Sunday, February 24, 2013

Our first Competition

So this year, our little family has delved a little deeper into the world of dance.  DQ is doing competition dance this year. 

I am new to the world of competition dance.  The extent of my dancing as a child was ballet in kindergarten, and mom didn't keep me in it b/c the instructor spent a lot of time pulling her leotard up (she was rather busty).  I assume it was also b/c of the cost.  But that's another story.   I was in Band (GO Marching Indians!!) and Girl Scouts.  So the only prepping I have had is watching Dance Moms, and listening to the other moms in our dance company talk about the year before.  I guess it helps a little that I'm a neurotic Type A, who over packs, and pushes myself to perfection. 

This entire experience has reminded me just how transforming love can be.  I am typically the quiet, shy, wallflower....  because of DQ's love of dance, I am now the Booster Parent for the dance company, I am learning ways to do hair/make-up, and I'm learning how to communicate with my fellow man (woman).  I am still me, but in a lot of ways... I'm not.  I mean I stress easily, and I was so calm today.  I was nervous for DQ, but aside from that (and feeling like crying b/c I was so proud of her), I was astoundingly calm.  I'm not getting cocky...   I'll be shocked if I can be as calm at the next competition.  But today was just plain amazing, and I felt such a swell of love for my sweet DQ.  It's nearly impossible to put into words.

Mamaw, Papaw, M, and V were there in the audience cheering DQ on.  Her dance group did three dances, Jazz (Itsy Bitsy Teensy Weensy Yellow Polka Dot Bikini), Tap (Oh La La), and Ballet (True Colors).  The girls received Gold 1st place for jazz, Gold for tap, and High Gold 1st place, and OVERALL 4th place (out of 5) for the Ballet.  This was pretty good, as we went into it just hoping for a special recognition award (best smile, best costume, etc.). 

It was a good day.  I didn't get as many photos as I wanted today.  We were on a time crunch as I am sure you can imagine.  Here are the photos I got of the girls on the way to the competition:

V otw to competition
DQ before make-up was done

And at the competition:
DQ in her tap costume

DQ in her jazz costume
So we survived our first competition.   I am excited for the next!   Hopefully I will have better photos to share with you when that one rolls around!!

Aunt TT

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pride

Last week when I spoke of how well parent teachers went for DQ, I neglected to tell you everything.  You see I felt an immense sense of pride in DQ.  Not only is she a good dancer, but she is an excellent student, and she can sing so beautifully (Her favorite song to sing right now is My Country 'Tis of Thee).  I am so very proud of her accomplishments, and have hopefully found a balance in keeping her ego in check while also praising her, and encouraging her to keep striving for better.

What I neglected to tell you is that although I had this huge sense of pride I also felt like crying.  Not the happy kind of tears either.  Upon hearing all of this good news, one of my first thoughts was to call my sister and tell her how much good we are hearing about her daughter.  To let her know what an amazing child she gave birth to, and how very blessed I feel to be a part of her life.  I wanted to thank her for giving me this opportunity to help her grow and learn.  But I couldn't.  Her phone has been shut off, and there is no other way that I know of to get in touch with her.  So I couldn't share this bit of good news with her, and although it didn't at all diminish my sense of pride in DQ... it did however make me deeply sad that I couldn't tell my sister about all of these amazing things.

This weekend, DQ will be dancing in her first dance competition.  They will be doing three songs.  Jazz (Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini), Ballet (True Colors), and Tap (Oh La La).  It will be a nerve wracking day for everyone involved I am sure.  This will be my first competition, and although I have an idea what to expect (the info the Instructor has given us and talking to the other moms), I am sure I won't really understand it all until I'm in the thick of it.  The instructor told us how she wants hair and make-up done for this weekend, so I am going to practice the hairstyle a couple of times this week to make sure I have it down pat.  DQ also has a lot of hair...  so I need to come up with a good way to pin it flat against her head for the beret she will be wearing in the final dance.

DQ doesn't seem nervous or anxious about it at all yet, which I am glad about.  I am so nervous for her and the rest of the girls.  I hope they can take all of the corrections that the Instructor gives them, and they can get out there and dance their best. 

They are still toying with V possibly having FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome), and RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder.)  I am leaning toward RAD.  I feel like she fits 3/4 of the criteria for the diagnosis, if not more.  M and I are on a huge learning curve right now with her.  It is so difficult to discern if she is acting out for attention, or if she is just plain being mean.  The therapy school she is in right now doesn't want her to be consequenced for the little things or the attention seeking things because they feel that we are reinforcing her bad behavior.  They want us to ignore as much as we possibly can, and give positive praise as much as possible.  So we are having to switch gears in our own minds, and look for anything she does positive (sitting quiet, playing nice, eating well, doing what she has been asked, etc.), and then praise the holy heck out of it.  Talking in a high pitched voice, and making a huge deal out of these little things.  In time the hope is that we will reinforce the good behavior (instead of the bad), and she will understand that good attention is so much more rewarding than bad attention.

