Thursday, December 25, 2014

That Most Wonderful Time of Year

The last few weeks have been a blur. This has been my busy season at work and at times seems like one long day.  I had been taking the dog to daycare until two weeks ago when he suddenly came down with a stomach / bacterial infection. There was a $700 Sunday morning trip to the Med Vet ER followed by a week of antibiotics and having to take Sumter to my work to prevent him from infecting other dogs.

Best Behavior

I'm not sure if it was because my contact with Colin was minimal, or that he was aware of how much stress I was under between taking care of the puppy and being busy at work or simply that my son was just in a better mood but the hateful messages of puppy wanting to kill us or telling me to go kill myself was at a minimum and barely noticeable.

Saturday, I took Colin and his middle-brother to a JV swim meet. Colin continues to shave seconds off of his times. I had a chance to observe from a distance. He seems to get along with his team and is enthusiastic when cheering other swimmers on.

After the meet I mentioned taking Sumter to the dog park and was pleasantly surprised that Colin said that he wanted to come with us. Even more impressive was my son mentioning that he would like some ties for Christmas. He has a few but wanted more for school.

I was encouraged that he seemed interested in putting up the tree and asked his middle-brother what we did last year. My 16 year-old had a fuzzy memory and could not quite remember.

I'd like to forget how hollow the past year's holidays seemed with all the stress and drama of our estrangement.

Christmas Day

Today was miraculously normal.We waited until everyone was awake to open presents. Colin's big gift was a new smart phone, companion tablet, and accessories.  He also received several ties, and some dress clothes of which he seemed grateful for. There was Christmas cash from family and a trivia game for a future family game night.

Colin took several pictures of Sumter with his new dog toys before settling in to play with his new technology.

Later we all watched a Christmas special ( How Murray Saved Christmas) and then celebrated eldest's 18th birthday with some ice cream cake.

As bedtime nears and I reflect on the day, I am filled with gratitude. I am grateful that we have achieved a peaceful, normal day. This was something I've dreamed of for a year now and the very best gift I received today.

I don't know what the future holds but I will savor today.

We continue to be a work-in-progress!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Brotherly Love

 Swim season is now in full swing. The boys are on a rigorous schedule that involves nine practices a week, included three that start at 6:15 a.m. I try to do my part by taking Sumter down to Colin's room to wake him up. My eldest will prod and hustle his brothers along to make sure they get to practice on time.

A few weeks ago (November 17)  I found this note in Colin's room right after the boys left for practice.
"Colin - Pack Lunch, Bag, Backpack, and clothes or -receive punishment from older brothers"

 Sometimes I wonder who the parent is. Makes my job easier.I don't know what we would do without our older boys.



Post to Parent Group - November 29

I recently found out something that is helping my son at school. He goes to an all-boys high school and is a freshman. We had a couple of "hiccups" in the beginning of the school year and were able to get some assistance from the guidance office. My husband had asked what it would take to be able to have extra time on tests and was told that all it would take is a doctor's note.
We are aware of several ADHD boys that are able to do this. My husband got a note from our pediatrician and submitted it to the school on the off-chance the note might come in handy. We are unable to have meaningful conversations with our son so we left it up to the guidance office to work with our son.
I noticed an uptick in grades and our son currently has a 4.0 for this grading period. I chalked it up to figuring out the system and better study habits. While I am sure this is part of it, due to a chance conversation with a teacher (my eldest's History teacher) we learned that my freshman-son was observed coming late to band practice. We asked my eldest about this and found out that our son has been taking advantage of extended-time tests.
I wish I was able to speak with my "miso"-son to get better information. We feel so fortunate to have such a supportive school.

Catching Up

It has been a few weeks since my last post. I've been swamped at work and struggle to find the time to blog. Just a few more weeks until my busy season will be over.

Overall Colin is doing much better than I could have hoped for a year ago. He seems to be engaged and doing well in school. However, I have seen more frequent "hate messages" of either "Go kill yourself" or how the dog wants to kill us. He even added a new one, "You're gonna die alone."

I've asked my older boys about this. No one knows what goes on in Colin's head. My middle-son thinks that all the swim practices might be tiring his brother out and causing a bit more stress. My eldest son thinks he may be partly to blame for pushing his brother around to get to school on time and to tow-the-line. I have been responding more often than I did in the past to his disses. Perhaps the combination of all of this has helped escalate the situation a bit. I've gone back to avoiding my son and ignoring his disrespectful comments.

I have noticed that when I whip out my cell phone to record bad behavior, it suddenly stops. Colin also is careful not to let his eldest brother witness any of his hateful messages. He knows that his brother will give him a smack. I am faced with either disciplining my child and instilling fear or ignoring him unless he speaks respectfully. For now, I am choosing the non-violent, non-confrontational way as long as he is not disruptive to the family. Colin is 1000% better that he was before he left our home last year.

We had a successful  Thanksgiving dinner with family. Colin has been willing and able to visit and interact with his aunts, uncles and cousins, although it takes him a bit to warm up. Tonight he skipped a family dinner due to a busy weekend and a ton of unfinished homework He politely declined and was able to stay home alone with his dog. We are glad that he is making a great effort in school.

For now I will be content as long as we continue to make progress, no matter how slowly.

We are a work-in-progress!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Finding Humanity

Another week has flown by. Swim season has started for the boys and so has the grueling workouts. Three days a week, the boys need to be at school by 6:15 in the morning for weight training and swim practice.They also have practice weekdays after school and on Saturday mornings. Colin is the youngest and smallest boy on the team. As with cross country, he has his work cut out for him. It appears that Colin is determined to get in shape.

Friday night, I stayed home with Colin and my middle-son while my husband attended a dinner with my eldest for the seniors on the cross-country team. I asked the two boys what they wanted for dinner. Middle son was just getting over a minor fever and was not hungry. Colin had a plate with peanut butter and crackers and a protein drink at his place at the dinner table. He asked that I buy more protein bars. Apparently he is trying to build up his puny muscles and is trying to load up on foods that will help.

I was tired after a long day at work and heated up some left-overs. I fed the puppy and enjoyed some quiet time while the boys retreated to their rooms.

Saturday Game Night

Saturday morning, I went to work early, eldest went to swim practice while the younger two boys had a quiz team tournament across town. Dad drove and dropped them off and went back home. The tournament was being held at a high school that was not far from where my sister and her family live. I came along with hubs to pick the boys up at 4:30. We brought Sumter along and went to visit my sister and her family.

My sister and I picked up some pizzas while the boys hung out and the dogs played. After dinner, Colin suggested we play a game called "Cards Against Humanity". This is an adult game similar to "Apples to Apples" but a bit off-color.

Five of us played; my sister, her son, me and my two boys (eldest had to work and was not with us). We had a great time and I can't remember the last time I was able to laugh so hard with my boys. Colin was in a great mood, especially when he and his brother tied for 1st place.

Shortly after the game was over, we decided to go back home. I was so happy to be able to have enjoyed a "normal" evening. Of course there were the usual messages about puppy going to kill us but only a few soft-spoken ones with no witnesses other than my husband and I. We were more focused on the fact that our son is not only able to be in the same room as us but had wanted to play a family game. This was the first time in well-over a year.

Lazy Sunday

Today, Colin has been keeping mainly to himself. At one point he was looking for his modeling clay and seemed agitated that he was unable to find it. He came up from his room to ask demand I tell him where I put it away. I don't recall moving his clay and neither did my husband.

Colin had seen his cousin working on claymation last night which sparked his interest to return to a project he put aside for several months. I tried to help look but was banished from his presence. I was more than happy to take my leave. Colin is no fun to be around when he is in a mood and I am avoiding him the rest of the evening.

Fortunately I think Colin found enough material to work with and is holed up in his room. He'll come out when he gets hungry and is able to fend for himself. It is important to give our son his space. This also gives me an opportunity for the quiet time I need. I am able to catch up some of my to-do list before bed.

As always, we are a work-in-progress!


Saturday, November 8, 2014

New Normal - Jekyll & Hyde

It's been almost two weeks since my last report on Colin. No major events to report. We have settled into a New Normal with a few tiny bits of progress. Last night being the most encouraging event of the week.

 About Last Night

Last evening, I came home as usual with Sumter bounding into the house to greet his boy. Colin started his usual routine of "Kill Her" which I ignored. I fed the pup and took him outside to potty. When we were back inside, Colin was in his usual spot on the family room floor, in front of his laptop watching one of his gaming videos. He continued with his antics of "Kill Yourself", " Vicious puppy is going to attack" and a few growls thrown in for good measure.

