Summer Break Laughs

It’s the first week of #TheHostageSituation and I figured we could use a few laughs around all of our homes.

Not okay

I have three kids.

They’re preteens (and one full-blown teen). I AM NOT OKAY.

The amount of food they’ve eaten so far alone is more than a usual weekend.

Feeling cute

Laundry is the worst.

It never ends, even with help.

Dishes? What are those?

Zero kids

Thanks, Sesame Street.

You get parenting, every day of the year.

Coma

Anyone got tips?

Regret

Growing up is a trap.

Don’t do it.

Stay tuned.. More summer calamities are on the way. #ParentingIsAnExtremeSport

All memes found on Google

Real Stories of a (Former) Mental Health Worker

Note: There is this gorgeous law (HIPAA) that prevents me from using real names in this post, and so I will use an asterisk when needed to indicate that names were changed. I will also not use the actual names of the facilities I worked at for similar reasons, because I’m not trying to get sued. I’m a blogger and stay at home mom, not a millionaire.

This month is Mental Health Awareness Month. This post is dedicated to my former co-workers (especially my Resource Team friends) and mental health professionals everywhere.

It’s a rough profession and deserves a lot more respect than it gets. It’s also very rewarding, which is one of the many reasons why I am glad that I chose psychology as my field of work.

A Few Definitions

I know not everyone understands these terms, so here are some definitions to help you out a bit:

Mental Health Technician/Mental Health Worker/Mental Health Associate: these are all pretty much the same, depending on where you work. I’ve been called all three.

1:1: a patient that requiring someone is with them at all times, whether they are asleep or not, sometimes both. This can get very tedious, and sometimes you have to stay within arms’ reach of the patient for safety reasons.

Code: this is not the code you see on TV. This code is for physical backup when things get out of hand, mainly when a patient is being aggressive, destructive or a combo. These are called for a variety of reasons, but these are the two most common ones.

Resource Team- an amazing team of people trained to work on every inpatient unit in a mental health facility. They are responsible for knowing everything about all the units, and they catch hell for messing up. It’s a great team to be a part of because they stick together and you never know what will happen next or where you will be. It’s also very stressful.

Checks/Rounds: ensuring patient safety by visualizing patients every 15 minutes.

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(I’ve seen C.Diff, and it’s ugly, especially in non-verbal kids. YIKES)

Let me set up the story for you…

In June 2007, Spalding University granted me a Bachelor of Arts in Clinical Psychology. Many don’t know this unless you ask, see it in my author bio or on my resume.

It took me five years, a change in major (my first major was in apparel design and merchandising- fancy wording for fashion design), school and two kids, but I finally graduated. I also completed a mandatory 100-hour practicum.

I was not prepared for my first job out of college. I had gotten a job as a Mental Health Technician at *Clear Lake Hospital and I was a bit nervous but ready to start my career.

I started the week after I finished classes. (I walked June 2, but still to finish my last class, which was sheer torture.) I did fine in orientation but was not happy when I found out that I was placed on the geriatric unit.

What? This facility didn’t let you pick what unit you went to, but I had hoped I wasn’t going to get put on a unit I didn’t like. I was not thrilled about being placed on this unit, known as the *Willow Tree Unit. I wanted to transfer immediately, but there was a policy preventing me from doing so for 6 months. I decided to wait it out.

Two months into that wait, I discovered that I was pregnant with Lily. My OB/GYN told me that I would be better off where I was because the pregnancy was not an easy one from the beginning.

A different unit would be a faster pace and could result in more issues with my pregnancy. I decided to stay put so that Lily would have a better chance of being okay. I ended up liking the *Willow Tree Unit.

The staff was nice- I was the youngest tech on first shift. Once word got around that I was pregnant, the nurses and other techs took care of me.

One afternoon, my shoes became untied and I couldn’t reach them because my belly was huge. I burst into tears and one of my fellow techs tied them for me. She understood the struggle- she’d been in my spot two years before.

