Thursday, January 28, 2010

bragging on my kids...just a little

The other night before bed I jumped onto the computer real quick just to check my emails. And then I got sucked into the black hole that is facebook and of course I paid an oh so short visit to my September 05 playgroup. Teresa came over as I typed away and deposited this note in my lap, saying "isn't it time for us to go to bed already?" After laughing myself silly for a few minutes, I took her advice and got moving and put them to bed.

Here is the alphabet as written by Katie (for the very first time EVER!) from memory. She did this on her own while the older two worked on Religious Ed homework and I was occupied in that black abyss called the world wide web that Teresa kindly rescued me from. She made sure to point out the N to me because she said "I don't think I ever made a nicer N Mumma." all serious and proud. I heartily agree.

And lastly I HAD to post this paragraph Sam wrote about one of his heroes.

I was all puffed up with pride and had tears in my eyes when I read the second sentence but before my head could get too big , Sam quickly jerked me back down to earth with the rest of the essay. Hey...don't many people do you know that actually drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day. Hmmmmmmmm? I'm a water chugging, talkative, food making, slugger and we all know those are things not just anyone can do.

I can't imagine I'll remain his hero for very long with that sad list of achievements...but I'll take all the accolades he 's willing to dish out, no matter what the reason.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

because it's really all about me (sarcasm here)

This is a post I don't quite know how to write. This is a selfish post. This is a "poor poor me" post. It's something I need to write about and something I want to write about but I just never seem to have the words to adequately capture what it is that's yammering to get out.

There's this young man in my life. A handsome intelligent and loving young man. He is one of my greatest joys as well as the source of so much frustration and heartache. My Sam. As his mother I am quite biased in how I see him. I easily see all that is amazing about Sam. I am used to the quirks, which are to some people unacceptable habits. I ache to make life easier for him. I get so angry that time and time again I let my hopes rise too high and am disappointed with how this or that or the other thing is unfolding. (Note the excessive use of "I" in that there paragraph...I wasn't kidding when I said it was all about me.)

School...let me just say that school this year is better than last year. Not like that would be difficult. Last year was so bad, it doesn't take much for me to consider this year a better year. I had my doubts about his teacher. She was not the teacher several people recommended to me for Sam. I fought with the principal over this but she and the special education liaison person remained adamant that Sam was in the best place for Sam; don't worry...we didn't actually was all quite civilized. I lost some faith in my own instincts after last year too, so while my initial impression of his teacher was positive, it's taken me half the school year before I can admit that this teacher is a good placement for Sam.

He is now receiving services at school that address most of his needs and the support reaches across the curriculum. He is no longer just getting help for math but help that specifically addresses his difficulties with executive functioning that impact all subject matters. His speech services have been expanded to include his underdeveloped pragmatic language skills. The guidance counselor pinpointed several areas in Sam's social development that are seriously delayed and she had a plan to tackle them. I liked their no nonsense approach. He is seeing a therapist to help him handle his anxiety and stress. His therapist has given me a reading list and names or resources which will help me understand and get support from people who understand where we are, where we've been and how to move ahead.

And yet...and yet...I still feel discouraged. I watch him at his basketball game. The other boys gracefully run up and down the court, passing the ball off to each other, moving into positions on the court in order to help the team win. My Sam...heart of my heart...trails along behind the group, plays with his hands, and falls on purpose every few feet. He says he loves playing basketball. He looks forward to it and excitedly reminds me not to forget what time his game is each Saturday. Me? I just want him to quit. (selfish selfish me). Sitting in those stands week after week and seeing how very very different he is from the other boys is like getting punched in the gut over and over, week after week.

He still only has one friend. One friend. Not because he's not friendly enough but because most kids are put off by his odd behaviours. Sometimes when we're at a weekly activity we go to, he will wave enthusiastically to a classmate there who never, not once, acknowledges Sam's happy greetings. This pisses me off. I want to walk over to the boy and ask him where the heck his manners are. How dare he?? But if I think objectively about it, I understand. I often tell myself I don't want Sam to be like the other kids because the other boys are obnoxious and rude and loud. But I don't actually think they are. They're just acting like nine year old boys. I'm just trying to make myself feel better.

I often get frustrated with him and his rigid routines and his excessive reactions if those routines are disrupted. Sometimes I'm not so understanding of his outbursts, his stimming, the little things he does that make him stick out. I get tired of all the work raising a child with special needs requires. Then the next minute finds me hoping we are doing right by him. I hope we are preparing him for all that life has to offer. And I'm frightened we're not doing enough. Always there is that undercurrent of fear that I've forgotten something or missed something(Again with the I, I, I).