When my son was not looking, I pulled out my cell phone to see if I could get a video of this behavior. A warning shot was fired in the form of the "click" of a photograph. I quickly switched to video mode. Colin looked up and snapped "Stop! What are you doing?"  "You better not post this online." It is amazing how the kid can go from acting like he's demonically possessed to behaving like a normal, reasonable child.At that point he quit his antics and started acting "normal".

A short while later while I was in the kitchen, Colin came over and laid on the floor for Sumter to jump on him and attack with kisses. He started up again with his messages of "Kill". This time there was an animatronic quality as he lay on the floor, jerking his head between puppy kisses, to punctuate his hateful communication.

I laughed and asked, "What are you? A robot?" as I mimicked his jerking head and spewed back the same messages.

To my surprise, Colin laughed. He responded to my observation that he looked like an atromiton by telling me about a video game "Five Nights at Freddy's". He asked if I wanted to see it. I said "Sure" as I pulled a face "Should I be afraid?"

He took his laptop back down to his room to run the video on his flat screen t.v.. I came down, turned off the lights for better viewing. For a brief time, I felt a connection to my son. One that has eluded me for the past 18 months. My son explained the video demo of the game (as played by one of his favorite gamers). There was a character in the game that had the same name as me. I had a good laugh at my grotesque-looking animatronic namesake.

After a short time, I took my leave so as to not overstay my welcome. I will savor this event as a small victory.

Doggie Daycare

As I started to enter my busy time of year at work, I had been finding that having Sumter weekdays at my work was starting to become more and more stressful. Something had to give. I found a Doggie Daycare that came highly recommended. Sumter has been going there for the past week and a half. This has been a godsend for everyone. The work day is much less stressful, Sumter gets to play all day with other dogs and he is calmer at night after depleting much of his puppy energy during the day.  A win-win for all!

Getting Wired

Right after my last blog post, I hit my limit during one of Colin's hate-filled diatribes. He was in his usual spot on the family room floor parked in front of his laptop. "Why don't you go to your room?!!" I snapped. He replied that he didn't have internet hookup in his room. After confirming this with Dad, I asked how long it would take. Hubs said it would take a few hours and proceeded to complete wiring the connection the next day.

Now Colin is not dependent on using a common space room for internet hookup. I am a bit surprised that he will still frequently continue using the family room connection. I'll take that as progress that he doesn't want to spend all his time at home in a windowless, basement room.

Other Observations

Many parents in my online support group have moments of grief over being a main trigger for their children that leaves them limited in their ability to interact with them. I'm not sure why but I don't have the same sadness. Some of this lack of despair can be explained by the difference in Colin's sound sensitivities from most misophoniacs. As far as I know, the typical man-made misophonic-trigger sounds of eating, breathing, sniffing and coughing have never been an issue for our kid. I don't think that my husband and I are triggers. I believe that we are subjected to disrespect due to misplaced anger over the past year. While in hind-sight we may have done things a bit differently, I don't feel guilty over the actions we took to try to help our son.

 I have been feeling a bit detached from Colin as he is a bit of a stranger to me. I have no idea what goes on in my son's head. I often feel like a dispassionate observer, cautiously monitoring behavior, like a scientist in a lab.This is not the same loving momma's boy from two years ago.

Since our son's successful re-entry back home, I have been slowly recovering from the past gut-wrenching, emotionally-raw year of Colin's breakdown and his time away. We are doing so much better than I had hoped for but it will take time to reconcile. I don't mourn the loss of my little boy but instead try to be grateful daily for the progress we are making.We've seen the dark side and know that our situation could be so much worse.

I am keeping a watchful eye for any behavior that would indicate backsliding. There have been no days without hateful messages but we are having more periods of normal conversation. I am not seeing any outward signs of reactions to known triggers but I have noticed a vocal tic. The past several weeks, when the house is relatively silent, I have picked up on a sound that Colin makes. It is a low, guttural, swallowing sound; a bit like that of a bullfrog. This usually happens during the tense early morning hour at breakfast or when at night when I am alone with him in an awkwardly quiet room. Coping mechanism, nervous tic or my imagination? Perhaps one day I'll have an answer.

As always, we are a work in progress!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Important Research that Needs Our Support

Early in our wild ride, I remember asking our psychologist why "Misophonia" is under the umbrella of Audiology. I was confused why this was not considered a Neurological issue. I couldn't understand why the medical community was not involved in helping to find answers.

He explained that the magic key comes down to money. Research can not happen without funding. Several months ago, I stumbled upon a study that I found exciting. New technologies are able to see much more detail of our brains. There is evidence of a biological basis for Sensory Processing Disorders of which I believe "Misophonia" to be part of. 

I reached out to Dr. Marco, a neurologist who is heading this study. I was excited to see a Neurologist doing the type of research that can help children like Colin. I asked to be kept in the loop when the crowd-funding campaign kicked off to provide funding for ongoing research.

Last night I received an email from her:

“I am afraid for my grandson because he will be considered a behavior problem instead of a child who "feels" the world differently.”—Grandma Nancy 
Dear Bonnie,
After the publication of our brain imaging study showing clearly different brain connectivity for children with sensory processing differences (SPD), we began receiving an outpouring of support from families and friends of children and adults with sensory differences. The words of encouragement were moving and invigorating for our entire team who is working to understand the genetics, brain connectivity, cognitive and behavioral challenges, and most especially treatment for our affected kids. After hundreds of emails and over 50,000 hits to the UCSF article describing our first publication, we realized it was time to reach out and see if we could find grass roots financial support for our work. The research is expensive and as you know, the medical and funding community is just beginning to embrace the need for research in this field.

So, as October is national Sensory Awareness Month, we are kicking off a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for UCSF’s sensory processing research program.

I desperately need your help in spreading the word. If everyone who read the first article gave $25 dollars, we would have enough resources to forever change the way we care for children with sensory differences.  Here is the link to the crowdfunding site: 

I hope that together, we can raise the money to make a difference.

Yours truly,

Elysa Marco, MD
University of California, San Francisco
Associate Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry and Pediatrics

For less than 1 cent per day ($25 donation) you can help promote the type of research that I believe is key to unlocking the mysteries of "Misophonia". Please consider supporting this project as well as sharing this link.

Help UC San Francisco raise $50,000 for the project: Kids with Sensory Processing Disorders Need You.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Relatively Good Weekend / Making Progress

Friday afternoon the sun was shining and I was able to get home from work at a decent hour. I had not been to the dog park during the week due to rainy weather and being busy. I quickly unloaded the car, grabbed a quick snack and announced that Sumter and I would be going to the park.

Colin initially greeted me by telling Sumter to "Kill her" and a short time afterwards asked nicely if I could be home by 7:00 p.m. to give him a ride to his school's football game. I said "Sure!....if you can go the rest of the night without telling the dog to kill me".

My son responded with a soft-spoken "No. Go kill yourself."

"O.K...suit yourself." I replied on my way out the door.

Due to all the rain during the week, there was a large mud pit at the park. Needless to say, Sumter had a great time and ended up caked in mud. Upon our return home, I immediately got to work giving the pup a sponge-bath in the 1st floor bathroom.

Colin knocked on the door and asked if I needed help. I took him up on his offer. When it came time to leave for the game, Dad decided to drive. We both felt that Colin was being conciliatory and may have been trying to make up for his earlier bad behavior. We also are glad that our son seems to be at ease going by himself and has classmates he sits and socializes with at the football games.

Saturday Errands

Saturday afternoon I decided to run errands. I mentioned that I was going to Sam's Club and thinking of taking Sumter along for a ride. It was a cool day and it was o.k. to leave the pup alone for short periods of time. Colin decided to come with me and seemed a bit more agreeable than usual.

I was still subjected to a couple of "Kill her"s and "Go kill yourself" which almost seem to roll off my son's tongue without much thought or malice. We made two more stops after Sam's Club. We went to the music store as Colin told me he needed slide grease for his trombone. We then went to the pet store to buy some treats for Sumter. After our pet store excursion, I could see Colin's patience wearing thin so we headed back home.

Saturday Night Out with Family

My brother and sister-in-law were in town to visit with their daughter for parent's weekend. My niece is a freshman at the local state college.  We made a plan to meet up for dinner. Colin asked if Sumter could come along. We told him that this would not be possible. I was delighted that our son decided to come anyway. Eldest son got home from work just in time to come with us but our middle-son had plans with friends and we dropped him off on the way to our destination.

The only tense part of the evening was when we were in route to the restaurant. We drove past the Children's Hospital where Colin spent the first couple of nights after his "visit" to the psychiatrist. I felt my chest tighten and held my breath for the section of road that the institution was visible. My memories of our time there are not happy and filled me with stress. I silently wondered if Colin had noticed and if he had any reaction. If so, he kept it under wraps.

