One Hour That Changed Everything

November 3, 2008

Just before noon today we walked into our local elementary school, and when we walked out just over an hour later, everything had changed.  And PJ had no idea.

It was his official ARD with the school district, the meeting that officially kicks off his participation in the special education program.  As I’ve mentioned before, I already knew he was going to qualify.  What I didn’t realize is exactly what that meant for our daily schedule.

They recommended that PJ join their special preschool program that runs every afternoon from 12:45-3:45.  Yes, every afternoon.  While I am at liberty to decline their suggestion, it means that PJ will not be getting the help he needs.  I accepted, while fighting back tears over everything we will have to give up, everything that will change.

For one, MDO is over.  The class that he loves so much and asks for every day–he will never go back to it.  The new school starts on Wednesday and there is no MDO tomorrow, so he will not even get a chance to say good-bye.  Those picture proofs we have sitting on our counter that we were going to officially order on Thursday will never materialize into real pictures.  Those connections I’ve finally started making with the other moms will disintegrate.  (Yes, I know it’s selfish, but I’m disappointed for me as much as PJ.)

Another change will be PJ’s naptime.  He depends on a good afternoon nap and is unbearable without it, or even just has it delayed.  I do not envy his teachers for the first few weeks when they keep him from sleeping until after he gets home after 4:00.  I’m afraid this will spell the end of his afternoon nap altogether, and I don’t like that thought.

Then there’s the bus issue.  Because the program is through the school district, they are required to supply transportation.  For the first time in his life, PJ will be riding a bus.  Oh, not just any bus–the short bus.  My child’s life will be in the hands of some driver I’ve never met before.  If I was scared enough letting my mom or in-laws drive him around when I wasn’t in the car, you can imagine I’m terrified about this whole bus thing.  Yes, it’s easier on me than driving him myself, but I hate that I’m sending him off into the unknown on Wednesday without ever seeing his classroom or anything.

Didn’t I just do the whole first-day-of-school thing?  How can it already be time to go through that again?  Why do I have to rip him away from the class he knows and loves to send him to “real school?”  I know he’ll grow to love it too, and it’s best for him educationally, but it still makes me sad.  I liked knowing he was going to school in a place where God was a daily topic, where my little boy learned to ask for Bible stories before naps, where he learned that church can be fun.  Now he’ll be in a school where the teachers are forbidden to even mention the topic.

All of this focus on the changes we have in front of us, even the simple inconsequential things, are much easier than focusing on the real problem–that my baby boy is in special ed.  It’s easier than letting myself wonder if there was anything I could have done differently before now that could have prevented us from coming to this point.  I’d rather mourn never letting PJ see his MDO friends–or my never seeing their moms again–than mourn that last hope that my child could be normal.

Now excuse me while I go continue my pity party by myself.  By tomorrow I should be past this indulgent sadness and be ready to regale you with funny stories instead.


October 29, 2008

We had one more short testing session for PJ this morning.  When it ended, I had a quick minute to talk with the speech pathologist who was doing the testing on him to get an idea about whether they thought he would qualify for special ed services.

She almost seemed surprised I’d asked.  Apparently there was never a question in her mind after that first meeting.  They did the extended testing to be able to write a complete report and determine exactly which areas he qualified in.  I don’t remember exactly what three areas she mentioned, but I know two of them were speech reception and pragmatics (conversational skills).  They were the exact same things that ECI had said he was having problems with.  At least they’re consistent.

When my mom asked a week or so ago what I wanted them to find, I had to admit that I wanted him to qualify.  I know that he has problems, and it would be very frustrating for them to say he doesn’t qualify, keeping him from getting the help he needs.  I am certainly not looking forward to all the therapy sessions and meetings we have ahead of us now, but they will be worth it for PJ to catch up and be ready for school in a couple of years.

I’m focusing on how good this will be for PJ and not the disappointment I feel in knowing that he still has such obvious problems.  I’m working on not letting the special ed label get to me.  With any luck, being a part of the special ed program now will keep him from having to deal with the label when he actually starts school.

