Desperately Seeking Child Interpreter, Stat!

I’ve always been sort of a character.

Ugh!  I think the honeymoon may be over.  I have to get this off of my chest, so I apologize in advance for this post.

It’s just like a lightbulb burned out up there all of a sudden.  Maybe a connection went bad.  Maybe some brainwaves got scrambled up there.  Yes, second grade was going pretty well.  Now it’s not.

I talk about Princess Difficult quite often, because she’s home most of the time and she is a constant source of funny blog material.  The Professor, AKA my son and her brother, also lives in our house.  He is just harder to write about than she is.  He is one unique individual.  He is so unique that I just don’t understand him.  I fully expect the parent-child disconnect on some level because he is a boy and I grew up with one sister and mostly girl cousins around me.  He lives in his own world.  There has to be some sort of barrier around him because it seems that most of the information that gets through is garbled.  He can repeat back to you what you just said to him, but most of the time it’s like it went directly from his ear to his mouth without stopping to be processed.

The Professor is ADD and also has some major sensory issues and other as of yet to be explained things going on there.  Kindergarten was an absolute nightmare.  At the end of his kindergarten year he finally was evaluated and was put on an IEP.  An IEP for anyone who is not familiar with such things is short for an Individualized Education Plan.  His particular one focuses on his ADD and his behaviors.  My son has Attention Deficit Disorder so badly that he doesn’t exist on the same plane as the rest of us.

It all went down like this:  We went to the doctor’s office, the doctor asked 5,000 questions that we had already answered on the form we had to fill out. Then he shooed me out and my son a test on a computer.  Afterwards I was called back in, and what I got from the doctor was that he could be ADD, and that my next step was to consult with our pediatrician.  I left the office feeling like I had just wasted my time and a sick day taking him in.  Fabulous.

Then we went to the pediatrician.  She has been his doctor since infancy, and she has had some pretty unique experiences with him.  He was hospitalized for a week for dehydration from a horrible stomach virus the previous year.  She just happened to be the doctor on call.  She’s one of those rare doctors that will call you at home to ask you a question when reading over his records.  She’s awesome.

I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.  We went into the examining room, and she said that the report that came from the evaluation they performed said that he was off the charts ADD, needed to be medicated, and may need an one on one associate because his behaviors were so severe.  HUH?  She seemed surprised that I was surprised.  Did I miss something here?  Did she consult with the wrong doctor?  Oh, and he was possibly on the spectrum, but we would have to do much more testing.  This wasn’t going to happen, because our insurance would only foot the bill for the one test.

The ADD and Asperger’s possibility, not surprising.  Everything else, yes.

After much discussion, we chose to not medicate him.  I took the prescription but never filled it.  We went on to the school meeting the following week.  I don’t think they were thrilled, but understood why we chose not to put him on medication.  They created an IEP for him with a plan that included working on following directions, behavior modification strategies, etc.  He is in the regular classroom, but makes frequent visits to the resource room to work with that teacher on his behavior.  He receives a sheet every day outlining his behavior and whether he was able to follow directions.

First grade started out great, then went downhill as the year went on.  Still much better than kindergarten though.  Now we’re into second grade.  Same poop, different grade.

He is a GREAT kid.  He’s cute as can be.  He is super intelligent, reads well above grade level, loves science and math.  He’s bright, and curious, and inquisitive.  He’s funny.  Anymore he’s a fairly good brother to his little sister, which is good because he needs to work on his tolerance of other kids.  I’m happy when other people compliment me on what a fun kid he is, because I don’t think very many people at school necessarily get to see that side of him.

He and his sister don’t always see eye to eye, but I think they have developed an understanding. She knows that he’ll do whatever she tells him to do!

