Snot on my scrubs

If I worked in a traditional medical office, snot on my scrubs would probably be normal. But I’m an office manager in an eye clinic. Snot is not a part of my day.

Today is the first day back to school after a 2 week spring break. J woke up today adamant that he was no longer going to school. He barely got dressed after putting pajama pants on instead of clothes first. He didn’t eat breakfast. He tried to leave without shoes or me before I was ready. He decided taking a backpack was too much work.

When I got him to school with a lunch box that also contained some breakfast and his binder, he didn’t want to get out of the car. I explained that I had to work and if i don’t make money, he doesn’t get food or fun stuff. So he got out of the van and nearly kicked his binder into the way of on coming traffic.

I stayed in the van watching but it seemed that he was really agitated and being verbally abusive to the parapros who were there with him. So I pulled out of the drop off line and into a parking spot. I went up to hug him (deep sensory input)  and he blew his nose on my scrubs.

I ended up having to walk him in to school. We compromised on going to a life skills room instead of class. I basically left him with hi low expectations. No fit throwing today so you can have electronics time. Electronics time means he can spend his money on Amazon. I told him he’s allowed to feel the way he feels about school but he’s not allowed to act badly about it.

On my way out, I ran into another mom on the sidewalk who I know from special Olympics. She was trying to coach her son to go into his classroom from across the lawn. We acknowledged that it was a rough morning for all of us, a few tears escaped, and I hugged her. We walked out of the school together, hopeful that our kids navigate this Monday well.

What’s for lunch?

Little j: I forgot to take my lunch on Friday.
Me: so did you eat school lunch? What did you have?
Little j: salad.
Me: really? Salad? Did you eat any green stuff?
Little j : no but I ate some of it.
Me: what kind of salad?
Little j: chicken
Me: so you ate chicken off the salad?
Little j : yeah it was really chicken nuggets. And I ate the crunchy bread pieces.
Me: croutons?
Little j : yeah that and the roll.
Me: so you ate salad but you didn’t eat any vegetables?
Little j: I almost ate a zucchini. It was stuck to a proton. <— not a typo

At this point I couldn't stop giggling.

A supercalifragilisticexpialidocious morning

6 weeks has passed since my last post. A lot of good has happened to/for me and the boys peppered with some not so good days.

Today, despite the winter rain and gray skies we are having in the desert, I’m having a great morning. I got woken up by instant messenger just before my alarm. Normally that would make me crabby but when I got done talking with the friend and the alarm went off, I was already wide awake.

I found little j in the kitchen already making his breakfast. J woke up without complaining and I didn’t have to yell even once to get him moving. Plus, he’d slept in his bed all night.
Little j then said he was going to make his brother’s oatmeal for me so that I could have more time to start on lunches.

In the meantime, another friend started messaging me and put a smile on my face for the day.

Both boys and myself were ready a few minutes early which made getting through the rainy day drop off lines easier.

Getting to work early meant I didn’t have to rush my devotional time while eating my breakfast.

In this moment, I’m grateful for a peaceful rainy day.

One Day

J had an unbelievably rough start to the week. I will confess that it wasn’t all his fault (and I feel horrible about it.) Sunday morning I wasn’t feeling well so I got up long enough to tell the boys what they could do for the morning and what they needed to do if they wanted electronics later. Then I went back to bed. Monday, I got a call pretty early in the day that J was not cooperating and didn’t want to work. I kind of expected that since we spent a tiring weekend at the State Special Olympics swim meet. They said he wasn’t out of control but that he was really agitated and refusing to do anything but read or talk about animals. Then Mrs. S picked him up like usual. When they got back to her house she wanted him to do his work, he wanted to nap. Somewhere along the way he got out of control. Really out of control. If you’ve never seen it, it is hard to imagine. It is actually hard for me to remember because it hasn’t happened at home or with me in several years. But he was a raging tasmanian devil. Things were flying, he was screaming, etc. S tried calling me and putting me on speaker phone and all he did was hiss at us. I ended up having to leave work early and when I arrived there was another adult from across the street also coming over to help. It was bad enough that she’d had to call for back up.

When we got home I noticed his morning meds still sitting at his breakfast spot. That is when I realized that he also didn’t have any the day before. Morning is now when he takes his anxiety/OCD meds. I had him take it right away and then sat him down to start catching up on all the work he had missed. He was a blubbering mess for a couple hours. He slowly got his work done and he also slowly returned to himself. We got a lot of work caught up, he did his night time routine and then wanted to go to bed a little early. When I tucked him in, I prayed over him extra peace and then sang a lot of songs to him. He wanted to know why I was singing more than one song and I reminded him that when he was little (and often had day long fits) I would sing him off to sleep. He wasn’t happy about it so we agreed that I’d just sing one more.