We arrived at the eatery the same time as my brother, sister-in-law and niece. Dinner turned out to be a nice excursion and another fairly normal family outing for which I am very grateful.

Sunday House Hunt

Going down our check list, we came to another huge task. We need to make a decision on whether or not to build a new home. We have a lovely plot of land that we have owned for roughly 16 years. We held off building due to some financial uncertainties.

We are feeling more secure but time is not our friend. Our eldest will be starting college next year and Colin will only have three more years of high school. Our middle son is enthusiastic about building a new home and is anxious to get moving. I think he wants to have a nice home for his senior year of school and is looking ahead to his graduation party. We would like a place that is comfortable for Colin and Sumter.

I decided to test the waters and told Colin that we were going out to Aunt "P"'s to visit and look at some nearby model homes. He was up for a visit but a bit on the fence about looking at houses. I explained that we need the boys (Colin and his 16 year old brother) to have some input as we want them to be happy and need their opinions.

At first Colin said that he didn't care, all he needed was his own space and if he was able to live in a basement room with bugs he'd be o.k. in a new home. When we got to my sister's house, we were able to convince him to come along as we brought the dog and Aunt "P" with us. We were able to walk through four model homes before the boys were ready to call it quits.

We are getting a better idea of what our boys like and it is interesting to see Colin's wheels turning. He seems concerned about costs and budgets. There was one home the boys really like but a bit over-budget and bigger than what we needed. Colin thought about it and said he's be willing to give up the loft space if we needed to make cuts. I asked if he would want an upstairs bedroom and he gave me a squinty-eyed look of consternation.

"I'll be in the basement!" he huffed.

Later at home, Colin talked more about the new house. He asked several questions and is concerned that the process will take a year or two. I am encouraged that our son seems engaged in the process. This weekend we've had the most dialog with Colin since he's been back.

Optimistic Observations

Before our difficult journey with Misophonia started last summer, Colin would tell me non-stop that he loved me. This got to be a bit excessive and was annoying to my husband and other boys. I was a bit concerned at the repetitive nature, almost like a tic. As we started to go downhill with triggers and reactions, I often wondered if he was trying to convince himself of his love.

Now we are experiencing a similar phenomenon with the messages of hate. "Go kill yourself" or "Kill her now." have replaced " I love you" or "How are you doing?". Could this be a coping mechanism? Is he trying to maintain his angry, unforgiving stance toward the past year? While these hateful statements are quite prolific, we are starting to see our son open up more and have more civil conversations with us.

We are trying to tread lightly and not push too hard.

As always, we are a work-in-progress.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Miso Mysteries

Last night as I watched Colin turn on the family room ceiling fan before settling down in front of his laptop, I had to do a double-take to make sure my eyes did not deceive me. This can't be so. I watched the spinning blades as they sped up indicating the fan was turned ON not off like I expected. Last year he was not able to be in a room with an active fan and would constantly turn them off. This is the first time I witnessed him turning one on.

It is a real mystery as to what of my son's former triggers still bother him. I'd love to know how he is coping.
I can tell when he is agitated or in a bad mood. The "Shut-Up" s, "Go Kill Yourself"s and telling the dog to kill me are quite prolific. I wonder if he channels his rage into hate toward my husband and I. He has told his brother that he will never forgive us for his stay at the Psych Hospital and all he was put through the past year. My goal of Colin taking "ownership" of his issues will not be happening anytime soon. He is a smart boy and my guess is that while he may have overcome some of his triggers, he knows better than to show any reaction for fear of a repeat of last year.

The good news is that he is coping much better than we could have dreamed.

One Mystery Solved

I had noticed that lately Colin had been spending a lot of time upstairs in the family room instead of his room in the basement. He even has been falling asleep on the family room couch. I had thought that this was progress; that he wanted to spend more time among the family. I even dared to hope that he wanted to be around his parents. My husband thought that perhaps now that the heat is on due to the cool Fall weather, his insulated room can get pretty warm. There also was the theory that the internet connection is better upstairs.

My middle son debunked those theories. Apparently we have some giant Ninja centipedes that disappear as quickly as they appear. Colin had an encounter with one in his room that disappeared behind his dresser, never to be found. My middle-son told me he had one crawl over his foot while in the "gaming section" of the basement. When asked how big these creepy-crawlers were, he held out his hands, a foot apart.

While this was an exaggeration and the bugs were more like 3 - 6 inches, the "creep-out" factor remains firmly planted. This is why Colin has been hanging out in a common area amongst the family.

I may have found a new therapy! Using insects to keep Misophonia in check.


As always...

We are a work-in-progress!!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Almost Normal

To some people, normal is boring, like it's a bad thing but in my world, I think boring is good. This past weekend was as good as it gets.

For most of the week, I've been ignoring Colin due to his constant "Kill Her" mode with the dog. I've been struggling how to deal with his Jeckyll and Hyde behavior. One minute he is sending messages that the dog wants to kill me and the next he will ask a question in a normal manner of speaking. I mentioned on Monday that I would answer his question (something pertaining to "The Voice" that was on the t.v. at the time) but after that I was not going to talk to him as long as he continued to use the dog to send hateful messages. I find it irritating that I am the one who is responsible for the majority of Sumter's care, only to be told the dog hates me. I love the pup but he adds a bit of stress to my workdays.

Later in the week, I whipped out my cellphone to record some of Colin's sing-songy killer-dog messages at breakfast. His reaction was quite interesting. He snapped into "normal" mode and asked what I was going to record.

I am beginning to wonder if my phone has magic powers. The bad behavior is only done in private. My son does not want to risk the outside world seeing his disrespect. I was not able to get him "on-camera" with his schtick but had fun trying!

As Good As It Gets

Saturday afternoon Colin and his eldest brother had their final cross-county meet. My eldest achieved his personal best time of his high school career and Colin had his 2nd best time of the year. As usual we brought Sumter along, as he has a calming effect on our son and has become a team mascot. Later that night, Dad picked up some pizzas to celebrate and we had a quiet night at home.

This morning we went to Bob Evan's for Sunday breakfast. I reveled in the "normal-ness" of the outing. When we got  home I decided to push my luck and see if Colin wanted to go to the dog park with Sumter and me. I was a bit surprised that he decided to come along. He brought his camera and seemed to enjoy taking photos and videos of the dogs at play.

Colin spent the rest of the afternoon in the family room, watching videos on his computer, listening through headphones. He has been spending more time upstairs. Some of this may have to do with better internet reception than in the basement but I will take this as a sign of progress.

At dinnertime, Colin fed Sumter and then took him outside to play in the backyard. He raked leaves into a pile for his pup to jump and play in. I am glad he was able to take a break from his laptop and get some fresh air.

Basking in the Mundane

Tonight as I am doing laundry, I decided to post an update to celebrate "Normal". While the messages of "Kill" have not completely gone away, they were kept at a minimum for the weekend. It helps to lay low and avoid contact.

I think I may need to write a book about "Detachment Parenting"...

Right after I publish my "Stress Diet" (I've lost around 20 lbs this past year and am down to my high school weight).

As always....

We are a work-in-progress!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Bit by Bit

Colin seems to be making progress, bit by bit. He seems to have a better handle on school and there has been a slight uptick in his grades. Colin had another PR (personal record) at the cross country meet this past weekend, shaving almost 2 minutes off of his time. He started the season with a 32 minute 5K and he is now down to a more respectable 23min 18 sec. and has moved up from one of the last runners to the middle of the pack. His coach noted that a combination of new shoes, consistently attending practices and that our son is finally listening his coaches seems to be paying off.

 Friday Night Lights

Colin has been attending his school's Friday Night football games regularly. Usually he goes with his 16 year old brother, although they go their separate ways once they are dropped off. This past weekend he went to an away game by himself. Dad dropped Colin off and picked him up when the game was over.  Colin apparently has some boys that he sits with and seems to enjoy these outings. We are impressed at his school spirit and efforts toward socialization. Even Aunt "P" has been impressed!

Kill Her, Kill Her Now!

Colin still shows little or no reaction to former triggers and the only real bad behavior is shown only to my husband and myself. We have limited conversations unless our son needs something or joins a discussion we are having with our other boys.

Just over a year ago, my son would tell me non-stop that he loved me. It was a bit excessive and we were concerned. Now the messages of love are replaced with our son using the dog to communicate such "niceties" as "Kill Her (Him) Now",  "Sumpter wants to kill you and eat you",  "Vicious puppy wants to kill people" and dozens more variations. It almost seems like an automatic Tourettes-like  reaction and we wonder how much is anger and how much might be in response to a trigger. I am sure there is some jealousy over how much time I spend with the dog as his care falls mostly in my lap.