I just read a book written by a young teenager with Asperger's syndrome. This teenager wrote the book for other teens with autism to help them cope in the world. He also wrote it to help the rest of the world understand and accept people who have autism. It was fascinating to find out how people with AS think and feel and approach the world from the perspective of a person who has autism. At the same time it depressed me to be reminded that Sam will always have autism. He won't ever be typical. He can be successful and function better in a world that's fraught with hurdles, but I wonder, will he always be waving across the room at people who look away and pretend they didn't see him?

Please don't think I wallow in self pity and lament and cry about the unfairness of it all. This kind of thing goes in phases. And seriously, most of the time I am plowing ahead and not taking any notice of the small stuff. But I can't deny I fall into a funk from time to time. I'd be lying if I told you I have my brave face on all the time. I take great joy in my son. He truly is a child you can't help loving. Not just me, but anyone who is willing to look past the autism and get to know who Sam is, falls in love with him. He makes me laugh and astounds me with what he knows (especially about volcanoes...he must know every detail of every major volcanic eruption that's occurred this century). He is so much fun to surprise with a night out or a trip to pick out a toy just for fun.

But sometimes I just need to whine. And if you've made it this far...I'm done...for now.

Monday, January 25, 2010

this is why bedtime takes so darn long

Have you ever heard the quote "so many little time"?

Every night before bed, well...most nights, sometimes we don't manage to roll in from activities till half past bedtime, we have a family read in. We all gather reading materials and settle in on the couches or on the living room floor and we read. Usually we start out reading on our own. As part of their homework my older two have to read for 20 to 30 minutes each night on their own and I've taken to sitting with my own book while they do their reading. Of course Katie joined in on the fun and Joe certainly didn't want to be left out, so most nights we find him reading through the last of the newspaper during our reading time. Sometimes Teresa or Sam will read to Katie and each other during this time too. Our material ranges from chapter books, non fiction, magazines, picture books and even board books. Then it's read aloud time. I usually let each one choose a picture book for me to read aloud. Sometimes I choose one too. Next come the chapter books. We've been reading our way through the Harry Potter series. And Teresa and I (and sometimes Katie) are reading an American Girl doll book. And let us not forget a chapter from one of Sam's chapter books or his atlas or any number of resource books on science. We all enjoy reading so immensely, we often lose track of time and before you know it, we've read well past bedtime...again. That's okay though. I really don't mind.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

identity crisis

I overheard a conversation between my five year old daycare friend and one of the two and a half year old daycare friends.

C 2.5 yrs: Ree is a gwown up!

A 5 yrs: No! She is not!

C: Ree is a gwown up!

A: C...she looks like a grown up but she's really a giant daycare kid.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

does it get easier or more difficult? or is it all just difficult?

Today I was reading the paper as I lounged on the living room floor. This activity is a throwback to my days before children. I could sit on a Sunday, sipping on my tea and read every last line from the and classifieds and even the sports section. I didn't like to sit in bed and read nor could I sit on the couch or at a table. I had to spread out on the floor, and when I was finished, sections of the paper would be scattered all over the room. Sadly, I let this fall by the wayside shortly after my kids came along. I still snatch moments to read a little of the paper here and there, but I don't wallow in the paper the way I had before. You know, I hadn't even realized I missed this.

Yesterday we had a family birthday party and Katie and Teresa were invited to sleep over the birthday girls' house. While I was a leeeeeeetttle apprehensive, especially where Katie was concerned, we said our goodbyes and headed for home with just Sam. We even let him sleep in our bed and he woke me up early in the morning so I could play some Mariokart on the Wii with him. He beat me soundly. I'm pretending it's because I'm new at it but I don't think I'll ever be very good at video games. After he went off to play with his action figures and Bakugan, I made myself some tea and an omelet and glanced at the paper while I ate. Then I realized that I had the whole day ahead of me with nothing more pressing than the five baskets of laundry that needed folding and putting away. I grabbed up the paper and my tea and headed into the living room. And I proceeded to eat up the paper. Every last sentence, classified and comic strip. It was sheer heaven.

One little column caught my attention. It was written by a Mom whose three kids are about the same age as mine. The gist of the article was that she believes life is easier now that her children are older and not as dependent, but that their questions have gotten more difficult. I thought about that. True, their questions have evolved, some I can't even begin to answer. I like to think I am teaching them how to research information when I tell them "I don't know the answer to that, lets look it up." rather than that I am exposing the fact that I know a lot less than they thought I did. However I really don't think life is easier now that my children are older. I think it's actually much more difficult.

