Tuesday, April 15, 2014

In memoriam

I met Tanji Dewberry at the Happy Mama Conference -- that is, the conference for mothers of special-needs kids -- last year. I was struck by several things: She was incredibly nice; she'd turned herself into a strong advocate for her son, a little older than my son, who also had ADHD; and man, did she wear amazing shoes.

She was one of the few other New Jerseyans I came across that weekend, and she'd self-published a children's book, "Oh Fiddlesticks!" designed to teach kids how to handle their anger. I was nosy, so I quizzed her on how she'd gotten the book done, how much it had cost, that sort of thing; she readily answered every question. She signed a copy for my son.

On Sunday night, she and her son died in a house fire.

The cause is unclear, though possibly an electrical malfunction. I keep being horrified by this story all over again. She was doing right by her son and trying her best to achieve her dreams, and it is just not right that the two of them are not here anymore.

Over on the Happy Mama Facebook page, there is talk of creating a conference scholarship in her honor. I think that's a nice idea, and should one happen, I'll post any pertinent links. I keep looking for an obituary, for someplace to send a memorial contribution or a card or, I don't know, something. I feel like attention should be paid.

I can't say I knew her well. But she seemed very much worth knowing. And I think this is a tremendous loss.

Incidentally, her book? My kids like it. In fact kiddette asked me to read it to her tonight.

I'm glad I bought it when I had the chance.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hills and other obstacles

So I had a meeting with the school last week to further brainstorm ways to help our not-quite-behaving kiddo in the classroom -- they've already modified how they use his behavior chart, and I suggested a clock-style chart on his desk to keep him on task during the day, as well as a few other things. I also alerted them that we'd taken kiddo off the medication, because, turns out, it was making him fall asleep on the bus every day, and not otherwise doing much good for him. (On to Plan C.) They were understanding, and said they would keep an eye out for aberrant unmedicated behavior.

Though honestly I was kind of curious: What's he like unmedicated? Turns out the answer is, "More hyperactive than you remember." Also randomly defiant and near-constantly goofing around. It hasn't been a bad week ... just an interesting week. I haven't gotten many reports from his teacher, though, so I don't know the full story yet.

One thing about kiddo, though: He's quite charming. The school officials told me, with some amusement, how kiddo has been handling his "heavy work" assignment of carrying a load of books down the hall for his teacher. (The idea being, it's a sneaky way to build extra physical activity into his day.) He was walking out into the hallway and telling the first teacher he saw, "My teacher wants me to carry all these books!" And then the teacher would say, "Oh, let me get those for you!" And then he is heavy work-less.

The school officials noted that he is so cute, after all, that people would do such things for him, and he's pretty smart, and I said I hoped he never enters politics. Although if anyone needs a fence whitewashed, they should probably give him a call.

In the meantime, at least it's sort of warm enough to do actual exercise outside. Kiddo and I went for a bike ride over the weekend. I was relieved to find that my bike, which I got at a garage sale last year, had tuned up and then left in the garage for months because of my back issues (and also winter), rides pretty nicely. I made one other wonderful discovery:

On bike, I am faster than kiddo.

"Come back here, you little Mommy!" he kept yelling.

"You have to pedal faster to get up the hill!" I called back.

Maybe I should've gone slower. But the thing is, I've been chasing after this kid since he could walk. Through parks. Across parking lots. Down hallways and around the mall. Run run run. You know what? You chase me for once, sweetie.

Oh, am I going to enjoy this. Every single weekend, whenever we're free. "Hey kiddo, want to ride bikes? Catch me if you can!"

Mwa ha ha ha ha.

Kiddo has also started T-ball practices, and I'm pretty sure he's actually hit the ball at least twice. I'm going to take that as a plus.

Another plus: He turned 7 on Sunday (yeesh, he's 7? I have a 7-year-old?) and had a most fabulous time at his party, and even more or less patiently waited until well after the party had ended before opening his gifts. Patiently waiting for anything is a bit of a struggle for him, so I'm glad he was able to see it through.

So, lots of pluses, even among the troubles and the roadblocks. Who's up for a bike ride?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The karate kid scores

with a fourth-place trophy in his first-ever sparring match. I'll take it. First of all, I'm thrilled he even got out there on the gym floor, got his gear on -- after just getting the gear for the first time last week -- and kinda sorta remembered his moves enough to spar with someone (although he appeared to have forgotten he could kick as well as punch). Second, not every single kid walked out of there with a trophy, meaning some merit was involved. He also got promoted to orange belt level 1, which struck me as a possibly fast promotion given he just got yellow last time around, but DH thinks the first couple levels are easier to get promoted in, and after that you have to really work at it. So, fine.

I know I sound like a bit of a killjoy here, doubting the belt promotion, but I am severely allergic to the "Everyone gets a trophy! Everyone's a winner!" mentality and frankly wouldn't send kiddo to karate twice a week, or pay for the gear and the shiai entry, if I thought he wasn't really earning his wins. As they put it in my favorite Pixar movie:

Helen: Everyone's special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

Kids should be allowed to be bad at things. How else will they ever figure out what they're really good at?

We did have one issue early on. Kiddo and kiddette and I were wandering the gym floor, looking for his classmates so she and I could go find seats in the bleachers, when a few of the classmates ran by. I sent kiddo after them, but he came back, upset, because the girl leading the pack told him to stop following them. I thought maybe he'd misunderstood, and sent him their way again. Nope, the girl definitely told him to go away. He came back in tears.

Now, he's had a little bit of a crush on this girl, and has been known to goof around when standing next to her in class; his way of showing off. Add to that his usual inability to read social cues, plus she's a little older than he is. I totally get where all this would be annoying to her, and if she by herself had told him to scram, I wouldn't have said anything about it. But there were other kids following her, so suddenly it was a group rejection, and I was left standing there with one crying boy, his bewildered sister and no idea what to do with either of them.

I marched them both across the floor until I found one of kiddo's instructors, and explained that the other kids were being a little mean. He promised to take care of the situation and of kiddo. Walking back through the room, I spied the girl and her cohorts standing near the entrance. I had a brief mental argument with myself -- do I say something? do I keep walking? -- and then the little devil on my right shoulder won out. "Are you always that mean to my son?" I asked her, and kept walking.

Probably I shouldn't have said anything. Probably the girl didn't mean to make him cry. Probably no one in this situation is old enough to react appropriately to anything, except me, and I still didn't. But his heart is so much on his sleeve, and it's going to keep getting broken, because he has no idea that some of his behaviors annoy people. And I can't protect him from that, and I won't always deal well with that knowledge.

At the very least, I'm starting to nudge kiddo to stay away from the girl from now on. Better for everyone involved.

Still, even with that incident it was a good day. Kiddo got his trophy, he'll get his new belt in class (what do we do with the old ones, anyway? Donate them somewhere? Make funky art projects out of them?), and he got to scarf pizza and cookies at the after-shiai party. All's well that ends well.