Sunday, September 30, 2012

Born Again!

Today I’m sitting in the afterglow of my youngest son’s baptism. It was a perfect day, in a beautiful creek surrounded by people who love my family and who are committed to support my child throughout his life.

Initially we were concerned that the crowds or cameras would upset him, but he remained joyful and excited and couldn’t wait to be baptized.

Some days are perfectly created and deserve to be honored with praise.

Thank you God for this blessing and for allowing me to experience this beautiful moment in my son’s life.

My cup runneth over.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dr. Oz Dissing Melatonin

Did anyone see Dr. Oz’s show this week where he basically puts down melatonin and disputes it’s ability to help people? I watched the show with my husband to see what terrible thing he had to say about melatonin as a sleep aid and was surprised that much of his complaints were about how people don’t follow the recommended dose and take too much of it. Now couldn’t that be said about any medication? Of course if you don’t take the recommended dose you can expose yourself to some possible side effects for any medication. In the case of melatonin, he described how people can experience a hungover feeling the morning after taking multiple doses throughout the night. He even described nightmares and morning grogginess upon waking as possible side effects.

I also thought that it was interesting that he said that melatonin doesn’t help initiate sleep, but rather it’s a regulator of sleep. We’ve seen melatonin put our son to sleep in minutes. For him it does appear to have the ability to bring him to sleep, not as strong as a sedative, but still pretty quickly. We’ve even seen a rage quit once his bedtime melatonin kicked in. He began to relax and fell asleep.

I wanted to share that our experience with melatonin has been completely different. First of all, my son takes a small dose before bedtime each night based on the recommendation and supervision of his doctor. For him, he’s experienced very positive results. He doesn’t have any night terrors anymore and seems to sleep much better. He also wakes up much better feeling refreshed because his sleep quality is improved. In fact, on the rare occasion that we forget to give him the melatonin, the night terrors immediately return and he has disrupted sleep.

I know the research is still out on this hormone, but it’s been very helpful for our son. I worry that Dr. Oz’s tv show will scare people from giving it a try.

What are your thoughts?

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

One Person Can Make a Difference!

Yesterday I met with my son’s Study Skills teacher. This is the class that allows him to do his homework at school with the supervision and assistance from a teacher who’s in touch with all of his teachers. I have to say I was so impressed. She immediately reassured me that she has had plenty of experience with bipolar kids, as well as kids with many other challenges. She went on to explain how she works with her students and how she adjusts based on their particular needs and ways of learning. She was especially in touch with my son’s ability to hold it together in school, but rage at home. She even shared that she has seen kids who feel so safe in her class that they hold it together in their other classes and once with her, they feel safe to let it out with her. She totally gets it!

I thought that I needed to instruct her on how to work best with my son, but before I even got the chance, she said all the right things, I could tell that she had extensive experience with kids like my son. Then she offered to meet my son each morning in his first class to check in with him and help encourage him when he goes through tough times—all I needed to do was give her the heads up and she would step in. She expressed her complete commitment to my son and reassured me that we would get him through middle school.

I can’t say enough how happy I was to see this dedication to my son. It’s no wonder that he’s doing so well right now, it’s proof that one person can make a world of difference!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Getting Back in the Game

Well we’ve finally gotten back on track, my oldest had his ups and downs throughout the week after losing sleep from a sleepover party last weekend. One rage left him asleep on the floor where I was holding him down, he fought me for about 20 minutes than was out for a long nap. This week was a good reminder of how fragile he is. Once stability sets in, you start to forget how bad things can get and how easily he can be taken off track. But I still feel like this week of disruption was worth the social growth he experienced from the sleepover, we were able to use this experience as proof that he’s capable of so much more now and that he can overcome setbacks.

One highlight of the week was my son’s social courage. Recently he started a group at school for playing card games such as yu-gi-oh during his lunch break. What first began as my son inviting a boy with Aspergers to join him has grown to a group of about 15 boys! Even better, the group has been looking to my son as the leader and has used him to train several other kids on how to play the games. You should see his smile when he reflects on how proud he is for starting this group. We’ve come a long way baby!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hmmm... To Punch or Not to Punch?

