The Day The Letter Came

So if you’ve been here from the beginning for Episode 1-3, first of all, thank you!  If you’ve listened in, you’d probably agree that was definitely a bit of a CRAZY TRAIN!  I thought that once we moved to Turner Valley to our new town and new home, and the fact that I found a new job, things might start to calm down a bit.  I was soooo very wrong.

Remember when I said the Alberta economy was in the tank?!

Yeah, it was not getting any better.  James is a General Manager for an oil and gas services company and I was working for a building supply company.  Both industries rely on the economy being somewhat strong.  So the first couple years in Turner Valley were a time of constant uncertainty.  

Normally, I am someone who likes to decorate our home and make it feel like ours.  This was the first time in my life that I didn’t want to do that.  Not even hang up one picture.  If you look at photos from the first two years, our home is bare except for furniture.  I didn’t want the hassle of taking things down once we got our lay off notices.  

We definitely felt the strains financially as both our wages got cut back, but at least we had our jobs.  What that did mean, was we had to reduce Digna’s hours and wages as well.  Up to this point, she was able to make some good money to fulfill her dream of getting her family over to Canada.  We know that was hard for her as well, but being Digna and the hard worker that she is, she still gave 100% to our family.

Let me give you a glimpse of what having Digna was like.

We could get up in the morning and go to work without getting any kids ready….most mornings they were still in their beds when we left for work.  We would come home and the kids would be fed, bathed and in their pyjamas.  AND….our dinner would be ready.  AND….our house would be clean and tidy.  The ONLY thing Digna didn’t do was James and my laundry, but the rest was done.  It was so absolutely amazing.

A few months after moving our beloved dog Kobe passed away.  Our Haley girl had died about a year and a half earlier quite young and now our first baby was gone as well.  I think him passing was the true start of my depression.  I couldn’t stop crying when I thought about him not being in our lives anymore.  Remember he was our first baby that I felt was my baby because I didn’t think I could have a real child.  He was my guy.  It took a long time to get over that loss.

Avery was not digging living in Turner Valley.  Every single day we heard “let’s move back to Langdon”.  So that was hard to hear as a parent.  We knew she missed her best buddy Kylee so much and as a child that had moved a few times, I know how it feels to miss your friends and everything you know.

Avery has always been a child that needed constant stimulation.  Even as a baby she was always needing me.  I remember phoning my mom one day when she was about 9 months old and crying because I couldn’t even go to the washroom without her crying hysterically and so I asked my Mom how anyone got their other “stuff” done??  It was just not possible it seemed.

So I knew early on that there was something off….but what is it?

2015 we experienced some pretty drastic behaviour parenting our little girl.  For the sake of her privacy I won’t go into all the details but if it can help other parents and kids, there will be times when we share certain stories that may help someone else.  

How I would describe this time is one of extreme behaviour – if she asked to do something and we said no, it wasn’t a little battle, they were epic.  So epic I am certain our whole neighbourhood heard it.  

One time my cousin was visiting and it was almost time to take her to the airport.  Avery was going to come with us but then something happened where she lost the privilege and I had learned by that point it was important to stick to my guns.  So I said I’m sorry, you are not coming.  

And it was ON.

There was extreme screaming, crying, physical attacks, you name it.  James was holding her back while we were trying to leave.  She escaped his grip and came running at the car and was trying to get in.  And the whole time I was crying.  My cousin Jolene is such an amazing person and has been one of my besties since we were kids.  She held my hand on the way to the airport and she let me talk and talk until I finally felt better.  

That was just one of MANY instances that took place.  And I was losing my ever livin’ mind.  This happened between her and James for sure, but not nearly the amount as with me.  We were like oil and water.  

So I made an appointment with our family doctor and her and I went together.  Something had to change.  She referred Avery to a pediatrician but it took a few months to get in.  

Finally in May 2016 Avery had her first appointment with Dr. Ross.  James and I were both there with her and for the first part of the appt he wanted to talk with her in the room.  Then the nurses called her out to watch a movie and that’s when we got to fill him in and absolutely, 1000% I was a blubbering mess….like snot faced mess.  When we were finally leaving and getting Avery in the waiting room I’m sure everyone was thinking holy shit, what the hell happened in there??  

Dr. Ross wanted to see her a couple more times over the next month or so.  And he wanted to get some more feedback from her teachers.  He was also concerned about her brain activity so scheduled her to have a brain scan done at the Children’s Hospital.  It ended up showing that she is susceptible to seizures although she hasn’t had one to this point….knock on wood.

It was around this time that Dr. Ross gave us the diagnosis of ADHD, ODD amongst other things.  I had never heard of these things.  I was so involved in the infertility world that I guess it didn’t register if I did hear it.  It took another couple of appointments to get to the discussion of using medications to help her regulate.  

