Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The people in our village

Kiddo is still doing fabulously (his teacher called him his "shining star," which believe me, no other teacher has ever called him ever), and we're delighted and still a little baffled by it. The thing is, a lot of people are helping kiddo, and that's making all the difference.

As generally great as he's been in school, he still has the occasional mini-meltdown when he has to get on the bus in the morning, especially if he feels like he didn't get enough playtime with the other kids. One of the boys threw an arm around his shoulders this morning and walked him down the sidewalk, helping him get to the bus. And frankly the bus driver deserves some sort of award for sitting there so patiently while we convince kiddo that he really does need to go to school now.

I can't say enough nice things about his teacher, who is amazingly upbeat and positive, and tells us every day about how smart kiddo is, not about what a bad kid he is. Kiddo brought a toy truck to school the other day and the back wheels came off, which is normally a Code Red disaster, but his teacher helped him write a nice email to Daddy asking that he fix the truck later. Then his teacher told us separately what a good job kiddo did calming down. Finally, someone who gets that the calming down is the hard part.

We've basically given up on athletics for him, because clearly he inherited my (lack of) athletic ability, and have signed him up for acting class. I was extremely up front with the staff about him, because if he was going to be a problem, or a disruption to the class, I wasn't even going to try. But they've worked with ADHD kids before, they said, and if he needed a break they'd give him one, and he loves the class so I worried for a whole lot of nothing. I'm not saying he's going to be an actor, but putting him in a place with other kids his age where he's enjoying himself can only be a good thing.

We also found a special needs Lego building class and he is smoking it. The teacher has one assignment ready for the kids each session that's supposed to take the whole class time to build, and he's done in five minutes. Future engineer? Future Nathan Sawaya? Who knows? But at least we finally got him into extracurricular activities he's good at.

Not to mention all our friends and family, who've always been supportive, and have always been quick to cheer on any of kiddo's accomplishments.

It's a good place for kiddo to be in, and us, and I hope we stay here a while.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The merry-go-round of nothing getting done

So first, watch this bit from John Oliver, because he says it better than I ever could.


OK, all done? Heartbreaking, right? Now then.

It is exasperating beyond belief to me that the only time anyone says anything about mental health issues is right after another shooting. And then nothing gets done about improving our mental health system OR about gun control. And then there is another shooting. And everyone makes the same concerned noises and goes back to ignoring both issues.

And Jessica Williams put that better than I ever could.


You know what the real shame of all of this is? Not the stigma attached to mental illness or mental disorders, or the lack of treatment options. Not the ease with which people who shouldn't have guns can get guns.

The real shame is that the only people who have anything sensible or well-researched to say on any of these topics are professional comedians

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Knocking on wood, crossing fingers

Because still, so far so good. I met kiddo's teacher at Back to School Night and he seems smart, thoughtful, well informed and committed to working with his kids and helping them succeed. (Also SO young. I am again considering changing the name of this blog to Angry Old Mom. Or Angry Sort-of Middle-Aged But Not Really Because What's Middle-Aged These Days Mom.) As soon as the kids understand the lesson, he moves on. No busy work or extra homework. Kids need a break? They all run around outside for a few minutes. Kids upset? He helps them calm down and doesn't judge them. I feel like he should be cloned so he can teach everyone's classes.

Kiddette, of course, is still in the original school, so she gets approximately three million sheets of paper a night. Not a commentary on her teacher, who also seems awesome; it's more on the school in general.

It's a little odd, having kids in different schools in the same town. Technically we needed to join a PTA and a PTO. And we see different parents we know at different school events. And now I have two different schools to get totally lost in because I'm like that.

The comparisons are inevitable. So far kiddo's school is winning. Admittedly this may be because he, and we, had such an awful experience at the original school last year. But having gone to two different Back to School Nights at two different places, School #2 has a friendlier, more casual vibe. I'm glad kiddo ended up there.

I'm almost waiting for the metaphorical other shoe to drop. There's been so much negativity for so long, it's hard to believe that we're completely past it. But right now, things are pleasant. Knock wood.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

So far, so good

Both kids had a positive first week of school. And let me assure you, I have never written that sentence before. But kiddo's new teacher seems to focus on his good points, moreso than his bad points, and is focusing on heading off any potential meltdowns so that kiddo can get classwork done. At least that's the vibe I get from the daily emails. It's definitely a change from "here are all the things your child did wrong today."

Still, it's too early to see whether we're finally going to deviate from the script. You know. This script.

EDUCATOR/DAYCARE PERSON: Oh, don't worry about your son, he'll be fine.

ME: Um, OK, but just so you know, he has ADHD and he has difficulty managing his emotions because he's a few years behind behaviorally and he has trouble with personal space and ....

EDUCATOR/DAYCARE PERSON: Oh, no sweat! We know all about all that stuff. We can totally handle him.

****** ONE MONTH LATER ********

EDUCATOR/DAYCARE PERSON: Well, your son did this today and that and this and that.

ME: Yes, we see these behaviors at home. These are the things he has trouble with.

EDUCATOR/DAYCARE PERSON: He needs to learn better behavior.

ME: ..... Right. We'll talk to him.


EDUCATOR/DAYCARE PERSON: Yeah, we can't handle him.

ME: *Mentally bangs head against wall*

So, here's hoping we're operating with a different script this time. I hate reruns.

Meanwhile kiddette loves her teacher and loves going to school and loves her pink sneakers and is just generally loving life. She also appears to be playing with dolls. We may have reached Girl Territory.

In further scary neighborhood dog news, the Animal Control folks had no idea that the dog that bit kiddo has a history of biting kids, because for some reason no other reports on that address came up when the Animal Control guy looked. Which is odd, because of all the reports I've gotten from neighbors for nearly six years. Animal Control says sometimes, people don't call when a dog bites someone, because they don't want to cause trouble with the neighbors, and if the medical bills are paid for, hey, it's all taken care of, right?

