December 29 – Christmas break and colds

American's giving some Russian orphans Christmas

American’s giving some Russian orphans Christmas

With Drew gone to daddy’s house Ana has chilled out a bit. She has (obviously) getting more attention with fewer kids in the house and my husband has been home which has also upped the attention. She still has had a couple of minor meltdowns each day about daddy but we’ve been able to talk through them without her resorting to extreme measures like head banging.

She did, however, injure herself once yesterday. We’re not sure how it happened. She was in her room ‘cooling down’ and emerged with a scratch on her cheek. She said she did while hitting her head, but the only furniture in her room (purposefully) is her bed which has no sharp edges. She lies quite a lot (over silly little things) so this may not be the truth behind the scratch.

We all have colds. Yeah. This has kept us locked up indoors for the most part since Christmas day which is not necessarily a bad thing for Ana. She enjoys the home-time with us and it keeps her agitation levels lower. It is harder on me though since I have the normal Ana demands, a sick infant, a sick husband (I’m not sure which one is worse) and a very busy toddler who is not slowed down one iota by a cold. Plus laundry. And cleaning. And cooking. You get the idea.

I did get out to go see Ana’s psychologist (without Ana) and her advice for now is to love on her more when she is getting agitated and not go into details about why she can’t see daddy. This seems to be the only course of action, however, since I’m not sure what is going to happen with the daddy situation.

So, for now, we convalesce, for next week brings surgery for Ana.

December 25 – The sound of Ana’s heart breaking

Ana, 5yrs old

Ana, 5yrs old

Today Ana finally realized she REALLY is not going to see her father this Christmas. When I had to take Drew to daddy’s house the primal sobs coming from my tiny girl was truly the sound of a heart breaking.

She kept promising all morning that she would be good at daddy’s – a promise she truly means but is incapable of keeping because of RAD.

And her father is incapable of loving a little girl with RAD.

This blog is not the forum to discuss why he is incapable of having her visit like her brother, or even why he is incapable of loving her. This blog is devoted entirely to Ana’s day to day struggles with RAD and our family’s corresponding struggles. Our family being myself, my husband (Ana’s stepfather) and her siblings – in short, the people who love Ana unconditionally and are willing to walk to hell and back for her.

Holidays are stressful enough times for Ana because of all the change, people coming in and out of our house, junk food, and anticipation of gifts to come. Rejection by her father became the icing on the cake she needed to have a thoroughly miserable Christmas day this year.

It is almost 4:00pm as I type and Ana has had about ten fits, has been rocked the majority of the day, has banged her head repeatedly, wailed till there is no tomorrow and thrown items across the room. The rest of the day does not look promising. I’m glad I did not schedule any visits with friends or family today; I had a feeling it was going to go this direction.

At least we always have tomorrow (because we definitely need it today).

“…but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

December 22 – Over the river and through the woods

What I like to imagine going to Grandma's house for Christmas looks like...

What I like to imagine going to Grandma’s house for Christmas looks like…

A weekend at Grandma’s house. Ahhhh, how relaxing and comfy. Unless you’re Ana.

Weekends anywhere are super stress inducing and quite often end in trips to the ER for sedatives. Thankfully, this weekend no hospital was necessary.

When we go anywhere Ana has to have some semblance of normalcy or she loses it immediately. At my parents’ house that is relatively easy since they live in a house, the same house they have been in since before I was born, making it the only Grandma house Ana has ever known. That is a great start to a survivable weekend.

Hotel rooms do not work for Ana. They are too small. There are too many people in them (seven in our family) and there are no clear definable spaces (i.e. kitchen, bedroom, living room). She needs all these things. So, whenever we travel we have to have a house or apartment. Or Grandma’s house.