It’s not like we were against medications….the only one I had heard of was Riddalin and that it makes kids feel like zombies and emotionless.  So having that small bit of knowledge was what I knew going into the appt where Dr. Ross went over the different options.  For this episode I won’t go into that….maybe in a future episode.  

We did choose one called Vyvanse to start with.  It was very unsuccessful.  Avery stopped eating and sleeping and lost a LOT of weight.  And it didn’t regulate her at all.  The second one we tried was called Biphentin and it was the one.  She is still using it to this day and it works with her body chemistry.

We saw improvements pretty quickly after that.

Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t rainbows and butterflies but it was more manageable for the most part.

Beyond putting Avery on medication, that was the extent of our research and involvement in ADHD or behavioral disabilities in general.  I think it was because we were so exhausted from everything…..who knows.

Then the summer and fall of 2016 happened.  Oh boy….this is where you may hear an ugly cry….I’ve given you fair warning.

Remember when I said we had to reduce Digna’s hours and wages?  Well, it was also the two year mark of her being with our family which is the contract term with the Government of Canada and then she was free to move to another family if she chose to until she was able to get her own family here.  

She had her mail coming to our post office box and the day her Canadian Work Permit arrived I died a little inside.  I was the one who picked up the mail that day….and I gotta tell ya, I was tempted to hide that letter, I’m not proud to admit that, but I was soooo incredibly sad thinking that she might actually leave us before her family got here.  

But OF COURSE I gave her the letter, and yes, right away and not a week later!!  And she was over the moon excited to get that work permit.  About a week later, she sat us down and let us know that she was indeed going to be leaving us to go to another family in Okotoks.  She would be able to resume making the kind of money she did with us initially.  Of course we were beyond sad but understood she needed to do what was best for her and her family.  She gave us one months notice to make other arrangements.

Now we have to find somewhere else for our kids to go…..holy crap.  This was so difficult to think about after having her in our lives for over 2 years.  We did find a daycare in Turner Valley that would take the boys and Avery could go there before and after school.

The month that Digna was still with us before leaving was very crappy.  Every single day when I drove home from work, I cried all the way home.  The closer the time came for her to leave I was getting more depressed.  It wasn’t because she made our lives so much easier, it was because she was a part of our family, and a huge part of our kid’s lives.  I was worried how our kids would be when she was gone.  How we would be?

The new family that she was going to was in Okotoks, about 20 minutes away from us, so that made me feel better.  At least we could still see her if we wanted to since that is where we do most of our shopping.  Digna let me know that her new family would be picking her up on her last day and they wanted to meet us.  James had to work that day, but I was home.  

Well…..I gotta tell ya.  Watching a part of your family walk out to put her bags in another family’s car was devastating.  God bless Digna’s new employer, Amanda.  She was so kind and was crying just as hard as I was.  She knew how hard this was for me and comforted me.  Digna was crying and trying to be strong as she said goodbye to the kids and then to me.  When they pulled away and she was gone, my heart quite literally broke into a million pieces.  Maybe even more.  

I went in the house and did what comes naturally to me.  I documented our time with our precious Digna with a tribute video to the Celine Dion song called “Thank You” with a bunch of photos over her time with us.  And we watched it and bawled like babies.  Of course I sent it to her and her new family and they loved it so much.  I wanted her new family to know that they got a good one.  Better than a good one.  Someone that would take amazing care of them.

Digna if you are listening to this, please know that you are our family and always will be.  We love you and your beautiful family so very much.  And yes, Digna’s sacrifice paid off….all those years away from her kids and husband…..they are all here and living in Okotoks and love being in our beautiful country.  And yes we still see them and Digna watches the kids sometimes for us!

After Digna left….well poop got real.

Like I said the boys were going to a daycare in Turner Valley.  And for awhile it seemed ok.  Until we started getting write-ups for both boys.  It was usually because they did something to each other so we were grateful no other kids were involved.  Then we started getting write-ups about Ryder running away from the group when they were going on outings or even to the outdoor park area.  We got them at least once a week.  I asked James if he thought maybe they would be better in a dayhome environment with less kids since they were used to being at home with Digna.

So we found a dayhome that would take them both and we gave the daycare notice.  Two days into them being there, the dayhome provider called me at work and said I’d have to come pick them up and that they wouldn’t be able to stay there……and I said “like for the rest of the week or do you mean at all?”…..she meant not at all.  They were very aggressive together.  When I went to pick them up, we talked and thought maybe they might do better in different environments.  