Yeah, no. 1. There's a leash law in this state and the dog was routinely off-leash in the front yard. 2. The dog BITES KIDS. I'm told at least one victim went to the hospital. Even if the parents didn't call the police, the doctors treating the kids would have been legally required to do so. In fact, the people at the medical center who treated kiddo were relieved that we'd already called the police, because it saved them some paperwork.

So I don't buy for a second that there aren't other reports, and I'm not OK with playing nice neighbor and letting it drop, specifically because I know the dog has bitten before and despite that, the dog was still off-leash in the front yard. The neighbor's been careful about keeping the dog locked up or leashed ever since the incident, but what if the neighbor decides, two months from now, that everything's cool again and lets the dog run free?

Well, I call the cops again, obviously.

Kiddo's ankle is just about healed, but he's easily spooked around dogs now, which is an aggravation and a heartbreak. I grew up with dogs and cats and all sorts of other creatures. I don't know if he'll ever be OK with dogs.

Still, school is going well. That's a positive I'll take over many other negatives. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Catching up, looking ahead

I never got why some parents so eagerly counted down to the first day of school, but obviously that was because I was still working full time. Now, I get it. School is starting, hooray.

It is amazing how they manage to make every surface of the house into a toy container. Including the floor of our bedroom. As though their own bedrooms were somehow not sufficient space for their toys. And the playroom? There is no floor left in the playroom. I'm just going to wait until they've outgrown all the toys in it and then donate the entire room somewhere.

I'd say they both basically had good summers. Kiddette had a fine time at camp. She went to the pool, she went on field trips, she made crafts, she fell in love with her camp counselor (who was a nice kid and pretty patient about the whole thing). Kiddo did well in extended school year, and had a fine time at Lego camp; he had one not-listening incident on the last day, but all things considered, that's a better-than-usual success rate for him.

The only time we've had issues is when we didn't have grand plans for the kids, or special trips, or meals out. Unstructured time = whining + complaining + screeching + stolen toys/teasing/slammed doors. I thought they'd be better able to fend for themselves. I was wrong. Here we are now, Mommy. Entertain us.

Also, I'd love to say kiddo has gotten better at managing his emotions, but not really. He had a meltdown this morning because I asked the kids to move some toys to the playroom before breakfast. I thought being able to see the coffee table would be nice. He stole his sister's toy and ran off. Because when he's upset, we all need to be upset too.

He's generally calmer, at least. When we go to his psychiatrist's office, he can sit more or less in one spot for most of the appointment, instead of repeatedly leaping from the couch to the carpet. I'll take whatever improvements I can get.

We did have a bit of a setback, on account of the neighbor's giant dog biting him last week for the severe crime of running across the street in front of the dog. The UNLEASHED dog. Who was sitting in the front yard despite having a reputation for biting kids. I waited a week to write anything about this because I was so steamed, and ha ha, turns out I'm still steamed. Years of neighbors telling us they're terrified of the dog, terrified to walk in front of that house. I actually thought we got along with the dog. But well, gosh, the dog just doesn't like it when pesky kids run in front of him. Silly us! To think we could let our kids walk across the street when clearly we should be driving them. You know, so no one upsets the dog.

Kiddo is healing nicely, and is almost done with the antibiotics. We haven't seen the neighbor since the incident, when I screamed at her in the front yard in full view of other neighbors, though she did stick an apology letter of sorts on our door. We also haven't seen the dog since the incident, which is good, because I'll call the cops right back if I ever see it unleashed again.

Honestly, this kid is afraid to walk into a Halloween store and I'm supposed to make him OK with having a giant aggressive biting dog for a neighbor? Why is it on me to make him OK with this?

At any rate. Kiddo actually seems to be looking forward to school, which is a nice change from past years, and we've gotten a good vibe so far from the new teacher. So who knows, maybe it'll be a good year? Or at least better than last year.

Everything looks hopeful in September.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

ADHD is not a moral choice

But apparently a lot of grownups still think it is. I have no idea how else to explain why a school resource officer in Kentucky allegedly decided to handcuff an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, both of whom have ADHD, on separate occasions because they wouldn't listen and they were getting physically aggressive. A school administrator took a video of the boy sitting there in handcuffs, crying -- for 15 MINUTES -- and now the kids' parents and the ACLU are suing over it.

Again, an 8-year-old boy with special needs was allegedly left sitting in handcuffs for 15 minutes. Because he wasn't following directions, he tried to escape the principal's office, and then he hit the resource officer with his elbow.

His ELBOW. Oh you poor grown man. However will you survive a vicious elbow attack?

The girl was allegedly handcuffed twice. Once, because she was disruptive in class, sent to an "isolation room," tried to leave the room, and the principal and vice principal had to restrain her. Somehow that equaled attacking them. She left the school in an ambulance; the handcuffing caused "a severe mental health crisis."

I hate to break the news to the school resource officer -- and apparently the entire staff of this school -- but being disruptive in class, trying to run out of the classroom, and throwing the occasional elbow at grownups is part of ADHD. Believe me, I wish it weren't. But my son has done any or all of those things in any given day. Because ADHD isn't just about being hyperactive and being impulsive. It's about behaviorally, emotionally, being about four years behind their peers. Everything kiddo does and says makes sense if you think of him as 4, not 8. Unfortunately, he's 8, and tall, so he looks older. So he looks like a really badly behaved 9-year-old.

But no one at his school ever handcuffed him. Possibly because that's illegal.

