Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy Days

I'm not going to talk about decorating today. Today I wanted to share with you another part of my life. I hope you don't mind.

A few weeks ago I felt I had reached one of my lowest points ever. My son, who has only been at school for two and a half years, was suspended for the tenth time. Yet again I got a call at work to say 'please come and collect your son, we can't deal with him anymore today'. It was Monday morning. He was not to come back for the rest of the week. But this time it came with a new message "You may have to consider sending him to a new school or home schooling". And he only started at the school in February, after being asked to leave his last school.

By the time I left work and got to the school, my son had ran away, and I had to chase him through the streets to grab him. I then had to figure out how on earth I was going to care for him for the rest of the week, given I work full time.

My son, who can be the most charming, sweet and affectionate boy, has been diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder. When he gets angry, he is uncontrollable, violent and self-destructive. It can happen at any time, over the smallest thing. A good friend of mine (you know who you are!) termed him 'Mr Fabulous or Mr Furious' and it is so true.

It has been breaking my heart to see my son not be able to function like other children and it has been affecting my job as I have had to take so much time off. I have felt helpless and hopeless. Questioning how I had failed as a parent.

My son's father and I have taken him to numerous psychologists, psychiatrists and other health experts over the last couple of years and to date, have spent thousands of dollars with very little results.

But finally, we have got some real help. We've been to see a fabulous counsellor who has been in daily contact with us, even visiting us at home on the weekends. He was with us for three hours on Saturday - now that's dedication! In the last week and a half we have made the following changes:

no tv or other electronic devices
constant parental presence
replacing punitive measures with 'sit-ins'. Based on the work of Haim Omer.

Additionally, I made the decision to remove all synthetic food additives from his diet - which is a challenge - even many brands of bread, yogurt and butter have preservatives these days!

It's been hard and exhausting to make these changes. The first couple of 'sit-in's with our son were harrowing experiences as we received the full blast of his rage. But in a short space of time, the difference in my son has been nothing short of amazing. A transformation. Mr Fabulous has come out to play and we've seen no sign of Mr Furious for the last six days. The people he's closest to are amazed to see this happy, relaxed boy. And Angus himself can see the changes and how much happier he feels.

I'm not saying that we don't have difficult days ahead of us. And the real test will be when he returns to school in two weeks time when the school holidays are over. However, we are setting him up for success by starting him with half days at school, with the remaining part of the day supervised by me or his dad. Luckily we have supportive bosses who are allowing us to work from home.

Right now I am allowing myself to feel hopeful. Hopeful, yet cautious. It's one day at a time. But I have seen a glimpse of the boy he can be.

I read a great quote recently on Creature Comforts, from Maria Robinson: "Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending". I really hope that is what we are doing - moving forward, creating our own happy ending.

Thank you for reading our story.

Best wishes,


A Touch of Country said...

I feel for you, I really, really do.

We adopted our daughter a few years ago. She is diagnosed with ODD & RAD and borderline ADD.

The dr jekyl/mr. hyde (sp) is common around here. One minute she is giggly and loving and the next minute in a rage about something.

She has come along way...she starts kindergarten next year; so we'll see how that goes. They say sometimes a child holds up well all day thru school and the minute they get home, they explode!

Thanks for being open and honest...it feels good doesn't it. Plus an added ear to listen is always nice.

Keep us posted and may God bless you and continue to watch over you and your family during these strenuous times in your life.

Just remember God is in control and he knows the outcome. I believe all things happen for a reason...even though I often question him...I am trying harder to NOT question GOD and just accept his decisions.

Sarah Arkanoff said...

You are a wonderful, caring, & proactive mother! You guys will be be just fine. xx

Lee said...

Oh Catherine, I had tears in my eyes reading your story. The strength, dignity, perserverance and most importantly love that your family has shown is truly inspiring. May Mr Fabulous find a way to banish Mr Furious. Lee xx

The Ivory Pearl Team said...