As annoying as this behavior is, all I have to do is remember where we were a year ago and it doesn't seem all that bad.

Permission to move the Fridge

One of the issues we have with the puppy is that he is a notorious counter and table surfer and will steal food every chance he gets. When we eat, he needs to be crated. Sumter's crate is in the spot where our refrigerator used to be.

A few days ago, Colin mentioned to me that we should move the fridge back into the house and put the crate in another room. I was surprised and asked why. He thought if Sumter couldn't see us eat, he wouldn't bark and want to get out of his crate. I didn't answer and shrugged. I'd love to know what sounds still bother our son and how he is able to cope but I know better than to ask him.

There are so many questions I'd love to have answers for but I realize it will take time.

All in good time. As always, we are a work-in-progress!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Finding Balance

It's been a few weeks since my last post. School and the puppy have been keeping us busy. The biggest challenge we face is in finding balance.

The Dog Park

I've been taking the dog to work since right before school started. It has been a bit stressful but is getting easier. The Dog Park is my saving grace and I try to take Sumter daily. Colin only came with us once and is no longer interested in coming with us. The park has become my evening therapy and I have met lots of nice people. One of whom I found out knew about Misophonia!

Post to Parent Group -  September 25

I was at the dog park last night and was talking with one of my new friends. In the course of the conversation, I had mentioned how and why we got a dog for my son. Turns out this gal's sister has Misophonia (recently self-diagnosed). Poor kid's parents don't believe her and treat it like bad behavior. The sister is now out of the house, away at school and does not have a relationship with her folks.
I was so surprised that my friend heard of Miso, I talked her ear off! I recommended the book "Sound Rage" as well as "Hardwiring Happiness". I do sometimes wonder how "rare" this disorder is.
My friend was impressed with the steps we took to help our son and said that he will appreciate this when he is older. I truly believe this and feel the same with the parents in this group. While life is tough right now, our kids will come to realize and hopefully be thankful for all we have done.

 I often wonder how "rare" this disorder really is and believe that "Misophonia" is such a strange disorder that most people are reluctant to talk about it.


School Daze

Colin has been adjusting to school with a few "bumps" along the way. The biggest hurdle was with Honors Algebra II. There are only a few Freshmen in this class and it is taught like a college course. Homework is assigned but not handed in or graded. It is up to the student to keep up. Colin took this as a free pass and was not doing the assigned work. Needless to say, he bombed the first test... And the second. It was "French II all over again!

Both of our older boys went to work on getting their brother to drop down into Algebra II. Colin still seemed reluctant to drop so I put a call into his guidance counselor. Thankfully Colin decided to drop down to the regular class. Just in the nick of time!

My husband went to "Freshman Parent's Informational Night" at the school and had a chance to speak with the principal. The Dean assured him that Colin is in the right place and like a "pig in mud" where school is concerned. He really seems to be thriving. My middle-son concurs and told me that he was surprised how well his baby brother fits in. We are pleased that our son is in the best place possible for his education.

Whose Your Daddy?

We recently went to a picnic for the high school swim team which will start right after Cross Country ends.
All three boys plan to swim this season and attended.True to form, Colin kept his distance from his dad and I.

Each of our boys sat at a table with their classmates. As the program began, it started with the boys introducing themselves and their parents. My senior was brief and used first names only. My junior used our full names. When it was the freshman table, Colin went first. He used his full name and then introduced me as his "mom, Bonnie". When he went to introduce his dad,  he paused.  "And this is my Real Father, ..."

We laughed it off but I was curious what he meant by that. My middle-son found out later that this was a dig at his eldest brother who acts more like his parent than his sibling. Unfortunately, we are dependent on our older boys to help with Colin until we can improve communications.When I get frustrated, I try to remember how far we have come in just a few months. We are in a much better place that I would have expected.

As always..... We are a work-in-progress.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Labor Day Weekend - Time to Reflect

Labor Day Weekend gave me some time to reflect. It's been just over a year ago that I started this blog to chronicle our journey.  This year's Sunflowers help serve as a reminder that we made it through a year. A very challenging year. A year that despite all the drama, we survived and have come through stronger and hopefully wiser.

Colin has made it through the first two weeks of school. He seems to be doing fairly well other than Latin and Religion where he will need to buckle down. I found out through my eldest that Colin made Jazz Band and have had to hide my excitement. Our miso-son faces some challenges in Cross Country where he has picked up a bit of time due to a year of relative inactivity and starting the team late. He has missed a few practices due to a few schedule conflicts (study tables and the "In The Know" quiz team) The first two meets, Colin was one of the last to cross the finish line. At least he finished, and continues to persevere.  After this weekend's meet, Dad took him for new shoes which seems to have helped. He is starting to drop time in practice and should have a better run for this weekend's meet.

There have been no rages to date, although Colin still has a bit of unresolved anger toward my husband and me. We are still subject to "shushes" and "shut-ups" and have minimal interactions with our son. He seems to be fine with his brothers and his communications with them seem fairly normal. Unfortunately we are dependent on our older boys more than we should be where Colin is concerned. Our eldest makes sure Colin has his Cross Country clothing, as well as his school gear before ushering his baby brother into the car. Our middle son also has been coaching his brother on school affairs. We are very lucky to have their support.

Puppy Power

The puppy also has been instrumental in Colin's well-being. Not only does Sumter seem to have a calming effect, he serves as a communication tool. I can talk to the dog when Colin is within earshot to tell him we are going to the Dog Park or Aunt P's. We get a better response than with direct communication which is usually met with a "Shut-Up". On the other hand, Colin uses that dog to let us know he still is angry in numerous ways, through sing-songs and baby talk to his canine. The message is that the dog wants to kill us. Most of the time I try to ignore this. Sometimes I respond with a "Yeah, he's gonna kill me with kisses." or a "Shut-Up" or " If he ever tried that, he'd be put down!".

Last night, Colin brought his puppy into the living room where I was relaxing. He then proceeded to ask Sumter if he could show him how to do laundry. I took that as my cue and piped up, "C'mon  Sumter, are you gonna show us that you know how to do laundry? You are such a smart puppy!" We then proceeded to the basement and Sumter demonstrated (with my help) how to run the washer.


Friday Night Football

Friday night was the first football game of the school year. It was a home game and my middle son made arrangements to go with Colin and meet friends there. When I came home from work that afternoon, the two boys were busy painting t-shirts in the basement to fit the patriotic theme for this game's suggested dress-code.There was also a block party for freshmen with the all-girls' school across the street from their all-boys' school. My 16 year old and his friends figured that by taking their freshmen siblings they could cash-in on the free food. I was more than happy to drive and drop the boys off, even with the last-minute notice.

We had given permission to our middle-son to host an after-party at our house. He made plans to leave the game early and got a ride back home with a friend.  Colin was on his own for a bit. Our miso-son had forgotten to take his cell phone but was able to borrow one of his brother's friend's phones to call for a ride home.

The night was a success! Colin was able to call and have Dad pick him up and the teens all had a fun time at our home.

 Bit by bit, we are seeing signs of progress being made. Sometimes it takes looking back in time to realize how far we have come. We are by no means, anywhere near where we want to be but we are much closer than I could have dreamed of a few months ago.

As always....

We are a work-in-progress!

Friday, August 22, 2014

The "Bro" Code

This morning I happened to see Colin's trombone by the front door and asked my eldest if there were Jazz Band tryouts today. He replied that there might be. I followed up with "Is Colin trying out today?" to which the reply was "You don't need to know".

I stopped my line of questioning and continued to get ready to go to work.

Later this morning my husband called to see how the morning went. He was still in bed when we all went out the door. I told him about the "trombone incident".

Hubs has surmised that our two older boys have been told by their baby brother to not tell us about his activities. My 16 year old had relayed this recently to his dad.

I have noticed my middle son getting testy when I asked how Colin was doing in school. His standard reply has been, "I don't know and I don't care!" I have found this response troubling until put into the context of "The Bro Code" this morning.

I guess I will operate under the "Need to Know" principal and expect that I will be told about school when I need to know.

I'm oddly o.k. with this.

As always.....

We are a Work-In-Progress!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Detachment Parenting

Another week and more progress is being made. All the baby steps seem to be adding up. The key to our success is ignoring our son for most of the day. If Colin needs something, he will ask, otherwise we are best served to avoid eye contact and uninitiated conversation. I call this method of parenting, "Detachment Parenting".