And now, partly to distract myself, I need to go work on baking those cookies for PJ’s class tomorrow.  I’ll let you know how they turn out.  I’m also letting PJ help out, I think, so this might be interesting.  He’s never really helped me cook before (partly because I’m chicken and partly because I don’t cook).  I’m sure I have quite the experience in front of me.

Harder Than I’d Hoped

October 27, 2008

So M left again yesterday afternoon, this time for a long trip.  He won’t be back until late Thursday night.  It was a lot harder to let him go, probably because he just got back from a trip last Thursday night, and this time he’ll be gone much longer than the one night.

Oh, yeah, and we have two sick kids.  BabyN puked everywhere less than an hour after he left.  I got to take his high chair apart, clean it one piece at a time, and reassemble it during his naptime.  Then he screamed for a good part of that naptime, which made it very difficult to do anything.

The dog’s been insane.  Of course.  She can’t leave me alone, probably because she’s lonely–and probably needs to pee.  She won’t go when I take her outside.  Can grief do that to a dog?  Make them too sad to pee when they get the chance?

Then there’s PJ.  He’s recovering from his cold; mostly just the cough is left.  He feels just bad enough still that he spent his entire breakfast time screaming, his second tantrum of the day.  I can’t even begin to count how many he has had since then.  Do you think the cold is affecting his hearing?  Because he WILL NOT listen to me today and then acts horrified when he ends up in time-out for disobeying.

I should probably have compassion for my sick little boy, but I can’t muster any today.  He keeps forcing himself to cough, which obviously makes him feel worse.  And his forced coughs sound like he’s about to hurl.  It grates on my nerves that he won’t listen to anything I’m telling him to do that will help him feel better.  Surely he does want to feel better, right?

The worst part is that I can’t share any of this with M.  He’s super busy at the conference thing, and I can’t just call him on a whim to vent or even share a good story.  It would be even better if we could split up the responsibility of caring for them like we do on the weekends.  It’s tough meeting all their needs all by myself when they are this needy.

And now I’m done venting.  I just needed to get that out of my system.  Maybe now I can readjust my attitude and the rest of the week will go easier.

Lessons from Life as a Single Mom

October 23, 2008

I’m getting pretty good at this single mom stuff.  This is the third week in a row that M has been gone for a couple of days during the week, and as much as I dread his leaving, I find that I’m able to cope much better than I thought I would.

Of course, it’s just one night away.  Next week he’s gone for most of the week.  In the past, I would have considered going to my parents’ place for the week, but that can’t happen this time.  PJ would be devastated to miss school for a week, and I simply can’t do that to him just because I’m too much of a pansy to be the solo parent for that long.

So I’m learning how to cook dinner for all three of us, something I normally leave up to M while I keep track of the boys.  It may not be anything special, but nobody goes hungry.

I’m learning how to take care of fussy boys who don’t feel very good without being able to pass one off to M.  This morning was pure chaos.  PJ was crying, probably from this cold or allergies or whatever, and when not every detail of his day goes his way, he just breaks down.  BabyN was crying from teething, I guess.  He’d been up several times during the night because of it, too.  But I didn’t lose it this morning when one or the other was crying every second from the moment BabyN woke me up.

I’m even learning how to take both boys out at the same time, even for frivolous trips.  Yesterday was the first time I took both boys shopping alone, and not only did we all survive, but the boys were both good enough that I rewarded them by getting them a new (cheap) toy.

I’m feeling a little like SuperMom today.  I know most of the things I’m learning to do are things that most moms do without thinking, but they’re huge for me.  I’ve needed this self-confidence.  It’s just too bad that it takes me being forced to do them to try them.  Still, the confidence I’m finding is motivating me to try other things that I’ve wished I could do for some time.

Who knows what I’ll end up doing next week when M is gone for the whole week…


October 14, 2008

Sorry about my extended absence here.  I just haven’t had any motivation whatsoever to blog, on this blog or the family one.  I hate the guilt I feel about it, but that’s apparently not quite motivation enough to actually write something.