I felt sad when I read this sentence from your article: "Questioning how I had failed as a parent." You have not failed at all. You actually sound like a great mother, and you're doing a great job. Bon courage!

Angela Henrie said...

Oh, Catherine. I can't imagine how much it affects and pains you. Nobody wants to see their child suffering. My thoughts are with you - I am so glad you found such a dedicated counselor. Sometimes it can be such a long road to get to the solution, but just persevere. It will definately pay off.

William's Mum said...

I read many many blogs a day and never comment, but your honesty has really moved me, especially as a mum of a young boy. Your unwavering support for your little Mr. Fabulous is inspiring and it seems he can only benefit from your calm love, along with your perserverance to find the right councellor. Hang in there and keep doing what you are doing. As I mother my only little monkey I will have you in mind as inspiration! Best wishes, L

Linda/"Mom" said...

* I read your touching story Catherine, & am keeping you ALL in my prayers ~~~ may your very deep love, concern & sincerest dedication to your son's issues be just what it takes to get things to "where they should be". You are totally right about his diet, too~~~ Warmest blessings, Linda in AZ *

~ Lisa @ AbidingThere~ said...

I am so proud of you for loving your son unconditionally and being his best advocate! I do know how difficult it is to be in your situation and I am so glad you are feeling hopeful at last! You and your family will be in my prayers as you travel this road. You are an excellent mommy!!! {and beautiful, too}

Chrissy said...

Your story made me cry,,I am so sorry for your pain.I am sure things will work out for you, just keep the faith my friend.Your little guy just needs a bit of help thats all....take care of yourself too cause he needs you to be strong!!All the best. Chrissy

Dagny @ Beautiful Living said...

Catherine, thank you so much for commenting over at my blog today. I've had a unplanned break, and am feeling a little blank and uninspired at the moment. Starting to work has been a big change for me (even though it's just 50%). I've heard that a lot of kids get helped by changing their diet (both with artificial ingredients and sugar). I hope his development keeps being positive. Please keep us updated! He's such a little gorgeous man.

Jade Creative said...

Best Wishes to you and your family.
Have a sunny day!

AnNicole @ OurSuburbanCottage said...

Look at that sweet little face. You can definitely tell how much he loves his mommy.

Thanks so much for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you. As a mom myself, I know how much we worry, question and feel for our children. You are being such an amazing mother to Angus through your love and many efforts on his behalf. You have definitely not failed him in any way...quite the contrary my dear.

I'm glad to hear that his dad is cooperating. I know that can be a big hurdle. I'll be sure to keep you guys in my thoughts and prayers.

Xo - AnNicole

P.S. I love that quote. I think I'll have to pin that up somewhere.

AJ said...

You are a very thoughtful and loving mother. Please remember that God gives us no more than we can handle. I am sure that brighter days are in your families future. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

blueberries in the fields said...

dear Catherine, i was really moved by reading your story. being a parent is a full time job and some are so much more demanding than others. Love is so strong that it can overpower everything . I admire your courage and patience. Your little boy is adorable,i am sure, with all the help he gets from you, he will one day overcome his disorder.
Just keep us posted and if in your hard times you need to "talk ", your friends, blogging friends and family will always be there, closeby, to support you.
you are a wonderful person :)
thanks for all the sweet comments you left me.
much goodness to you :)

Vanya @ Endless Inspiration said...

Well done Catherine, I salute you!

The picture of you and your son is gorgeous.

Best of luck

V x

Marie said...

Hi Catherine-
I'm so happy to hear that there's progress with your son (you two are so cute!). I cannot imagine what you're going through, however my daughter who just graduated from college who majored in Child Psych is now working as a Child Behavioral Therapist. Everyday she calls to share the difficulties of having to deal with some of "her" children, she calls them. One child bit her arm for the smallest thing she did.

But you just hang in there, you're doing such a great job. Us Mothers are tough instinctively and you will be able to raise a son who will grow up to be Mr. Wonderful!

Brenda said...

