Thursday, May 27, 2010

Things Are Good

We are counting down the days until we head back to the U.S.!! ONE WEEK from Friday, and we'll be in D.C. We get in late on Friday afternoon, and the next day we'll drive to Ocean City, NJ, where we've rented a beach house not far from Hubby's parents. This is our FIRST family vacation! I'm so excited, the kids are so excited, we just can't wait. I've scoped out a nice-looking seafood restaurant, and all I can think about is crab cakes and steamed clams--yum!

I also checked out the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce site and found some really great information about family activities offered on an almost daily basis. They have a Farmer's Market every Wednesday, Family Day on Thursdays (with face painting, pony rides, etc.), and a Family Film Night. For the first time, I feel like all that we've been working for in the past year, all that we've lived with, dealt with, and gone through is finally paying off in a wonderful reward for us as a family, and it feels great! The budget looks good; we'll actually be able to enjoy ourselves and not worry about every single penny (though we *are* still on a budget).

Now that the dissertation is finished, I've been able to return to the gym after over a year of not exercising. Ouch, at first. But now? I'm doing lots of cardio in addition to weight training, and for the first time ever, I'm working on my upper body strength. I can see definition in my arms! Who knew? I'm working on getting rid of that double-wave thing that happens underneath my arm with the jiggly bits. I'm really enjoying the added energy that regular workouts have given me, and losing some inches has helped me get back into some clothes I haven't worn since before I was pregnant with Amelia.

I have an article officially in the works! By in the works, I mean that a colleague has read it, offered advice and suggestions for revision, and within the next 6 weeks, it will go out to a journal. This will be my first time submitting an article, and I'm completely prepared for rejection. I also have a project in the works for submission to a collection on Gender, Authorship, and Space in Britain, 1660-1820. I feel good about the project because it's not wrapped up in whether or not it's accepted to this collection. That is, even if it doesn't get accepted, it's a project/subject I want to pursue further as my second book project (eventually).
I had my first fender-bender in Doha yesterday. Really, it was just a bump, everyone is fine, and it was totally my fault. I turned around to hand a bottle or toy to Amelia in her car seat, my foot slipped off the brake a bit, and we "tapped" the car in front of us. It was a tiny Lancer, so it cracked and dented the rear bumper. Long story short---everything is fine because the manager of the driving institute (to whom the car belonged) saw someone lightly bang the dent out and decided they could fix it themselves, "No need to go to the police station Madam."

Me: "Why not?"
Him: "We can fix it here."
Me: "Are you sure? Can I pay you?"
Him: "Yes, I'm sure..Don't worry, it is my pleasure Madam."
Me: "God bless you! Thank you so very much, and I'm very sorry."

What could have cost God knows how much time and money and confusion and stress just dissolved in a matter of a few minutes. Oh Karma Gods, I am so completely in your debt!

Things are starting to feel like the surface of the sun here---average temp of 105-113 degrees--so we do very little outside, except go to the pool early in the morning of after the sun goes down. Everything seems to have slowed down, the traffic, school, the workload, so we've had a chance to re-group as a family, which has been very nice. With the exception of the 14-hour flight in economy with three kids, I'm looking forward to just about everything about our summer break!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Some answers

After going back to the books on ADHD and consulting some of the most recent studies done on the medication Hannah was switched to in January, I have no doubt whatsoever that at least some of her behavior is a result of the medication (Concerta). In addition, I found out that bullying has been linked to ADHD in children her age (though being bullied is often more likely the case). I should have mentioned in my previous post that this behavior, as far as we know, has been isolated to her relationship with one friend. We don't have any knowledge of her treating other kids like this, which is why the girl's mother thought, at first, that Hannah's behavior was a result of Hannah being so very comfortable in that friendship (i.e. "fighting like sisters" kind of thing).

We stopped giving Hannah her meds last Wednesday, and she still hasn't taken any medication. We've noticed a significant difference in her mood and behavior. She has been calmer, less oppositional, and generally less moody. Part of this could be a result of knowing that she was under closer scrutiny and that we were setting much tighter boundaries (i.e. she was in trouble). But, after getting advice from my dad, who also happens to be our pharmacist, we definitely think her medication should be changed. He identified a key ingredient in Concerta that affects some children (not the majority) in this way, and he recommended that we get her back on her old medication. She wasn't having any problems at all with the old meds, she just needed an increased dose because it had been over two years since she started it, she'd gained weight, etc. The pediatrician (NOT our regular one) who saw her in December suggested Concerta because it's the one the majority of his patients, he specializes in ADHD, and thus, it was his professional opinion that it would work well for her. I listened to him and agreed to the switch...and now here we are.