Some of the not so great stuff I understand about.  I understand that it’s hard to pay attention when there’s something much more interesting OVER THERE IN THAT CORNER, and then over there on the wall, and then over there on the floor because I am also ADD.  I get the sensory issues, like using lotion really grosses me out sometimes.  I understand the food issues, because there is a lot of stuff that I would rather starve than eat (granted I’ve gotten better than that over the years).  I get the anxiety, like being scared of tornadoes and not wanting an alarm of any sort in the bedroom because you can’t take loud noises (I have to wake to nature sounds).  I understand the panicked feeling when the routine is disrupted, or things don’t go according to plan because I am the same way.  I understand the isolation and the problem relating to other kids his age, because I also have fabulous social skills (I’m being sarcastic).  I have a hard time with the constant repeating of certain things, and him whispering things to himself like a little echo but I can deal with that.  Sometimes it’s gets very wearing on me when he is stuck on something he really likes, and I get to hear about it 99% of the day, like Lego Star Wars or Super Mario Brothers, but I’m happy that he has interests and tries to find out all that he can about them.

What I don’t get is the ups and downs and how he can have so many fabulous weeks and then everything goes in the crapper.  When other kids try to be friendly with him, he does something inappropriate like hitting or yelling at them because he thinks they are “bothering him.”  And how he overreacts to everything.  Or when he outright refuses to do his work in the classroom.  And when he has his meltdowns.  Or does stuff that makes no sense like the relentless chewing on anything he can find, like shirts, stuffed animals, and electrical cords.  Yes you saw that right, he even chews on those.

He can tell you exactly what was wrong with what he did, but he can’t apply it to himself.  He’s still angry with me for taking away his lamp.  Even though he can tell you that there is electricity going through it and that someone who comes into contact with it will be electrocuted and die, he doesn’t understand why his mean mom had to take away the lamp.  He loses control and hits or pushes another kid, and he can tell you why it happened and what he should have done, but is more upset about getting in trouble than he is about the fact that he hurt his friend.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.  Or understand.  It’s like I’m talking to him in a different language, and he can parrot what I said back to me, but he doesn’t actually understand what I am saying.  Something isn’t connecting.  I think I need an interpreter, or maybe one of those universal translators like they use on Star Trek.  Nothing else seems to work.  No amount of rewards for good behavior, or punishment for bad behavior, or plans at home seem to get through.  We can take away everything that is fun to him, like video games and TV, and it doesn’t really seem to matter.  Some months a good week is one where he doesn’t visit the principal’s office at all.

If it’s anything like last year, this will continue for awhile, and then suddenly get better.  Then there will be a period where it gets way worse.  It’s maddening.  I’m surprised I don’t have any gray hairs yet.  I feel like apologizing over and over to his teacher for having to do so much work when it comes to my kid.  I feel like I should apologize to my husband for having this to deal with when he’s been at work for 10 hours that day.  I feel like I should apologize to him, for failing him as a parent. I feel like I should apologize to the readers of this post, because no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t put a funny spin on it.

I don’t feel like I have really earned the label of special needs parent, because I know what parents of children that I worked with in special education have gone through.  He is relatively easy outside of this.  He has always slept well, a little too well in some respects.  He spends most of his time at home with his nose buried in a book, or rolling around on the couch, which is a little annoying but otherwise harmless.

I love my son to pieces, but having these issues makes it so hard to be a parent.  Do you have a child who has issues in school?  On an IEP?  Does your kid have trouble relating to anyone his or her age?  How do you deal?

My Son the Professor: A Boy In Love With Video Games

For the first few years of our marriage we were childless.  That was for good reason-I worked with infants all day long.  I had twelve babies at work, why would I want more?  I had to switch jobs so that I might want children of my own.  I went to a different center with older children.  That must have worked, because when we set out to try to have kids, we got it on the first try.  Man are we good.

The first spawn of our marriage was a little boy.  He was the bestest baby on the planet.  Cute, not like those shriveled up little newborns you usually get.  He slept.  He slept a lot.  As a matter of fact, there was very little time that he was conscious in those early months.  We would try to wake him up when company came-often with little success.  He fell asleep breastfeeding so he would never eat very much.  Turns out he was conserving all that brainpower for when he got older.

