18 December 2014

Where I'm From - Writer's Workshop

I am from a brand new metal lunch box with it's matching thermos inside, from a Fisher Price School Barn with traceable words and a stand-alone chalkboard that waited for me to "teach" in the middle of my room.
I am from the single-wide trailer on hundreds of acres of land, with frozen pipes and thin walls but love enough to fill it.
I am from the man made pond belonging to my neighbor and the rock from which I watched it, crying my lonely tears and telling all my secrets to the wind.
I am from large family Christmas' and bodies that would never be tall, from Priscilla and Teddy and my crazy Aunt Laura.
I am from the quick tempered and equally quick to love.
From a melting pot of countries, Poland, Ireland, England, Germany, who make me what I am and someone who can do whatever she puts her mind to.
I am from the Catholic Church, First Communions and Mass on Sunday, to a seeker that refuses to believe that there is one true way.
I’m from a small town that both confined and released all that I am, from fresh made bread that I would watch impatiently to rise and Christmas Cookies laid out on open paper bags to give them a chance to cool.
From the sister born to soon but who fought for every breath, the family afraid of birds, and the couple married in the backyard right after her graduation.
I am from races on Sunday, wood fires burning in winter, boxes of washed out pictures and keys belonging to things I no longer recognize. From the petals of a rose put inside a McChicken Box and hidden in my locker, mix tapes that include my own voice and a heavy metal ID bracelet given as a reminder that I had something worth coming back to. From dreams that fell by the wayside and hopes that never quite worked out, to the promise of a brighter tomorrow whenever I look in my sons' faces.  So much has made me into who I am, and I would never change a thing.

This was written for the first prompt in this week's Writer's Workshop over at Mama's Losin' It!  The prompt is:

1. Complete the “Where I’m From” poem. (template here)

15 December 2014

New Year's Resolutions

Okay, so there's still a few weeks left until 2014 is a thing of the past.  And honestly, I'm not really "resolving" to do and not do these things.  It's more like goals that I'm hoping to make happen over the next year.  And some of them, I'm hoping to start before the year is over.

Yeah, I'm rambling.  I figure why not jump back into my blog in typical "Amber" style.

Anyway, it's Monday, I feel like making a list and this is the one I'm going to make.  So here we go!

  1. Update my blog at least 3 times a week - I'd love to update it daily, but that's asking the impossible.  Yeah, Pete's in school now (and has been for a few months) and, in theory, that should mean I have more time on my hands.  Instead, I feel more brain frazzled than before.  So 3 times a week, and trying for more actual updates than memes that only require me to write one or two things.  That sounds plausible - at least until the end of January when I forget and my blog goes dormant once more.
  2. Take more pictures - I realized how badly I'd fallen down on the job this year when I really had to scrape to find enough pictures for our yearly calendars.  (The best gift we've ever come up with, year after year.)  You'd think with a digital camera, a smart phone and a tablet with a camera that I would have had MORE pictures.  Nope.  So this year, that's gotta change.  I don't want another year of just finding pictures of the back of the kids' heads everywhere.
  3. Actually review some books - I love to read.  Always have.  And I love sharing what I've read.  But for some reason, I have this mental block about actually DOING it.  I've even got my reading blog out there that should be the perfect vehicle for it.  But do I ever make time to sit down and do my reviews?  Nope.  Instead, I end up sitting at the computer playing game after game of Bingo and feeling like I'm doing nothing with my life.  So this one kinda goes with the blogging thing.
  4. Make up a cleaning schedule and STICK TO IT - We moved to a new apartment at the end of October and I refuse to let it get to the state the old apartment was.  So far, I've been doing a (semi) decent job of not letting things get too bad.  But I don't ever want to get to that point either.  So I'm going to try some FLYing, some of my own stuff, remembering the use the white board to update chores that need to be done and by who.  Because I can do this!
  5. Have all the boxes unpacked by summer - Ideally, I'd love to have them unpacked before the first of the year, but I'm trying to be a realist here.  I may want to get my house in perfect shape, looking great and having a place for everything, but life happens and I'm naturally indolent.  I can only push myself so far with things.  So by summer... yeah, that's possible.
There are more things that I want to resolve, I'm sure.  Less time on the computer.  More time with my family.  More exercise and more focusing on me.  But it's good to start small and add rather than overwhelm myself now and set myself up for failure.

15 August 2014

Looking at the World Through a Different Filter

For a long time, we just thought that Pete was a difficult child.  He would throw temper tantrums if he was interrupted doing what he wanted to do.  He would run around, climbing on everything like a monkey.  He laughed at inappropriate times.  He was very picky about the foods he ate.  He never wanted to get dressed, sometimes running outside in our apartment complex naked.  He licked and bit a wide variety of things he shouldn't have.  He still sucked his thumb.

