Child A has had a tough few weeks. Since October she's grown considerably and the efficacy of her bipolar meds has slipped. It creeped up on us rather slowly, just a couple of off days at school, a few more tantrums than usual, then BAM! Total insanity. She kicked a hole in the wall at J's place while in a time out. Sunday last week she was pitching a fit when I picked them up after church, all J had done was ask her to brush her teeth and she was on the floor screaming. She'd been at it for about a half hour when I got there. Since I was blocking someone in and J was really ready to let it be MY turn to deal with her, we picked her up as she was and carried her to the car. On the way home she spent about 20 minutes trying to rip my seatbelts out of the car, thrashing and screaming at the top of her lungs. After what seemed like for-fucking-ever of me very calmly (through gritted teeth) reminding her to breathe, to try to get control, anything I could think of that didn't sound like "YOU ARE MAKING ME CRAZY" she finally hit the downward slope and calmed. Normally when she has thrown what we fondly think of as Mini-Hurricanes, she falls asleep. Not this time. Almost as soon as the tantrum stopped, she turned into a crazy laughing chatterbox. "Mommy, what street are we driving on? Where are we going? That man looks funny! Hahahaha!" I noted her glazed eyes and the realization finally struck that we were dealing with a manic episode. Its the first time I've actually been able to recognize it in her.
We've start with a new behavioral therapist next week, but her psychiatrist wanted us to up her meds. In addition to her increased agitation, she's not been sleeping very well, so we are also trying melatonin to help her sleep.
The same day that I heard an interesting story on NPR about new studies showing that keeping your heart rate elevated into your "target zone" for 20 minutes a day makes you both calmer and smarter, I had a conversation with my cousin. In the course of discussing what had been happening with Child A, she mentioned that a friend of hers who had a daughter with similar issues was having a lot of success with exercise. Every day when she comes home from school, this little girl does what they refer to as "hard work." Normally its jumping rope, sometimes its riding her bike or running around the yard. But nothing else happens - snacks, dinner, homework, playtime - until she does at least 20 minutes of "hard work"
This has been relatively easy to implement with the Amazon Queen. Ever since I bought that elliptical trainer last year it has been one of the kids' favorite "treats" to allowed to get on it and make it go. They will fight over whose turn it happens to be, they like it THAT much. So now when Child A is here in the evening, I have her get on the elliptical for a 20 minute workout. So far all of the things we have been doing seem to be helping, and we haven't had nearly as many tantrums or outbursts all week.
When the weather today turned out to be spectacular (we are having what feels like an early spring), I tossed out my plans to take the kids bowling and we headed over to Badger Mountain instead. There is a one mile walking trail that goes up to the top, and it is a fairly nice exertion level. All three of us had a blast, we climbed to the very top and enjoyed a spectacular view of everything from Hanford Reach all the way to Finley. We took Lady with us, and she had a terrific time being petted by tons of strangers (I swear that dog has never met a single person she didn't LOVE). By the time we were halfway back down the trail, everyone was feeling a little footsore and the wind chill was getting to us, but it was a really great hike. The only downside was that I did not take my camera. We would have had some terrific pictures to share.
I like it when we can get the whole family to do some hard work together. After unloading a ton of hay this morning in addition to our little hiking expedition, I have a feeling that Child A isn't the only one who will be sleeping well tonight!