Last Sunday, my eldest took his brother to Freshman Orientation at their High School. The other 9th graders were accompanied by their parents.My eldest, who is a senior,  offered to bring his brother as knows his way around the school and has a much better relationship with Colin than with me and my husband. This worked like a charm.

Colin was not only able to meet his teachers, he decided he wanted to participate in several activities. In the course of an hour or so, he made mention of wanting to join Jazz Band, try Cross Country, Swim Team (for the exercise, and only at school, not the Y team), and maybe even Ultimate Frisbee.
These are all the activities his big brother is in.

During the week, Colin went to Cross Country practice with his brother and has since joined the team. So much for the kid who was not going to do any extra-curricular activities.

Chalk one up for "Detachment" and  letting Big Brother be the parent.

It's All on How You Ask The Question

Friday Night, I had made plans to visit a friend who I haven't seen for a while. My husband needed to go out of town to visit his parents and the older boys were scheduled to work. I thought Colin might want to come along with his puppy as my friend is a photographer who lives on a "farmette" with alpacas.

I called home to see if hubs would ask our son if he'd like to go. This was met with a "STFU". I decided to try my hand at this when I got home.

Instead of asking Colin, I told Sumter that I was taking him to meet another dog to play with. As I was talking with our puppy while my son was within earshot, Colin chimed in. "If my dog is going, then so am I!"

Mission accomplished. We had a nice visit, Sumter had a chance to burn some excess energy, and Colin was able to get off his computer and out of the house for a bit.


Saturday Night Fire Pit

I promised my middle son that he could build a fire pit in our backyard and invite some friends over for a Smores and Game Night at our house. This is how I get our house cleaned up. All three boys pitched in and created a respectable fire circle that even Dad was impressed with!

After chores were done, we went to the grocery store and picked up pizzas, snacks and all the fixin's for Smores. Colin helped with the cleaning and later hung out back for a bit with the teens.

The laughter and social activity was just what the doctor ordered!

Sunday Visit at Aunt "P"s

It had been two weeks since we visited with my sister and her family. They had just gotten back from vacation on Saturday. Colin, Sumter and I went out for a visit on Sunday afternoon. The dogs ran wild and we lounged poolside for a bit. My sister had commented how Colin seemed to be much more relaxed around me and that there was a noticeable improvement made over the last few weeks.

Another point for "Detachment Parenting"!

Quiz Bowl Boot Camp & Shopping for School

Monday and Tuesday, in addition to morning cross country practice with his oldest brother, Colin decided to partake in yet another activity in the evenings with his 16 year old brother. There is a team for "In The Know" which is a competition similar to Jeopardy, only with teams.

I acted as a chauffeur, and pretended to have little interest other than getting the boys to and from. We also were able to stop for school supplies on the way home. I made a point to stay 20 paces behind the boys and let them fill the cart. Unlike past years, price was no object.

Tuesday night we went to Macy's and then Target. Colin needed dress pants and dress shoes for school. Nothing like "just-in-time" shopping. I started with the boys department at Macy's. I instructed my 16 year old that his brother needed to find pants and dress shirts first before we went down to the men's department for a few items my middle-son wanted. I said I'd be waiting at the counter to pay.

This "detachment" thing seems to be working. Colin found two pairs of pants and four dress shirts. We then were able to have just enough time before closing for my 16 year old to find a pair of pants and two polo shirts.

We then went on to Target and Colin found a pair of dress shoes and another pair of pants. I took the boys to Wendy's on the way home.

Once back home, I quietly celebrated and gave my husband a look at our successful trip. No idea of what I spent and neither of us cared. This is priceless!
New School Clothes for Colin

Today was the first day of school, which seems to have gone off without a hitch!

We are a work-in-progress!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Getting Ready for BTS - The Week in Review

Little by little, we are having moments of progress. There are just a few weeks before school starts. I started taking the puppy to work in preparation. Colin continues to go to bed a bit later than we'd like and as a result has been sleeping late. While the older boys have been helping out, hubs suggested that I start getting Sumter used to going to work with me.

It's been a full week now and I have a routine down. I have a large kennel under the front table where the pup spends most of the day. Between potty breaks every couple of hours, lunch and a 1/2 mile walk, and working on some afternoon floor-time by my desk (until he misbehaves), the hours fly by. It is harder to find free-time to blog. I decided to take a few moments before going to bed.


Saturday Visit to Aunt "P"s

Due to Sumter's recent ear surgery (to create scar tissue as a prevention for further hematoma) and having to wear the "cone of shame" for a while, it had been a few weeks without a visit to my sister's house. Puppy got his stitches out Monday of last week and I took the cone off on Friday. Sumter was in need of some playtime with other dogs, as well as a long-overdue bath.

We had a nice visit. Colin and I swam laps with Aunt "P" while Sumter played with his dog-cousin Otis and two of his friends. Afterwards, Colin was able to use the lower level steam shower to bathe his dog after his romp.

My sister and her friend invited us to go with them to see a movie, "Guardians of the Galaxy". Colin was interested in going but I didn't want to push our luck. We had a pup who needed to go home and I did not want to overstay our welcome. Sometimes less is more. We left at dinnertime after a peaceful afternoon by the pool.

When we were close to home, Colin asked if I wanted to go to Subway for dinner. I was not in the mood but since he asked nicely, I offered to stop and let him get a sandwich. I gave my son some cash and stayed in the car with the dog while he went in to purchase his dinner. He came back with his sandwich, handed me the change and we returned home.

I decided to take a moment to soak in the victory of achieving a fairly "normal" day with minimal "shushes".

Annual Doctor's Visit, Tour of School

We also ticked off a few more tasks / milestones this week.

On Monday, Colin and his 16 year old brother had their annual exams at the pediatrician. Colin was due back in March so he was a few months behind. Dad took the boys and much to my relief, the visit was largely uneventful. The doctor was pleasantly surprised at the difference in Colin since his last visit a year ago, when he was dragged in against his will. (exam for referrals due to his sound-induced rages). This time our son was well-behaved, although a bit subdued.

Tuesday was the tour of the all-boys high school that our other boys attend. After the tour, Colin had an interview with the Dean which went well. He was accepted as a Freshman and will need to take a math placement test next week. Records are being sent from the middle school. Things are falling in place, just in time!

Yesterday (Wednesday), Dad and the two older boys left for a 3-day college visit tour, leaving me alone with Colin and Sumter. So far, interaction with my son has been minimal. When I've asked about dinner or other mundane issues, I've been met with shut-ups.  I've decided to enjoy the silence and leave my son to his own devices, knowing that he will ask me if he needs anything. He is fully capable of making his own meals.


For the Dogs

Today (Thursday), I decided to take Sumter to a monthly local event for dogs to get his nails trimmed and to socialize with other dogs. I invited Colin as I thought he might want to bring his camera and take pictures. Instead I was met with a "shut-up" so I left him at home. As I was driving to the dog-event, it dawned on me that Colin might be afraid of running into former classmates which might require an explanation of why he left his school mid-year. I was disappointed that he did not choose to come with us, but I understood why he might not wish to be seen.

Puppy and I had a nice time. I bought Sumter a bow-tie from a booth that Colin and I visited a year ago. The business owners have two Great Danes that Colin took photos of last year during our visit which I had forwarded on. When I reintroduced myself as the owner rang up my sale, she told me that she remembered Colin and have used the photos for their website. She alerted me to a photo contest they are having.

Upon our return home this evening, I sent Sumter down to the basement to show off his new accessory. Colin perked up upon seeing the bow-tie, and seemed interested when I mentioned the contest. It was the first time tonight I was not met with a shut-up!

It is now waaay past my bedtime. We seem to be moving in the right direction. I continue to not look too far into the future but am hopeful as things are falling into place.

As always.... We are a Work-In-Progress!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Another Breakthrough

Post to Parent Support Group July 23

I just got a call at work from my middle-son. In a hushed voice he said "The deed is done!" He was able to speak to Colin about going to the all-boys high school that my older boys attend. The deal is "no extra-curricular activities" and that his 16 year-old brother will take him to Tim Horton's on Fridays.
I find the Tim Horton's part a bit suspect as my 16 year-old is always trying to find ways to go there. I do however owe him a pizza-movie night at our house for his friends this weekend for doing my bidding (we still can't talk to our son for any length of time). ( I'm totally glad to do this). My 17 year old has offered to give a tour of the school soon. 

I think we have a week to confirm everything with the high school as they were kind enough to hold a spot open due to our circumstances. Bit by bit things are coming together and slowly improving.
I will savor this small victory and try not to look too far into the future.

