A family's story

Posts tagged ‘The boys’

The In-Between

The boys start school in 10 days. Another summer has blown past us. It has been an up and down summer, but a mostly enjoyable one. Soon, my boys will be in 7th, 5th and 2nd grade. Amazingly, when I started this blog, my oldest was a 2nd grader…and now, well, my baby is knocking on that door.

School supplies have been organized, and those that needed to be replaced are purchased. Folders are un-creased and crisp and shiny. Crayons still have a pristine tip. We have piles for each in the spare bedroom. Now, we wait.

The “In-Between” can be a bit anxiety producing, I am not going to lie. I am not sleeping great. The boys are each showing their anxiety in their own way. I won’t mire you down in the details, but let’s just say that the apples don’t fall far from the tree, here.

Each of them checks the master calendar daily. New items are being written in often. Jake is allowed to go walk his schedule any time from 9-3:30 on Thursday. Cole has a playdate for incoming 2nd graders another afternoon. Next week, the younger 2 have elementary school “Meet the Staff” day. As we tick off the list of supplies and have our last summer flings with friends, they get more and more aware that (said in a Ned Stark voice), “The School Year is coming.”

Summer isn’t always easy, with it’s relaxed schedules and routines, but in some ways, it is easier for me. No homework battles. No shuffling three children to and fro between various after school activities that range from soccer to religious education to therapists to scouts. And let’s not get into the freedom from IEP concerns.

Yes, we are firmly in the “In-between”, and right now, it’s a mix of emotion. Should I be bummed about the end of the summer? Should I be worried about the school year? Should I be writing summaries for the various teachers as they are new to my child(ren)? Did I remember to get all of the supplies? Did we do everything summer-related on our list? Did we do too much therapy this summer? Too little? Should we try to cram in another summer event?

So, I will sit here, and enjoy my coffee, and contemplate the “In-between”…for soon, we will be fully entrenched in another school year…

They’re Not So Little…

I noticed something lately…and it’s kind of strange. I have been able to pee alone for a little while now. I mean, someone may be on the other side of the door, but I can LOCK IT…and I am not worried about imminent danger for my children. Tate may rattle off his scripts from the other side of the door. Cole may call my name eleventy-billion times from the other side, but really, I don’t have anyone IN THERE with me. After 10 years of having someone sitting around as I do my business, it’s glorious to be be able to use the bathroom without an audience!!

I’ve also been able to get dinner done (when I choose to actually cook) without trying to juggle umpteen different needs and wants. If Cole or Tate need help, Jake is able to assist. If the boys want to play outside, I shove them into the backyard and keep the screen open to listen for shouts of pain, but mostly just hear shouts of boys being boys. They bicker, they are pretending to be various characters or people, but I don’t have to sit out there and watch their every.single.move.

My house is staying somewhat neater, as well. Don’t get me wrong, we still have massive clutter and there is a family of dust bunnies planning their revenge under my couch, but I don’t have nearly as many spills, goobers, or mysterious smears to clean up. Instead, I have more time to stay on top of household chores that I typically chose to ignore, like keeping closets picked up and organized, knowing where I put important papers, shredding junk mail, and keeping laundry up to date and almost putting it all away.

I had heard about this mythical life…and we’re getting so close. Next year, all three of my children will be in elementary school. It is so weird to think that my “baby” is headed to kindergarten. And that he is, really, my most independent child. He does things at 4 that my other two never did. Some of it is that I babied Jake. Some of it is that Tate couldn’t motor plan it. A lot of it is that Cole is the youngest, and he naturally wants to be older. Always. So he does much of his own self-care. I check in, mind you, but he can get dressed, brush his teeth, get himself snacks, and keep himself occupied.

This is all quite liberating. I have time to think. I have time to sit and see what people are rambling about on Facebook. I have time to READ BOOKS! And yet, as any parent can attest, there is that little piece that is shocked that time has moved so quickly. My babies are not babies any more. We are at the cusp of that “next phase”…They’re not so little…and they’re not so dependent…and I need to figure out what to do with this new phase…I’m excited about it…just need to figure out what comes next. Huh.