If you think of a kid as doing bad things deliberately, then your instinct is to yell and punish. If you think of a kid as being unable to control himself -- or herself -- in that moment, your instinct should be to remove the kid from the situation, get them calmed down, help them make the right choice. I said should be, because I think a lot of people instantly revert to the bad kid-punishment method, whether or not it works. We've done it. Trust me: It doesn't. Getting kiddo calmed down? That works, at school and at home. And he always, always apologizes for whatever he did or said, and generally feels awful about it afterward. Why should I yell at him when I can already see him beating himself up over his behavior? Is anything I say half as bad as what he's saying to himself?

My son is a good kid who isn't in full control of himself. I bet those other kids are the same. And they did not deserve to have their arms yanked back into handcuffs when, I have no doubt, every single school day is torture to them as it is.

School officials -- anyone who deals with children, ever -- need to change their way of thinking if they actually want to help special needs kids. Otherwise, what they really want is to do what's convenient. In which case, do us all a favor and don't work with kids.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Kiddo is fine, except when he isn't. That is, he's fine until something upsets him, and then he says mean things and is generally unpleasant to be around. That's the pattern these days.

DH and I have figured out that if he's having a meltdown, he's either tired or hungry or both. So we don't react when he yells "I hate you! I hate everyone in this house!" or when he runs away instead of helping to clean up. Getting upset adds fuel to the fire, so to speak, and yelling solves nothing. I've tried it. Doesn't work.

Instead, we wait for him to calm down, or encourage him to breathe, or give him some space, or suggest a snack and/or nap. These are the workarounds. They take a lot more thought and careful planning, but they do seem to help.

Sometimes I resort to sneakiness. He was heading toward meltdown status because I was feeling off and didn't want to take him to the park. I lay down on the couch and pretended to doze. A few minutes later, he crawled onto the couch to join me, and promptly fell asleep. For about two hours.

You can't just tell him to take a nap. You have to make the nap look inviting.

Sometimes I set the rules in advance. I gave the kids a strict edict on Monday that we would not visit the ice cream truck more than once a week. They nodded "sure, sure" as they ate their ice cream sandwiches. Today, they asked for ice cream. I reminded them of the rule, and after only a tiny bit of grumbling, they stopped.

I warned kiddo in advance that he would not be playing with the computers in the children's section of the library, and he listened, although I did have to nudge him away from the screen. But I always have to nudge him away from screens. Because ADHD.

I used to just get upset whenever he had a meltdown, or whenever he whined and complained and seemed overly negative about things. But I know the real kiddo is not that kid. The real kiddo is the little sweetie who likes to play peek-a-boo with babies and who always opens doors for me, declaring, "Ladies first!" That kid deserves the extra care and consideration if he's having trouble managing his emotions. Fortunately, now we have the time to give him that extra care, and I think that'll make a difference in the long term.

An interesting side note: Kiddette has decided she needs fidget toys for camp. This may be her way of sneaking toys to camp. Or her way of getting some of kiddo's attention for herself. Or maybe she just thinks, as she says, that if you get too happy, you need a fidget toy to calm down. But she's designated a tiny Elmo doll as her main fidget toy, and has been bringing him along to camp.

I figure it can't hurt. Kiddette just has a workaround of her own. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

The tadpole saga

Our neighbors were traveling abroad. I volunteered to babysit their tadpole.

It was a symbolic tadpole. The kids were supposed to release them once they became frogs. I'm a little fuzzy on the details. I was also fuzzy on the calendar, because I'd forgotten we were also going away for a few days.

Our neighbors didn't mind. We'd be in a hotel room. The tadpole could come with us.

So I packed up the little tank and moved the tadpole into a smaller container, and we drove off. The tadpole - who was pretty big for a baby frog - sat between my feet. He looked displeased.

Our room wasn't ready yet when we got there, but the front desk staff offered to watch the tadpole for us while we went to lunch. So to recap: Other people babysat the tadpole we were babysitting. We outsourced.

When I came back for the tadpole, though, I could see staff members clustered in the back, looking at me and whispering, and I thought, Oh no. Sure enough, the tadpole was no longer with us. "We're so sorry," they said. "We don't know what happened. We were all watching him swim around."

I assured them it wasn't their fault. Because really, second-degree babysitting a guest's tadpole is going above and beyond. They did suggest catching a new one from the lake, which was a nice thought, but only because they don't know me. I was not the sort of kid who was an expert at catching tadpoles. I had no ingrained knowledge to guide me. If I tried to catch a tadpole I'd probably wind up submerging myself.

We didn't exactly inform the kids right away. It wasn't the happiest way to begin our vacation. So the tadpole, officially, was taking a nap for a little while. The kids are not dumb, though, and they've gone through a few dead fish already. They knew the signs. They were sad for a few seconds, and then they wanted to go to the bumper cars. Like I said: They've gone through a few dead fish already.

The only decent thing to do was to replace the tadpole. You'd be surprised how many pet stores don't sell tadpoles. Also, the ones that do frequently sell bullfrogs, which eat other frogs, and a lot of websites discourage releasing them into the wild. Now I had an ethical dilemma. Or, an even more ethical dilemma.

Happily, I found an aquatic pet store that 1. sells tadpoles and 2. only sells species that can be released into the wild. The owner said he will never, never, never pet-sit for someone, because so much can go wrong, and he gets a lot of people coming in to replace goldfish or betta fish before, I presume, the rightful owners return. This was his first replacement tadpole, though. It's so nice to be a trailblazer.

Tadpole #2 is livelier than the first one, in that he seems to think he can make his pond expand just by butting his head against the wall. He occasionally leaps out of the water entirely, so as we sit in the family room, we hear sploosh sploosh from the kitchen. It takes some getting used to.

Our neighbors returned from their trip, and it's a good thing I had no intention of lying, because as soon as his friend asked about the tadpole, kiddo said, "Well, he died. But we got a new one!"