 One of the difficult choices that has to be made is to decide when to get my other boys involved in communicating with Colin. While our situation is soooo much better than expected, my husband and I are not able to have any type of real conversation with our son. When he needs help with his computer, Colin is able to sit with his Dad and have normal interactions as long as it is related to his interest or desire. Most times we are met with a shush or shut-up depending on the mood. There are times when I feel like we have no other option but to ask our other sons to intervene.

Wheelin' and Dealin' 

Time is flying by and before we know it school will be back in session. We needed a decision on where Colin is going to attend High School. He has two choices: the local public High School or the private all-boys school that his brothers attend. E-schooling is not a realistic option as Dad is strongly opposed and we have a child who is not willing to openly and respectfully communicate with his parents.

My middle-son wanted to have a few friends over for a movie night. I seized the opportunity and made a deal. I would throw in pizza and fresh-baked cookies if he would speak to his baby brother and convince him to go to their school. Due to Colin's situation, the private school would give him a fresh start and same-sex education is less distracting. We had been advised by a friend who is a high school teacher that due to the fact Colin skipped a grade and is physically and emotionally immature, the all-boys high school would be the best choice.The private school had been apprised of our situation and has been holding a spot open for Colin. The guidance counselor had even offered to allow our eldest son to give a private tour to his brother. 

After I received the mid-day phone call from my middle-son, I was so happy and relieved that I posted (see above post in blue) to my parent support group. I was able to find out more details of the negotiations later. Colin told his brothers that he does not want anyone to know he is related to them and will not do any extra-curricular activities until they are out of school. Eldest offered to give a tour which will hopefully happen this week.

The Burning Question is Answered

One of the many unanswered questions for me was  "Are my husband and I now triggers?". Colin's triggers were mostly machine-made noises not people-sounds. I had been wondering if the Shushes and Shut-Ups were triggered reactions to us. I now know that this is not likely.

During the negotiations with his brother, he let them know that we all have "ruined my life". His anger and refusal to converse with my husband and I is most-likely due to blaming us for the past year's events. Anger not a neurological issue is the culprit.

Hopefully with time, we will get to a point of reconciliation. 

Until then we have much to do before school starts...... As always, we are a work-in-progress!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Good Company

Yesterday felt more like a Friday than a Monday. My sister-in-law and niece flew in from Chicago for college orientation at Ohio State and stopped by for an evening visit. I volunteered to make dinner and invited my sister and her family (husband and two boys) as well.

I was running a bit later than expected and when I came home from the grocery store, I found that Colin had been busy at work. He had cleaned the kitchen table and already fed and took the dog out to potty. I just had to give Sumter his medication before starting the preparations.

Colin asked about a sponge to clean the outdoor tables. I suggested paper towels. He grabbed a roll and got to work. I was impressed at my son's enthusiasm. This was the boy I remembered from a year ago. I soaked in the scene before I went inside to coerce my middle-son to help. Eldest was at work and would not be home until after 9:00 p.m. and hubs would be home shortly. When my husband finally arrived he also was impressed with Colin cleaning without being told. It was as if this was Colin's dinner party.

A Memorable Evening

I believe a large part of Colin's positive attitude was that he was happy to have his former host family come visit. He also was comfortable with his Chicago Aunt and cousin as they had stayed with Aunt "P" several times over the past year.

We had dinner al fresco. The temperature was perfect for eating outdoors. Colin seemed to enjoy showing off his puppy. He also brought his camera out to show our visitors photos and videos he had taken, mostly of the dogs at Aunt "P"s.

My brother-in-law commented that we don't get the cousins together as often as we should and that this was nice. I heartily agree. We really had an enjoyable evening.

I have no idea what the rest of the week has in store. I am content to savor the memories of last night for as long as I am able.

We are a work-in-progress!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Time Flies

The last two weeks have quickly flown by. Let's file this under "No News is Good News".

The July 4th Holiday weekend was a busy one. Thursday night we left Colin at home to go to a party at a family friend's house. Saturday and Sunday was spent with family that was visiting from out-of-town. Colin had originally said " No Thanks." to a Saturday night family dinner at his paternal Aunt's house but to my surprise ended up going. We made a stop at my sister's house for a quick visit beforehand.

Colin seems a bit more relaxed around me. The only bad behavior in front of others was a "Sshush" directed at me, that was noticed by my sister. She also saw where he seemed to catch himself, perhaps realizing that there was an audience and stopped. This is a remarkable improvement since the month before.

Colin also did well at his other aunt's house. Other than being a bit standoffish at first, which if you did not know better could be considered normal teen behavior, Colin was able to interact normally with his cousins, adult relatives and his dog cousins. As per our agreement, I avoided conversation with my son. As a result, we had a successful family visit.

Settling Into a Routine

It seems like Colin and his puppy, Sumter, have been home for quite a while. It's hard to believe that it has just been one month. We have settled into a routine, albeit not an ideal one. Colin stays up late, and has reported going to bed as late as 5:00 a.m. He takes the night shift with puppy who sleeps in his room. While I am glad not to have to make any midnight - 3:00 a.m. potty-runs, I am concerned about what will happen during the school year.

Colin has been sleeping in as late as 3:00 p.m. My eldest at first would wake Colin up at 12:00 noon to feed the dog. Now eldest has stepped in to feed and help with potty breaks. Sumter is a great team-building tool. For now we are letting Colin sleep late as we know this is so important to his well-being.

Our son is also holding on to his "No Talking" rule for my husband and I, but will sometimes allow some small bits of conversation. I am finding humor on the frequent occasions where he will ask a question or make small talk and then shush me when I respond. I will sometimes respond in kind. I have noticed a smile breakout for a few brief seconds in the middle of s "Shut-Up" match. Neither the match or the grin last for long.

Just long enough to see that we have come a long way.

Mites, Surgery and the Cone of Shame


Sumter has had a couple of minor set-backs. After having to have his hematoma drained twice, we opted for surgery. This entails the vet stitching the ear from front to back to create scar tissue to prevent further pockets of fluid that will eventually harden and misshapen the ears. We also discovered patches of fur-loss around the eyes which was caused by mites called Demonex.

I now have to give four different medications, twice a day, and poor Sumter has to wear "The Cone of Shame". We also now have to wait a few more weeks until he can play with other dogs. I'm not sure how we will handle this.

I am taking things day by day. If I don't look too far ahead, I can breathe a little easier knowing we are doing better that expected a few short weeks ago. I am trying to live in the moment and not ask too many questions.We still don't know what will happen in the fall when it is time to go back to school. Where will Colin go to High School? Can we get on a better schedule? Will we continue to make progress? I am pushing these queries to the back of my mind. It is still Summer and ....

We are still a "work-in-progress"!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Psychology Today Interview

I was interviewed Tuesday afternoon by Wendy Aron, a columnist for Psychology Today. Wendy is a professional writer and humorist that has suffered from Misophonia since the age of 10. Her blog, Sounds Awful, gives a personal perspective of this illness. Wendy also interviews professionals and other "Misophones". I am her first "misophonia parent" dialog.

Wendy and I found much common ground in our views of "Misophonia" , especially aversion to the "Mental Illness" label.

This is a link to the piece that was published yesterday:

As always,

We are a work-in-progress!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Breaking the Rules

After last Monday's bad behavior before the vet appointment, I moved the dog cage upstairs and avoided Colin the next couple of days. I decided to go to the grocery store Thursday and asked Colin if he wanted anything. His demeanor was pleasant and instead of "Shut Up!", he asked if I could pick up some modeling clay. Colin seems to be interested in animation and apparently wants to try his hand with "claymation".

I said "Sure" and then went a step further and asked if he wanted to come along. I got a "No" and the start of a "Shut Up" when I gave him a "Do you want to press your luck?!!!" look and left for the store. I ended up finding modeling clay in the art / school supply isle and picked up two packs.

Upon coming home and giving my son his requested clay, he ended up setting up his studio on the family room glass table. I started to request he move to either the basement or to the linoleum floor in the kitchen but decided to leave well enough alone. Glass can be cleaned and we will be replacing the floor and carpet in the (hopefully) near future. I did try to warn about the puppy getting into his stuff and voiced concern about clay getting in the carpet. I was met with a dismissive attitude and decided to take my leave.

Friday Morning

I came down to take care of the puppy and was not happy to see that all the clay and clay creations were left out on the table. I could also see that some clay had gotten on the carpet. I carefully packed up the clay into a plastic tub and moved the "story boards" up out of the way on the kitchen counter where the pup could not reach them. At "potty-time" I could see from the bright green specs in Sumter's poop that some clay was consumed.

Hubs was working from home and I called home later that morning to check and see if puppy was being taken care of. I found out that Colin was still sleeping at lunchtime so hubby fed Sumter. I have noticed that Colin appears to be staying up late and sleeping in later each day. We will have to try to rectify this issue.

