Thursday, April 17, 2014

Grouchy When Tired

I fell asleep in the recliner last night as I rocked with Olivia. I fell asleep before 8:30. Proof that I was pretty tired last night.

But before I fell asleep, I managed to be a major grouch to my entire family. I’m not proud of my behavior, just trying to maintain a bit of honesty around here.

When I left work yesterday, my brother and nephew were already in the parking lot waiting for me. I was taking my nephew to my mom’s for the night. I’d told my brother that if he wanted me to do this, he had to be outside, by my car, no later than 4:30 because that was when I was leaving. I had to leave at that time because Alyssa was expecting me to be at the school to pick her up at 5:00. I had to make a seventeen mile drive in that half hour. Part of it was in town, which meant I needed the entire half hour.

J and I made it to the school parking lot with seven minutes to spare.

Alyssa came out, we headed home to pick up Olivia and then off to my mom’s, where there girls and J were all pests for the forty minutes the girls and I were there.

When we got home, it was time for dinner and homework and then Olivia needed her pie and ice cream and books.

I was just done. Tom kept making smart remarks which made me scowl at him. He didn’t understand the depth of my tiredness. He just thought my dirty looks were funny.

The poor girls just wanted to have fun but I wanted no part of it.

I did manage to wake up at 9:00 to finally drag myself and the girls up to bed. And, bless her sweet little heart, Olivia slept all night long. I know. It shouldn’t be a major event when a seven year old sleeps through the night. But in our house…it is. And I celebrate it every single time it happens.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Still Little

Last week Alyssa missed a day of school due to illness and so I watched from the front window as Tom walked Olivia to the bus. They waited at the designated place for the bus to stop and then watched for the driver’s wave for Olivia to cross the street to get on the bus.

Two years ago, I cried when my baaaabeeee had to get on the bus. She was so little, I sobbed. I didn’t understand why my husband was being so hard-hearted and wouldn’t drive her to school.

When she crossed the street last week, I was reminded that she’s still so little. She usually has her arm looped through her sister’s as they cross the street together. On that day, she made her way to the bus, climbed on all by herself and waved at her dad through the window.

She’s growing up even though in my eyes, she’s still little.

I love her independence as much as I love that she still wants to sit with me and rock most nights.

She tells me how she wants her hair most mornings and has opinions on what outfit she’s going to wear. She does her homework with little help from me but wants me to feed her pie and ice cream at night because it’s messy and she just wants it in her mouth NOW.

We’ve come a long way with this girl, this baby who cried so much her first six months of life. She’s happy, she’s healthy, she’s smart, she’s sweet.

And she’s still so little in my eyes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bikini

After my sister-in-law’s baby shower last Sunday, my girls and I sat around with my mom and her sisters to visit for a bit. It’s been awhile since all the sisters were together and even longer since I was there with them. It was fun.

My mom’s oldest sister, Auntie D, mentioned that Alyssa needed a bikini for this summer.

Ahem.

No.

Not to get all prudish on you but she’s eleven. She’s going to get a new swimsuit but it will be more along the lines of a tankini than a bikini.

Yes, I’m that mom. I do not believe an eleven-year-old needs to wear a revealing swimsuit just because she’d look good in it. Look good to whom? Who are we trying to impress by dressing our little girls (in my world, eleven is still little, even when eleven stands five feel three and three quarter inches tall) in tiny bikinis?

Anyway, my aunt thought I was funny for being so prudish. She told me she was just trying to get a reaction out of me.

She tried to tell me that I’d worn bikinis at eleven. I didn’t. I was much too body-conscious to go out in public clad in something like a bikini. Alyssa isn’t body conscious but she is aware of how Tom and I feel about wearing clothes that are too revealing. We’ve had this conversation and she understands how we feel and why. She also agrees (good thing because she wouldn’t win this battle.)

And in case anyone is wondering, Olivia won’t be wearing a bikini either. And that girl, unlike her sister, WANTS to wear a bikini, because it will help her get a better tan. Sigh. I know, right?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Reflections on an IEP

Here I am, several days later, still thinking about Olivia’s IEP and her placement in a self-contained class for first grade.