Excellent bedside manner, kiddo. Definitely become a doctor.

His friend was upset for about .5 seconds, until he found out that #2 has legs coming, and the coolness factor override any lingering grief.

So I expect our neighbors will come to collect #2, and once again we will be petless. That's fine. I'm starting to feel like creatures that live in water should run from our house.

Cute tadpole, though. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Last day countdown

Today is the last day of school. Today was also kiddette's class writing presentation. I thought it started at 9:30. It started at 9. So after showing up a half-hour late, kiddette dissolved into tears when I tried to leave. That's been my day so far. It's a bit symbolic of how awful this school year has been.

I don't know if other (read: non-special needs) parents say this, but I just cannot wait for the year to be over. I don't even know how I'm keeping kiddo occupied all summer and I don't care. I want two months of not being judged on my parenting/organizing/class-attendance skills by other parents/educators/random people in public. I want two months of NOT getting calls from the school: "Your son did XXXX," "Your son did YYYY," "Come get your son." Two whole months of not caring about homework or monitoring whether they're written enough book reports. Two whole months of not having to resent school officials.

Forget the kids. I need a break.

By the way? I was an honors student, gifted child, AP classes when I was in school. I was Hermione Granger. How bad does kiddo's school year have to be to completely sour me on the whole school experience? This bad.

I will say that he's adapted pretty well to the new program, and that the folks on the all-new IEP team seem nice and really dedicated to working with him -- as in, not even concerned that he's been throwing pencils at them or trying to escape the classroom. That sort of thing is apparently usual for newbies. They're confident that he'll continue to improve, and they said he's a happy kid who responds well to praise.

That's a nice change from "Your son did this and this and this and he's doing this deliberately and he knows better but he's making bad choices."

Anyway. The kids are home now, and everyone seems happy, especially since I promised them ice cream tonight. So we'll take summer one relaxing-ish day at a time. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

The changeling

It's hard to know how to handle a kid who changes all the time.

Sometimes he's a sweetie who likes to give hugs. Sometimes he's the kid who cheerfully went along with me to the farm for CSA pickup last week, helped me pick out the veggies on our list, and ran along the ground to marvel at the rows of potatoes he helped plant.

And then sometimes he's the kid who kicks his teacher, throws things, and runs out of the room so he doesn't have to do his classwork.

We're not entirely sure which kid we're going to get on which day. Sometimes he gets dressed without a problem. Sometimes he crouches over a Lego instead and says he doesn't care if he misses breakfast or the bus. Sometimes he does his chores, and sometimes he huddles on the couch and refuses. Sometimes he kicks.

"Changeling" means, according to legend, a baby who was secretly taken from his parents by fairies, and a fairy substitute left in his place. It's not an exact comparison here. Sometimes we have our kiddo, and sometimes we don't. But that's how it feels: Like our real kiddo has been stolen from us, but sometimes he's still here. And sometimes he isn't.

I don't think he can really control these moods. He's always sorry afterward. But it's hard to know what to do to get him through the day. It's hard to know how to help him. And it's hard not to get upset.

I've become reluctant to bring him places, like a supermarket or a festival, where I know he'll have problems. When people ask "how are the kids?" I honestly don't know how to answer. Do they want the honest answer?

I'm hoping things will settle down after the school year is over. Maybe this past year was so bad he just needs the break. Maybe we all need the break.

But right now, he's refusing to get dressed again, so the changeling is back.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Slightly better?

So far so good, anyway. I'm not sure kiddo is any different, but the setting is different, and I think that's what he needed most -- to be in a room where there's always someone to help him, and he isn't automatically the bad kid, and the other kids are more or less like him anyway. Arguably he needed that at least a year ago. But he's got it now, and he's had some good days -- and he's actually doing his homework instead of, say, hiding it under a floor mat at school and then coming home and telling us he didn't have any.

We had one awful day last week, where he switched into some other, meaner kid and was kicking and punching so he wouldn't have to do homework, but we're hoping that was him transitioning into the new situation; we haven't seen the other kid since, at least not to that level.

We spent the entire week alternately meeting with and yelling at various school officials over the way we thought the whole situation had been handled, and to everyone's credit, they were helpful and did not yell back. So we will try not to dwell.

Everyone we speak to has a different theory, a different concern about kiddo. He's OCD. He's not OCD. He's got social communication disorder. Well, now we're not sure about that. He's got pieces of autism. Hmm, sort of. He needs speech-language pathology testing. Nope, no disability there.

Let him indulge in the baby talk. No, tell him to stop. Use a behavior chart. Don't use a chart. Use THIS chart. Get him into Boy Scouts. He might not do well in Boy Scouts.

Is your head spinning yet? Imagine mine.

So he's got ADHD, and some form of Who Knows What Else.

The one thing every single doctor, therapist, educator and otherwise observant adult is happy to agree on is that kiddo is smart. Which is great. But we jump off from there into a minefield of "This-No-This-No-This-No-Try-This."

There is something that stuck with me, from the school's OT, who wanted to pass on her observations about him: She said that because kiddo doesn't understand emotional communication, he just doesn't speak that language, he spent most of school in this "fight or flight" state, not understanding what was happening around him, not sure what to do about anything, and thus constantly trying to protect himself by lashing out, acting silly or running off. She thinks some of his behaviors, sometimes aggressive, seemingly out of nowhere, were defense mechanisms. It makes sense to me. (It may also describe some other people I know.)

I'm not sure yet what to do with that insight. I'm not sure what to do about a lot of things. But it's nice not to be getting calls from the school every day -- seriously, I was starting to cringe every time the phone rang -- and it's nice to see his daily chart saying positive things. I'm hoping it can continue.