Starting the Weekend Early

My sister's oldest son just got back from college and we wanted to show him our new puppy. I am trying to bring Colin out to her house weekly and called to arrange a time. It was almost 2:00 on a sunny Friday afternoon and I had my UPS packages ready for pickup.  I decided to take the rest of the day off and go out for some pool-time.

I forwarded my work phone to my cell, took my shipment to a business neighbor for UPS pickup and was home by 2:30.

Colin was still in his room. His dad was unable to get him up. I called down that I was home and going to leave shortly for Aunt "P"'s house. He needed to get a move-on if he wanted to go. I started to pack up my things as well as the dog's and my son magically popped upstairs for a shower and to get dressed.

We had a nice visit. My only real concern was that it was impossible to keep Sumter away from Otis, his dog cousin. I felt like a "helicopter mom" constantly warning Colin to keep the dogs from rough play and I was constantly separating Sumter for some "time-outs". I have a feeling I will be in trouble with the vet if we need to get new hematoma drained.

Colin seemed more relaxed than last week. He told me he was up until 5:00 a.m. working on his project. He also mentioned that he needed a haircut. My sister even noted that my son called me "Mom".  The ride home was so pleasant, I decided not to spoil the mood by voicing my concerns about his staying up late and leaving a mess.

Unfortunately when we got back home, my son noticed his stuff was moved. We had a bit of a heated discussion and there went my day without any "Shut Ups".

Saturday Movie Night

My middle son had invited a couple of friends over for a movie night. Colin had agreed to move his stuff out of the family room so Friday's disagreement was short-lived. One of the benefits of having company is that we have motivation to clean.

We are also expecting my husband's family, who will be in town next week, for a visit. Our living room was filled with garbage bags and plastic tubs of clothes and school supplies that Colin came home with. I've been wanting Colin to start going through his stuff so that I know what we can keep and what to give away. Opportunity came in the form of a "want".

Colin asked his Dad for a set of $60 headphones for his computer. Dad said "Yes" if he would first go through his things and sort them for me.

Done & Done! Another victory!

After coming back from the electronics / computer store, and having a quick dinner, Colin spent the rest of the evening in his room.

Too Cool For School

 Another late night meant another late morning.... make that sleeping into the afternoon. I spent the day catching up on chores and leaving Colin alone. When it was time for Puppy School, Colin refused to go. He told his Dad that he knew more than the teacher.

I gave him every opportunity to go and right before I left, I let Colin know I was angry that he broke his agreement. We had a bit of a shut-up match and I told him that he was lucky I was not my sister. Aunt "P" would beat him! (not really but she is pretty scary when she gets mad).

I left with Sumter.

Class went well and I realized that it might be better that I take over training. When I got home, I called my sister to get her opinion and she was not surprised that Colin bailed. When she had a trainer at her house for Otis, Colin did not have an interest in participating in the training session. She didn't think this was a big deal. I've decided to let it go, other than leaving the crate upstairs so that Sumter would sleep in the family room instead of Colin's room for at least one night.

Colin may have felt guilty as he seemed to be in a friendly, chatty mood when I got back from the "Fun"damental Puppy class. My husband thought that our son might be trying to make up for his earlier bad behavior. Colin even agreed to go to bed earlier so that he could take care of Sumter today

Monday  (Today)

I called home around lunchtime to have my 16 year old make sure Colin was up and prepared to feed his pup. I was ready to come home and bring Sumter to my work but fortunately Colin came through.

I phoned home later this afternoon before I left work. I needed to stop at the bank and wanted to see if any of my boys needed anything at the store. I was surprised that Colin answered the phone and was fairly cordial. No one asked for anything so I went to the bank and then back home.

As Colin appeared to be in a decent mood, I asked if he wanted to go for his haircut tonight. He agreed but wanted to go as late as possible, right before closing. He seems to be concerned about running into neighbors or former schoolmates. He does not want to be asked about the past year and explain why he moved away and changed schools mid-year.I was careful not to speak unless absolutely necessary during our excursion.

Another bit of progress was achieved.

It is a delicate daily dance with the unknown. 

Two steps forward, one step back. I am so grateful that last year's rages have been replaced with "Shhhhh!" "Shut Up" and the now becoming rare "I'm gonna kill you" / "I know how to kill you".

The weird part is that we are not certain what triggers our son still has. He shows no visible signs. I've been able to use turn signals, air conditioner, wipers and radio in my car with no reaction. Colin has been outdoors when my husband was mowing the lawn. He has walked into rooms seemingly unaware of ceiling fans. Perhaps this is due to the great lengths we took to make fixes to our home.

I also sense that while Colin may be carefully hiding his aversion of certain sounds, his "shushing", "shut up"s and "I'll kill you"s may be an indication of triggered reactions. As our Psychologist told me, it is hard to know what Colin is thinking, we can only theorize. It is clear the time at Aunt "P"s has been extremely helpful.

It is difficult to know how much of our son's bad behavior is influenced by anger or what behaviors are trigger-induced.

What I do know is that having a puppy to take care of and a quiet room to retreat to has made a HUGE difference. I am encouraged that Colin is interested in computer programs for mapping (Call of Duty),  and in animation. He is also tinkering at the piano trying to compose a song (theme song for a script he is writing?). There is so much I would love to ask him but I know better. I need to be patient. If I am quiet and listen, I do get snippets of information.

Little by little.

All in good time.....

We are a work-in-progress!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Monday Evening Vet Visit

We had a Monday evening vet visit and I made sure to get home from work a little early to leave plenty of time to get there. It was time for his 3rd round of Lepto-Parvo Distemper... shots. We need these shots plus a couple of weeks before Sumter is cleared for being out at dog parks and in public.

Colin was being surly and after a couple of "Shut-ups", I told him that if he is going to speak to me like this, he can stay home. I took my time gathering up the puppy's accoutrement for the car ride and visit to give Colin a chance to come along. When I did not see any evidence my son was ready, I went alone with the pup.

The vet-tech took Sumter to be weighed, and came back announcing he was 17 lbs. (2 lbs more than last visit). She asked if we had another dog at home as it was noticed that he looked a bit "chewed up". I explained about the weekly play-dates at my sister's house.

The vet noticed several hematoma on the inside edges of Sumter's ears and suggested that we have those drained to prevent scarring and deformation. I agreed and could hear my baby yelping as his blood blisters were drained. I was told to keep Sumter away playing with the other dogs for 3 weeks to give his ears a chance to heal. He was then given a nasal vaccine as well as a shot in his rear.

His next appointment was made and then we went home for dinner.

Health Scare

After dinner, I took the puppy out for his "potty break". I started to notice that he was becoming a bit lethargic. Sumter came in and slurped up more water so I knew I'd be back outside in another half-hour.

When I lifted Sumter up over the baby-gate for the next "potty" he yelped in pain. It seemed like his under-side was very tender. He was moving very slowly and would plop to the ground every few minutes. He also was not peeing or pooping as usual.

After a coversation to the on-call vet, I found out that it is not unusual for a dog to have a reaction like this after the shots. If he was not improved by morning, we should bring him in.

Fortunately the next day, Sumter was recovered and back to his hyper-puppy self.

We are a work-in-progress!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Doggie Play Date and 1st Day of Puppy School

I called my sister Saturday to make arrangements for another play-date. It is important to make sure Sumter is socialized and Colin seems to enjoy spending time at the house. Colin and his "dog cousin" Otis seem to have a bond and Colin loves to show off his new puppy.

Sumter is full of energy and loves to play hard with the big dogs. I enjoy hanging out at the resort-like property that is situated on 3 acres of land with a swimming pool and fun friends and neighbors that come to hang out. Colin gets a chance for pool time, video gaming and to catch up on cable-tv as we just have plain-old antenna reception. This is a mini-vacation for all 3 of us. It is also important for Colin to maintain a relationship with his former host-family so that he does not feel abandoned.

In addition to Otis and his bestie, Zoe, there was a visiting puppy, Burley, a 4 month-old golden retriever. The dogs played hard all day and Sumter made a new friend (pictured above bonding at the water station with Burley). 


Sometime during the early afternoon play-cation, the lawn crew showed up and we had the dogs take a temporary time-out. Colin disappeared into the house and ended up in a marathon video game session with his cousin. It is rare for the boys to play together and I was grateful for the interaction.

When it was time for Sumter's dinner, I went up to tell Colin. He was in "Shut-Up" mode and was especially rude to me in front of his cousin. Colin does not usually show his ugly-side in front of others as even told me he was going to kill me. I scolded him for "showing off" in front of his cousin, told him this was not o.k. and left. I then fed the dog and resumed my visit with my sister and her friends.