I didn’t get to finish out the pregnancy on that unit- I went into preterm labor at 31 weeks (on Cameron’s 3rd birthday, of all days) and my OB/GYN told me that I would have to stop working or go on light duty, basically a desk job.

I chose the desk job because we needed the money. I went to medical records for all of five weeks or so. The ladies there were nice and began a betting pool on when Lily would show up. Lily shares a birthday with one of the ladies in the office, which everyone found hilarious.

Thanks to Kentucky state budget cuts, the *Willow Tree Unit was closed down while I was on light duty, and when I came back from maternity leave, I was sent to an acute care unit. I was better suited for that unit and stayed there until I left in June 2008 for a counseling position in Indiana.

The Real Fun Begins

In late 2010, I was ready for a new and closer to home position. I found another Mental Health Worker position at *MidRiver Regional Hospital. This time, I was able to pick where I wanted to go, because it was in the application. I would be on the Resource Team. It sounded very interesting and kind of fun.

I was absolutely right. Orientation was a bit boring- but that’s where I met Josh (Jake’s older brother) so I call that a win. I had to shadow for a couple of weeks on each unit- a couple of days with another worker, and then I was unleashed.

The very first day was a day that is forever etched in my mind- I was on *2West, a unit that was then used for kids from 12-18 with autism and other developmental disabilities. It was super loud, wild and some of the kids were way bigger than me.

What did I sign up for?

I took a huge deep breath, looked at my assignment sheet and kept going.

I spent two years on the Resource Team. It was a lot of fun- full of laughs, friends, and a few mishaps. I’ve run after people that eloped, including one that I chased across a busy street along with another worker. The kid ran off at a hospital and we did catch her. I’ve been punched in the head. I even caught a stereo cord to the face.

I was with a 1:1 and the patient was very upset about her Justin Beiber CD was repeatedly skipping. I told her that maybe it was time to try a different activity, and tried to unplug the stereo. She picked it up, then dropped it, and when I went to pick it up, she hit me in the face with the cord.

A code was immediately called and I was taken off the floor. I was taken to the main nursing office to get my face looked at.

I called Matthew to get me from work, and he took me to a nearby hospital- I ended up with three liquid stitches. You can barely see the scar today. I took the next day off because my eye was so swollen that I had a hard time seeing out of it, and let me tell you, tetanus shots are not fun.

As for the patient, she was so upset when she found out what happened to me, she became hysterical. I was one of her favorite staff members. She had to be medicated to calm down. She apologized the next time she saw me.

While I was working at this facility, things were not that great at home. Julian wasn’t diagnosed until late 2011. I was struggling a lot internally with both anxiety and depression. You can read about those events in A Letter to my Anxiety and Depression and Looking At the Bright Side

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I was able to lose myself in my work. I loved being able to help others and work with great people. We had a lot of fun on the good days and on the not so good days, pull together and make things work. That, to me, is the definition of teamwork.

In March 2013, I had a mini-stroke. My neurologist suggested afterward that I needed to start looking for ways to lessen or eliminate stress in my life. By this point, I was ready to leave the Resource Team- it was getting too stressful for me. Some people leave after months, some people stay the entire time they are at the facility.

I started thinking about which unit would be a good fit. I was pretty much done with adults- that was where the bulk of my work had been, and I needed something different. I had realized that I really enjoyed the kids on *2West and the staff was great.

I’d volunteer to go there when other people didn’t want to go- it was a rough unit. I didn’t really enjoy cleaning poop off walls (who does? I can’t make this up, it really happens) but it had become my favorite unit.

It took a few months of waiting, but a position opened up. By then, I had met Jake, and that was his home unit. I applied, interviewed and got the full-time Mental Health Associate position. My Resource Team friends were sad to see me go (my friend Scott begged me not to go), but they were not surprised to hear where I was going.