Hit Pause

Ferris Bueller famously stated, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ironic that a statement from the protagonist in a movie about a truant high-schooler in the 1980’s could hold so much truth. (It’s much more ironic if you consider the fact that I’m one of the biggest rule followers ever.)

I feel like we are always moving around “pretty fast”. Our lives are a blur of school events, “dropping by” the grocery store, errands, shuttling kiddos from one therapy to another, lessons, practices, and homework. We live for the weekends, and even those are often full of hustle and bustle. We get into a groove and we just.don’t.stop.

Sometimes, we are so consumed by the “power through” mentality that we are in danger of missing those little things that can be big things. And sometimes, we are so consumed by getting through this one thing that we may even let a big thing slide by our radar.  

Suffice it to say that since we had our drama over Jake’s IEP a month ago, I’ve decided to stop and look around a bit more. I take the long way when I drive around the town. Before I let the boys have their break after school, we have a conversation about their day. I ask them all questions that I know they understand and can answer. I clarify my statements when they don’t seem to know what I’m saying. I’m trying not to just.make.it.through. As I have implemented this “new” way of life, I am finding that I was, indeed, missing out.

I’m enjoying Cole’s Lego creations. He can construct some complex and intriguing structures–and the stories he concocts to go with them are terrific! Jake is much more aware of his peers and surroundings than any of us thought. He has made several observations about kids in his class, or about dynamics that I had heard about from other people. A month or so ago I would have said he had no clue. But, oh, how he does. He is taking it all in…even when it seems like he isn’t. Also? Jake is so afraid of failure that he is paralyzed to even try. (And this is SO me that it pains me. I really wish he wasn’t so scared. When we’re brave we can accomplish some amazing feats…even if they seem small.) I can’t find the right words to describe how infectious Tate’s zest for life is. I wasn’t allowing myself to feel it for a while…and now, well, I’m soaking up those giggles and those experiences. He is just so happy. I wish we all could live life as he does–so purely. So innocently. So fully.

I’m trying to be fully present with Hubz, too. We’ve been together long enough now that we tend to take each other for granted at times. Lately, I’m really trying to listen to him…instead of just nodding my head and pretending to follow along with the conversation. (Sorry!!) I’ve learned that he’s got quite the passion for his sound system. I don’t really understand it, but I know that tweaking the set up and rearranging the sub-woofers and speakers and center channel speaker, and so on and so forth have a purpose. I love seeing him so passionate about something. I also know how upset he is about an upcoming office move. I wish I could tell him “Everything is Awesome!”…but I don’t know. And sometimes, it’s okay to say that…and to say that I wish it didn’t have to be this way. But I know he’s resilient. I know he is a “glass-half-full” kind of guy…and he’ll make the best of this new situation. I know four of the reasons that he chose to stick with this position and this wacky move. And I hope he knows how much I appreciate him making this God-awful commute so that we don’t have to disrupt the kids’ lives too much.

I hit pause about a month ago. I filtered out some of the clutter. I decided to let in the things that really matter. And you know what? I was missing a whole lot. That is a mistake I am really going to try to avoid again. Life does move too fast…slowing down, even in little ways, can make life a whole lot more wonderful.


It’s a little dusty over here…

If the blog were a physical object, I’d be dusting off some cobwebs right now. Wow! I have been wrapped up in all things in my life and haven’t made time to get here to write lately. I have a little guilt about that, as this is my “baby”, but really, I can only do so much.

We had a nice Thanksgiving. It was fairly low key, and that was perfect for our family. My sister-in-law did a great job with dinner. Everything was delicious. The boys all tried dinner, and Tate even had 2 helpings of mashed “po-matoes”. He also had turkey and a bite of corn. Jake and Cole ate a little, too, so for our family, that was a huge win. Tate sat at the dinner table with the rest of us, and it was refreshing to not have to sit with him in another room while everyone else ate and enjoyed the company of others. Tate also conversed with his cousins and Grandma and aunt and uncle. Hubz and I were astounded. Like jaw-drop astounded…and oh, so proud. (We all know how much that took for him to be able to do!!)

