April 23, 2014

"this is the strangest life I've ever known..."

Today is April 23. Which means in two days I will be turning 37. Thirty.... seven. How on earth??

I don't actually mind the number at all - I am simply amazed at how quickly I've arrived at it. And at the same time in awe of the long road I've taken.

Roll back the calendar about fifteen or twenty years. You would most likely find me sitting on my bed in my blue-heavy bedroom burning incense and listening to The Doors, writing poetry and chain-smoking cigarettes, wearing a tie-dye shirt with my long hair hanging in my face. While I had several large circles of close friends and was a social person - I was very much alone in my own mind. Oh how I brooded. I was convinced I didn't have a place in this world. I wished that I'd been born decades earlier. And although I was boy-crazy from age four I just knew that I'd never find anyone that would look twice in my direction. Painfully insecure, I trudged through my days with bottles of Captain Morgan which basically acted as fifty pound weights on my ankles, anchoring me in my own hell. I desperately wanted to escape my reality. At age 36 I can look back upon that reality and say it wasn't that bad but going through it without knowledge or experience was a different story. Everyone has to fight their demons, everyone has a path to take.

My path has lead me here.

Sitting in my lovely home that I share with my beautiful family. Not my bed but a pretty rocking chair. Not my bedroom but a cozy living room. Not incense but a meadow-scented candle. Not The Doors but the sounds of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the television. Not poetry but still writing. Not tie-dye but still a t-shirt. Long hair still in my face but the cigarettes have been gone for many, many years. Still insecure but never do I feel alone. My social circles have changed but not entirely - I've just built deeper friendships with fewer people. Perhaps the biggest change is that I no longer desire an escape route. I love what I've built - on my own and together with my husband.

I've accepted that no matter how hard I've tried there are just some things will probably never change like my incredible self-consciousness. And I guess that's okay. Because that's just the way I am...
and ...

March 25, 2014

"just one more and that's it"

Bedtime. It's been quite an evolution.

Naturally, when Scarlett was a baby getting her to bed was a piece of cake. Before the mattress was lowered I was able to gently rest her peaceful body in the crib without waking her. She had two or three plush friends to keep her company but her crib was for sleeping. Those were some short-lived nights.

As time moved forward the crib mattress was lowered. It finally became so low that instead of placing Scarlett carefully into softness I was basically dropping her down with a plop. I explained my challenges, apologized for my height and my T-Rex arms. She didn't seem to care either way. And one day soon it wouldn't matter how she was placed into that crib because she would rise immediately to jump and protest rest.

At present time there are fourteen stuffed friends in her crib. I know this because after placing four blankets on Scarlett (and describing each blankets' origin - i.e. "this is the one that Mama used to take to work" or "this one is from Auntie Kyndra and Gloria") I am to count the plushies as I toss each one in the crib while she makes the animal's sound and gives them a kiss. This comes after reading anywhere from four to eight books and singing up to ten songs. There is always the plead of, "just one more and that's it!" Be it a book or a song. And if I give in to that one there is always another request on deck. This happens every night at bedtime. She tries to incorporate this seemingly never-ending routine at 'nap' time (which, I should mention, is the time when Scarlett puts on a Broadway show rather than sleeps) but I pleasantly refuse. We still launch the blankets and animals but we skip the twenty-five minutes of books and songs. After all, I need to rest my voice for later.

About seventy percent of the time Scarlett still cries when I leave the room. She has been known to cry out, "sing Show Me The Way To Go Home and that's it!" as I'm descending the stairs. Or, "Mama, I need to sing 'funny Frosty'!" (Funny Frosty is a version of Frosty the Snowman where I change the words and she corrects me). I am convinced that she would hold me hostage until midnight if she could just figure out how.

God, I love her.

February 8, 2014

red dye 40 and Scarlett ...

I'm sharing this story because I feel that it may help some other parents out there who haven't heard about this very real issue. The story is my own personal experience, I haven't done a harrowing amount of research on the matter but what I have read, what I now know and what I've seen are enough for me. Listen up...

A few months ago Scarlett began acting out in ways that Gregg and I had never seen. Often at dinner time she would throw fits, flip like a switch and shout and scream uncontrollably. We thought here we go, the terrible twos at their best. But as the days went on I started to feel like these episodes were more than just typical temper tantrums. I remembered an article I had read a year or two before about food dyes causing behavioral problems in children that were sensitive to them. Particularly red dye 40. So I experimented. I checked every jar, bottle, box and bag in the kitchen and the only two items containing red dye 40 were Froot Loops and Flintstone's vitamins. I eliminated them. Almost immediately we saw a positive change in Scarlett's behavior. Less irrational outbursts, less defiance and no more demon-screaming. It was something but I wasn't one hundred percent convinced the dyes and the episodes were related. I know about the roller coaster of the terrible twos and knew we could have been riding the peak at the moment.

Two nights ago the "demon" returned.

I was midway through Scarlett's bedtime routine, past book-reading and onto song-singing. When I started to rest  her in the crib- as I do nightly- all hell broke loose. She stood up ferociously, back against the crib rail, eyes bugged out wide and screamed from her gut at the top of her lungs in a gravely sound that I had never ever heard before. I was honestly scared. For a split second I wondered if my child was possessed - I'm not kidding. This episode continued for close to forty-five minutes. I was able to calm her down for short periods of time but as she was calming and trying to focus on a song or just talking to me she would spew out those horrid screams intermittently - it was as though she had no control over them. That's what I kept thinking, She isn't in control of her emotions/actions right now. And I wondered what was in control.

Gregg finished the job by tagging in, rocking her and placing her back in the crib. While she did scream and cry for a few minutes, the horror show was over.

The next morning my mother sent me a text, horrified by the fact that she may have unknowingly caused that drama. After wracking her brain trying to think of what Scarlett had eaten at her house the day of the episode, she realized she had given Scarlett Jello after dinner. Red Jello. She remembered me mentioning the red dye article months before. We were in shock. For me, that is plenty of proof that my little girl is absolutely "sensitive" to artificial bullshit dyes that shouldn't be in foods in the first place.

I read a few more articles and I'm not going to quote or link to any here - if you want to do the research you can. I know people have very strong views on matters like this. I've seen enough to know the deal. While I give Scarlett mostly organic foods as it is, I am making even more conscious decisions at the grocery store. Eyes are wide open. The fact that we have something like seventy-five percent of children diagnosed with ADHD in the country always sounded bizarre to me. I think we all need to take a look in our cupboards and do some experimenting before we pull the 'hyperactivity' trigger. These dyes are found in nearly everything! Pudding, frozen treats, fruit snacks, juice, fruit punch, yogurt, cereals, chips, crackers, processed meats, candy - just to name a few. The change in Scarlett's behavior was frightening. She became a different child. To think that parents go through these episodes on a regular basis not knowing that there may be a simple way to turn it all around - it's mind-blowing.

If you suspect that your child's tantrums or fits are out of the ordinary, I urge you to look into this. I am just so thankful that I made the connection early on - before we got into more dangerous situations.