The other night she didn't want to go to bed.  So she threw herself on the floor and screamed and cried and yelled while kicking her feet.  Typical tantrum.  M and I ignored it.  We talked with DQ.  We played games on our phones.  Five minutes went by and she was still laying there kicking, screaming, crying.  My nerves were shot so I asked M to help me get her up off the floor to be put in bed.  As we were lifting her up, I saw out of the corner of my eye that she was grinning.  So I looked at M and told him I changed my mind and set her back down then walked away.  She laid there and cried for 10-15 minutes longer, with us ignoring all of it.  I was beginning to think she would cry herself to sleep on the floor.  Then she got up and ran into her room and laid in her bed.  On her own.  Of course she cried in there for a few minutes before she fell asleep.  But I got it in that moment.  I realized that what I was doing was reinforcing her.  She wanted me to pick her up and carry her to bed.  Once she was calm, I did go in and tuck her in and kiss her little cheek.  

V also has developed a penchant for lying.   She will bold faced lie to anyone about anything.  She told the therapist at her school that she is getting really good at push ups.  The therapist was like push ups?  V then proceeded to tell her that M makes her do 31 push ups when she is in the time out room.  Which is not at all true.  So that is another thing we are learning about RAD children, that they will try to manipulate others into feeling sorry for them, and could get their caregivers in trouble.  Luckily we have a good support circle, we are open and honest with our therapists, and they know what really goes on.  Oh and it helps that V has lied to them too, so they know that is nothing new to her.

I will try to get plenty of photos this weekend of DQ in her dance outfits to share with my readers.  I hope everyone has a fantastic week!

Aunt TT


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Parent Teachers 2013

Last night was parent teacher conferences.  It was a stressful evening.  We all went together, and brought V's Leapster and DQ's tablet so they would have something to do while M and I spoke with DQ's teacher.  V decided that she didn't want to play her Leapster.  She would rather run around wild and crazy and pull out all the books instead.  She has a book fetish.  She loves to drag them all out and look at all the pictures, but when we try to work on her with reading she gets all angry and runs off screaming. 

So DQ's teacher is a lovely woman.  I'm very happy that she has our DQ.  She has carefully tended to DQ's love of learning, while gently pushing her to achieve higher and higher scores.  She is so proud of DQ's scores and bragged on them non stop.  She can read and spell all of the expected sight words for Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade.  She's in 3rd grade.  Her SRI score started out at a 488 at the beginning of the year (expected for the end of the year is close to 400).  They took the SRI again on Monday, and her score was 684.  The teacher said that she is a leader in the classroom in math, and the other children look to her (and a couple of other kids) when they have trouble working out math problems.  She does talk a little more than she should, but the teacher said that if her schoolwork isn't suffering, and she isn't being disruptive, that they will continue to work on it, but we shouldn't be overly concerned. 

She also told us that we need to speak to her music teacher, that she wanted to see us.

We thank her for a job well done, and praise our DQ for her job well done, then we head to the music room.  The music teacher told us that she doesn't say this often, or lightly, but that DQ is exceptional when it comes to music.  That she believes she is a natural talent, and has been given a musical gift.  She encouraged us to get her into voice lessons, and have her audition for the children's theater here in our area.  She told us her pitch is naturally nearly perfect, which is rare.  She had DQ tell us the musical terms posted on their board, which she did flawlessly. 

The gym teacher did send a note for her classroom teacher to include in the paperwork, that she talked excessively, out of turn, and wouldn't stay in her seat....  in gym....

But we did talk to DQ and tell her she needs to work on her talking out of turn, and listening to her teachers.  If they tell her to sit down in her seat, she should do it.  But if she is excelling in the classroom and music... I'm not going to be too hard on her for not excelling in gym.

V unfortunately is the other side of the coin right now.  The therapist thinks she is feeding off of negative attention.  So WHEN she is doing a negative behavior for attention, we are now supposed to ignore her.  It's so hard to tell sometimes if it is for negative attention or not.  She is such a smart child.  So we are punishing her as little as possible, and ignoring as much as we can, while praising everything good she does.  It is so exhausting and difficult.  I really hope this is what we need to do to help her, still trying to re-train that little brain. 

So that is an update on our lives!  I hope all is well in yours!!

Aunt TT

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Shaping a Child's Brain

It has been two months since I wrote last.  My sister didn't end up coming home from Arkansas.  I haven't heard from her in awhile, and I have a gut feeling that things are bad in her life right now.  I hope not.  But all the signs point to it being true.  So the girls didn't see her for Christmas.  They also didn't ask me about it much more than what I blogged back in December.