At home, none of us think of Olivia as special needs. She’s just Olivia. She flips, she runs, she sings at the top of her lungs. She dances, she asks for her hair to be worn in the Elsa braid.

She reads, she eats, she talks. That’s the thing. She talks to us. She speaks her mind, she tells us when she needs or wants something. We don’t get weird looks when we’re out in public, she comes across as shy but not necessarily as a child with special needs.

See all that above? It lets me live in a little bubble of denial. At home, we are not a family living with special needs. Well, I guess we are, but it doesn’t feel like we are. But that little bubble always bursts when I attend and IEP meeting to discuss accommodations to help Olivia succeed in school.

The main item on her IEP is for her to voice her wants and needs to her teachers in an audible voice.

She doesn’t do that at school. She sometimes just sits there, even when asked a direct question. She just blinks at the questioner, as if she doesn’t even hear them. We’ve had that child’s hearing tests, she hears just fine.

They just don’t see her the way we do. She doesn’t let them. And I get that. I know that most kids are different at home versus at school. But the version I read about in the IEP report is so different from the child I have in my home.

Olivia is receiving services as a child with autism. Yes, she has a genetic diagnosis but because it is so rare, the school prefers to state that she shows symptoms similar to autism and give her services based on that. I’m okay with that. She’s getting the services she needs and that’s what counts.

But at home, she’s so vivacious, so smart, so vocal. I guess it’s easy for me to pretend that she’s fine.

So when I go to these meetings and read things like, “Won’t speak to Mrs. F, even when asked a direction question.” Or “Sometimes she flaps her hands during small group discussions, is given a ball to hold to keep her from doing this.” Or even, “Refused to answer questions during testing, could not record results.” These things burst my little bubble and make me accept that my child is different, she learns differently, she has needs that her peers do not have.

I know all this, in my head. I do.

But my heart says she’s awesome just the way she is and I love her so, so much. I look at her and she’s so perfectly beautiful, so charming and funny and delightful.

I just wish she’d show the rest of the world what she shows me. Then maybe they’d understand why this is so hard for me, even though I realize, in the end, it isn’t about me. And because I know that, I will get over myself and embrace how great this is going to be for Olivia. She’s going to thrive in a class with Mrs. A and all that attention. She’ll also thrive because there won’t be as many distractions and perhaps, as Julie mentioned in the comments on the last IEP post, being in a much smaller class, Olivia will grow socially because there won’t be as many other first graders competing for the teachers’ attention.

The positives, people, I’m working on finding the positives here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Neat Trick

Alyssa, my mom and I went to see the movie “Noah” last week, starring Russell Crowe.

I liked it. I probably won’t actually buy the DVD but I enjoyed watching it in the theater.

But what I remember most from the movie wasn’t so much how it deviated from the biblical story of Noah and his amazing Arc or even the awesomely scary and yet weirdly helpful giant angels encased in rock. We went into the movie knowing that they'd taken dramatic license for entertainment value.

So, no, while those things made for a decent movie experience what I remember most was the neat trick that Noah’s grandfather, played by the amazing Anthony Hopkins, did during one scene.

If you haven’t seen the movie and want to and hate to be spoiled, see you next post. If you don’t mind being even a little spoiled, well carry on.

The neat trick wasn’t when he healed Emma Watts’ character and made her able to have children. Though I saw that coming from the moment they found her as a child.

No, that wasn’t even the coolest trick in the movie.

The coolest trick was when Noah and his son went to see Noah’s grandfather in a cave. The grandfather gave Noah some tea then turned to Noah’s son, put his finger on his fore head between his eyes and said, “Rest.”

The child fell immediately asleep.

Now that, my friends, is an awesome trick. That is a trick that God should have given every single parent ever in the history of time, amen.

I promise I would use this power wisely. I wouldn’t make my children sleep at random times of the day. Just at bedtime. Well, and if/when they wake up in the night. But that’s it. Promise.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I.E.P. Take Five

As kindergarten winds down we have to make plans for first grade. Yesterday, I spent about forty minutes with Olivia’s current teachers, her principal, her speech therapist and the woman who will be her teacher next year.