Nope, there’s nothing going on, nothing wrong.  I’m just finding my extended blogging time to be challenged by many other priorities these days.  I’m also looking into adding another one: exercising.  I hit a new highest non-preggie weight this morning, and my self-esteem is at a new low.  I absolutely must make time to start working out so that I’ll feel like I’m doing something about it, even if I don’t see any changes for a good long time.

So anyway, to end this totally lame post, if I’m not around much for a while, now you know why.  Maybe I’ll find motivation again soon, though, and this whole admission will have been pointless.

Oh, yeah.  I did it again.  PJ’s teachers were looking for parents to sign up to bring stuff for the class’s party on Circus Day (in lieu of a Halloween party), and the only slots left were fruit or cookies.  Duh.  I signed up to bring cookies.  Right now I’m considering making some sugar cookies and cutting them out in the shape of a clown or monkey or something.  But since I’ve never done that before, I’m also open to other ideas.  It doesn’t have to follow a circus theme, but I think it would be cute if the cookies did.

Color-Blind Toddler

October 3, 2008

The other day after PJ got home from school, I sat with him on the couch as he sucked down some juice and jabbered on about school.  I only understood about half of what he was saying, but after a few minutes I started picking up names of some of his school friends, names I had only seen on the class list up until then.  PJ was acting like he was talking to Austin and Neil and Noah and some other little boys in his class.

Then out of nowhere, he got this goofy grin on his face and said, “Carina?” and followed it up with some sentence I didn’t understand.  He continued talking about Carina for some time, always with that silly smile.  Carina was the only girl’s name he mentioned, even when I tried to prompt him with some of the other girls’ names I had seen on the list.  I know he’s only three (-ish), but he seems to have something resembling a crush on Carina.

When I went to pick him up from school yesterday, I was the only parent there at the time and had a few minutes to talk to his teacher (who adores him, by the way).  I just had to ask her who Carina was.  Considering how little he still talks at school, she was surprised to hear that he talks about her at home.

Then she pointed her out.  In the midst of all these precious blonde-haired, blue-eyed pixie girls was one lone Hispanic girl.  That was Carina.

I was a little embarrassed at my own bias then.  I had been picturing one of those blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls to be Carina.  Of course my own blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy would choose one of these girls for his crush.  It was only natural, right?

It turns out that I am exceedingly proud of my little boy.  It takes the completely unbiased innocence of a three-year-old to teach me what it is to be color-blind.  Carina is truly a beautiful little girl, and he has every reason to look at her with that twinkle in his eye.  It shouldn’t matter that her hair and eyes are a different color from his and almost every other child in that class; in fact, that may be what he finds so fascinating.

On a side note, I also discovered from his teacher that he plays most with a kid named Sam.  Sam is the oldest-looking kid in the class and seemed to act more mature than the other kids, from the few seconds I saw him anyway.  Good for PJ to find the kid who acts more grown-up, more like PJ’s own age, not the age he looks.

I loved getting that glimpse into what he’s like at school, getting to see the kid he chooses to be friends with.  It gives me a better idea of what kind of kid he’s going to grow into, more than just the side I get to see at home.

Oh, and on a totally unrelated note…the school is having a “Circus Day” instead of a Halloween party.  I’m not terribly surprised at their attempt at replacing Halloween with a similar, but more innocent, celebration.  The kids are allowed to wear costumes that day, as long as they are circus-themed.  That nixes my idea of letting PJ be a dinosaur (you ever seen one in a circus?), so I’m back to square one.  I’d like to find costumes that coordinate for the boys too.  You may remember last year BabyN was an elephant and PJ was a peanut.  THAT would have been awesome for the circus theme.  Anyway, I’m open to ideas today.  I’ll be doing some online research this weekend to get ideas too, but it’s always nice to get back-up from you guys as to what makes a good costume.

Two Milestones

September 30, 2008

Just this morning PJ hit two different milestones.  The first happened as I was changing his diaper right after getting him up.  He started rubbing his head and told me, “Head hurt.  Bumped my head.”  I knew full well he had not bumped his head, so my best guess was that he had a headache.  We’ve all been fighting an allergy attack, and BabyN kept us up for a good portion of last night because of it.  It’s entirely possible he had a headache from the allergies, or from the sleep deprivation.  I never would have known something was wrong and that I should give him Tylenol if he hadn’t said something.