3:40am I was woken up by the dog. I got up to check on things and found J in his room on a handheld device. He’d already lost electronics through the end of the month for the Monday stuff. Add another day.

Tuesday morning before school he seemed fine. He took his meds, I triple checked. He promised it was going to be a great day and that he’d do his work. It wasn’t. He took a really long nap at school and only did about 10% of his class work. S said he was pretty wound up when she got him. I told her she could put him at my house for the last bit of time I’d be at work and for everyone’s safety, she did. He called her every few minutes to tell her what adventure he was imagining and she knew he was fine. (Side note: We’ve been slowly letting the boys stay home alone for short periods of time. They seem to do very well with the rules that come with the responsibility.)

When I got home we got right to work on catching up with the work. S and I were texting and brainstorming since he seemed to be doing better out of school this week. We needed something big to turn his week around. Since it seemed he really wanted to be away from school, I put that out as a reward. In the mornings he goes to a traditional teacher led class but in the afternoon, he does online courses with parapro support.

The deal was this: Go to your regular classes, stay awake, participate with a good attitude and if you can do all that, I will come get you before lunch starts.

12:45am I woke up from a dream and saw a light on in the hall. He was up getting a snack and books. Tucked him in again, reminded him of the deal.

This morning we went over all the desired behaviors. I also reiterated that me picking him up was not for fun but so that he could do his online work in the comfort of home.

I am happy to say it worked. He got to come home early and then we put in about 3 hours of work online and doing homework. He still has more homework to do because we didn’t get to it earlier this week, but today was successful. He navigated his two classes even when there was a slight change in the schedule. He stayed awake and he behaved appropriately. I’m hoping this broke the cycle. I’m hoping he remembers what a good day feels like and how nice it is when your teachers and support staff and mom are proud of you. Sometimes One day is all it takes.

Let the fall break fun begin

The advantage to my kids being in a district that starts school in July is that we get a 3 week fall break. This way the kids are in school during the super hot months and have a break when the weather is tolerable. I still have to work over the next few weeks and the kids each have a project to do for school but for the most part our evenings and my days off will be relaxing and fun. We’re probably going to do some in town field trips on Wednesdays so if you want to join us, let me know. Thankfully J finished the quarter on a high note and won’t be in trouble to start the break.

The good, the bad, the birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. It is often under celebrated because the boys just don’t care and I’m a grownup who still has to do grownup things like parent and work.   The morning started at 530am which is far too early for my liking.  J needed a measuring cup to make his oatmeal. Hard to be mad when he has already dressed himself and is making his own breakfast.

Unfortunately, on the way to school we had an unexpected and difficult conversation that put him in a terrible mood. I dropped him off and headed to a friend’s house for breakfast. She thoughtfully cooked eggs and provided yogurt and fruit because she knew pastries and muffins (while easier) are not something I indulge in often. I called J’s case worker at school to give him a heads up about the morning. Around 940 he called me with bad news. J had made some bad and unsafe choices and they had to remove him from class. He was still struggling to calm down. I asked to speak to him but all he would do is plug his ears and sing “LA LA LA LA la” to the smurfs tune. Not his best move.  I informed him that I’d be there soon and he’d have to pay me for my time. Once I got there, he was calm and able to turn things around mostly. I got to leave after about 30 minutes. I know our conversation really didn’t help the fact that he was up early, there was a change in barometric pressure, and it was the day before the full moon. A perfect storm for emotional/behavioral imbalance.

Thankfully I got to finish my morning with my friend and then go out to lunch with another friend/my boss. We had a leisurely afternoon before I had to go into the office to work a few hours.

After work I got the kids and fully intended to take the evening easy and just make left overs. But we got invited out for dinner and headed to IHop. Ended the night watching a DVR show I share with a friend.

This morning I got up and dove into the pool to work off some of the birthday food. It’s a good thing I didn’t check the temperature since the water was less than 80 degrees.

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My breakfast chef

Hopefully when I am out for endless shrimp at lunch tomorrow to finish the celebration J will be having a great day.

Posing the questions

For as long as I can remember, we have always given J choices. “Would you like to wear this shirt or the other one?” “Peas or carrots?” It was never a question of do you want to wear a shirt or eat your vegetables. I taught other people to give him “two acceptable choices.” It is okay to say, “Would you rather sit at the table in class or sit in time out?” I don’t care if he picks time out if it is something you offered him. 

We were doing “Love and Logic” before there was such a thing. We allow him to make as many choices as possible now so that when there isn’t a choice, the struggle is less. (well that’s the way it is suppose to work.) I learned early, before he was even two, that the battles weren’t worth fighting over the color of clothes or what we ate as long as we were dressed and fed. 

Now we use questions to help him make behavior choices. In the car on the way to school, “What kind of day are you going to have?” (Great) “What does a great day look like?”

