What’s the Haps

Hi all. Now that it’s fall, and the kids are back in school, and everyone is back from whatever fabulous summer adventure they went on, I get asked a lot, “What’s new?” My answer is long and rambly, because there’s a lot of little random new things with me. Thought I’d share it with my bloggy friends too.

1. I got a nose ring. Not really big news. But, new. A modest tiny shiny stone of some sort. Most people don’t even notice it, even people I’ve known for years. When I point it out they say it “just fits your personality.” Which I don’t know how to take, I guess. But, it’s fun, and it’s one of those things I always wanted to do. Actually, when I got my eyebrow pierced 15 years ago (I’ve since taken that one out) I had regrets that I didn’t do the nose instead. So, another one checked off the bucket list. And I love it.

2. I am in school! I’m in an online program with Penn Foster for a vet tech degree. It’s like a nurse but for animals. I’m so excited, and can’t wait to be done and get a fun job. I have always had a love for animals, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how intensely I love them and I want to work with them. I think it’s a combo of losing my 19 year old kitty recently, and through the magic of the Internet, seeing that there are so many animals that need help. Pets get surrendered at shelters and rescue organizations for the dumbest things, like “he pooped too much.” And all the abused and neglected animals, it just breaks my heart. With my degree I’d like to work with the SPCA or a shelter or rescue organization. It will feel so wonderful to get to work with animals every day, and make a difference in their lives.

3. Speaking of animals, we recently got two pet rats. Their names are Laverne and Shirley, after the show, which was a childhood favorite of mine. (The vet called to confirm “Shirley and Laverne’s check up” and I was like wut. Somebody doesn’t know their 80s TV shows.) They are sweet and gentle and wonderful. I was worried that our cat would torment them and stalk their cage. She has a history. But, she seems like she couldn’t care less. They, of course, are terrified of her, but that’s easily solved. They really are a great pet for kids. Better than a hamster or gerbil because they can be easily handled, and smaller than a bunny or guinea pig for keeping in your house. And I have not been bitten once, not even a nip, they’re very gentle. Two more members of the family.

thegirls

4. Ferris turned three! I really should be dedicating an entire post to that, but who has the time? H’s really forming his little personality, and it’s so fun.  He asks for water all the time now. It’s only so he can fake belch, but whatever, he’s drinking water. Favorite phrases: “No.” “I hate it.” “I love it.” “Two minutes.” (As in, I’ll do it in two minutes, a phrase picked up from mommy and daddy.) He absolutely loves miniature people and furniture and animals, so we got him a dollhouse for his birthday. Big hit. And he’s hit the picky eating stage. He used to be my great eater, I bragged about it all the time. No more. In case you were wondering if a kid could survive and grow on milk and white bread, I’m here to tell you yes, it’s possible.

5. Bowie started second grade. His teacher this year is amazing. We are over the moon for her. She was immediately so much more supportive of his classroom needs and tolerant of his issues. I couldn’t be happier. There’s only been one major incident with another child, and even that was mild. This time last year, we’d already had two classroom meetings and a meeting with the principal, and he was back in OT. He’s now not currently in OT and we’ve not had a single call from school. I’m so happy. For me, but so much more for him. He’s figuring it out. I am so glad to see him growing and maturing in this way.

So, there you have it. Lots going on. But life is good. What’s the haps with you?

Happy New Year

second grade

I have a second grader, you guys. A SECOND GRADER. Parenthood is the wildest of wild rides, and the absurdly fast rate at which your children grow is part of that wildness. It’s SERIOUSLY like you give birth, and then you blink your eyes and they are feeding themselves, totally potty trained, reading books, losing teeth, riding bikes, and all the other surprises that lie ahead.

Yesterday was the first day of second grade, and it started off with a bang. Well, a shake. There was a pretty sizable earthquake across the bay, and we felt a little rumble out here at the beach. I was sitting on the couch, trying to enjoy my cup of tea, and I felt the room rumble. I got prepared to yell at my kids to get back to eating their breakfast, and looked at them to find them eating their Fruit Loops like perfect angels.

The day seemed to go pretty well. He was also in an after school program for the first time ever, which has him in school until 6pm, which I worried would be too long of a day for him. But, all things considered, he held up pretty well.

I spoke today with his teacher about his SPD and all of his quirks, and she seemed really positive, and eager to help. So, I’m feeling really optimistic about this year. As you might recall, last year was a total drag and he had a really hard time. We’re hoping things are much smoother in second grade.

SECOND GRADE. You guys.

The Specialness of One’s Needs

I know that a while back, at the beginning of the school year, I was all sunshine and rainbows about first grade and how well I thought it would go.