He came home today and, after some protest, did his homework. Then he sat next to me on the couch and waited for me to finish something so he could use my computer. Then he fell asleep on my shoulder. I finished my work that way, with him sleeping on me, and it was such a peaceful little moment. We don't always get those, so I'm glad I got that one.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

And then it all went bad

And I'm still not sure why or how. He was great for a week and a half, then he started chasing kids around the classroom with a stapler. And scribbling potty words all over the walls of the room with a pink highlighter. And grabbing scissors off his teacher's desk. And trying to run out of the school. And pushing his teacher. And throwing things at me.

Repeatedly his special ed. teacher has had to pull the other kids out of the room while he acts out. And then no classwork gets done. Which, apparently, is what he wants.

Honestly I feel like I have whiplash. Within the space of several weeks -- granted not helped by spring break, or by kiddo's doctor-enforced ban on gym and recess while the cut on his forehead heals (four weeks, the plastic surgeon said, and HAHAHAHAHA YOU'RE KIDDING, I thought) -- his IEP team went from "we're going to try a new behavioral plan, it'll totally work!" to "the behavioral plan is totally working!" to "we can't handle him anymore and here is where you should send him instead."

Seems there's a self-contained program at one of the other schools in the district, more therapeutic, with a counselor on hand all day, smaller classes and extra aides in the room. More individualized academic goals. A separate room right nearby for decompressing and, as the terminology goes, "de-escalating." On paper it sounds promising. In person -- we've toured it twice, once with kiddo -- it also seems promising. In the IEP meeting, it sounded like "we give up and we're offloading him so he's someone else's problem." It's hard to know which impression to rely on.

I'm so unbelievably frustrated. Four years we've been working on this whole ADHD thing, four years of occupational therapy and behavioral therapy and classroom accommodations and fighting with the insurance company and tensing up every single time he has to be brought out in public, and we have gotten precisely nowhere. We might as well have been the crappy parents people clearly think we are, and ignored every single little thing he was doing instead of trying to help him. This is where my head is at.

I know, intellectually, that we're doing the best we can and we've worked really hard, and probably this program will help him, and eventually things will probably get better. But right now I'm thinking about how the other kids at the bus stop are going to ask why he isn't in class with them anymore, and I don't know how I'm supposed to answer that.

All I know is, if anyone wants to know what I want for Mother's Day, it's to be left alone. In bed. And to go at least one day without any reports on my kid's bad behavior.

I mean, an all-expenses-paid spa vacation would be nice too. But I'd like to keep my wish list in the realm of reality.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Our ER day

So the kids were helping Daddy clean the garage. And then kiddette started -- I'm told -- swinging a broom around for fun. And then -- I'm told -- the broom connected hard with kiddo's forehead. Blood everywhere.

I was at a meeting for my writers' group. As it turned out, this would be somewhat convenient, because I was only a few minutes away from the hospital. I rushed over there to meet DH and the kids. Kiddo had been upset at first, thinking 1. he was bleeding to death and 2. I was going to be really mad at him over all the blood on the kitchen floor. I'm not sure how I feel about that. At any rate, by the time they pulled up outside the pediatric ER entrance, he was more or less calm.

The first nurse praised him for doing such a good job keeping pressure on the wound. Then he chattered to her all about the pain scale chart she had and how his school nurse has one too but the words are different, and also about his fish that died but we're going to get a cat instead, and I'm pretty sure about a dozen other things but at that point I was trying to get the blood off his glasses. She was trying not to smile and failing.

The second nurse made his day joyous by turning the TV on in our room. Which is a good thing, because we sat there for hours waiting for the plastic surgeon. Did he need stitches? Silly mommy. He totally needs stitches, said everyone. So we watched "Clarence," which was funny in a cracked way, "The Amazing World of Gumball," which was funnier in a thanks-for-all-the-'80s-references way, and "Teen Titans Go!" which is the loopiest superhero sitcom on the planet. I haven't watched so much Cartoon Network since I was secretly obsessed with "Home Movies."

What delighted me was how seriously the nurse took kiddo's ADHD. Is there any way to keep his hands at his sides during the procedure, she asked, maybe a squishy ball? I suggested a blanket, she countered with a weighted blanket, which is ten times better. He ended up with two squishy balls and the blanket. And then the surgeon came in, took one look at the mesmerized child watching "Teen Titans Go!" and suggested we just let him watch TV the entire time. Which was practically better than anesthetics. Seriously, as much as I restrict screen time at home, I think hospitals are about the perfect place for TVs.

Watching the gaping wound on your child's forehead get sewn up is ... interesting. And squirm-inducing. But kiddo, aside from a few early squawks, took it like a champ. Because, again, TV. (I don't know how many stitches. I wasn't counting. There were three layers of stitches.)

In fact he was so mesmerized that he didn't want to leave when we were discharged, because "Adventure Time" was on. "I don't care that it just started," I said. "We have to go home."

Even better, the nurse gave him a Lego set. I mean, a full-on, mid-size Lego set. I don't remember getting cool toys when I went to the hospital as a kid. When did this start? Can I demand a retroactive My Little Pony or something?

By the time he was all set, and we'd gotten our discharge instructions -- which included "let his hair grow over his forehead to hide the scar from the sun," so I guess we'll be modifying his hairstyle -- it was 9:30 and we hadn't eaten dinner. And I was so tired I walked us right past the elevator. I had no idea how I was going to get us to a restaurant, or even what restaurant was open. I have never been so grateful to see an in-hospital Starbucks. Snobby? Elitist? Whatever. I had a fruit and cheese platter, he had yogurt, and we probably both ate healthier than we would've anyplace else at that point. (Not counting the giant cookie and the chocolate croissant.) Also, kiddo's shirt was bloody. Not the best dining-out look.