Because of his behavior, he was told that he wouldn't be able to come back to the Parents' Day Out that he'd been going to after his fourth year.  It just wasn't a good fit for him any more.  I tried the Regional Intervention Program. It gave me plenty of tools for dealing with him when he was driving me nuts, but he was still throwing fits when we graduated. He'd done a little better at the new PDO he went to the year before kindergarten, but he still had times when he would act out, or get out of control.  I wasn't sure where to go next, and the thought of him entering kindergarten scared me to death.

When we went for his 5 year Well Check Up, the doctor noticed that he was having some problems with his fine motor skills and suggested we have him evaluated in Pediatric Rehab.  So appointments were made, then rescheduled.  I took Pete in for an hour long evaluation.  I mentioned, along with the fine motor skills, some of the other behaviors that concerned me - the dislike of wearing clothing, the way he would chew on things that weren't food, how he'd get out of control sometimes and it was hard to get him calmed down.  After the evaluation was done, the therapist told me that, while she couldn't say for certain until all the scores were added up, she was pretty sure that Peter had Sensory Processing Disorder and they would most likely see him for therapy.

As we started therapy, I started to read up more on SPD.  What did it mean?  How did it effect Pete?  Where did it come from?  What I found out is that SPD is very controversial in the medical community.  The APA doesn't want doctors using it as a diagnosis because there is still so much unknown about it, and the symptoms of SPD were most often found in children that had other issues as well, such as autism, aspergers or ADHD. But there were a lot of therapies and tools out there to help children, regardless of what the diagnosis ended up being, to get the sensory input they need.

Pete is a sensory seeker. (Though he doesn't fit all the items on that list, he does fit some of them.) He always wants to snuggle with me or his dad or his brother. He needs that closeness whenever he's doing something. He has the TV loud a lot of the time. He crashes into things because he says it "feels good".  He has to have something in his mouth, especially when he's upset.

The problem, of course, is that SPD isn't an official diagnosis.  So in trying to get help for him at school, we're trying to figure out how to make his case fit so he'll get the help he needs.  I'm very lucky that his teacher is someone I know well and more than willing to work with me on things that will help him.  I'm also meeting with the school to see what we can do to get an IEP or a 504 in the works for him.   I'm very lucky that we are part of an excellent school with caring staff and teachers.

It amazes me, though, how much it's making me look at Peter differently.  No.  Not look at Pete differently, but at the way he sees the world.  His teacher noticed that every time they are walking in the hall, he has to touch the wall.  It's a byproduct of not having a good handle on the spatial world around him.  Today, I realized that he has an aversion to heat.  He needs bath or shower water several degrees cooler than any of the rest of my family.  If I have to wash Plo, he wants to have him out of the dryer long enough to be "cool" before he'll take him (or he'll get upset with me because I dared make Plo warm).  He lets his food cool almost completely before eating it.  Ice cream and ice pops are favorites.  Hot chocolate is not.  I've noticed that when he and Teddy fight, it's most often because Pete is getting too close, not accepting Teddy's personal space.  And that could be that desire for touch. (Or it could be that he's using his Little Brother powers to annoy the Big Brother.)  He doesn't like socks with his shoes.  Certain pieces of clothing that I think are comfortable are too scratchy.   The world is a very different place for my youngest, and I'm just learning to see how different.

It's hard, sometimes, to change from getting frustrated because I think Pete's just being difficult to realizing that it could be part of his sensory issues.  For so long, it was just Pete being Pete, always making things difficult.  And sometimes, I suspect he still is.  (Especially when he tries to tell me he doesn't know how to put on clothes and/or shoes I've seen him don 30 times before without any help.)  But I'm trying to teach myself to stop and look at the world with Pete's senses first before overreacting.  That maybe, just maybe, there's a pattern here and I can decode it to make life just a little easier for my sensitive boy.

31 July 2014

The Past and the Present

Tomorrow, I will be braving the crowds of shoppers for Tax Free Weekend.  I will be armed with School Supply Lists, clothing and shoe sizes, and a list of other things that I want to pick up, since I'll be out. This year, I'll be supplying two kids for school instead of just one.  I'll be buying double the amount of pencils and erasers, sanitzers and Wet Wipes, than I've had to buy before.  And I don't know if it's because this is the first year I'm shopping for more than one child, or if it's just memories sparking as I'm getting older, but it brings to mind my mother returning home one year, a few weeks before I started school, laden with everything I would need to start the school year out right.

I can still see clearly my mother, sitting on the floor in our living room with a large bag or two from the store 30 minutes away from home.  I watched with anticipation as first one, then another, and another item came out that was going to have me ready for another year of school.  There was a school bag, and a metal lunch box with it's own thermos - what was on it is now lost to the mists of memory, but the feeling of having that wonderful lunch box with it's matching thermos, being in awe of the "new lunchbox smell" that it seemed to have for me, stays with me until this day.  I'm sure other things came out of the bag, like pencils and paper and other school essentials, but what I really remember most were the clothes.

One by one, my mother would pull out a new outfit for me to wear to school.  Cute dresses that would come up to my mid-thigh.  Matching pants and tops.  Shoes that matched perfectly with the clothes I was getting.  That day was like Christmas for me, all the new things that belonged to just me.  I was so excited to start school so I could begin using these things.