It turns out that going to *2West was the best career move I’ve ever made. I loved it. Those kids were not always the easiest to work with- I’ve been kicked in the eye, had my hair pulled out in clumps, broken my big left toe twice and in the same way. It still doesn’t bend correctly. I’ve seen all kinds of naked kids. I’ve left work scratched and bruised from multiple holds. I’ve gotten sick from these kids- strep throat can go through 20 kids fast.

I also learned a lot- how to sign (some), how to learn about a kid even when they are non-verbal. I learned that some families are worse than you can imagine and even the ones that look great are horrible.

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Autism is not seen as often in girls, but when it is, it tends to be severe. One of my favorite kids was a tall, thin girl named *Michelle. She was a runner and I got lots of exercise running after her in the halls. She was also non-verbal but showed her feelings by squeezing your hands.

She squeezed my hands every day to say “hello” and “goodbye” but if she was angry, she would pull on your arms while squeezing your hands. She was so much fun to work with. When she left, she bent down to hug me goodbye, and both *Claire (her behavior analyst) and I cried. That’s a very unusual thing.

Taylor Swift sing-a-longs were a regular thing and so were movie days on the weekends. We tried to make things as fun as we could for the kids. We took them outside and let them play as much as they were able to on the playground. We got the kids out of bed, fed them, got them through their days and back into bed- for some of them, we were more of a family to them than their own.

*Mason was a kid who saw us exactly like that. I met him while doing checks and he was in the shower singing “Baby Got Back”. He was hilarious, and once beatboxed to me about needing toothpaste.

However, he came from a family that didn’t treat him well, which contributed to some of the reasons he came to the facility. Once, I was planning an outing with another associate, and he asked us to take him and the other patients to a strip club. That did not happen, but we laughed hysterically after he left the room.

These kids were so funny, smart in their own way. I couldn’t have asked for better co-workers. Some days entirely sucked, but it was still a fun adventure. My last day there was September 2, 2015. I left after being told about Jake’s death, and I came back two days later to get my things and leave my nurse manager a note telling her I wouldn’t be back.

I couldn’t write this post without mentioning Jake, Austin, Scott (not the one mentioned earlier), Cisco or Colleen. I lost these co-workers while working with them or after and each loss was a bad one. They left behind families that loved them and patients that they touched. They worked hard (Cisco got electrocuted trying to keep a patient safe) and had a lot of love for their patients.

I’m retired from this line of work- thanks to my RA diagnosis. My rheumatologist would go ballistic. I am left with so many memories and friends. That’s what work and life are all about.

All pics are my personal pics except for one pin on my Pinterest board. Pinterest

A Fun Twist in Parenting: Annoying Your Child

Our kids do a lot of things to annoy us, even if we don’t want to admit it. They invade our space in the bathroom. They wear our bras on their heads, ask us the wildest things ever in public and delight in the looks we get from others, and my personal favorite: wait until the night before a major project is due to even start it.

Ugh. I cannot be the only mom out there with these thoughts.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. I’ve spent nights sleeping in very uncomfortable hospital chairs with Cameron after an SVT episode. I cried for two days after Lily’s First Steps eval. I held Julian down for staples in his head after playing on a trampoline with Cameron and friends went terribly bad.

However, these kids annoy me. A lot.

Recently, I had the flu, along with both boys. If you follow my social media you may have laughed at the posts about this. They lay in bed, chugging Gatorade while I had a horrible fever, barely held down Sprite and almost coughed up my left lung. Once they felt better, they were back to bouncing around on my bed, making up for lost time.

Sometimes Parents Need a Little Fun

Parenting can be tiring. It can wear our minds down a bit and we just want to have a little fun with our kids.

This is where annoying our kids come in. This does not consist of any kind of bullying, because that’s not my thing at all. Let’s knock that out. I’m talking wholesome fun where everyone laughs.

How does this work?

  • Know your kid. This is probably one of my favorite phrases ever in parenting, but it can be used in almost any situation. In this case, know what makes your kid laugh and what doesn’t. What’s funny to one kid might not be funny to another.
  • Know your kid’s limits. This kind of goes along with the first, because everyone has different limits, even kids. Be respectful and don’t go past those limits.