When he is escalating, “Are you planning to have electronics later on or would you rather do chores?”

When he is thinking about being destructive, “Do you have the money to replace that?”

I have been trying to coach the specialists at his school to do the same. Mrs. S and I have been modeling it for them. “J, is this the kind of behavior that gets you electronics after school?” “What do you need to do to earn your privileges?” “If you decide to leave school and be untrustworthy, will mom be able to take you on trips over school break?” The last one is a trigger right now. On the first day of school it was announced that the 6th graders were invited to go to Disneyland over Fall break as a school sponsored trip. For several reasons, J can not go. He is really upset about this. So I made a deal with him. If he can behave and keep getting his work done, then I will take him and his brother on a great trip over Spring Break. Besides perseverating on the trip he can’t go on, he has also been detailing a plan to leave school on days he really doesn’t want to be there. 

In these moments, it is important to pose questions to him that break the loop in his brain. He has to think about the end results of his actions. The last question is the last resort because it is a long term goal. The other questions are short term goals. Last year though, he had a rough month and he would say things like, “no I don’t want electronics today! I’d rather keep doing (insert bad behavior.)” At that point the questions stop (sort of) and the consequences begin. I say sort of because the questions change, “Would you rather use a pooper scooper or a baggie to clean the yard?” The yard will get cleaned, no question about it.

Voracious reader

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This kid is why I spend as many hours working at the Scholastic warehouse sale as I can each year. They pay me in books. Since he is in middle school this year, he has to complete book reports instead of taking multiple choice quizzes for accelerated reader.  The book report was designed to be used with a book the class is reading over the course of a week and asks for him to make a prediction. The teacher modified it for him and said he could choose his own book since he brings a stack with him everyday. So tonight I told him he had to use a book he’d never read to make a proper prediction. He says, “Only one problem mom, I’ve read everything in our house! ” That was my cue to go to the secret box and pull out one of my earnings from the spring. I think I’ve got enough to make it to the next sale.

The logical thing would be to get him to get new books from the library (public or school) but as a child who likes routine, he rarely picks anything new and just rotates his choices through a few favorites. He also likes to devour books he’s reading. He’ll read it through quickly (500 wpm ) and then reread it for a few days savoring and reenacting his favorite chapters. If he owns the book, he can do this on his own without having a deadline to turn it back in.

This year I gave him a rolling backpack/small luggage to take to school for that ever increasing stack of books he insists on taking every day. Trying to keep him from the back trouble 30+ lbs of books can cause.

Starbucks + Sushi + Swimming laps =

Stress relief.  Broadway show tunes on Pandora helps too.

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J finally had his first rough day at school. It took 4 weeks for there to be an incident bad enough for them to call instead of email me. First of all,  4 weeks from the start of school is a record. 2 weeks was the previous record.  Secondly, he was able to turn his behavior around with in an hour after I coached the staff through the script of what discipline he’d have to look forward to if he didn’t change his attitude.  And last of all, the rest of the day was not lost after a bad morning. Three cheers all around.

The week has been minor stresses heaping up on each other with this morning being an extra heap. So tonight I’m glad they are with their dad and I can spend some time destressing by the pool.

Captive Audience

Until J was in 2nd grade, he took the school bus/van to school and was picked up by a sitter. It wasn’t that I couldn’t take him to school, it was that he couldn’t handle the separation from me at the drop off. He needed the time on the bus to calm down so he could start his school day off well. 

When he started 2nd grade, Little J started Kindergarten. Since we didn’t live in the regular bus zone (J qualified as part of his IEP), Little J needed me to take him to school. It was impossible for us to time J getting on a bus and Little J getting a ride from me so I just drove them both. Everything worked out fine. 

I have found that I am grateful for the times before and after school that I get to spend with them in the car. I have a captive audience. They can’t hide in their rooms, there’s no electronics calling their names, and the distractions are minimized. On the way to school we talk about how they plan to make it a great day. For J it is often about how he can make good choices (how he can correct bad ones from previous days) and how he can branch out socially. For little J it is usually about time management. On the way home they each get a chance to tell me what they ate, test scores, homework, behavior issues (they get a chance to fess up before I read any notes.), etc. 

Now that they are at different school and different after school locations, I get about 10 minutes alone time with J each morning and evening. It doesn’t really seem like much, but for a tween boy who doesn’t like to have actual conversations that aren’t movie/book based, it is the perfect amount for him. 

I don’t worry about Little J not getting alone time in the car. That kid likes to talk to me. He usually still has plenty to tell me at bedtime when I am tucking him in. And when he gets up to get water 5 minutes later. 🙂

And P.S. J now exits the van with a quick goodbye and slams the door shut, We’ve come a long way from needing a parapro to physically carry him into the school because he was trying to get back to the van (and me).