When he was two, we were concerned that he really didn’t talk.  That changed when he went to actual preschool.  And I brought home a NASCAR season preview special.  He stole it.  He took that big fat magazine and took it into his room.  He was obsessed.  That little two year old boy learned all of the numbers of all of the cars, the driver names, the sponsors, the crew chiefs, even the owners.  He knew every track and where they were located.  At two, he declared his love for all things Jeff Gordon, the driver of the Dupont #24.  That was difficult in a house of non Jeff Gordon fans.  We tolerated it, since he had his mind made up.  This changed when he decided to start rooting just for whoever was winning, because losing makes him sad.  He still likes NASCAR quite a bit, though.

He started reading at 3, and it has been an explosion of knowledge ever since, which is good and bad.  Good that he is passionate about learning.  Bad when you are in school and they are already doing stuff you learned years ago.  The funny thing is when he is sitting with a book, often he will be doing one of two things-1)  looking at only the pictures or 2)  Turning the pages without even looking at the book.  Maybe the words are jumping off the pages and into his brain. He loves all books, he prefers comic books and graphic novels.  Yup, much like us he’s going to be a geek.

The baby has grown up into a very inquisitive second grader.  I call him the Professor, because he is like a little professor of sorts.  Very smart, and he WILL tell you what he knows (unfortunately he can also be quite a know it all).  He has the glasses that always seem to be a little bit crooked.  He loves to analyze stuff.  He talks like a miniature adult.  He actually prefers the company of adults to children.  Recently we had my sister in law and her family up to visit.  We wanted him to hang out with his cousins, not just play video games.  You know, socialize.  Once he realized that the video games weren’t going to happen, he decided that maybe he should hang out with the grown-ups.  He comes out of his room, plops down betweeen my SIL and her husband and announces, “I have decided I should come and socialize.”  Of couse there was a TV in the room-he most likely was coming out to check out what was on it.

The Professor is much like his father in many ways.  He loves anything with a screen-TV shows, movies, computers, video games.  Especially video games.  When Evil Genius hooked up the Nintendo 64 in his room, a love affair began.  He thinks about video games all the time, he talks about video games all the time.  Even ones he doesn’t have.  Mario is his hero.  He’s always reading articles about Wii games in gaming magazines.  He tells me all about the great new games he’s reading about-I am constantly reminding him “We don’t have a Wii.”  “Oh”.  I think he’s secretly hoping that if he thinks about it hard enough, one will simply appear.  Sorry kiddo, not gonna happen.  He does have a DS which he loves to pieces.  I personally really don’t get the whole video game thing.  We had an Atari when I was his age, which was fun.  I still like to play Tetris and Scrabble, but not all the time.

We’re mean parents.  We don’t let him watch TV or play video games all the time.  He’s limited on his time.  He thinks we’re killing him.  Often he’ll make sure I know that the only thing that is fun to him is video games, and he’s not having fun if he’s not playing!

Oh he likes other things.  He loves science.  I brought him home two Popular Science magazines from the free bin at the library.  He sat and didn’t make a peep because he spent all afternoon and evening reading them.  He even took them to read on the bus.  He loves to know how things work.  My husband has taken him to work on several occasions and he thinks it’s the coolest thing ever.  He has been obsessed with the weather since age 3-we took him to the Science Center near here recently and he was quite disappointed that the real meteorologist didn’t show up for the weather presentation.  It was just some guy trying to keep the kids entertained.  Besides, he had gotten the paper on how to make his own tornado and hygrometer.  He was done.

He talks constantly, mostly about video games, superheroes, and sports.  He talks to whoever will listen, whether they seem interested or not.  He will also talk to himself, and he doesn’t care who is listening.  And sometimes he gets stuck.  He repeats the same thing over and over and over, usually until one of us tells him to stop.  It’s like there’s a record in his head that gets stuck.  We’ve tried to help with this, and it has gotten somewhat better, but now he whispers the repeated last word to himself just like Brick on “The Middle”.  When he isn’t talking about stuff, he’s asking questions.  LOTS of questions.  Many of which I have to respond with “Ask the engineer.”

The Professor’s design for his Halloween costume.

