry buffet and a birthday cheesecake in Rusty’s honor, but it’s not like we are particularly close to anyone in Operation Ecuador, with the exception of Josh and Julie. So, in some ways, it’s like we’re just tacking the party on to an already existing event, which is kinda — lame.

So, yeah. Husband’s 40th birthday — fail. Maybe going to see the new Star Trek movie on Monday for Date Night will sort of make up for it?

The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 12

Week 12 is about making connections. Read the challenge here.

We have had a lot of opportunities for making connections over the last couple of weeks. Two new friends graced our home with their presence for several days at the beginning of May. It was such a pleasure to get to know Trent, who was in Ecuador on a medical campaign, and Shanaal, who is teaching at a university in Guayaquil. This past week, it seems like we have had people into our home practically every night. A group of Christians who wanted to talk about starting a new church plant in the neighborhood on the hill behind our house… one of the Kumanii evangelists and his lovely family… a German missionary friend from southern Ecuador and her two adopted Ecuadorian children. And on Sunday, we are hosting the Operation Ecuador monthly Praise and Potluck, which will include a 40th birthday celebration for Rusty — and hosting more overnight guests!

It’s been fun. But it’s also been exhausting, especially for an introvert like me, who finds being around people all the time to be draining rather than energizing. I may or may not have told Rusty today that if he invited anyone over tomorrow, I would shoot him in the head! I really am thankful for all these connections, these opportunities for deeper friendships, these possibilities for future ministry. But I do need times of silence and solitude in order to process it all and to see these connections as meaningful and important rather than just burdens to be endured.

It struck me today as I was thinking about this week’s Stay Awake Challenge and what I was going to write, that I could learn a lot about making connections from my children. The pictures that I chose to use for this challenge (below) reflect this. My kids make connections so easily and with so few inhibitions. When new people come over, it isn’t long before they are playing and chatting as if they’ve been friends forever. The other night, when Guillermo (the Kumanii evangelist) and his family were here, I watched Alex happily chattering away in Spanish with their two boys and was amazed at how completely open and unselfconscious he was. I so wish I could be more this way. What is it about growing up and becoming an adult that makes us want to put up walls and pull on masks and keep people at arms’ length? Or am I the only one who does this?

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Bedtime stories with new friends Shanaal and Trent

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New playmates

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More playmates

Unrooted Childhoods: Sara Mansfield Taber

The first section in the book Unrooted Childhoods contains essays from people who would describe their global upbringing as mostly enriching. They have positive memories of growing up abroad. Sara Mansfield Taber’s essay “Rain Light” recounts the 5 years of her childhood she spent in Holland as the daughter of an American diplomat. I loved her rich descriptions of the Dutch countryside. It was obvious from reading her essay that she became very attached to Holland, the Dutch culture, and the Dutch language. Her love for the traditional wooden shoes and her determination to become good at wearing them became a sort of symbol of her attachment to and affection for her new home. I can relate well to being very attached to a specific place, as this is how I feel about Kenya, having spent my entire childhood there. However, it is not something I give myself permission to dwell on too often or too long as it can lead to a profound sense of loss.

Sara describes how, in the first few weeks after moving to Holland, she had trouble falling asleep at night until her parents had checked her room (sometimes several times) for kidnappers. She writes, “It was as though my body remembered, even if my mind did not, that change, though rhythmic and regular, is still a ransacking and a threat (p.31).” This is probably one of the most accurate descriptions of change, at least for someone of my temperament, I have ever read!

She also tells about her first few difficult weeks at a new school, how she “stood at the edge of the blacktop, pretending to be interested in my fingers and swallowing tears. Then, and many times thereafter, it seemed to me that my whole life had consisted just of this: standing at the edge of the blacktop, swallowing tears (p. 31-32).” My heart just sort of hurt when I read this because — I get it. I so get it. I get the wanting to fit in, but being hesitant to take the initiative for the paralyzing fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. I get the acting aloof and pretending indifference, and all the while aching to just belong. I’ve been there, many times, and it is so not easy.

Sara took Dutch classes in her first year of school in Holland and developed a real affinity for the language. However, the following year, despite her desire to continue with Dutch, she switched to taking the school’s required French classes. She writes, “With that… I was left with a little lump of feeling, which has remained in my belly ever since, that, somehow, an important chapter of my life had gone unfinished, a self left off, half-begun.” Um, yeah. I can relate to this on so many levels… on learning Portuguese only to not use it or remember it… on working towards Angola for 4 years only to not go at the last minute. I feel like these “unfinished chapters” have left me in a state of arrested development. Like everything that’s happening right now is just a sort of interlude. I know in my head that it’s not, and I’ll never be able to go back and finish those chapters now, but getting my heart to recognize that is another matter entirely.

The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 11

Week 11 is about savoring. Read the challenge here.

Savoring the moment is something I try to be fairly intentional about. I am well aware that my life is but a series of fleeting moments that will never come again. My children are growing up before my eyes. Just the other day, Ben decided to give up the bottle; in a few months, it will be time to pack away the cloth diapers and start potty training. The “baby years” may well be behind me soon, and so I have been trying to savor the moments that remain. If I were to be perfectly honest here, I would say that I sometimes feel that our transient life these past seven years robbed me of true enjoyment of my kids’ early years. I mean, it’s hard to “savor the moment” when you’re packing boxes, cleaning, and taking care of the myriad of logistical details that moving around the world requires.

Savoring helps me more fully enjoy and be present in the moment as I’m living it… but it also helps me cement the moment in my memory. It’s a lot like a mental picture of the moment, except it employs all the senses, not just sight.