That’s not exactly the case anymore.

Things haven’t been going well. Bowie didn’t react well at first to the teacher and her methods (and truthfully neither did we). He has a hard time completing his in-class work in a timely manner (compared to the other kids), and it’s been a real hot button issue, apparently.

A meeting was requested with the student-teacher coordinator and a school counselor. They have a record of all the SPD stuff from last year, so we just discussed where he was at, how things were going. And they asked us to have him re-evaluated by his OT, to see where he was at with his sensory issues.

I felt kind of ridiculous when they asked how long it had been since he saw an OT and since we had concentrated on his therapy, and I was like, oh, um, gee, well I suppose it’s been a few years. Parenting ball: dropped.

It was unexpectedly really nice to go back to see the OT, even though it meant my kid still has issues. It felt comfortably familiar. I feel safe at the OT. She understands him, she understands us. All his little tics and habits and antics seem normal to her, like no one else in his life. And she’s got answers!

As it turns out, Bowie has developed a bad grip on his pencil. And it’s causing motor-coordination issues. Something that I didn’t even know to look for, I’m not an OT or a teaching professional, so I would never have known it was an issue. I’m a bit surprised it wasn’t brought up before, and I’m actually thankful that the school made us visit her, because that’s the only way we’d ever have known!

Intelligence-wise, he’s right where he needs to be. Even excelling a bit. So, no worries there. As his OT puts it, with his current grip, he’s just getting too tired when he writes, and he needs to stop and rest and take breaks. Something not entirely conducive to keeping up with his peers. So then he gets reprimanded. And his peers see that, and use it as ammo later. And he acts out.

There’s still a major sensory component. And we’ve added small things here and there in the classroom to help him out with that. The good news is that it’s all fixable. The bad news is it’s to the tune of $500 a month for the therapy, which we just don’t have right now. And insurance won’t cover it until we meet our deductible, but the OT only wants to do sessions until winter break, at which time we will have met the deductible, but therapy will be over.

So, yeah.

The best news is that he likes what he’s learning. He likes to read, he likes math, he likes science. And he’s really smart. I know every mom says that, but really, he is. I mean, I’m not talking ‘gifted and talented’ or anything, but he’s got critical thinking skills, and he can extrapolate on ideas, and I’m just really proud. That’s all.

I hesitate to call him “special needs”. Or to treat him that way. Because there are so many kids out there with much more serious special needs than him. But, when you get the “you’re a terrible parent” stare down from a bystander as he throws a sensory fit in the middle of the farmer’s market, then I feel “He’s special needs.” right on the tip of my tongue.

We do our best to support him daily, hourly, by the minute. But we are also human beings. And the name-calling, the fit-throwing, the hitting, the pushing his brother around, it gets to us sometimes. Being back at the OT means being back in the care of someone who knows how to make this right again. Knows what he needs to bring him back to center.

He didn’t turn the corner sensory-wise until after he’d turned 2. Before that, he was a “normal” baby, no issues to report. He was rarely sick, he was developmentally right on, he was happy and social and outgoing.

So, the change was so abrupt for us. But, we took it in stride. This is what he needs right now, we will do this for him.

And then he had another really great year. Kindergarten was a complete dream for us. Finally he’s acting “normal”, he’s having a “normal” school year, everything is “normal” again. To have first grade not only go so poorly, but to have it going so poorly almost immediately, is a big parenting blow to the gut.

As much as I hate the label, he is special needs. He needs special things from us every day. And from all of the other adults and children he interacts with. For his world to feel right, he needs special things. And as much as I hate to admit it, he’s different than other kids. Even so much different from his brother. The way you need to approach Bowie to ask him something or tell him something is different than it is with other kids. It can be pretty exhausting to deal with that every second of every day, but we are here and we are doing it. I can only hope when he’s grown that he can see that we did our very best. And I hope that by then he’s not so “special” anymore.

bowie swings

First Grade So Far

first grade

We have a first grader in our house now. A FIRST GRADER. We have now completed week one back at school, in the new first grade routine. A rocky start, but not as rocky as the start of the school year last year. And last year’s start was better than the year before. Progress.

I recently acquired a ton of new readers, so I will take a brief moment to explain our kiddo’s situation a bit. When he was in preschool, we were having major issues with his behavior. He was being very aggressive toward the other kids, and also toward us, for no apparent reason. After some meetings with the preschool director, lots of reading and research, and some visits to an occupational therapist, he was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (a good place to read up on this is here).