I've had a rather tough few weeks, and that quote at the end gave me some comfort too. So I thank you. My husband is a psychiatrist. I will ask him about this. And get back with you if I get valid info. Good luck. He's a handsome boy. I added you to my blog list over the weekend. I like your style.

Porchlight Interiors said...

Thank for sharing your personal journey Catherine! I have also tried to cut out as many preservatives and artificial foods as possible with my boys and it seems to make a difference...good luck with your beautiful son! Tracey xx

Jen said...

It certainly sounds like this is the start of a very inspiring success story. How wonderful that you seem to have found a solution for your son! I pray that the good days continue.

mondo cherry said...

Catherine, my thoughts and prayers are with you as you keep implementing these new strategies. You are such an amazingly strong and positive Mum and certainly have not failed as a parent, in fact you are truly an inspiration. Angus is incredibly lucky to have such a special person in his life.
Clare x

tinkalicious said...

I was so sorry to hear of your difficult times. Being a mother is not without it's challenges, and I truly believe we are only served what we are equipped to deal with! Even when it seems more than we can ever possibly bear, the end result is even better than we ourselves could have hoped for!
Sorry if that sounds too cryptic, but trust me, it is the way of the universe, and all will reveal itself, when the time is right.
Always remember, To thine self be true and trust that all will be well. Hugs and kisses!

Blair said...


Wow, you are such an amazing parent and your son is incredibly lucky. I have never cried rading a post before but your story and your love for your son is just amazing. Thinking of you as you work though this! xx blair

A-M said...

Oh Catherine, you are a true inspiration. He will be a wonderful man thanks to his dedicated, loving mother. It sounds like you have found the path. Thank you for sharing your heartache with us. You are a special person! A-M xx

Kath Lockett said...

Catherine, thank you for being generous and trusting enough to share with us the terrible stress and heartache you've been through with Angus.

He is a truly gorgeous little soul and Mr Fabulous will soon take over Mr Terrible - with you at the helm, it will most surely happen. He clearly thrives on your love and with the ex now on-board and willing to think about Angus instead of himself, things will move ahead in leaps and bounds.

Be proud of yourself and proud of your son- you've already achieved so much. Kath xo xo xo

Jeana said...

Thank you for sharing your story and son with us. He is darling. He is blessed to have a mama who loves and cares so much for him. Good luck and my prayers are with you that things continue to progress well.

My name is PJ. said...

Oh Catherine, I'm so glad you felt comfortable enough to share that. Goodness knows how many others you may help with this post...or how much support may reach you because of it. I'm going to add you and Angus to the prayer line. Do keep us informed as to your progress, okay? We don't have to read about design every day. :) Best, PJ

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Good for you sharing this story!

My niece had chronic health and behavioural issues which were controlled by diet.

You may already have this information, but the website noted below has great information re: food allergies.

This link is specifically for ODD

Millie said...

Oh sweet girl, your inner strength & beauty inspires me to the moon & back, as it also does many others. I have no magic words of wisdom or advice which will make it all OK.

Just continue to surround Angus with positive life experiences & let him explore anything that interests him. He needs to feel good about himself, to feel a sense of achievement in something, no matter how small. The Home School option is not viable. It will isolate him socially & is not the answer.

Now more than ever, he needs a strong advocate, share this load whenever you can. Make sure you have some quality time alone, so you are able to regroup physically & mentally. The biggest of hugs to you from Millie & MOTH.

paige said...

oh my heart hurts for you.
even on good days, parenting is so hard. we always second guess ourselves wondering if we did the right thing, did we say enough, hold our tongue enough, touch enough, or give enough space. when we are faced with a crisis like this even the tiniest glimpse of hope is enough to keep us up on that typerope.
sending you a hug, even though we've never met, & praying things continue positively. i'm so glad it seems as if you've found a wonderful counselor.

LaurenFaythe said...

Oh, thank you so much for sharing your story. It's heartbreaking to see one's child struggling like that. I will think of you and keep you in my prayers. I know he will get better!

CrowNology said...