That was a first for him, to tell me something hurt when it wasn’t obvious, like if he really had just bumped his head.  And he managed to communicate that without screaming or any tantrums.  I like that milestone.

Then at breakfast, BabyN was fighting me feeding him.  He often puts his hands in front of his mouth or scratches his nose to let me know he doesn’t like a food or isn’t hungry anymore, but today I couldn’t tell if he was scratching his nose because it was itchy or if he was just not hungry anymore.  He finally started crying a little, and again I was trying to decide whether to wait him out or quit feeding him.  PJ started making funny faces at his brother and smiling at him, getting him to stop crying and start babbling happily instead.

Then PJ looked at me and said, “Gaga says he want down.  Gaga all done eating.”  (Remember he calls his brother Gaga.)  I tried a few more bites of food with BabyN, and he fought each one of them.  I finally gave up, deciding PJ was probably right.

He had translated for his brother.  How crazy is that?  Not only was he communicating using more words in a sentence than I had heard in a long time, but he found different ways to say it–and it was infinitely more complex than telling me what he wanted.  And he helped his brother communicate.  I’d say that was a pretty big deal.  I’m so proud of him, especially after how yesterday morning went.


September 29, 2008

That’s it.  I’m calling shenanigans on all these tantrums.  (By the way, anybody know where that phrase comes from?  We use it all the time around here, and I can’t remember what show we stole it from.)

I KNOW PJ can talk and ask for what he wants.  There is no reason for him to throw himself on the ground and scream and whine and yell until my ears ring just because I can’t read his mind to get him whatever he wants.  So that’s it.  I’m not playing his game anymore.  I’m not going to guess, I’m not going to offer him something–anything!–just to get him to quit it.

I may end up bald from pulling out all my hair and I may end up spending naptime in my room crying with my pillow over my head, but I’m putting an end to it now.  He’s turning into a spoiled brat, and I’m not going to let it happen.  Better fix it now before the damage is irreversible.

I started it this morning after not liking how breakfast went yesterday.  Basically yesterday he was bribed to quit throwing his tantrum with the things he probably wanted.  We never discovered for sure if that’s what the tantrum was about because the bribes did the trick and stopped the screaming.

Today?  I wasn’t buying it.  I asked him whether he wanted juice or milk to drink with breakfast.  When he didn’t answer, I told him I wasn’t going to get him either until he asked for it.  He was too busy throwing a tantrum because he’d wanted toast for breakfast instead of the waffle I’d already fixed.  Then when I didn’t read his mind and get him juice, his tantrum got louder.  I guessed that he probably just wanted juice, but I didn’t know that for sure since he wasn’t telling me.  He had everything he needed–a waffle and water–and he could eat if he chose to.

The tantrum continued until I bodily moved him to the table.  Then he started hitting the table to emphasize how upset he was.  He knows better than to hit, so I gave him a warning and then moved him to time-out.  He only screamed louder.  I did the usual three minutes, and when he started to calm down even a little, I got him back out.  Apparently the time-out proved how serious I was because the second I walked up to him, the tears and tantrum ended.  He asked for his waffle and then juice, which I happily got for him since he’d asked nicely, and then he ate contentedly.

In other words, I won.  He learned that the tantrum got him a time-out, not whatever he wanted.  The words got him what he wanted.  I am so proud of my first victory and my patience in waiting him out.

I know it’s not going to be easy to stick to this and convince M to do so every time as well, but it has to happen.  He’s almost three now, and it’s long past time for him to learn that tears are not a manipulative tool.

Still Talking about Talking

September 24, 2008

We had PJ’s full special ed evaluation this morning.  It was scheduled to happen a week or so ago, but some wind or hurricane or something closed all the schools down for a week which obviously delayed our appointment.

It went relatively well.  BabyN (NR? LilN?) was in his typical chipper mood, which helped matters considerably.  After a while, though, we were asked to leave, but very nicely.  The problem was that they were trying to record PJ talking to analyze more later, but BabyN kept cooing and banging on the table, making it more difficult to pick out PJ’s voice on the recording.  I get the feeling the one lady was frustrated I had the baby with me again, but it’s not like I had anything else to do with him, especially when I only found out about the new appointment time yesterday.