When asked why he was pushing or hitting other children, he’d respond with, “I thought they were going to bump into me.” Or, “I was afraid they would step on me.” He was so sensitive about his body-in-space issues and his personal space bubble that he was trying to avoid being hurt or touched by taking matters into his own hands, the only way a 3 year old could figure out how to fix his environment to suit him.

So, we saw some therapists, tried some intensive therapies, changed some things at home, and he’s made amazing strides. He regressed a bit when his younger brother was born, but we’ve made progress since then too. He’s still very sensitive to his environment, and has trouble regulating his emotions.

Calling names, swearing and screaming have replaced the hitting and pushing. The verbal has replaced the physical. For example, now if someone comes “too close” at school or on the sidewalk, he says, “They’re dumb.” Or something to that effect. Even though he doesn’t know them, and they haven’t done anything.

At first, I was just glad he wasn’t hurting other kids. But now, I’m not sure it’s any better. With the physical stuff, at least we could point out that not a lot of other people go around hitting and pushing everyone around them. But with the language? People call each other names all the time, even just as a joke. I’ve had to make him stop watching even certain G-rated movies because characters are going around calling each other idiots and morons. And swearing? I can curb my language to the absolute best of my ability, but how do I keep him from hearing it in public? People walking by our house on the street are yelling swear words. So, the language is proving much more difficult to correct.

I think he’s doing remarkably well in first grade, considering what an adjustment I’m sure that it was for him. We always said we were going to make him do workbooks and reading exercises all summer, and we were going to spend the last few weeks of summer vacation getting him back on his school year schedule, with an earlier bedtime and earlier rise time, etc.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Between the move taking over our entire month of July, and his complete and ugly unwillingness to do any of the above, we didn’t do much of that. But August 18 eventually showed up at our doorstep anyway. And he had to wake up at 6 am, and he had to eat breakfast instead of zoning out in front of the TV. And he had to get dressed and then walk to school, instead of, you know, zoning out in front of the TV. He doesn’t respond well to transitions. Which is a total understatement. I mean, the kid basically shuts down when we ask him to change into his pajamas at night. And this was a pretty big change. So, I feared the worst.

The first day went well, though he was a bit grumpy and exhausted afterward. The second day was ROUGH. He said “shit” a few times and ended up in a time out (which I’m not wild about, but it’s her classroom, so *shrug*). I took away some privileges for the afternoon because of the swearing, so it was a fitful, screaming, name-calling evening. The third day was better, but he told me later that his shoes kept coming untied and he had lost his lunch box so it was “such a horrible day!” Day four was good. Normal. Got his work done, didn’t get in trouble. Day five was better but still rough, I think he was just tuckered out. We went for ice cream after school to celebrate the end of the first week. He got called a name by another kid as we walked to get ice cream, and was incredibly emotional about it. I sympathized, but also reminded him that he does that to other people. Which he didn’t really respond well to. But, he was very well-behaved that afternoon. Perhaps because of the promise of the weekend ahead of him.

ice cream

I hope this week and the weeks to follow go just as smoothly. I hope he doesn’t get too comfortable and start acting up. But as far as I can tell, the wrinkles in his personality caused by the SPD are starting to smooth themselves out. And he’s maturing into a great student. His teacher and I just take things one day at a time.

Now, his behavior at home…that’s another story for another time. But hey, one step at a time.

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Farewell Kindergarten

My Dearest Kindergarten Graduate,

The day I sent you off into your classroom for your first day of Kindergarten, I stood in the hallway that smelled like old books and fresh pencils with the other Kindergarten parents. We smiled and hugged you guys and said, “It’s going to be so great! You’re going to make so many new friends!” What you don’t know is that after you were inside, and we were instructed to move along now, we all went out for coffee and cried our eyes out.

I cried for a lot of reasons. I didn’t think my precious baby was ready for the full days away from me, having been a pretty constant companion of mine for the first five years of your life. And I wasn’t sure you were up for the challenge yet of sitting in your desk, listening to your teacher, and doing school work. Keeping you at the dinner table until you’re finished eating is plenty difficult. Mostly I cried because I knew you could do it, because you were such a BIG KID all of a sudden. You were not my baby anymore. Sending you off to school was one of those moments where I feel like I’m watching you grow right before my eyes.

I went to pick you up that afternoon, and you had on a paper bracelet that announced “Kindergarten is fun!” And you were jazzed to go back the next day. You had made a bunch of new friends already, and you had done some really fun things that you proceeded to tell me about for the remainder of the day.

You’ve had a few hiccups along the way, but overall you have done so well. You soared academically, and made amazing strides socially, strides that a year ago when you were graduating preschool, I’d never have guessed you could have made. You’re not a real fan of homework, but who among us is, really.