I truly wish you all the best. My heart squeezed as I was reading your story. I think it is wonderful that you share this with your readers and I believe that you are doing (the diet, counseling, etc.) the right things.
I wish you and Angus (and your husband) strength and happiness.
Good luck,

Amber said...

Just wanted to say Hi! You have a blog that inspired me to start my own...thanks :)

MelsRosePlace said...

Oh Catherine i really do feel for you and your son too. I have a friend at work who cares for her grandson a lot of the time and he has this oppositional disorder also. I will ask her if anything has particularly helped and let you know. You are spot on with the diet though as i have also had friends who removed certain things from the diet including addiditives etc and it made a huge difference. At my daughter's last school they actually had a special unit for children with various issues and they had teachers and assistants who understood what was happening and had more training in these areas than the average teacher so i wonder if there is a school like that down there not that you probably want to change! I also wondered if there is some kind of online support group for mums of "Mr Furious" because i know for a fact you are not the only one. I know when my daughter was diagnosed with scoliosis a few years ago i found tremendous support online and met other mothers (mainly) who were in the same situation and going through the same things.
Anyway, i have talked enough but just keep faith in yourself and your son that everything will be fine and keep up the viligance in regards to diet etc especially. Huge hugs today, love the photo..Mel xxx

abeachcottage said...


we have a no electrics policy, our youngest son totally changes personality even after an hour of tv, we have to constantly* monitor it, that is draining sometimes as I think it's sometimes tempting to just let them sit and squander...luckily I noticed this when he was 3 and so it never got to really get to a bad stage

now he is 6 I also notice that he needs to be out and about exercising for an hour every day, just down the park with a ball, on a scooter or whatever - I don't know if they have suggested this to you but it is crucial for us

anyway I wish you luck, it is the answer and thanks for the honesty


p.s. love your blog, adding to my blogroll

Room Service ~ Decorating 101 said...

I am so glad to hear that things are getting better for you and your son. This just breaks my heart for you and your family. I will keep you in my thoughts.

TheDecoDetective said...

We don't mind, Catherine =) On the contrary! You're really brave to share this. I think it's good that people talk about these things, as it will help others in the same situation.
I truly hope that things will work out now - it looks promising! You boy looks like a lovely guy.
Btw - I just heard that "fake" vanilla (the kind that's not made from the real vanilla tree) is bad for children with
these kinds of disorders. I don't know if it's the result of serious research, but I thought I'd mention it. I'm sure that natural food can make a big difference.
Will be thinking of you. It's strenuous having to be strong all the time, so I hope things will work out beautifully for your family!

viera said...

Dear Carherine,
Thank you for sharing your story with us, You are a very special person and mum. True inspiration!
I believe you and Angus are on right path.
Best of luck.

Rachael said...

Catherine, so very brave of you to share your heartache, but so very beautiful.
I believe children choose their parents, and your little man has chosen a very special mum in you....

ness lockyer said...

I am so sorry to hear of your heartache...and Angus'. My Sister has a similar problem with her 7year old who is borderline Asbergers. She is so far behind mentally that she gets frustrated really easily and quite violent.

I hope the cutting out on preservatives etc works for you. I have a Nutrition background and I know how much this can help. It will take a while to 'detox' it all out, but you will see a difference.

You are a commited Mummy and I applaude you.
Ness xx

sealaura said...

Dear Catherine,

Thanks so much for sharing your story. You and your son are so beautiful inside and out. Before I worked at the University, I spent a couple of years working with young kids (6-12yrs) with oppositional defiance disorder and although it was a tough situation. I loved those kids and definitely saw so much progress during my time with them. As you know, there are many grueling days but most definitely, for me there were also maginificent days that made all those tough and difficult days melt away. Again, thanks for sharing your story with us.

Ry @ Sotto Il Monte Vineyards said...

My heart goes out to both you and your son. Raising children certainly has its share challenges.

Alison Gibbs said...