Once we got home, Tate was in meltdown. But home is his “safe” space, and we all gave him the space he needed. He had a rough night sleep-wise, which is always hard for me, too. But the next morning he woke up smiling and giggling, so that was wonderful.

Hubz made some breakfast and we pored over the ads. The boys demolished any ad with toys in it. It’s so interesting to see the various stages that our kids are in right now. Jake is in that odd not-quite-big-kid-not-quite-little-kid stage where some of the toys are very appealing on the paper or in a commercial..but he knows he would never play with them much. He has changed his list about 10 times…with a stuffed animal walrus being the only main-stay. Tate is finally making lists!!! And we know that his lists MEAN something. This year he wants a Doc Playset (which has already been purchased), and Angry Birds. He also listed his favorite things so we had worms, bugs, and water on his list, too. Cole loves everything. If he sees a toy in an ad, he wants it. If it’s a commercial, he wants THAT. His list is twice as long as he is tall…and growing.  I did not partake of Black Friday shopping. Hubz and I did quite a bit online, and from the comfort of our pj’s in the kitchen. That was quite nice.

On Saturday, Hubz took the kids over to his parents’ house where they played and helped set up Christmas over there..and I was able to run out and do a little shopping without all of the crazy crowds. I finished a good deal of our shopping, and was able to enjoy a few hours by myself, which was much needed. We all got home around the same time, and after setting up our Christmas tree, we went out to Red Robin for an early dinner. Tate orders the same thing every time–grilled cheese, french fries, and lemonade. He also has quite a process for eating his meal. This usually involves him stealing french fries from my plate and adding them to his pile, so that he looks like he has the never-ending fry supply. Luckily we were finishing up as the crowds came in, so we avoided over-stimulation and the like.

Sunday involved much laying around and finishing up odds and ends before everyone was back to the daily grind. We tried to take it easy, but even though we were low key, Tate had a sensory pukefest. *sigh* Once he got showered and into pj’s–at 4 pm–he was back to his cheerful, mischievous self. And he was asking for fruit snacks and lemonade, so I think he was fine. Just wish he didn’t have to lose it before getting back on track.

Jake was out of sorts, too, but once we let him shower and put pj’s on–at 4:30 pm–he was cheery and conversational and the grumpy-teen-like being left our home for a bit.

So we made it through the hustle and bustle of the holiday weekend. Re-entry into school yesterday was a bit rough…but I’m hopeful that as the week goes on, both Jake and Tate ease into their routines. Cole is easy-breezy, as always…if not a bit clingy. I really hope that was just a re-entry issue and not a “getting-sick” issue. Time will tell…and I will try to be better about posting here. Yeesh.

We’ve Come a Long Way

Hubz leaves for a business trip to China on Sunday. I’ll be on my own with the three boys for two full weeks, including a full weekend without any co-parent around. Gaaah!!! However, as I think about where we are today, versus where we were three years ago when he last had to do this craptastic trip, I count my lucky stars. We have come a LONG way, baby!!

Three years ago I was still grappling with grief. My mom had died just a month prior to his trip. I was an emotional mess, and I was trying to hold it all together. I’d be fine one minute and crying about not being able to call my mom the other. It was emotionally tough. Throw in the fact that I had a 16-month old who was still nursing twice a day, a first grader who was up for re-evaluation of his IEP (and was going to be getting more services), and a 4-year old who was autistic but not yet diagnosed, and yeah, I was a disaster. To be honest, I do not remember those two weeks. They were a blur. A complete blur. 

Today, I am in a good place. Thanks to counseling and time, my grief has dissipated. I miss my mom, but it doesn’t rule my life. I am able to juggle the three kids..and their growing independence has allowed me to find my happy more and more. Also, because they are more independent, I don’t have SO DAMN MANY demands on me and my time. I have 2 and a half hours every day where I only have to answer to myself. And that feels good.