Dylan actually did quite well at the daycare with lots of kids but Ryder did not, it was too much stimulation for him.  But Ryder did well at the dayhome.  This was the first time since having them that it was considered they may be better NOT together.  It hurt my heart so much thinking of them being apart.  

We decided we needed to try it.  So Dylan was able to go back to the daycare and Ryder stayed at the dayhome.  One of us would drop each boy off so they didn’t have to see each other go in and be sad.  Avery went to the dayhome with Ryder as it was right next door to the school so that worked out great for her.

We thought things were starting to get a bit easier for awhile.

And then we took the kids to the circus.  That will go down as one of our hardest parenting days for sure.  Well, that and our trip to Florida.  The Florida trip deserves it own podcast episode, that is how epic it was.

So back to the circus….and that it was.  Everything was going fine until the intermission when we took them to the washroom.  And yeah, they strategically placed the toys RIGHT THERE.  Trying to explain to the kids that no, we were not going to buy a $30 toy that would break in 5 minutes….it was not working.  All three of them melted down in EPIC fashion.  In a very crowded place, with many many staring eyes.  

One thing about me is I have NEVER liked attention on me.  It makes me nervous and extremely uncomfortable.  I am working on that and am getting better but in this particular moment…..nope….I was so traumatized to have all those eyes staring at us as our children had complete melt downs over not getting a plastic toy.  I grabbed one of the boys while James got the other one and we DRAGGED them kicking and screaming and biting all the way back to the vehicle.  And it was a long way to our parking spot.  We got in the van and started driving away and James and I grabbed each other’s hand and I started crying.  In less than 5 minutes, I turned around and all three were passed out cold.  

It’s those moments where we doubted our parenting.

What the hell were we doing wrong?

Not long after this episode we started getting write-ups for Dylan at the daycare.  And the dayhome was starting to mention that Ryder was causing some issues again.  At one point, Dylan mentioned that he missed his brother and wanted to be with him again.  They were 4 now and were pretty good buddies.  

So again I started wondering if we should change things up and get them back together.  Since both James and I work in Calgary, I thought maybe the YMCA by our offices would be a better fit.  It had so many activities they could participate in such as swimming and going to the library, and they were so well trained at this facility.  We applied and filled them in on the history of what we had been dealing with to that point and they welcomed the boys in and agreed this would definitely be a better environment for them, especially back together.  This was September 2017.

We lasted a solid month of things being great.

It was fantastic actually.  And then it wasn’t.  We were again getting write-ups for both boys and in the beginning it was just between the two of them.  

One day I was at work and I get an email from the YMCA Daycare Director.  It was an email to all the parents letting us know that the ENTIRE YMCA had to be evacuated because someone pulled the fire alarm.  Not gonna lie…..I really thought it was one of our boys.  So when I went to pick them up at the end of the day, I nervously walked into the room waiting to hear about it….and when she didn’t say anything I said I thought it was Ryder or Dylan.  She laughed so hard and said “I can see why you would think that!”  

There were many days when we would go to pick them up and intentionally avoided eye contact with the staff and tried to get them in and out.  If they can’t find us they can’t give us a write-up!  But they were on to us.  They would be waiting at the front door now and would say “can we see you in the office for a few minutes before you go and get them”…..oh crap, ok.

In January, we tried putting them in preschool at the YMCA.  That was mixed results.  Some moments were good, many more moments were not so great.  

I asked our doctor for a referral to a pediatrician.

At this point I had been gathering piles of paperwork that documented our journey so far.  They ended up being sent to the paediatrician that saw them when they were babies, Dr. Palmer.  At first I was hoping they could be with Avery’s doctor, but realized it was best that we now had two different doctors giving us information.

They had to have separate appointments this time so Ryder was up first.  Dr. Palmer had read all the paperwork I submitted, which included many reports from the daycares and dayhome.  We also had the rating scales completed.  At the very first appointment Ryder was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD.  There was so much information in this paperwork that he didn’t have to wait to make the diagnosis.  Since we had experience with medications at this point we already knew which one we should try so Ryder started on BiPhentin.

One week later it was Dylan’s turn.  And he was also diagnosed with ADHD and ODD.  We decided to try him on BiPhentin as well.

We let the YMCA know about their diagnosis’.  And a couple days later the Childcare Director called me while I was at home and she let me know they had to discharge them from the program.  She was crying, I was crying.  They did love our boys so much but just didn’t have the staffing that was required to care for our boys’ needs.  And now we were back to the drawing board.

If you’re keeping track…..all three of our kids have ADHD and ODD.

How is that even possible?  And this was when I began my mission of learning everything I could about behavioural disabilities.  There is sooo much to share that I am saving this for future podcast episodes.