Two weekends ago, we took some friends who were visiting to Mindo for the day. And what a lovely, enjoyable day it was. There were so many moments to savor throughout the day… the view of the gorgeous countryside out the car window… watching colorful hummingbirds at their feeders just inches away from where I stood and marveling at their delicate beauty and thrumming wings… the taste of a rich, chocolatey brownie and the feel of a warm cup of coffee in my hands… the rush of wind in my face as the cable car raced out over the cloud forest.

But probably my favorite moment was the one that found me perched on a boulder beside a stream, listening to the sound it made as it rushed over its rocky bed, and holding my baby, who was content for once just to nestle into my arms. He is always on the move these days it seems, but for that one moment, he was still. And so was I.

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Hummingbirds

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La Tarabita

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The cloud forest

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Contentment

És Así Cómo… (My First Post in Spanish)

One thing our language teacher has asked me to start doing is writing blog posts in Spanish. I balked at this at first because I just don’t feel very articulate in Spanish yet. At the same time, when I read or write in another language, I usually feel at least a little smarter than when I am trying to listen or speak. And when you’re learning another language, you need all the confidence boosters you can get! So, I’ve decided to give it a try, and you can expect to see me posting in Spanish every so often. Don’t worry, Mom — I’ll provide the English translation as well!

This first post is an adaptation of something I wrote 3 years ago for Portuguese class. It’s , kind of fun to compare it to the original, so click here if you would like to read it (you have to scroll down to the third section).

És Así Cómo Se Pierde Lentamente la Chaveta (This is How One Slowly Loses Her Mind)

  1. Se casa, y después de dos meses, se muda a Japon trabajar. (Get married, and after 2 months, move to Japan to work.)
  2. Se regresa a su propio país, y se trabaja mucho para ayudar a que su esposo termine sus estudios de posgrado. (Return to your own country and work a lot to help your husband finish his master’s degree.)
  3. Se pasa un año cuidando a su suegra moribunda, y después de su muerte, limpiando su desastre de casa. (Spend one year taking care of your dying mother-in-law, and after her death, cleaning her disaster of a house.)
  4. Se es pobre y desempleado ye sin casa y sin seguro de salud por muchos meses. (Be poor and unemployed and homeless and without health insurance for many months.)
  5. Se tiene tres niños en tres continentes diferentes. (Have 3 children on 3 different continents.)
  6. Se pasa cuatro años preparandose con un equipo para ser misionera en África. (Spend 4 years preparing yourself with a team to be a missionary in Africa.)
  7. Se muda a otro país (otra vez) y se estudia otra lengua por casi dos años, en preparación para la vida y el ministério en África. (Move to another country (once again) and study another language for almost 2 years, in preparation for life and ministry in Africa.)
  8. Al último minuto, se cambia de opinión; no se va a África. En vez de África, se va a América del Sur. (At the last minute, change your mind; don’t go to Africa. Instead of Africa, go to South America.)
  9. Se trata de aprender otra lengua, porque claro la última no se habla en el nuevo país. (Try to learn another language, because of course the last one isn’t spoken in the new country.)
  10. Finalmente, se ingresa al hospicio! (Finally, check yourself into the nut-house!)

And now you know why I’ve got issues!

The Stay Awake Challenge: Week 10

Week 10 is about getting outside. Read the post here.

Getting outside is not easy for me. I’ve always been more of an “indoor girl.” I’m not much of an athlete (not competitive or coordinated enough). I HATE running (probably has something to do with my terrible knees), although I do enjoy walking or a good hike. In general, though, I’m just more prone to being a homebody. My interests have always tended more towards things like books, music, and crafts.

And when I’m in a new place and all the adjustments just seem overwhelming, I really have to fight the urge to just hole up in my house, in the one place where I feel safe and like I have some semblance of control. I think I could easily become a recluse or a hermit, but I have an adventurous husband and 3 rambunctious little boys who force me out of my cocoon on a regular basis. Of course, it is easier, much easier, to stay at home with my brood, where they are contained, than it is to try to take the 3 of them somewhere by myself, but I know that boys need to run and jump and climb and play, and our tiny yard just isn’t big enough for them to do all those things. So I grit my teeth and get outside, and then later, I’m always glad that we did.

In the last couple of weeks, we have had several opportunities for adventures in the great outdoors. At the end of April, we had a field trip with our homeschool group. We drove out to the Cuicocha Lake, which is in a volcano crater, and had lunch in a restaurant on the crater rim.

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Cuicocha Lake

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The boys had such fun playing outside with this dog at the restaurant!

Afterwards, the plan was to go see the Cochasqui pyramids nearby, but we ran out of time, so we went to see some waterfalls (the cascadas de Peguche) instead. As it happened, just after we parked the cars and started walking up through the little market with local handicrafts for sale, we got caught in a huge downpour. We huddled under the eaves of one of the stalls for awhile, hoping the rain would let up, but when we eventually determined that it probably wouldn’t for awhile, we had to decide if we wanted to continue hiking to the falls and get thoroughly soaked on the way, or make a mad dash back to the car. Normally, I probably would have opted for the second choice, but I had this Stay Awake Challenge on the brain, so I thought, why not?

It ended up being one of the most exhilarating walks I’ve taken in awhile. The cobblestone path wound its way through the forest, fragrant with the smell of drenched earth and eucalyptus trees, alive with the drip-drop of the rain and the wind moving through the upper branches. The waterfall itself was beautiful in its misty power. When we got back to the car, we were wet completely through, but I felt alive and invigorated, kind of like I do after taking a cold shower.

At the Cascadas de Peguche

At the Cascadas de Peguche

I felt awake.

This is what getting outside can do for me. This is why I need to force myself to do it more often.