She’s done pretty well in a typical kindergarten class. She’s reading above grade level but her math skills are below. She’s writing well when she wants to write well.

And therein lies the problem. Olivia can be stubborn. She comes across as a difficult child because she tends to bond with one adult in each setting and then steadfastly refuses to speak to any of the others who might be in the room.

Teachers can’t test a child who won’t respond to them. They can’t possibly report on what she knows if she won’t show them what she knows, what she can do.

So next year she’s going to be an official first grader but she’ll be in a self-contained classroom with one teacher, one aide and three other students.

For Olivia, having a two to one ratio between the students and teachers is a great move. Another positive to this is that she’ll be with a teacher she’s already been seeing every day this past year. The special education teacher will be the one who is in charge of this self-contained classroom. Olivia already talks to this teacher, is comfortable with her and her aide, who again, will be in the classroom next year.

The class will be concentrating on the first grade curriculum at a slightly slower pace. There will be fewer distractions, less noise than that which is typical of a classroom with up to thirty kids and two adults.

All this is great. It really is.

When I told my mom and my husband about this plan, they both thought it sounded like the perfect thing for Olivia.

And yet…why do I feel a little sad for my girl? Is it because I fear she’ll lose out on the social aspect of being in a typical classroom? Maybe. I also worry that if she’s not around her typical peers for more than a few minutes at a time each day, she’ll fall farther and farther behind.

But I also know that first grade is going to lay the academic groundwork for the coming years and if she were placed in a classroom with over twenty kids and two adults, she’d definitely be left in the dust academically.

While she’s held her own academically, being in a typical classroom this year hasn’t done her a lot of favors socially. She still doesn’t talk to her peers, she won’t eat lunch at school with her peers. She won’t participate in small group discussions with her peers.

Academically, she does better one on one with an adult. So for first grade, we’re going to go with something as close to that as we can.

I’m consoling myself and my stupid fragile feelings with the fact that next year for first grade Olivia will join her typical peers for lunch, their ‘specials’ (gym, music, art, and computer classes) and recess. She will be exposed to these kids in social settings but she’ll also be getting the very best academic start she can.

I’m also telling myself that social stuff can come later. She has time to get comfortable with her typical peers. Right now, she doesn’t even seem to want to. But she does want to read, she does love to write. She hates to count but we’re working on that.

For now, I’m happy with the plan in place for first grade. I trust the teacher she’ll be working with. I know this woman wants what I want, for Olivia to do her best, and for her to be confident enough to let the rest of us know all that she really does know. Her teachers can't test her if she won't talk to them. They can't report on what she knows if she won't reply when they ask her questions. Right now, she'll talk to Mrs. A. I have high hopes that days working directly with Mrs. A next year will help Olivia build confidence in herself and her own abilities and knowledge.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

End of the Run

So our run is over.

I’ve been all braggy since October of 2012 when Alyssa went back to school after her tonsillectomy. See, she hadn’t missed a day of school since having her tonsils out. She’d been so disgustingly healthy. I was so proud of my decision to have those offending tonsils removed because obviously they were the culprit in every single illness she’d ever had up to that point.

Right? I mean, duh.

So on Monday I was leaving work with the intention of driving directly to the school to pick Alyssa up from her study group that ended at 5:00.

My phone rang as I got into the car. It was Tom, telling me and he and Olivia and Alyssa were waiting there for me to come home. Alyssa had ridden the bus home because her stomach was hurting and she didn’t feel up to staying for the study group.

Okay. No biggie. I went home, made dinner, which was eaten with gusto by every member of the family.

After homework, baths/showers, books, etc. we went to bed. And through the night, I heard Alyssa get up three times. Weird.

Yesterday morning I asked her if she was okay, that I’d heard her get up several times in the night. She said her stomach still hurt and didn’t get up for school.

We let her stay home and Tom said by lunch time, she was feeling better but that it was good she’d stayed home.

Alas, our run of no missed school days is over. And I can no longer blame the tonsils for anything at all, since they no longer exist.

We had a good run, though.