So now what do we do about childcare?  Does one of us stay home with them?  We have tried many things and it’s still not working very well.  But I thought I would try the live out nanny option this time.  And we found another angel….her name was Dakota.  She was a young lady from Okotoks (about 21 years old) so full of energy and the kindest soul.  We were back having someone take care of our kids in our own home and right away everything was sooooo much better.  And those kids LOOOOVED Dakota, soooo much.  Especially Avery.  

One day we came home from work and Dakota tells us that she took the kids swimming.  We almost fell over dead in shock.  WE hadn’t even attempted that in the past year, even with the two of us.  And here she was taking all three by herself to a pool… herself.  What in the actual hell.  She is a unicorn!!  She would even take them shopping by herself??  We never attempted that solo.  Not a chance in hell.  

From March to July things were much easier for sure.  We were still dealing with behaviour stuff when it was just us, but it did make our lives so much easier work wise because we knew we had someone reliable looking after our kids, in our own home. 

The only thing that wasn’t going well was trying to get Dylan to take his medication.  He DID NOT want to take medicine.  But it was important to try it to see if it made a difference.  We tried so many things, to the point of hiding it in food and his drinks.  But then he started refusing to eat or drink because he didn’t trust us.  And nothing is worth having him not trust us or him not eating and drinking.  So we made the decision to stop giving him medicine and he hasn’t taken any since then.

And then Dakota let us know she was moving to Australia to go to school.  Her mom is from Australia so she had family to stay with and was ready for a new adventure.  Of course we offered her more money to try and entice her to stay!!  We didn’t understand why she should wouldn’t accept more money over moving to Australia?!  Is she crazy??  I was tempted to hop in her luggage, let’s be real.

But the moment she gave us notice, I will be very honest.  It was the start of my second major breakdown.  Dakota if you are listening, please know you weren’t the cause, at all, I just didn’t know how to handle or manage my emotions.  

Very quickly I started spiralling.  I think it was the thought of what happened when Digna left, and now having another important person in our lives moving on (that our kids really loved).  And the fact that we had to find childcare again and knowing how much trouble we had with our other attempts.  

Having experience, I knew I had to get in to see someone quickly.  And I found my person.  It is so important when you see a psychologist that you find your person.  She knew I was in really bad shape.  I knew I was in very bad shape.  So we decided that it would be best if I took a short term leave from work for a number of reasons.  

The boys were now starting kindergarten and we were starting a new childcare option for before and after school.  This was a big transition for the boys and we had learnt that transitions were a very difficult concept for our kids.  I wanted to be close to home during this big change in case they needed me on short notice.  

I also needed time to heal ME.  At the height of my breakdown, there were moments of feeling like I just couldn’t do this anymore.  I would hide in my room with the door locked so I could just get away.  I was super sensitive to everything and felt like no one was there for me.  Of course they were there for me, but when you’re in that state of mind, you truly feel like no one cares.  I was an absolute mess and felt….LOST.  

I took a trip by myself to Wilmington, North Carolina to stay with some other Moms that have children with behavioural disabilities.  It was 4 days of walking the beach, talking and sharing, being there for one another and healing. 

While I was in North Carolina I heard the song “Head Above Water” by Avril Lavigne.  It felt like it was written just for me.

During this time I lost some valuable friendships.  That were very important to me.  Due to an argument that took place during the darkest time of my life.  A time when I felt no one understood what I was going through, even in the slightest way.

I have done A LOT of work to try and heal my mind, my spirit and my heart.  One of the things I now understand is what my LOVE LANGUAGE is.  And my number one is Words of Affirmation followed closely by Acts of Service.  

I am someone who feels more love from family and friends when I hear from them (in any way, either by text, email or phone call)….or when they offer to help.  I feel more confident in showing my love to people these same ways… feels the most natural. 

What I felt I needed most during this dark time was my family and friends reaching out to me, asking how I was doing, if I needed help, if I could use a break from it all, you name it.  And I didn’t get it…..from my friends.  I certainly did from my family and that is what helped me climb back out of the dark.  

I have had to work very hard to understand that everyone has their own way of showing love and it may not be the way I receive it.  And I have had to accept that some people are in your life for a time and then they are not and that’s ok.  I will always have love for these friends and I hope they know how important they have been in my life.  

Alright, I KNOW how much you want to hear from the man that has been such a huge part of this story.  So next up you’ll hear from James, my hubby of 17 years.  I’ll be sitting down with him to get his side of the story and what he thinks of our Hard Beautiful Journey.  I think I know what he’ll say but you never know, I could be completely surprised!!

My GRATITUDE from this part of our story…..

Until next time, be kind and stay well.

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July 21, 2020

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