I must admit I think he’s pretty neat.  We’re both ADD, so I can somewhat understand his thought process, but there are other things going on in there that I just don’t quite get.  I worry about him a lot.  School has been a real struggle-he’s so smart but it’s hard for him to get that it’s time to work and he doesn’t get to choose what they are working on.  He has some real anxieties too.  The Aspergers possibility still hangs around there, but it’s pretty clear that we’re not going to be able to get him tested, and really what good would it do him other than what we’re already doing?  He is on an IEP for his ADD and his behavior issues-we deal with the behavior stuff on a daily basis.  I admit it’s very frustrating.  At the same time I’ve got to have a sense of humor about it.  And believe me, I do!

My Mom says that we have children for our own amusement.  I try to imagine myself and what I was like before kids.  Yes I complain like everyone else.  But hey, they are pretty funny!

This could happen at our house.

NOT Running With Scissors: The Day Mommy Cried

It was bound to happen sooner or later…

“Mommy, I’m really good at using scissors!” my recently turned four year old announced this afternoon. “Oh that’s nice.”  I respond.  I’m only half listening, trying my best to get done what I am actually here to accomplish so we can get home before dinner.

“I know I’m good at using scissors.  You know how I know?  I took my purple scissors upstairs and cut my doll’s hair!” she boasts, looking rather proud of herself.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… and once again I am reminded that when she is being quiet, it usually means that she is up to something not so good… A preschooler has used scissors inappropriately. I think we all have a story somewhere in our childhood of this happening.  My particular version of this happened when I was little and my younger sister lopped off one of her ponytails with Mom’s sewing scissors.  I thought we had already had our story this past year:   little sister gets a hold of scissors and cuts up big brother’s class picture.  Mom is angry-brother might have noticed something outside of the realm of video games and books.  Scissors privileges revoked and life goes on.

The thing is I knew exactly why she did it.  She didn’t even have to explain it to me.  I taught preschool for many years, and much of the time I know the ins and outs of what goes on in her little head.  She goes to a sitter occasionally that she thinks is just it-the best thing since sliced bread.  This sitter has a daughter who could very well be her own little mini me.  Both of them have dark hair and dark eyes, just like this little dolly.  Both have very cute little haircuts-not so much like the one that dolly HAD-more like the one my daughter gave to her dolly.  Unfortunately for me, this dolly used to be mine.  Surprisingly though, she didn’t do a half bad job.

I shed some tears.  She felt very very bad.  I have had a million hugs, kisses and lots of help this evening.  I dare say it may even work out in my favor, until the next time.

I had to post that, because honestly I was having a very bad day and it was one of those that someday I probably will look back on and laugh.  It was just the icing on the cake.  You see, I have figured out just how they get good jedi knights to cross over to the dark side:  they took their kids to work with them.

It’s summer vacation and I work a part-time job for a non profit organization that shall remain nameless.  I lost my job a year ago and this one just sort of popped up.  It was a way to make some grocery money while I collected unemployment and looked for a new job.  My husband was finishing up school and we were looking for any way to keep ourselves out of the cardboard box just a little bit longer.  It helped-and although the original job I was supposedly hired for really in no way shape or form really resembles the job I am currently doing-it brings in a little money so I can be available for my children without being tied down to something full-time.  My son is very, very bright-all references to Sheldon Cooper minus the germ phobia would be correct.  He also has some serious issues in school.  He has ADD and has been suspected of but never diagnosed with Asperger’s.  His kindergarten year he spent more time in the principal’s office due to kids “bothering” him (talking to him is considered bothering, apparently) during his kindergarten career than most kids do in their entire K-12 career.  Needless to say that has resulted in some serious limitations for me as far as any sort of full time work.  The very end of the kindergarten year we finally got him into an IEP, and this year has been much better, albeit far from perfect.  He is a neat kid who so wants someone to understand him-he relates fabulously to adults, but just doesn’t get kids anywhere around his age.

About the time the unemployment went the way of the dinosaur my husband graduated and got an internship an hour away.  Since it was so far away and nothing was guaranteed, I just kind of kept hanging around the job because interesting things kept happening.  Somehow each time I thought the hours were going to disappear, they found something else that I could do to keep me going.