My kids probably won't share the same excitement.  School here in Nashville is very different than it was in small town New York.  The supplies will be communal for their classrooms.  The clothes will be Standard School Attire - blue, black or khaki pants, short sleeved collar shirts with nothing on them.  No lunch boxes, because school lunches are free for all students in the Metro Public School system.  Teddy may get excited over the backpack I get him (Pete already has an awesome Phineas and Ferb one), and Pete might be excited over the sneakers I buy for him (Teddy got a new pair at the end of last year that he has hardly worn).  And they may want to see what other goodies I get.  But I suspect they'll look at a few things and then, before I have a chance to finish pulling things from the bag, they'll ask if they can go play on the computer, or watch TV, or anything else that doesn't involve watching Mom pull items out of bags.

17 July 2014

3 Weeks and Counting

3 Weeks from today, my youngest will start kindergarten. And I'm not sure I'm ready.

It's not for the reasons you'd think.  It's not the thought of him growing up, or being away from me all day.  I'm used to that from his Parents' Day Out program.  Granted, this is 5 days a week instead of 2, but I know that the consistency of being in a 5 day a week routine is going to be nothing but good for him.  Instead, I'm worried because... well, it's Pete.  And he's a very different kid than Teddy, with a bunch of different issues.

It started with behavior problems and other concerns in his PDO program.  He was combative with his teachers, he yelled and screamed, didn't learn his letters, couldn't hold a pencil right.  We thought it was mostly behavior rather than any kind of developmental delay, so we looked into the Regional Intervention Program.  It was highly recommended by both educators and other parents that I knew.  And it WAS good for me.  It gave me a lot more tools to deal with Pete when he got out of control.  And Pete did learn a few things there.  But by the time we "graduated", he was still having as many problems as he'd had before we started.  So I wasn't sure where to go next.

I met with his pediatrician, and she had expressed some concerns about his fine motor skills and suggested we go to Pediatric Rehab.  Ok, I figured.  Let's see what we can do there.  It took a couple months before they could see us and, as they were testing him, we found out that most of his problems weren't completely from stubbornness or bad parenting, but because he actually had something wrong with him - Sensory Processing Disorder. Basically, he needed sensation.  He wasn't getting it the same way most of us do, not feeling things as strongly (physically) or able to feel comfortable in the space around him.  So he pushed the limits to try to create the sensations he was craving.  Sitting still in a chair was tough on him.  He needed to wiggle and move because his body was telling him that's what had to happen.  He ran into walls at full speed so he could figure out where the boundaries were. He made loud noises and acted silly because that's what he felt he needed to do.  So what we needed to do was find a way to get him those things without being disruptive.  So we started Occupational Therapy with him once a week, both for the SPD and because his fine motor skills weren't where they should be at 5 1/2.

They've given me some great ideas for helping him deal with SPD.  Ways to help him get out the need to be active without being disruptive.  One of the things I do with him is have a "Push War".  He pushes against my hands as hard as he can, trying to push them back to my chest.  After we do it a couple of times, he's able to calm down a little.  Also, I try to give him "heavy work", like helping push the (full) laundry basket across the floor, or having to run to the dining room and bring me back one thing after another.  These little things are helping.

What worries me, though, is what will happen when school starts.  I'm trying to get an IEP or a 504 Plan for him so if he needs help with various things, we'll already have a plan in place for him to get that help.  Today, after many phone calls that weren't returned, I stopped by the school to talk with someone about it.  I need a diagnosis from a doctor - what they found at rehab just won't cut it.  And then, with the diagnosis, I need to bring it to the school and get the paperwork started. Then they'll have a meeting to discuss it, and the school psychologist will meet with Pete to test him again.  Only after all of that happens will be (hopefully) get something in place for him.  So I have an appointment with his pediatrician next Tuesday to see what I need to do to get a doctor's diagnosis.  I'm afraid that I'm going to have to go somewhere else to get him diagnosed and who knows how long that wait will be.  I'm worried that it will be October or December by the time we can finally get something in place for him, and by then, he'll be labeled a "problem child".

The one thing going for me is that I know his teacher this year.  It's the same teacher that Teddy had in kindergarten.  I have a good rapport with her, and her teaching style is one that Pete responds to positively.  (It's very similar to the style his current teacher at PDO has, which has worked wonders for him over this last year.)  But for all that I know she'll be willing to work with me on some things, I also know that her hands will be tied when it comes to how much leeway she can give him for things.  She will (I hope) understand that he's not meaning to be a problem.  And I know she'll get in touch with me if there are problems.  But the fear that he'll not get what he needs soon enough is one that won't leave me.

So now I wait, hope and pray.  Wait for school to start and see if he'll be ok.  Hope that we can get everything we need for him to succeed at school before it starts.  And pray that he'll be able to thrive because he's got who and what he needs behind him.

Graduation Day from PDO