We just got this cool punching bag from a friend. We’ve already placed it in our home gym and have had a few sweaty workouts. My sore back can vouch for it! This bag will be a great way for us to let out some anger and stress or it could backfire and create some very strong boxers that turn on one another. Hmmm... I guess we shall see....

If anything, the middle boy will be the contender since he’s been letting his stress out on this bag at least 3 times a day! You don’t want to mess with that boy!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Another First...

This weekend our oldest son experienced another first, a sleepover party.

In the past he has tried, but always left early because he was too nervous to stay over, but this time he was committed to stay the entire time. So when I got the call at midnight, I thought, oh bummer, he wants to come home, but on the other end of the receiver I heard an excited voice asking me to bring him his DS game system since all the other boys were playing theirs and he was feeling a little left out. So off I went to make the midnight delivery, feeling a little anxious about what I know to be true, Protect his sleep like it’s a religion!

As I made the drop off I was excited to see him having the time of his life with all the other boys. Compare that to previous parties (the few he has attended) where he spent his entire time hanging out with the parent because he was too anxious to play with the other kids.

This morning when I picked him up, I heard the sounds of disappintment from the other boys that were sad to see him leave. My son on the other hand was beaming! He won 3 contests at the party, even taking home the grand prize and had so much fun with all the other boys. Then I heard the alarming news, “We stayed up until 2:30!”

Yikes! So I brought him home, full of excitement and giggles over all the fun and put him to bed when he got home. It took a lot of work to get his body calm, but with a dark room and a head massage, he started to drift off to sleep.

Even though I was nervous about the sleep disruption and the consequences we may face for it, I’m still glad he went, the social growth that will come out of this positive experience is worth it. Sometimes as parents we have to make tough decisions and choose what’s better over what’s good.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Next Step

I took my youngest son to see his pediatrician to screen for a common genetic disorder called Neurofibromatosis after our doctor became concerned. She determined that he did have the qualifying cafe-au-lait spots for taking the next step of screening. So now he’ll see an ophthalmologist to dilate his eyes and look for lisch nodules in the iris, which are small hamartomas (benign tumors) that don’t affect sight but are another criteria for Neurofibromatosis.

My youngest is getting a kick out of all the attention his body spots are getting and I have a gut feeling that this is going to turn out just fine and we have nothing to worry about. 

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The Balanced Mind Foundation has been nominated to participate in the 2012 Chase Community Giving Program, a program where your votes decide which charities will receive grants from Chase.

From Thursday, September 6, 2012 - September 19, 2012, The Balanced Mind Foundation will compete for a grant of up to $250,000. This award will ensure that we're able to provide vital information and support to children and families living with bipolar disorder and depression.

Here’s all you need to do to vote one of two ways:

Chase Customers:
1) Vote on any time during the voting period.
In the Search Charitiesbox, type our former name, Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation.
You'll have 2 votes.
Cast 1 for us!

2) Vote on Facebook using the Chase Community Giving app.
In the Search Charities box, type our former name,Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation.
You'll have 2 votes.
Cast one for us!

Not a Chase Customer:
1) Vote on Facebook using the Chase Community Giving app.
In the Search Charities box, type our former name, Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation.
You'll have 2 votes.
Cast one for us!

You get 1 extra vote on Facebook by allowing "Access" & sharing content to your newsfeed or timeline.

If one of your friends links back to Chase, you will earn the ability to cast 1 bonus vote. (You will have to cast the 1st 2 votes above first).

You get 1 extra vote on Facebook by allowing "Access" & sharing content to your newsfeed or timeline.

If one of your friends links back to Chase, you will earn the ability to cast 1 bonus vote. (You will have to cast the 1st 2 votes above first).

It's that easy!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Good News!

I’m thrilled to share some good news! First, today my son had an ultra sound and EKG on his heart and the cardiologist was able to determine that my son’s heart murmur is considered “innocent” and that everything looks normal. He also clarified that we don’t have to worry about his murmur turning into something bad in the future. Phew, it’s nice to know that there’s one doctor we won’t have to see again.