He's been home since, awaiting the follow-up visit to the plastic surgeon, and aside from intensely disliking when we change the bandage, he's been fine. Because he's gotten to build Legos, watch TV and play video games all day. He's going to have a scar for about a year and a half, but at least he's already found the upside.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Somebody pinch me

Because kiddo has had a good week. In fact he's halfway through his second good week. No calls from the school. No impromptu IEP meetings. Lots of smiley faces on his behavior chart.

He doesn't get it either. He said, out of nowhere, that he doesn't understand why he's having good days now. Medication working? All that extra work with the school's behaviorist finally sinking in? Moon in a different position? I'm not sure. I'm not complaining.

He's still just about impossible to drag out of bed and get ready for school. (That's probably not changing.) But he does his schoolwork. He does his homework. He sets the table. He holds the door for me and announces, "Ladies first!" Yes, that is adorable.

There is still the occasional hiccup. You know how some hair salons have that annoying touchscreen for you to check in at, because Heaven forbid you have to talk to one of the employees? Kiddo was great during his haircut, and then immediately afterward latched onto the touchscreen, because it's a screen. Screens don't have to do anything interesting to catch his eye -- they just have to be screens, and turned on. I had to drag him away from it three times. But if that's the worst thing I have to deal with, I don't mind.

He's even started writing stories. Granted, one of them was him vs. John Cena. (One of his classmates is super-into wrestling. I know that's the only reason why kiddo knows who John Cena is.) But I love that he's being creative.

So I hope this lasts. Spring break is coming up and I think we could all use the break -- time away from school, and requirements, and possible judgement. I'm hoping that recharges him, and he has a fabulous rest-of-year.

Also, I'm looking forward to not having to drag him out of bed for a week. You want to sleep in, kiddo? Go ahead. You've earned it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The six-minute rule

No, not for food dropped on the floor. (I think that's a 30-second rule.) For kiddo's behavior. He's great for six minutes. Then not so much.

That's more or less the interval they're using with him at school; if his timer goes off and he's on task, he gets a smiley on his behavior chart. If not, no smiley. If he gets enough smileys, he earns Lego-building time at home. This is the current behavior plan. We've had many behavior plans. I can't wait until he gets to college and asks his RA during freshman orientation, "Who signs my chart?"

He's been earning lots of smileys. Which is wonderful. And then two minutes later, he does something not wonderful. Like, say, tossing a beanbag at the ceiling, and getting it stuck there.

The beanbag is from his weighted vest. It's a nice vest, in that it's denim and looks like real clothing, and doesn't scream I am a special needs child and you should treat me differently. But the vest is designed for easy access to the weights, in case you need to add or remove them; it's not designed to keep the weights from falling out. Which they do, all the time, especially since kiddo is supposed to be wearing and removing the vest at timed intervals. Basically the vest is fine if the child wearing it isn't ever going to move around. You can see the irony.

So he somehow ended up with a beanbag in his hand and for some reason thought it would be funny to toss the thing at the ceiling. In a one-in-a-million shot, he got it lodged between two ceiling panels, and there it stayed. Kiddo promptly melted down, because he said I would be mad at him, and tried to get the beanbag back. This apparently involved climbing on top of desks. Standing on desks is only acceptable if you're in "Dead Poets Society."

He didn't get suspended, but we strongly suspect no one would have objected if we'd just volunteered to take him home. (We didn't.) Remember how we didn't get approval on an aide for kiddo? This topic may be coming up again, and loudly.

So, six minutes. He's great in gymnastics for six minutes, and then he's sprawling on the floor instead of stretching. He's great in the supermarket for six minutes, and then he's rearranging all the mint tins at the register. He's great in the morning for -- actually, no, getting him dressed is a feat of Herculean proportions.

I feel sometimes like we're living in six-minute intervals. Everything OK? Everything OK now? How about now? It's a little tiring.

He's great all the time when he's building Legos. If only he could do that all day. Maybe there's a Lego school somewhere.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The other mom

The other mom sat in front of me at gymnastics. Her daughter was practicing cartwheels and flips. Her daughter was wonderful. She applauded each time. Then she mimed the arm movements so her daughter would do them better.

I thought, It must be nice. 

It must be nice to be able to get perfectionistic with your child's performance. To sit back and applaud and not worry about anything except your child being even more perfect. It must be so freeing.

This was what I saw at gymnastics:

My son walking onto the mat and immediately, .5 seconds, going into silly mode because there were too many kids and there was too much going on and when he's overstimulated, he jumps around, lies on the floor and makes goofy high-pitched noises like a cartoon character. So he jumped around and lay down on the floor instead of warming up. He ran off to try the trampoline by himself when he was supposed to be waiting his turn at a different exercise. He told his instructor "No!" so many times, and so clearly, that I could hear him up in the bleachers.

I hate to think what the other mom was thinking. Assuming she saw anyone else on that mat besides her daughter.

I walked downstairs at one point, calmly headed to the mat, quietly asked, "Do you need me to talk to him?"

"Yes, he's being disruptive to the rest of the class," the instructor said.

Ah yes, the most commonly heard phrase in our household. He's being disruptive.

So I talked to him, and got him to take a few deep breaths, and sent him back. He was mostly better after that.

I sat there, eyes on him, and wondered whether the class was a mistake, whether the gym would give me a refund if I had to pull him, whether the gym would hate me for pulling him and whether that would hurt his sister, who also takes classes there, and loves it. Amazing how one disruptive kid can affect so many other people at the same time.

I wondered why his school had been so quick to suspend him and yet so equally quick to deny him a one-on-one aide. I wondered exactly what we were supposed to do about him if no one was willing to help us. Ground him until college? Send him to a monastery?

The other mom kept applauding, and occasionally ignoring everything to check her phone, and for an instant, I was jealous.