The Best Ways to Annoy Your Kids

This is the fun part, especially if your kids are about 10 and up.

  • Sing and/or dance along with your favorite songs in the car. Bonus points if you do this with their favorite songs. I rap along with Cardi B. I love Cardi. This is much to my kids’ dismay, but I have a lot of fun with it, mainly because I know they hate it. “MOM! STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!”
  • Try to hug them in public. Don’t go overboard with this one, but just a little attempt will go a long way. It will be plenty. “Ew. Mom, no.
  • Lurk while they’re at the mall. Stay a short distance away, just enough for them to be like, “MOM, GO AWAY”. Then go away.
  • Show them baby pics and tell them how cute they were. I have a picture of Julian and Lily when they were about 2 and 3. Julian might have just turned 4 (his arm was in a cast). They were playing dress-up and it’s one of my favorite pictures. Me: Aww, look at you guys, you were actually being nice to each other. Julian: Mommmmm, no, ew, I was a baby.
  • Wake them up. The quickest way to annoy a child. Or is it just mine?

I am all about having fun with my kids- I try to squeeze it in when I can. They only get one childhood, right?

How do you annoy your kids? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Survival of the Fittest: Parenting Through Puberty

I live in the middle of smelly socks, messy rooms, and so much pettiness that I’m contemplating creating a YouTube channel for the shenanigans that go on at my house daily. There are Gatorade bottles all over my boys’ room and Lily’s room still looks like an episode of “Hoarders”. It most likely will until she moves out, but I haven’t quite accepted this yet.

Teens on waterslide

The Yucky List

This is one of many things Matthew and I did not think out when we had kids- we seem to be getting through this unscathed, for the most part. There have been a few rough moments with Cameron, the most easy-going of the three. He gets mad, yells, might even cry a bit, but then he’s done and that’s it. He will be 14 in a few weeks- I’m still stuck on him turning 4.

The other two? Julian and Lily both have issues with emotional regulation thanks to their diagnoses (Lily’s is still unknown, we are waiting for results as this is being written) so that plus puberty, in which hormones are everywhere, this can get messy.

All three kids, however, eat everything we bring into the house and right now, the boys have some form of man colds and think they are dying so, yes, I’d say puberty is kicking right in. If you read my other post To Puberty and Beyond you may be able to get a sense of how things have progressed. (Spoiler: Cameron still takes naps.)

Upset teens

The Middle School Battlefield

Middle school can be rough. I’ve been lucky in this area, the boys haven’t had many issues, but Lily will be there next year and I worry my luck may run out. Girls can be cruel- picking on other girls about their weight, looks, interests, issues with boys, and so on.

Sometimes things are great with your daughter and her friends then POOF! She’s entirely left out of the group- no more sleepovers, hangouts, everything is gone. This can happen to boys, but it’s more common with girls because they tend to form closer relationships.

How can you help your child?

  • Validate their feelings. They need to know that what they feel is real, that you understand, and that it’s okay to be upset about what’s going on.
  • Listen. It may be hard to not instantly fix the problem for your child, but it may be better to let them talk, cry, or both.
  • Empower your child. Give him/her ideas on how to deal with the situation, like staying away from the person/people who is/are bothering them, eliminating them on social media, staying calm, ignoring, etc.
  • Look for signs of worsening issues. Kids can cover things up well and when depression, anxiety and other emotional issues are hidden, it can lead to more serious things, like substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicide. This has become a major issue in our country.

Speaking Of Hormones…

It’s a well-known fact that girls go through a lot during these years, hormonally, but what about boys? I think they might get ignored a bit. I don’t have brothers, so I didn’t get a day-to-day look at how boys operated when I was younger. I’ve got two older sisters. They have hormonal things going on, too. It just shows a bit differently.