Then, I wanted to share with you how proud I am of my oldest who attended his first school dance. None of us thought it was a possibility since he boldly stated that he was NOT going, but the day of the dance he decided to go for it. Since it was for 6 graders, the dance was right after school, from 3-4:30 pm, so we tried to encourage him that it wasn’t like going to prom, but rather an extra hour and a half to hang out with friends. I can’t tell you how proud I am of him for being brave and trying something new on his own, this is a major step! Afterwards he had a huge smile on his face and chatted about how fun it was. He spent his time walking around with friends while enjoying a soda and some candy he bought at the dance. He admitted that as he approached the dance in the beginning he was very nervous, but did it anyways. Wow, how far we’ve come!

Add to that, both my oldest and my middle son joined the church youth group this week for the first time and loved it. After years of being secluded because of our challenges, we’re finally coming out into the world and it feels so good!

At last, I have some really big news for my youngest. This week he asked if he could pray to accept Jesus in his heart. So of course we jumped on the opportunity by gathering our family around. But instead of Mom or Dad leading the prayer, my middle son who wants to be a pastor when he grows up stepped up and lead his brother through prayer to accept Jesus in his heart. Afterwards, we were all misty-eyed. My youngest cheered, “Yay, I’m a Christian!” and my middle son shared with gentle words, “My heart feels all warm inside.”

It was a very special week in the Mama Bear household! Praise God!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

No Room for Worry

It’s a new week with new doctor appointments. At my son’s last physical they found a heart murmur. It’s most likely nothing, but his pediatrician wanted to have the cardiologist take a look at it to make sure he’s ok.

I’m not really worried, sometimes it seems that there’s just too many other things to be worried about that there isn’t room for more. I only have a small concern since he’s taking medication, has a kidney birth defect that can cause high blood pressure and thus heart problems. I also have a family history of heart issues with my oldest brother dying as a baby because of a heart defect. But I’m sure it’s nothing.

Then my youngest is being called back to the pediatrician because she wants to measure his birthmarks which are referred to as cafe-au-lait spots. According to her, having 6 or more of these marks can make you a possible candidate for developing a common genetic disorder called Neurofibromatosis. Hopefully this is just her being very thorough and we have nothing to worry about.

Like I said, I don’t have room for more worry, I’ll just have to give this over to God.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Justice for Jeremy

I come across many stories of how families are affected by mental illness, but one story I read over a year ago has never left my mind. I want to share that story with you today.

This story is about Jeremy Lum (taken from the Justice for Jeremy website):
Jeremy Lum was arrested on July 8, 2009, by Lathrop Police officers for public intoxication. In reality, he was suffering from a bipolar episode, complete with hallucinations. He’d left his home that evening—without his wallet or ID, without his cell phone, even without shoes. He took only his dog with him. He ended up at the door of a residence less than a half mile away, mistakenly believing he was at the home of his aunt—only two blocks further. Because of the late hour (11pm) and Jeremy’s insistence that he was at the right house, the startled residents called 911. By the time the Lathrop Police responded, Jeremy had already crossed the street and was standing on the sidewalk with his dog.
Through eyewitness and even the arresting officers’ own accounts, Jeremy remained cooperative with the 3 officers the entire time; only to stand up every 30 seconds or so because he thought he was being followed—suffering hallucinations. The officers claim they smelled alcohol on his breath and placed him under arrest. The residents who called 911 say they did not smell alcohol, only that he seemed confused and lost. A bartender, who was walking home after work, stopped to ask Jeremy if he needed help. Both the reporting party (residents) and the bartender report they smelled no alcohol and he didn’t appear to be drunk. They did note his odd behavior. Jeremy was able to give the officers his home address. They walked his dog home and he was taken to the San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp, CA, nearly 7 miles away. He was taken into jail barefoot.
It is on record that while being booked, Jeremy was “coherent enough” to inform the booking officer he was Bipolar and on medication for it. There is also information that while in custody he tested negative for alcohol, was held in an isolation cell due to his mental status, had been vomiting, and even suffered a seizure. The response from jail personnel was that “he was faking it” and nothing was done to help him. He never received medical or mental evaluation or treatment while in jail. Jeremy was released 7 hours later at 7:30 a.m., without any contact made to his family or friends. That was the last time he was ever seen alive. Three days later, jet skiers found his body floating in the river that runs behind the jail.