They had a fantastic Christmas.  Santa brought them both what they wanted.  And then some.  I'm still working on getting them to give up some old toys so that we can make room for the new.

Fast forward to there here and now:

Tuesdays are long days.  We wake up around 5:30a to be at V's Day Therapy School by 7:00a for therapy.  The therapist touches base with us about the previous week, and how we think things went.  She keeps us on path, and writes down our goals for V.  Every couple of weeks, she revisits our goals, and shows how far she has progressed.  She asks us how we handle situations at home, to help us better cope with our little rebel.  She also helps us pinpoint what the "problem" is and what we need to do to help her.

Today was hard.  The therapist came out and asked me if I was certain my sister didn't drink while pregnant with V.  This isn't the first time I have been asked this.  Nearly a year and a half ago, a stranger at work saw my photo of her on my desk, and asked me the same thing.  Other professionals have put it out there.  They all say that she exhibits so many traits.  She doesn't have as many physical markers, but by going by personality markers...  she's a textbook case.

I told the therapist honestly that I had a phone conversation with my sister inquiring honestly if she had consumed alcohol while pregnant with V.  I also told her the outcome, and how very angry my sister got with me for even having asked the question.  I believe she told me she didn't, and was completely ticked off with me for having even questioned it.  What else could I do.  This isn't about me.  It isn't about her.  It is about V. 

M and I asked her what we can do to help her with it IF it is FAS.  She told us to keep doing what we are doing.  To never give up on her.  She explained FAS a little to us in layman's terms, saying that in those situations, the brain cells are actually killed, and there is no getting them back.  My heart broke.  Any parent wants the absolute best for their child.  Being born with necessary brain cells having been killed off decreases any child's chance for the absolute best.  I had a flash of a premonition of years and years of her struggling in school, sports, with friends, and even with loved ones.  This sweet little girl that loves to be snuggled, and will reach to any depth to have 100% of any adult's attention....  could have a life full of misery and anger.  This isn't ever what any parent wants to envision for their child.  Ever. 

The therapist probably saw my eyes welling up with tears.  She quickly jumped to how we can help her.  She said that the good thing about catching it this early, is that her brain isn't fully formed yet.  That we can still shape it to be what it needs to be, to help her be successful in life.  She assured us that with constant praise of the good, and giving consequences for the bad will shape her into the little girl we want her to be.  She told us that we have to have ZERO tolerance for the bad.  No matter how tired we are, we have to just keep showing her no emotion and putting her in the "mini" "chair" or even "time out" if she isn't responding appropriately to our expectations.  She emphasized that once we give the consequence for her actions, and she completes it, that we need to give simple phrases such as "quiet voices", "nice hands", "walking feet", "nice words", etc.  We don't explain to her what she did wrong, we don't argue with her, we don't talk a lot, because we are giving negative attention to her.  This whole exercise is hinged on lavishing positive attention on her whenever she is doing something good and nice.  Which sounds easy, but when you are trying to cook dinner, help the elder child with home work, take the trash out, do the laundry, sweep the floors, sew with a friend one night a week....  it's not always easy to have your brain tuned to "what did V just do that was good that I can praise her for".  But we are always looking for it, and praising the simple things like walking nicely, listening nicely, playing so well with her sister, etc.  

It is like walking a tightrope with the weight of the world on your shoulders.  But I stepped up to this plate.  I said I would help her.  Help her I shall.  She is such a beautiful, talented, empathetic, and funny little girl.  I will do all I can to see she has a good life. 

DQ went to Dance Masters this weekend.  She LOOOOOVED it.  For those of you unfamiliar with Dance Masters, this is when the children get to go to workshops and learn dance from Dance Masters (people who are some of the best and brightest in their field).  It was great fun, and I got to know one of the other dance moms a little better.  Her daughter and DQ seem to really like each other too.  I feel much more comfortable with doing competition knowing that I have befriended someone on the team.  We are talking about rooming together on the weekends that we have to go away for dance and driving up together to split the costs which will help us both!   I am excited.

DQ is also doing very well in school.  I have to brag a bit, she missed four days a few weeks ago due to strep throat.  I received her spelling list on Thursday afternoon.  She showed up at school on Friday (over the fever, but not 100% herself yet) and aced the test.  She's so brilliant.  We had a pirate themed birthday party for her the weekend before last.  She had so many friends and family around to celebrate.  We're truly blessed.

I also wanted to apologize for not writing for so long.  I just didn't have much to say.  Sometimes it is such a struggle with V, that at the end of the day, my energy is spent cleaning house, and going to bed.  I am accepting the fact that it may never be any better, and I have to make the best of what it is.  Whatever the case.  I love both girls, and they are both worth it.

 Aunt TT