Monday, February 23, 2015

He just forgot

This is what kiddo has in common with Little Critter: He forgets things. Homework. Hoodies. Perpetual requests to make his bed. Typical ADHD kid -- the second he's not thinking about whatever it is, especially if it's a thing he's not that interested in, it's gone from his head forever.

You can imagine what this does to his homework track record. We've had to give his teacher permission to check his backpack to make sure 1. he's got his homework and 2. he actually did his homework (he'll also forget to hand it in, and when asked, clearly has decided it's easier to say he didn't do it). Apparently second grade is when teachers need to get permission for what I would consider a fairly common-sense thing, especially for a kid with known executive-function problems. Backpack search=locker search, I guess. Somebody call the ACLU. (Or don't, really.)

You can also imagine what this does to his wardrobe. Several sweaters and hoodies have just disappeared, gone forever, no idea what happened to them. Not the most convenient thing, when we're mired in subzero weather. It's like he wants to be cold. I already ran out and bought some emergency backup warm clothing, and the first day he wore his new hoodie, it failed to come home with him. I considered tearing my hair out, but I like my hair. Fortunately the hoodie was recovered the next day. Less fortunately, that same day, he came home with only one glove. At least that's only his hand?

The thing to remember with kiddo is, he's not doing this on purpose. ADHD isn't a moral failing. It's a bit of inconsistent wiring in his head. He really wants to remember everything ... but then he gets distracted, and he doesn't.

So the question for today is, what did he remember? And will he remember it again tomorrow? And if not, is there a sale on kids' hoodies anywhere?

Monday, February 16, 2015

And then I returned to gym class

For Heaven's sake, why would I do such a thing? I was a geek in school. I'm a geek now. Gym class was the worst part of my week. Not only was I picked dead last for every single everything, sometimes the teams would argue about who had to take me. The best part of college was no gym class.

Granted, since then I have discovered yoga, and also Pilates. So I'm not morally opposed to exercise. But planned group team sports are still not precisely my thing.

And yet there I was, in kiddo's gym class, for Healthy Heart Day. Exercising.

It was cute and all. In one game, if someone tagged you with a noodle (representing junk food), you had to sit on the floor and yell "I need a healthy heart!" until someone else handed you a ball (representing said heart) and you could get up and run around again, passing on the ball to someone else who needs it. In another, there were teams, and pins lined up at either end of the gym, and your job was to guard your pins while trying to knock down the other team's pins with balls. Also, the balls were smallish and super-squishy, not the rock-hard kickballs I remember from my childhood. And the gym teachers were playing No Doubt and other '90s faves the whole time, so that was nice.

It's just, I thought I was showing up to watch kiddo play these games. And then the teachers handed out the noodles to all the parents and I thought, oh no.

Fortunately, I was wearing yoga pants and a hoodie, because I can. Less fortunately, I was afraid to take the hoodie off, because I was wearing my Elfquest T-shirt. Remember how I'm a geek? Elfquest is a much-beloved indie-gone-mainstreamish comic book that features, well, elves. And wolves. And the female elf on my shirt, who in my defense is my favorite character, happens to have a bare midriff. A Captain America T-shirt is one thing; people know who he is. Only fellow comics geeks know what Elfquest is. I couldn't figure out how to explain my slightly racy shirt to the other grown-ups. The upshot? I was unnecessarily sweaty. Bleah.

I even got to play more than kiddo did. We've had some less-than-stellar weeks around here, and as a consequence for acting out -- and then refusing to leave the room when he was asked -- kiddo spent the first few minutes of gym with the guidance counselor. (My request. I didn't like the idea of him sitting there, the "bad kid," watching everyone else play.) So I was already out on the floor, having just been tagged by a kid with a noodle, because the kids got the noodles in the second round and some of the ones I'd tagged came after me for revenge. Those kids are fast. I was just starting to sit down when kiddo came barreling into me, and we went down in a heap together. Then he jumped up and became my protector. "My mom needs a healthy heart! You have to help my mom!"

In the second game, when we were supposed to be protecting the pins (I have no idea what they were representing. A low BMI maybe?), kiddo guarded his pin so intently he didn't move from the spot. Probably not a good choice, because one of the dads shot a ball right through kiddo's legs to get the pin down. Well, at least kiddo is just as athletic as I am.

I guarded the pin in the next couple rounds -- once knocked down, once stayed up -- and I was getting into it, crouching to catch the balls, using one to stop another, diving to my knees, that sort of thing. I don't think we won, but I also don't think it mattered that much. Kiddo had a grand time, and gave me about 20 hugs before heading back to class. "I'll miss you," he called after me.

He's such a sweet kid sometimes. It makes up for so much.

Unfortunately the next morning, all that crouching and diving and running caught up with me, and I woke up sore. Thanks for the warning, gym teachers.

So if you feel your workout isn't challenging enough, I have a suggestion: Join your kid's gym class. Have a heat pack ready.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

On being Ferdinand's mother

Ferdinand the bull, that is. She's a pretty cool mom, as fictional cows go. She sees that Ferdinand would rather sit by himself under the cork tree and sniff flowers than run around with the other bulls.

His mother saw that he was
not lonesome, and because
she was an understanding 
mother, even though she was 
a cow, she let him just sit 
there and be happy.