The good news is that all this research, in addition to meeting with Hannah's counselor, had resulted in some specific, concrete things Hubby and I can do to help Hannah be her best self. We're making a contract that outlines the consequences for violating house rules, etc. so that they are consistent and she always knows what to expect. We're implementing a rewards chart so that she sees when she's making progress and doing things well. We're looking for times when she does good, even with small things that would be considered "normal" responsibilities for an 11-yr old. She will be meeting with someone once we get back to the States to talk about ways she can cope with impulsivity and react to others who have ideas that are different from or opposed to hers. Without a doubt, this is going to take time, and it won't be easy. It's a nonstop effort, and we don't know if there will come a time when she stops being receptive. For now, though, we're letting her know that we love her and nothing she does will ever make us stop loving her. And, we're praying...for patience, guidance, wisdom, and strength. If you're the praying kind, feel free to throw one our way.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Where is my daughter?

We're in the middle of a parent-child hurricane right now in the AcadeMama family. We've just found out that Hannah has been verbally abusing her best friend, bullying and manipulating her, even to the point of physically blocking and holding onto her clothes when the girl tried to walk away a couple times. Evidently, the pattern of Hannah saying hurtful things has been established for 2-3 months now, but the most disturbing events (including the physical, aggressive behavior) happened just last week during a trip to London (I went to do a bit of research, and I took Hannah and her best friend with me).

What was supposed to be a wonderful adventure for the girls was tainted a couple of times by Hannah being rude, selfish, impulsive, and downright mean to her friend. When these instances happened, I corrected Hannah, she had privileges taken away (i.e. I took her iPod), and she had to apologize sincerely to her friend. Little did I know that the worst of her behavior was happening under her breath and out of my sight (though I was never far away).

I am horrified at what she's done. I am so incredibly sorry for her friend, who has been hurt deeply by Hannah's actions. I feel guilty beyond words that this happened on my watch and that I wasn't able to prevent it. My stomach has been in knots for the past day, wondering what happened specifically (after receiving a concerning e-mail from the girl's mother yesterday morning). She came over last night after Hannah was in bed to explain what had happened, how long things had been deteriorating, etc. It's clear now that I can't trust my daughter in anything. I can't trust her to tell the truth, to make good decisions, to be kind, compassionate, thoughtful of others. Hell, I can't even trust that she'll keep her hands to herself. The shattering of this trust is enormously painful, and I'm fearful about Hannah's future, her ability to make friends (and keep friends), and the relationship she will have with us as a result of the need for us to monitor her and follow-up on everything she does.

Overwhelming me right now is the guilt and grief. We dropped the ball on reading and researching how ADHD manifests itself in children as the grow older. She started a new medication in January, and it seemed to improve her academic and intellectual performance, so we thought everything was great. In retrospect, we see that her impulsivity and mood swings have gotten worse. With the aggression, it has been limited to this one friend, so I don't know that it's a result of the medication. On the other hand, the friendship has gotten closer over the past several months, so it may be that Hannah just feels more comfortable behaving this way with her friend. Usually, her worst behavior and outbursts are reserved for me. The "I hate you!" and "I wish you weren't my mother!" are thrown at me like daggers when she is having a particularly bad meltdown (usually when she's being punished by being sent to her room for a long period of time).

I don't know who this child is anymore...The daughter I knew at 2, 3, 4, and 5 years old would never, had never, behaved aggressively to ANYONE. When I gave Hannah the chance to tell me anything she could think of that would have hurt her friend, she admitted to a few of the mean things she said, but she didn't mention any of the physical stuff. When I confronted her calmly about it this morning, she confessed to it, but said she hadn't previously remembered it. She only remembered it once I'd reminded her about it. I don't know what to believe anymore. I don't know if she really does forget things? Does she block things out? Does she make up her own reality to prevent herself from being accountable? I just need to know WHY this is happening so I can fix it!

I've contacted the school counselor in order to meet with her and see if there are any therapists or other resources she recommends. I've also started researching user experiences with the medication she's on right now. I've found many of stories related to the negative side effects, though most of them are listed as possible side effects with all the ADHD meds. But, each drug works differently with each child, so there's no way to know beforehand how Hannah will react to any specific medication. I feel like I'm grieving all over again for my child. I'm feeling like I've failed her and possibly made things worse for her. She needs help now, and we will do anything and everything we can to get her that help. I just wish we were in a place where we had more resources. In four weeks, we return to the States, and that day just cannot come soon enough.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Question of Style

I have a question for other academic writers. It's really just a matter of curiosity more than anything:

Do you think it is best or most effective in academic writing (in the humanities, but literary studies to be precise) to put one's own argument forth first, then clarify it within the terms of an existing critical debate, OR should the reverse be the case, with an explanation of the critical debate followed by one's contribution to it?

I appreciate when other scholars offer a brief summary of the existing threads of inquiry and debate surrounding the topic at hand before moving on to discuss to particulars of their argument, ideas, etc. Now, I'm all in favor of "signposting" for readers what the argument or thesis is at the beginning of a paper, article, or chapter. But, once a writer moves on to do the work of close reading and/or discussion of the subject literature, I want to know a tiny bit about what's been said by others. When writers do this, do you think it make them sound dependent or unoriginal? Does it diminish their approach and make their contribution nothing more than a correction of previous arguments?