The drive to and from Grandma’s is daunting. It is four hours not counting traffic which isn’t too awfully bad compared to Florida or some far away vacation hotspot. This time in an last minute spark of pure genius I stopped at the library to get some books on CD to listen to in the car. The other kids have a variety of devices to play but Ana is not into any of those which makes her a very bored girl (our mantra is ‘a bored Ana is a bad Ana’). The books on CD were a hit with all the kids so we travelled in relative peace. Even Ana was chuckling at a few parts in the story.

At Grandma’s house things got hoppin’ fast so Ana went along for the ride. We had lunch with extended family which kept everyone entertained and Ana enjoyed the attention. After lunch there were presents which are always a great way to keep Ana happy.

Later that evening we did Grandma and Grampa Christmas which was over the top, as usual, and Ana racked up some impressive gifts. To say the least Justice was well represented.

All during the day Saturday Ana was chilled out about seeing daddy (same city as Grandma and Grampa), but as Sunday night came around and no visit to daddy was in the works she began to talk about it. This combined with limited sleep (always a problem in a different bed than her own), junk food out the wazoo, and a lot of sensory overloading over the course of the weekend caused Ana to lose it.

Thankfully, my husband was with me for this trip so I wasn’t stuck with a meltdown-mode Ana and four other children (in similar states for similar reasons) all alone. We managed without her emergency sedative, but she will definitely need a few days recovery to get back to normal.

November 28 – Happy Turkey Day!

What a nice playroom!

What a nice playroom!

Today was Thanksgiving. We survived and Ana did pretty well. Of course I should say my bar is set pretty low; it’s a good holiday if we stay away from the ER and the police aren’t involved.

Ana started the day good but her agitation grew with the hours. She really wanted to go to her father’s house or her grandparents. We have explained to her all week that she will not be spending Thanksgiving at either house, but once she gets something in her mind it doesn’t matter what we tell her. I’ve heard this is quite common with RAD.

We had our big dinner at lunchtime (just the immediate family) and Ana started to throw her plate, for no apparent reason,  so she was nicely asked to leave the table and go to her room to calm down. She did. After lunch was finished and cleared away she decided she wanted some lunch. But she didn’t want Thanksgiving – she wanted Korean. This is something else I’ve heard is common with RAD – wanting things that are impossible to get.

To say the least she did not get Korean. She settled for some turkey and dressing followed by chocolate pie.

The rest of the afternoon her agitation grew with a few outbursts. She did spend a lot of time in her room.  We have started to wean her off spending time in her bedroom because she simply festers in there. It’s like she has a running internal dialogue about her dad and us not letting her see him and the longer she is left alone to stew the more worked up she gets. But we figured since it was a holiday, we’d take a chance and let her spend time alone so the rest of the family could enjoy the day.

By bedtime she was ready to blow. I asked her if she needed a sleepy pill (that is what we call her emergency sedative) and she said yes. That is a step forward. Usually she insists she doesn’t need it. For the last week I’ve been trying to get her to correctly identify her emotions and take ownership of them. Baby steps – I’ll take that!

November 27 – When ABA doesn’t work

This is the sort of environment that created Ana

This is the sort of environment that created Ana

Today was a trying day. Ana is off school for Thanksgiving break which means lots of down time. Our mantra is “A bored Ana is a bad Ana”. There was a lot of bored going on today. Also complicating the day is that she wants to go to her dad’s house tomorrow for Thanksgiving. She has not been able to go for over six months and she gets very upset when her brother goes. So, I heard about going to daddy’s all day long. And then that made her mad. Ana has two emotions – mad and happy. Part of the attachment therapy is helping her express sadness. We are not there yet. I spent a lot of time talking to Ana about how we show we are sad versus mad.

Nonetheless, I had to restrain her several times for self-injuring and she wanted me to just hold her about every thirty minutes. All. Day. Long.

I try to switch up behavior techniques to keep her guessing (otherwise she can manipulate them to her whims). We had a lengthy car ride today so I bought her a slushy and she had to earn sips by being quiet and safe. Otherwise, she would watch it melt (can you say natural consequence pro?). That worked for two sips and then she just didn’t care. Success and failure.