Three years ago, Jake was a first grader. A first grader who was a little lost. He had just lost his beloved Grandma. He had anxiety about losing his parents, especially me. He was reading significantly below grade level. He couldn’t get math. He stumbled around the classroom not sure of what to do. He struggled to attend and to have a conversation. He was shut down–a lot. He escaped by watching tv. And living in his tv world. And by looking at pictures in books..but not being able to read the words.

Today, Jake is in fourth grade. He has more self-confidence. He has coping skills to help him when he’s overwhelmed. Or scared. Or frustrated. He knows the school routine. He is reading *just* shy of grade level. He’s getting help with the math that is still a foreign language to him…but he’s slowly figuring it out. He has friends, and has conversations. He is very happy and has become such a big help at home.

Three years ago Tate was undiagnosed. I was in denial. I kept waiting for something to click and miraculously get him “to level”. I didn’t realize that his behavior was communication. Sometimes I thought he was being naughty. But he wasn’t. He was just so lost. And I was so lost as to how to help him get through all of the clutter. He was highly echolalic. He didn’t play, he stimmed. Constantly. He needed me to help him get dressed. He needed me to help him toilet. He still wasn’t trained at night, either. It was like having a second toddler in the house in many respects. I couldn’t leave him unsupervised for even a few minutes. We were so lost…both of us.

Today is a 180 from where we were back then. He communicates verbally, even if somewhat through echolalia. He advocates for himself. He has conversations. He plays with games and with his brothers. He still stims, but not incessantly. He likes to look at, and sometimes read, books. He LOVES math and numbers. He understands SO MANY MORE situations, explanations, and experiences. He asks questions when he DOESN’T know what’s going on. He gets dressed (with many prompts) on his own. He uses the bathroom independently. THANKS BE TO GOD. I know more how to help him and guide him. I have picked up on his behavior cues. I have gotten my masters in Tate-ology. It’s a never-ending study, but I learn more and more each day.

Three years ago, Cole was almost 16 months old. He was toddling and running all over the place. He was pointing to everything. He was INTO everything. No cabinet or cupboard was safe. He was starting to use words. It was fantastic..but he couldn’t verbally communicate much, yet. He was in diapers..and very dependent upon me for all of his major needs. He was my baby…in every sense of the word. He was amazingly patient as I dealt with his brothers’ needs, but he REALLY needed me. I had to plan activities, put out toys, pick up toys, pick up his messes, change his diapers, change his clothes, feed him, etc. It was WORK.

Today, Cole is a very self-sufficient four year old. He is, as I like to say, 4-going-on-10. He chooses his toys, and puts them away after some prompting from me. He keeps himself occupied for half hours at a time. He “reads” books. He can get himself a snack from the pantry. He can toilet himself. He can dress himself for the most part. He is a chatterbox. Quite literally, he never shuts his mouth..and I’m ok with that (mostly). He will sit through a tv show and play with his toys. He brushes his teeth. He is such a joy.

So, as I steel myself for the next two weeks without Hubz around, I am breathing easier. I’m less anxious. I know we can do this. I am not a puddle. If we made it through the two weeks back then, we most certainly can do it now that we are all in such a better place. Oh, yeah, we have come a long way.

Mostly Wordless Wednesday


When brothers agree, no fortress is so strong as their common life. –Antisthenes

This past weekend, the boys all agreed that swinging at the park was the most fun of all.

One week down….several more to go

The boys finished their first week of school. In the grand scheme of things, they had a relatively good first week. Jake made it through without any meltdowns or shut downs. We did discover that he needs a more substantial snack in the morning to make it through to lunch, but that was easily rectified. Tate had a good sense of expectations, and it is a blessing that he has the same classroom and teacher this year. He has been able to rely on past experience to better understand what is expected of him in the classroom. Cole is my flexible little guy–he did great at a new preschool with a group of kiddos he didn’t know. He already has 3 new friends.