That was both a wise and a brave choice. She knew her son wasn't acting like the other bulls, and wasn't fitting in, but she decided not to care and not to push him, because he was happy. 
I try to remember that a lot, when I'm dealing with kiddo. 
When to push him? When not to push him? Is he social enough? Not social enough? Is he listening in class? Is he OK on the bus? Is he learning how to take care of himself? Is he happy?
Sometimes I worry even when he does seem happy. When he's building Legos, for instance.
He's utterly obsessed with Legos. He builds these fantastical things. He's got a how-to book by a Lego artist (yes, there are such things) named Sean Kenney, and he's decided that he's going to have Sean Kenney's job when he grows up (though he, adorably, insists on pronouncing the name "Seen" no matter how many times I correct him). Every chance he gets, he's at the Lego table, itty bitty pieces strewn across the floor, building. He's good.
I'm happy to let him do that as long as he wants. Except when he has to get ready for school. And when he needs to set the table for dinner. And when it's bath time. And bedtime. 
Transitions have always been tough for him. He fights it every time. I've had to talk him into leaving the Legos. Occasionally I've had to take Legos away. It's not an enjoyable scene. But it needs to be done. 
And when it doesn't need to be done?
Kiddette wanted to play in the snow yesterday. Kiddo didn't. He wanted to build Legos. We pointed out it would get dark soon and he'd lose his chance. We said he wouldn't get hot chocolate unless he went outside first. He didn't budge. 
I debated. Ferdinand's mother would leave him alone. I almost did the same thing. And then I thought, he really needs to get some exercise today. And I caved. "Go outside," I told him. 
I'm still not sure it was the right call, though he did have fun once he got out there (and had his hot chocolate afterward). I want him to do what makes him happy. But I want him to be part of the world, too, or at least to remember there is a world once in a while. It's a tough balance. 
He'll probably want to build Legos tonight. I'll probably let him. If his homework's done. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

In the waiting room

Waiting rooms occupy a good amount of our time these days. At the behavioral therapist's office. At the social skills group. At the psychiatrist's office. They're fascinating places.

For one, when there are other parents about, there's almost this tacit agreement not to chat. (Rarely, at the occupational therapy facility we attended, you could get a good conversation going with another parent. But this was more the exception than the norm.) I'm guessing, no one wants to know what's up with your kid. No one wants you to ask what's up with their kid. It's like "Fight Club: Pediatric Edition." The first rule is, don't talk about the diagnosis.

That's OK by me, because I've either 1. brought a book, 2. brought a notebook to work on something, 3. brought my phone to play on or 4. all of the above. But the quiet can be eerie.

Of course, if kiddo is also in the waiting room, that changes things. Because he likes to chat with whoever he sees, and play (not quietly) with whatever toys are available or with whichever Matchbox car or Lego creation he's toting around that day. If there's another kid playing a handheld video game of some sort, he zooms in as if drawn by a tractor beam, and watches over that kid's shoulder, eyes locked on the screen, until it's time to drag him away.

The office of the previous psychiatrist offered a vending machine downstairs, near the entrance. This of course was a perennial draw for kiddo. I could bring all the snacks I wanted, but what he really wanted was something from the machine. Maybe putting money in and watching the prepackaged junk drop into the slot was endlessly fascinating to him. Maybe food you buy is just cooler than food your mom brings from home. Who knows? The new office has a machine too, but I've been able to walk him past it fairly successfully so far.

There is of course no food allowed at the social skills group, on account of allergies. I was betting this was the case, and when I brought kiddo there last time, after his car snack of peanut butter pretzels, I made him use hand sanitizer before entering the office. Sure enough, I saw the giant NO FOOD sign as soon as we walked in, and the word "anaphylaxis." Special needs and allergies, occasionally, go hand in hand. Kiddo was most peeved he couldn't finish his pretzels during group. Eat faster next time, kid.

One of the benefits of our current setup is that one of us can take kiddo to whatever his next appointment is and the other can stay with kiddette. She was spending a lot of time in waiting rooms. She's a fairly self-sufficient kid, perfectly willing to entertain herself -- one time I brought her clothes shopping with me and she sat happily in the dressing room, making one toy talk to another toy, to the amusement of everyone within earshot -- but we still didn't love doing this to her. Bad enough one child has to spend so much time in waiting rooms; there's no reason the other one should too. So she's been granted a reprieve.

Maybe at some point we'll be able to ease up on the waiting rooms. Maybe at some point kiddo (and we) won't need quite so much help. It's nice to think so. But I'm not complaining. Far worse would be if we needed the help, but couldn't get it. And I'm sure that's the case for far too many families.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

In which she reappears

Wherever did I go? Well, first I took a month to work on a novel. And then it was the holidays. And then I left my job. So, how have you been?

I had a few reasons for the move. One was to focus on getting published finally. Another was to actually be around to parent my children once in a while. Have dinner before 7:30. Be awake enough to handle my special-needs kid. Things like that. Because parenting neurotypical kids is difficult enough when you work full-time. Parenting a kid with ADHD, who is physically incapable of brushing his teeth without getting distracted about a thousand times? It takes so much more patience. I'm barely capable of that as it is, let alone when I'm exhausted from working.

So after much strain on the family, I finally made the decision that any number of loved ones had been suggesting I make for, oh, I hate to even tell you how long. I kept delaying because I had visions of singlehandedly bankrupting the family and getting thrown out on the street. I'm a worst-case-scenario kind of thinker. But actually we should be all right financially. And already kiddette is over the moon that I'm picking her up at night and we're making dinner together. She insisted on helping with the chicken pot pie last night, and the salad, and on eating whatever slivers of avocado didn't make it into the salad.

Kiddo? It's hard to say. He's having major issues with transitions again. He's refusing to do things at school. He doesn't get dressed in the morning unless I repeatedly walk into his room to nag him about it. He's defiant when he's upset. "I don't have to listen to you!" That sort of thing.

It's possible my being home has upset his routine, and he doesn't know how to process it. Or just going back to school after a lovely, gift-filled holiday is too much to bear. I'm not sure.

We did finally get our insurer to reimburse for a social skills group, so he's started that this week. He's doing well with his behavioral therapist. Something has to work, right?

The important thing is, whatever happens, I'm here to deal with things. And that should make a difference in the long term, for all of us.