We stayed for dinner and after a long day, it was time to go home. Colin was uncooperative when told to finish up his game and pack up. I told him I would be leaving in 5 minutes with the puppy, with or without him. I then set about packing up the car. After I packed up, I stopped to visit with my sister and her next-door neighbor who stopped by and Colin came out to the car.

I was ready to take off and Colin started to spew his angry messages toward me. I stopped to take a "moment" and my sister looked up and asked what was going on. I rolled down the window to let her know I was having a "time-out" and would be leaving in a minute. My nephew took the opportunity to have a few "words" with his cousin and stuck his head through the open window.

He used some "choice language" and called my son out. My nephew told my son that if he wanted things to change, HE was the one that needed to change his behavior. When the lecture was over, I silently mouthed the words "Thank You", rolled up the window and drove home in silence.

I called my sister when we got back home. I wanted to make sure she knew that while we don't speak like that in our house, I really appreciated her son stepping in. Colin needs to know that the rest of the world won't put up with his bad behavior. I found out that her son had Colin in tears. I did not want to look back while the confrontation was happening, nor did I allow myself to peer into the rear-view mirror during the ride home. My sister thought that perhaps the lawn crew helped trigger the bad behavior and her friend thought perhaps we overdid the visit and should have left earlier. Hard to say what goes through my son's head and I don't know if given the chance,  I would have done anything differently. This is all part of the process where I use my "mother's intuition" to guide me.

The rest of the evening, I avoided all contact with my son and took a well-needed break, that my "intuition" demanded!

"Fun"damental Training

Sunday evening, Colin and I took Sumter to our first training session. There is only one other dog in our class and the instructor may end up combining our session with the class before us. The extra-attention was good for the first session. It was clear that Sumter has the alpha-dog mentality of his Shar-Pei genes and the exuberance of his labrador heritage. The instructor mentioned the importance of early training and could see that we have a smart puppy.

We worked on sit, down and started to learn heel and getting the dog to come when called. We did not bring enough treats but fortunately the school sells them and I bought a bag. I'm not sure how much of the lesson Colin absorbed. He has a mind of his own and does not listen well. He will be more of a challenge to train than Sumter.

When class was over, I had Colin take Sumter outside and I took a few minutes to explain our situation to the teacher. I wanted to make sure she understood why I was trying to be more in the background and give her context for any possible odd-behavior that might take place. (So far nothing out of the ordinary happened) She thanked me for the background information.

For someone who did not want unnecessary conversation, Colin was fairly verbose on the ride home. He made it clear he did not like the instructor and scoffed at her teaching methods and knowledge. I had to shush him a few times as I did not was to hear this negativity.

This was an interesting weekend, filled with lessons. Definitely a process!

We are a work-in-progress!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Living in Parallel

Colin and the puppy have been settling in and the routine continues. I take care of early morning - 6:00 a.m. feeding and potty duty. Hubs takes Sumter out again at around 8:00 - 8:30 a.m. and Colin is responsible from late morning to early evening. We all pitch in at night. I have been in weekly contact with our psychologist to report progress and to make sure we are on track. As there have been no real surprises this week, and progress will be slow, I made arrangements to call in two weeks or so, unless we have any issues.

One of the challenges is to have minimal conversations with my son and give him a chance to take care of his pup without being "hounded". When I get home from work, I want to know when Sumter was taken out last, if there were any accidents and other pertinent information. This is usually met with a "Sshh" and "No talking."  While we have not had any rages, we have been subjected to a few demon-like growls and a few times we were told, "I know how to kill you". I try not to react much other than shaking my head and smiling, "Really?!" I did mention the other day that he would not be able to live on his own if we were "gone".

Someone has to pay the bills and buy the groceries!

When told by my son that I had agreed that I would not talk to him, I mentioned that we agreed to talk about the dog. Colin countered that this was only to let him know whether we were able to adopt Donie / Sumter. Rather than get into an argument, I retrieved a laminated copy of my "Rules to Coexist" , slapped it down in front of Colin's place at the kitchen table and left the room.

I am realizing that I need to give my self breaks and leave my son alone as much as possible. I need to live in parallel as I have been with my older boys.  Colin will come to me if he has any questions or issues. I also need to relax a bit about the puppy. I worry that Colin is spending too much time on his computer and not as much with his "baby". The worst that will most-likely happen is that Sumter might have an accident indoors or spend more time in his crate than is ideal. I have to keep reminding myself to back-off and give my son a chance to be responsible.

After Sumter gets his next round of shots, I will start taking him for walks around the neighborhood. I found a Puppy Training Class on Sundays and let Colin pick the time. He is still committed to taking his pup to training and having me stay in the background. I am fine with that.

 Me-Time and Gratitude

Yesterday, I took some "Me Time" out of frustration. I took a short nap after dinner and had time to reflect. A few weeks ago, I would not have expected that we would be able to coexist in relative peace with my son. While we are not where we would like to be with Colin, things are not that bad.

I reminded myself that I have much to be grateful for and made sure to soak in the quiet time and be mindful of how far we have come. I will dedicate the rest of the week to making sure I take some alone time for myself and also to practice "mindful gratitude".

There is so much to be thankful for.

We are a work-in-progress.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Reintegration - Week 1

It has been a week since Colin came back home. The puppy is a lot of work and keeps us hopping however Sumter has been a godsend. Our new pup has helped ease the transition and has been a great team-building tool. Taking care of a puppy is as much work as a newborn baby and takes a "village" to raise it.

We have settled into a routine. I am an early riser, so I go down to Colin's room at around 6:15 a.m. and take the puppy out for a quick pee, feed him and then out again for another "potty" which hopefully involves a poop, as well as another pee. After lots of praise and either a walk around the house or a little play, Sumter goes back into his crate, until Colin wakes up to take care of him.

Colin usually covers lunch and dinner, however, hubby will pitch in with an occasional potty run. I fill in as necessary.

Friday night after work, I brought Colin and Sumter out to my sister's house for a visit. I wanted to pick up the rest of my son's belongings and give the pup some playtime with his dog-cousin. It will be a few more weeks until we are cleared to take Sumter to public places. He needs his 3rd round of vaccinations and time for his immunity to kick in.

My sister's dog seemed to miss Colin. Last time her dog appeared to be a bit jealous of the puppy and was a bit "snappish". This time went much better. My sister's friend brought her dog over and we had a dog party! Sumter even went for an "accidental" swim. A good time was had by all.

My sister commented that Colin seemed much happier and more relaxed in my presence than when he left for home. I'd have to agree!


Body Language

The trick to housebreaking a new puppy and reconciling with our son is the ability to look for visual cues in body language. Before coming back home, Colin was clear about "No Talking" to him unless it was of utmost importance ( "Political Emergency", "Going on Vacation for a Week".....). We are trying to leave our son alone as much as possible. I've come to realize we've been doing this with our other teenage boys (16 and 17 year olds) who seem to value their privacy, locked away in their rooms.

During the week, Colin is left alone with his pup for several hours when my husband and I are away at work and the older boys are either at swim practice, ACT/SAT review classes or at their respective jobs. My husband is able to go into work late morning or on some days, work from home so we do have a little data to be able to gauge how our son is handling his "baby". It is clear that Colin loves his dog and seems to be stepping up to the challenge. When our son needs a break, he will crate Sumter to avoid an "accident" and so that he can have computer time.

I have learned to avoid speaking to Colin in the morning and try to let him speak first in the afternoons and evenings. When he asks a question, short answers are best. Any other response is usually met with a "SSShush!!" or a "No Talking!". We have been getting short bursts of conversation from our son if it involves something he needs or is passionate about.

One of the hard parts for us when dealing with our son's sound-processing disorder is discerning the difference between "bad behavior" due to anger and "reaction-induced behavior" due to a trigger. As far as I can tell, the "No Talking" is due to residual anger left over from the past year's unfortunate events.

We have discontinued Colin's weekly therapy sessions that took place at my sister's house, however, I will continue my weekly phone sessions with our Cognitive Behavioral Psychologist. When I spoke to the good doctor a few days ago, he told me we were on the right path. He believes that while our son, may not have needed as long of a "vacation" from us, the stay at my sister's was an integral step. The psychologist feels that we would not have been successful if we brought our son directly home from the Psychiatric Hospital.

I would agree. I also believe that we would not have had the relatively smooth transition in bringing Colin home and back into our lives if not for our rescue dog. As cliche as this might sound, Sumter, our adopted "fur-boy" has rescued us!

I am filled with gratitude and hope.

We are a work-in-progress!