Boys get upset, just like girls do. They cry. They yell, and might even slam a door. I’m not sure how my kids’ bedroom doors are still on their hinges. They get a bit spacey.

Me: “Cameron, restart the towels in the dryer, please and thanks.”

*fifteen minutes later, after he has made a sandwich and is sitting at the table*

Me: “Dude. The towels.”

Cameron: “Oh, crap. Sorry, Mom.” *runs to the basement*

This leads me to:

  • Make requests clear. If you need a teen to do something, you might want to revert back a few years and be clear in your directions. Remember when your kid was seven and still needed reminders on what they needed to do to clean their room? That. That’s what they need. Slightly exhausting, but otherwise those towels aren’t getting done.
  • Laugh. This should be a tip from day one until your kid moves out, but it’s definitely needed at this point in parenting. Your kid will do a lot of funny things- most of it on purpose. My house is full of laughs. There’s a lot of fart jokes, a few prank calls from their grandmother’s cell phones, and other weird things.
  • Encourage them. These are some hard years. School is long and sometimes “boring”, you’re trying to figure out who you are, make friends and just want to fit in. Plus your parents still want to know everything about your life? Ew. Your face and body are changing- maybe not in ways you like. YUCK to all of this. The best thing we can do is encourage our kids. Let them know things do get better. They do get easier, those pimples go away, they will get taller. Help them find something they enjoy. This can boost their self-esteem a bit.
  • Be straight-forward. Thanks to my battles with drinking, this has been an important theme with my kids. There are some details they really don’t need to know, but I’m fairly certain they understand the perils of drinking and using other substances. Matthew and I are straight-forward about most other topics because there really isn’t a point in sugar-coating things for the kids at their ages.

Elephant fight

Caution: Bad Attitudes Ahead

Lily is the Queen of Eyerolls at ten years old. She still has about two months before her 11th birthday. She rolls her eyes at almost anything she doesn’t like- food, being told no, having to clean her room, leaving her cousin Cheyenne’s house (they have been besties since birth)- the list goes on for a while.

Sometimes Matthew and I are the best people on the planet, sometimes we are just..ugh.

It’s hard to not take this personally, and I have to remind myself that Lily doesn’t really hate us. Julian really doesn’t want to live with either of his grandmothers (preferably Matthew’s mom because she has better WiFi and she lets them do basically whatever they want) and Cameron really isn’t going to stay in bed forever because he’s mad.

What do you do when your kid throws attitude at you?

  • Think of how you are reacting to the situation. Check your feelings- are you frustrated, angry or even super tired? These can affect how you deal with the situation. Take a break if you need to and come back to the discussion later.
  • Are you part of the problem or the solution? Are you helping your child through the issue or are you making it worse?
  • Is there a deeper issue that I am not seeing? When a teen is upset about something, it can come out in many ways. We may not be able to see the deeper issue unless we poke around a little but it is well worth the work. He or she might be showing one emotion but holding in an entirely different one.
  • Remind them of what behavior is and isn’t acceptable. Your child may need a reminder of this depending on their behavior and/or language towards you. It is acceptable to be angry, upset, etc, but not acceptable to be flat out disrespectful.

I hope I can get through these years and not need to eat humongous amounts of cheese cubes. Do you have tips to share for raising teens? I would love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments, social media or email (use my contact form).

Pictures courtesy of Unsplash

Information courtesy of Inspiring Life Dreams

Phase 2 Parenting

Thriving on Ordinary

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Humor? Yes, Please

A little comedy is always nice and I love memes. Have a good laugh!

I say all the curse words but the f-word is my fave. Matthew says I need to cut back but…nah.

Me in a job interview… I’m looking at part time positions and interviews are the worst. Hopefully nobody looks at my Twitter.

I’m very wary of people so this is me… that bird’s eye just gets me.

My sons. Anyone else’s kids? As soon as you leave the room, it’s on.

The joys of being all alone.

http://www.create-with-joy.com/2018/10/friendship-friday-blog-hop-348.html