Oh Catherine such a hard road for you all.
Fingers crossed and nothing but positive thoughts are coming your way for better days ahead.
You are a wonderful supportive Mum, remember to take care of yourself as well.

Terri said...

Catherine, thanks for sharing that. What a tumultous time and I imagine it was a time of feeling very hopeless and lost. I hope you have struck upon a path that enables you and your beautiful boy to get better and heal his troubles. One wonders what is at the root of it all. I hope you will keep us posted - I am so curious about the diet. You have my prayers. I am glad I took a quick peek at your post as I did not realize you were going through such a difficult time yourself.

My thoughts are with you and your fabulous boy - the little dear does not mean to rage and I hope that people can eventually help you discover the roots of it, whether it is psychological or physical or what, and that it can be slowly remedied so he can lead a more normal life and be given back "himself". It must be difficult for him too to not know what causes him to rage. I hope you continue to have good luck with the therapies you are trying and so glad you have a supportive company.

xo Terri

Blue Muse said...

My heart goes out to you - I'm glad you shared what you are going through,and it sounds like you and your son have found something wonderful in this counselor.
I'm a true believer in what you put in your body affects you, and I give you huge kudos on taking out synthetics from your son's diet. It really does make a difference.
I wish you smoother roads ahead for your beautiful son and for you.
Big hugs,

Amanda said...

Hi Catherine, my husband had behavioural problems as a child, mainly extreme anger and hyperactivity. This went on for years until a doctor put him on a food elimination diet and one of the foods that set him off into these rages turned out to be apples which he ate every day. I mean who would have thought that something that is suppose to be so good for you can turn you into a maniac! Anyway my mother-in-law says that he went from being an aggressive hyperactive kid to a calm happy one who could suddenly sit and watch a movie from beginning to end and play with other kids without it turning into a brawl which are things he had never been able to do before.

As others have said food can really affect a persons behaviour especially these days when they put so many chemicals in the foods we eat and half of them we don't even know are there due to the way they are aloud to label good here in Australia.

I just went threw a period with my youngest daughter where for about two weeks she became extremely hyper and aggro and we eventually worked out it was the additive in the antibiotic she was taking. About 10 minutes after giving it to her she started laughing hysterically and running around the house like a maniac and punching her brothers, it was unbelievable and as she had it 3 times a day she was like this all day.

If you havn't already I would take him to an expert who can put your son on and monitor him on a food elimination diet. It might not be the whole cause but it could help and is definately worth a try.

Anyway I am thinking of you at this time and I hope things are still improving. I have never posted on your blog but just wanted to say that I love your style! I can't wait to look it up and see what beautiful pictures you have posted on here as they are exactly what I would choose for myself!

Catherine@Simply Natural said...

Hi Amanda
Thanks for sharing your experiences. I'm definitely interested in taking Angus to a dietician at some stage, as I've read that even foods like tomatoes and grapes and other fruit and vegetables can cause behavioural problems in some people.

Missy Langley said...

I wish you the best of luck. Nothing hurts worse than seeing your child in any kind of pain. I have no idea what you are going through and feeling right now, but please know that you are in my thoughts. Good luck. It sounds like you are making a wonderful start. Bless you for loving your child enough to do whatever you can to make things right. He's a very lucky little boy!

Antonella said...

many hugs and blessings to you and Angus.

Lauren said...


Just now seeing this as I'd been taking a mini-blogging break & wanted to come back & reafd through the posts I missed.

I'm really happy for you guys. He's so lucky to have you & you to have him & I know things will be tough but you are so dedicated it will all be ok. I can see the love between you two in the pictures & that's something so special. I'm really happy you have renewed hope.


Caroline @ patagonia gifts said...

Oh Catherine, I was deeply touched by your story. I have 2 boys of around the same age and I know how hard it is. I'm glad you're finding your path!
Big hugs!

ed said...


Melodi said...

You and your son are gorgeous. I love the picture of him in front of the water. Priceless! Absolutely beautiful : )

Catherine@Simply Natural said...

Thanks Melodi - you've made my day!