So, we bid adieu to Kindergarten. It was a fun, exciting, challenging year full of new adventures and new horizons. Congratulations on completing the first of your 13 years of schooling. May first grade and all the grades to come be as magical and empowering and fulfilling as Kindergarten was for you.

I love you so much, and I am so proud of you!

Mama

 

Bowie Approved

[NOTE: Giveaway has ended.]

Kindergarten is different from preschool in so many, many ways. He’s gone for twice the amount of hours per day. There’s homework. He’s dog tired when he gets home. But, the biggest difference for me as Mom is: lunches. Lots and lots of lunches.

Now, we could shell out the measly $3 a day for hot lunch, but that adds up. And if they’re serving something he doesn’t care for, then there’s no guarantee he will actually eat lunch. So, at least for now, I’m packing his lunch.

It’s hard to think of different lunch box combos and ideas every single day of the week. I mean, I have read countless blogs that are heavily focused on creative non-sandwich lunch ideas for kids. And I’ve studied them and pored over them. I think I’ve gotten the gist of it.

But I can’t always have all of those foods on hand at my disposal every morning. Usually I have a couple kinds of fruit, some crackers, maybe some meats and cheeses, and dinner leftovers (provided he actually liked and deigned to eat that dinner). And I mix and match all week and then try to get something different for the following week.

Even though I’m trying my best to give him variety, he’s still got a touch of the pickies, and we don’t go through food fast enough for me to have a zillion different options on hand all the time. So, I know he’s getting a little burnt out on certain stuff.

I usually stick one of his water bottles in there with just water in it, because milk will get too warm, he can’t have the amount sugar in a juice box (it affects his behavior), and soda isn’t allowed (not that I’d even give him soda at all, but you know, not an option). So, I was so excited to discover Drazil Kids Tea.

It’s got a healthy tea blend of Hibiscus, Rose Hips, Rooibos, Pomegranate, and fruit pieces, with a touch of juice for flavor (35% less sugar than a juice box), and best of all they come in easily packable individual serving sized boxes, like boxed juice. It’s packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, has no added sugar, no artificial flavors, and is caffeine free.

Bowie is a big fan of tea, he drinks all kinds of it all the time. When he was small, he would find my cups of cold Earl Grey around the house, abandoned and/or forgotten by me, and finish them, and then ask for more! So, I knew these would be right up his alley.

I toss them in two or three days a week. I vary it so he’s always pleasantly surprised, and it adds a little bit of fun to the monotonous packed lunch. Once in a while he will even thank me after school for putting one in his lunch.

Drazil is available in markets across Northern California, and is also available on Amazon.com.

It’s a great, delicious, nutritious way to add a little variety to their day. I approve. And so does Bowie!

And one of YOU, my lucky readers, can win some Drazil Kids Tea for free! Just:

1. Leave a comment below with your favorite lunch time ideas for kids.

2. Head to Facebook and “like” the Drazil Kids Tea page.

I will pick a reader at random to receive some Drazil! (Winner will be picked after 8pm Pacific Time, September 11, 2012. Winner will be notified shortly after.)

Good luck and thank you!

 

I was compensated for this post by Drazil Kids Tea, but all opinions are my own.

Kindergarten

Today we finish up the first two weeks of Kindergarten. I’m still having a hard time believing I’m an elementary school mom now (PTA membership and Room Mom days on the horizon and EVERYTHING). But, I’m sure by the end of the year, after all the packed lunches, morning announcements, Pledges of Allegiance, permission slips and homework that it will all feel natural to me.

The Friday afternoon before the first day, we were able to go see the school, see his classroom and meet his teacher. He was very shy at first, and a little hesitant to even go into the classroom. But, once he started seeing his name all over the room, and once he found his cubby and desk, it was like he’d been going there all his life.

There have been some…behavior issues. But his teacher can already recognize that he’s triggered by lots of commotion and noise, and being with a lot of kids at once. He’s completely fine in the classroom, even sitting nicely at his desk or on the rug and listening when she’s talking. It’s lunch and recess that give him trouble. And it’s largely a product of him reacting to what other kids are doing and saying, much more so than in preschool where he was often the one starting stuff. I’m not going to worry too much about it right now, he’s still adjusting, and so are the other kids. Instead I’m choosing to focus on the fact that he’s behaving in the classroom. A year ago I’d never have thought he could do it.

When he gets home from school, we have the typical “what did you learn today?” “I don’t know.” conversation. But, then if I just sit and listen, as he gets to talking, I find out that he painted, played Mr. Potato Head, saw preschool friends at recess, went to the gym, had a music class, went to the library. He’s definitely becoming a full-fledged elementary school kid. And loving it.