PJ was–well, PJ.  He was extremely cooperative–when he wanted to be.  The diagnostician used the same words I’ve heard before in reference to him: He “had his own agenda.”  I suspect this is going to make determining his eligibility for the program difficult.  It’s possible he has deficits in the areas he did not cooperate, but there’s no way to know that for sure because of his lack of cooperation.

M and I have come to agreement that he’s probably the most special ed GT student ever.  He behaves much like a gifted/talented kid would, so focused on excelling in their best areas that they tune out everything else going on around them.  These are kids that often don’t care to do anything they feel is beneath them and will do only what they feel is worthy of their time.  That’s exactly what PJ does, if I can guess at his motivation.  The talking may or may not be a symptom of this.

I’m curious to see what they decide to do about PJ.  I got the feeling from their reactions after the evaluation that they were kind of confused.  He doesn’t fit neatly into any box, so it’s going to take a little more analysis and observation to make any decisions.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I want the result to be.  As much as I don’t want him to have the special ed label, I want him to get the help he needs.  But I don’t know that they will be able to provide the help he needs, if he even truly needs any.  I guess this is the best attitude to have, so that I’m not disappointed with whatever they decide.

Nursing, and Not the Medical Kind

September 23, 2008

Thanks for the suggestions on new names for BabyN.  I’ve been considering using his initials like I do with PJ, but NR doesn’t have the same ring to it.  I’m looking into something that conveys a little of his personality.  Not easy but better than a movie rating. 🙂  I’ll let you know if I come up with something.  In the meantime, keep the suggestions coming!

We didn’t do much for his birthday.  Obviously the cake I labored over came out pretty well.  Okay, so it was out of a box and the frosting was from a can, but I’m the kind of cook that can even mess that up.  I was pretty happy with how it came out, and all my boys seemed to enjoy it.  PJ’s compliment was certainly the best, though: “Mmm, birfday cake good!”  I think it’s safe to say he gets the whole birthday thing now, even when it’s not his.  And does it really matter whose birthday it is when you get cake?

I am glad to say that BabyN is now over a year old and still nursing.  In the early days of nursing PJ, I was surprised that I made it a full two weeks and then six weeks of it.  It wasn’t easy at all.  I think that’s why once we found our groove, I was reluctant to give up when he hit a year old.  I kept making excuses to continue, even though I knew a lot of people thought it was weird to nurse much past a year.  I finally threw in the towl and weaned him when his adjusted age was a year.  Good timing, too, since I found out I was pregnant three days later.  Still, I feel like I weaned him because of pressure from others, not because we were both ready.

I’m not caving to that (probably imagined) pressure this time around.  As much as I would love to have my body back to myself, I’m not in any hurry to wean BabyN yet.  He’s still nursing three to five times a day.  It’s the way to comfort him back to sleep when he wakes up in the middle of the night.  It’s the only way he takes fluids right now since all my work getting him to take a sippy or regular cup isn’t working yet.

It’s also one of the only times I can get him to stay still and cuddle with me.  As plans for a third are as of yet non-existent and could remain that way, I want to cherish every minute I get to hold and snuggle with my baby boy, even when he is so quickly growing into a little boy.  He seems to love those snuggle times as well, so I’m not about to push him into giving them up yet.

Right now my plan is to follow his lead.  If he acts like he’s ready to move past the breastfeeding days–and will drink from a cup of some sort–then I’ll start working on weaning.  I may give up another few months from now and slowly wean him myself, but I don’t think that’s likely.  I’ve already made my first goal of nursing for a year, so now I’m headed for my secondary goal of fifteen months.  It doesn’t matter as much to me whether or not we make it there, but it would be nice.  Either way, I think I’ll probably cut him off at eighteen months if we make it that far.  Then again, I may change my mind by then.  I hope not, though; fifteen months is plenty long enough already.  Still, I’m just playing it by ear now.