As you can imagine this loss brought unimaginable devastation to his family and friends who knew Jeremy as a bright young man with a future after graduating from UC Berkeley and pursuing a dream of becoming a traveling nurse so he could help others while seeing the world.

Now Jeremy’s loved ones are coming together with the Justice for Jeremy Project with hopes to make a difference so that no family has to suffer like they have. It’s also their mission to be a reminder that those suffering from mental illness are in fact suffering from an illness and should be treated as such.

They have created the annual memorial walk where the community comes together to finish the walk that Jeremy couldn’t, many doing the 6.5 mile walk from the police station to his home barefoot to honor Jeremy.

In addition, they’re hosting the third annual Justice for Jeremy Mental Health Awareness festival this Saturday, Sept. 8th from 12pm–6pm at Manuel Valverde Park, 5th St. Lathrop, CA 95330. If you want to support this important event visit their facebook page at:

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Article about Justice for Jeremy Mental Health Awareness Festival:

Interview with Jeremy’s Aunt Connie:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Easy to Love but Hard to Raise

I was fortunate to receive an early copy of the book Easy to Love but Hard to Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories from the editors Kay Marner and Adrienne Ehlert Bashista. I was looking forward to some free time where I could start reading it, but jumped in sooner than expected after a particularly bad day with my boys.

It was the last week of summer and I made the bad decision of taking all 3 of my boys to the optometrist to get my oldest a pair of new glasses. What was suppose to be a short stop turned into a long period of waiting, which meant I was constantly managing my boys unruly behavior in front of a crowd of annoyed adults who gave me the stink-eye every few minutes. At one point, I turned away from the employee who was assisting me to see all 3 of my boys on the ground fighting with one another. My attempt to resolve the situation only irritated the employee who didn’t have time for such nonsense. By the time I got home I was crushed, feeling sorry for myself that things had to be so difficult.

Then I noticed, sitting at my desk, the book, Easy to Love but Hard to Raise. My first instinct was to laugh, I thought, hmm... how appropriate! Then I curled up and licked my mommy wounds as I read the true stories inside. Page after page, I started to feel better, knowing that I’m not alone and that there were other moms just like me who could relate to this miserable feeling I had inside.

Over the next week I continued to read the book. There were stories of children with ADHD, some with OCD, some with bipolar disorder and the list went on. Every story left me feeling encouraged, kinda like a support group in a book! There’s something healing in reading words that you thought you alone experienced. Here’s a few examples from the book that struck a chord with me:

“Although I loved mine no less, I found that I did not enjoy my child as much as most mothers seemed to enjoy their children.” (Delayne Ryms)
“The simple fact that our homes, the places where we should be most relaxed and off-guard, are a place we can never relax, is a huge stressor.” (Adrienne Ehlert)
“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying... I will try again tomorrow.” (Renee Perrone)

Not only does the book present the raw, hurting words of mothers and fathers trying to raise children with special needs, it also provides educational information through interviews at the end of each chapter, as well as stories of success using certain therapies or medications. I found myself intrigued with one family who shared their journey with OCD, something that I’m starting to see in my youngest. It was an eye opener that their early mistakes were exactly what I was doing to help my son today. It definitely gave me something to think about and discuss with our therapist.

This book is not a book of complaints, it’s obvious that these kids are loved by incredible families who are doing everything they can to help their children thrive. They are passionate, hopeful and inspiring individuals who have the courage to share their journeys with us.

If you’re a parent that feels isolated by their child’s disorder and frustrated that no one understands what you’re going through. Or if you’re tired of reading books by doctors who aren’t raising your children and are looking for something you can more closely relate to, I highly recommend this book!

Here is where you can find it:

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