When my children were small I controlled all aspects of their life. I decided what foods they would eat and when they would eat. Now they are exposed to foods in the school cafeteria that I shudder to think of them eating. They can throw away the organic, whole grains, not a trace of HFCS foodstuffs I've packed and buy pure junk if they want.

As babies, toddlers and preschoolers I chose their friends and activities. I scheduled playdates at my convenience and took them to the library or music class if it suited me. If I had a lot to do or errands to run then we skipped storytime that week. They never knew the difference because they didn't know what day of the week it was and had little sense of time. Now they are all involved in extracurricular, baseball, softball, gymnastics, dance, and church school. The days and times of these activities are dictated to me and I have to figure out how to squeeze errands and household tasks around them. I don't pick their friends now. They make their friends at school and in their various activities and I just have to deal with it. I can't pick the kids whose Mom I happen to get along with if the kids just don't hit it off. Tough noogies for me.

Granted it's easier not having to pack a diaper bag so that I'm ready for any and every contingency but honestly that wasn't such a big deal for me. Once the bag was packed I just needed to keep it stocked and by the door. The stroller was always in the car so a spur of the moment outing didn't require all that much more work. Yes, I don't have to change diapers while eating out but now they ask to use the bathroom and I must accompany them and for some reason they always realize they have to go the moment my food comes to the table. When they were in diapers, the chances that I'd have to change them while we were eating was pretty slim.

I worry about bullying at school and on the bus. They are exposed to language and subject matter that I do not consider appropriate for children while at school and on the bus. They have been taunted, laughed at and been embarrassed and I couldn't shield them from any of it because I was home and they were out there in the big bad world. I'm proud of them because they have handled it. There have been tears and questions and scoldings and conversations surrounding all of these things. I can only hope that they take the values we have taught them and use their good judgement to make decisions as they navigate through their day. It's very difficult for me to let them take control of all this and trust that they are capable of handling it. I want to protect them but I have to force myself to start letting them go. This is hard stuff. This is considerably more difficult for me than sleepless nights and wrangling baby gear and juggling the demands of three kids under five.

And having talked to my siblings and in laws with teenagers, I think it only gets harder still. Excuse me now, I'm going to go back and bury my head in the newspaper in denial.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

all you need to make a snowman

We've been battered by the winter gods so far this winter season. Already we've had two major winter storms. I'm talking 24" of snow...two freaking feet of snow. It's pretty, it's a winter wonderland, it's magical and it's too effing cold to take the kids outside to enjoy the white fluffy stuff. Not to mention the little guys can barely walk when the snow comes up past their waists. Not a whole heck of a lot of fun to stand out in the snow. I decided we needed to make a snowman and got out everything we needed. Glue, wax paper, paintbrush, construction paper, scissors and a paper punch. Yep, you read that right. No snow, dressing kids in a zillion layers, cold wet hands when mittens go missing, or potty emergencies 3 seconds after heading outside. This project was simple enough that the 3 and 4 year olds could do it unassisted and the toddlers needed only minimal assistance.

I made a snowman template and placed that under the wax paper for the kids to follow but you don't have to. I also free hand cut out the hat, carrot nose, arms, and hole punched the eyes and buttons. You could also use recyclables or found objects for these items. You will need a lot of glue. I got the biggest squeeze bottle so it would be simpler to follow the template.

Once the template is under the wax paper let the child squeeze glue on the wax paper inside the lines of the snowman. It's hard to get the glue in every little spot so we used a paintbrush to gently spread the glue into any empty spaces.

Next your child will need to add the snowman's hat, nose, eyes, arms and buttons. I found it was best to tell them not to smush the item into the glue because then their fingers get all gluey and the next paper piece sticks to their hands. I showed them how they could get as close as possible and then just to drop the piece onto the snowman. This worked out well for the most part.

Here they are drying. They did spread a little which the kids found hysterical. "My snowman is melting!!!" The more glue your child uses the more it spreads so we tried to find a good balance between not enough and too much. They will dry overnight. Once they had dried I cut the excess wax paper off. I was going to peel them off the wax paper but I tried and it didn't really work all that well. So I just left them on.

Here is our crowd of frosty friends. I love how whimsical they are.

These guys were made by the toddlers and I think they are even cuter. They've got a zaniness that is just so appealing.