So here I am this month, the last month of their fiscal year, sitting in an empty office doing much of what I have been doing for the last time because as of this weekend they are outsourcing my duties to other employees within the organization.  As I am trying to get information together so that everyone knows what they are to be doing, I have no idea what my job will consist of as of next Monday.  It’s a little distracting and it’s a lot bit anxiety provoking.  I know they say they still need me, but noone has yet to say how exactly or in what capacity.  Will I be working 4 hours, 15 hours, or no hours?  Do I go look for other employment?  Do I just resign myself to stick around and see what happens, and if I wind up with no work just try to make it work on my husband’s income?  And of course I can’t just spend a few minutes a day worrying about it.  I worry about it all the time.

Because my schedule is a bit, um, sparse, I started by cutting my daughter’s daycare down to one regular day a week, unless I taught a class.  I had been told it was ok to bring my kids with me, for what I did it didn’t matter.  So when summer started I realized that there was no way to justify paying that much daycare for the few hours a week I actually work.  So now I am down to no days of daycare, and one to two days per week of taking BOTH KIDS WITH ME.  The rest of the week I work from home doing data entry, partly during the day, often into the wee hours of the morning so that my kids can do their summer activities, or be home bored with me depending on the day.  The date entry ends in three weeks-which is the other unknown of my current job-what is coming next.

It is the third week of summer, and I am nuts.

I have two completely different children.  Both eerily smart, but polar opposites.  My son is much like me-anxious and routine driven, but has no idea how to occupy himself if there is not some sort of flickering screen or printed word to look at.  Going outside=sheer torture.  My daughter is the opposite-stubborn but imaginative and wants to play play play and go go go. She would go right outside all morning and stay outside until the cows came home-as long as Mommy is right there within arms reach (because she’ll miss me if she can’t see me.)  When I do manage to get them both outside there is arguing, screaming, crying, usually with the end result of someone getting hurt, usually because the older one didn’t like the younger one not following his “rules”.

I tried implementing a sort of schedule so my son wouldn’t spend the entire summer standing on his head, making what we call “Tauntaun noises” because he’s bored.  For some reason if I write it down, much like the newspaper, if it’s published it must be true.  Unfortunately, he takes the schedule so seriously that he can’t handle it if we deviate even in the slightest.  Snack must be at 10 am, we must engage in learning activities after lunch, etc,etc.  If we leave the house to go get groceries, it is miserable because he feels he has to find some way to manipulate the situation.  And we are together ALL THE TIME.  Sending them to their rooms is like I told them to go stab themselves repeatedly with a sharp object!  You’d think they had no toys.  Then you’d look at their rooms and think that no they have toys, they just don’t have a floor.

Working at home with them there is challenging. Bringing them to work is more challenging.  Thank goodness it’s just for a couple of hours.  Each bring a short video that they must fight over who watches which one first.  Each bring a bag full of activities that they tend to go through pretty quickly.  I spend a lot of time diffusing arguments and who started what and who had what first.

My husband doesn’t get what the fuss is.  I keep telling him to imagine doing HIS job with both kids there.  He got a taste of it-one day he was off and I had to do computer work.  Five minutes of data entry, two minutes to settle an argument, two minutes of data entry, eight minutes to deal with poopy pants, seven minutes of data entry, fifteen minutes of trying to talk to a client on the phone while dealing with two children who instantly become loud and have to be on top of anyone who is talking on a phone.  I get the work done, and I am very very honest when logging my hours.

And I am tired.  I love love love my children, but I wish there was a better way to make this work.  Not on our budget, unfortunately!  Add in laundry, dishes (our dishwasher quit working many moons ago), other housework, summer activities, etc, etc.  I feel like I work ALL the time.  My husband works all the time too-he leaves for work at 5:45 and often doesn’t come back until six.  He’s a nice piece of furniture in those couple of hours when he comes home and melts to the chair until he slinks upstairs to go to bed right after the kids to go to bed and start all over again in the morning.

Which reminds me, my husband has pants in the washer.  Somehow I think they’d frown upon him coming to work without pants.  And it’s 11:15 at night.  I get up at 4:30 and walk…

What was my point again.  Oh yes, that I am nuts…  Here’s my proof.  And yes, there is a grammatical error there but I’m going with it anyway.  I don’t mean my kids are dumbasses… oh never mind…