On the down-side, it was hot. The classrooms were muggy and stale. The hallways were oppressive. I don’t know how the teachers and kids made it through five days in that sweat-hole. Jake looked like he had showered when he got him, his hair was so drenched with sweat. Tate’s classroom has a window air-conditioning unit, but he still had to have lunch and specials in non-a/c rooms. The district did a good job of monitoring the kids and provided industrial fans and water stations and even juice pops on Friday as a refreshing treat. However, I suspect that little learning was accomplished in those 5 days. The heat broke, but the temps are supposed to be back in the high 80’s by the end of the week. Blargh. Just. Blargh.

I had been in constant communication with Tate’s teacher about his transition to the school year. Each day she remarked that he was doing great, and that he was even taking a lead with some of the classroom activities. He was ready to learn all week, and he even got to pick a prize for excellent behavior on Thursday. I held my breath. Taters was having a great start.  He was adjusting. And then, he wasn’t.

On Friday when I came to get him for therapy, his teacher was with him. First, he had just had an accident in the bathroom. He didn’t make it. That hasn’t happened in such a long time. And, then, well, he spit in a peer’s face during music. It was one of his friends from his self-contained classroom. Music is a very, very difficult “special” for Tate. It’s loosey-goosey. It’s noisy. It’s chaotic. Typical peers move around a lot, and not predictably, let alone the other kiddos from Tate’s classroom who push into that class. It’s generally an every-kid-for-himself type scenario. Tate loves music and singing. He does NOT love the chaos and lack of structure. Because of the atmosphere, it was hard to determine whether the spitting was provoked or if it was just Tate being unable to regulate himself.  We all agree that the heat on top of the long first week back on top of the chaos was the perfect storm for Tate to become dysregulated and behave unexpectedly. He did get a “red” mark in his behavior card, but hopefully it is a one-time occurrence.

Tate did express remorse over the spitting incident. He went up to his friend and genuinely apologized. When his teacher probed to see if Tate understood, she said that he really did seem to understand that spitting was not appropriate, and that if his friend was bothering him, there were other things Tate could have done. He now has some options on his visual schedule to choose if he is feeling bothered. I hope it helps.

On Wednesday we had Jake’s curriculum night– the one where the teacher goes over everything planned for the year. I totally fell in love with his teacher. She is in this profession for a reason..and it isn’t the money. It is obvious that she loves what she does, she loves her class, and she wants to teach more than just to the test. LOVE it. I am also super excited that she is all about student responsibility. It’s not her job, nor our job, as parents, to write assignments down, have the right materials, and get it turned it. Of course we guide and support our children, but, ultimately, it is THEIR responsibility to get their work done. This will be HUGE for Jake. I know that we’ll have to take his weaker executive functioning skills into account, but I know this is going to be a great way for him to gain more independence and grow. We’ll have a few bumps along the way, but I know he’ll come out on top.

I was all high on my “Jake’s-teacher-is-amazeballs” feeling when I spoke to Jake’s resource teacher. She brought me down. Way down. Jake is adjusting to fourth grade fairly well. He is in good spirits, is self-talking through some of the daily rough patches, and is eager to learn. Those are great. However, he is much more aware of how different he is. And we all know how much that feeling SUCKS. It just does.

The school’s OT brought Jake’s arsenal of tools into his classroom Tuesday during the time when Jake’s resource teacher pushes in for Reading. The entire freaking class was there. Jake froze. He started to tremble a bit when the OT tried to get him to stand up so she could put the chair cushion on his seat, and the slant-board on his desk for handwriting. (Quite honestly, Jake doesn’t need that damn thing. His printing is fine. Spacing is another story…we need to work on that.) I feel like she should have slapped a big ‘ol sticker on his forehead while she was at it. Ugh. Luckily, the resource teacher talked him into walking to get a drink, which he did, and that movement got him over the embarrassment. But, still. Oh. my. heart.

In general, though, Jake is loving fourth grade. I think he likes being one of the “big” kids. He relishes the role of being a role model. (He has oodles of experience as a big brother.) He likes the kids who sit in his desk “pod”. He has friends on the playground who don’t care about his seat cushion or slant board or the fact that he is in resource for more minutes than he is in the typical classroom. So, there are a lot of positives. (Oh, and Jake is going to start playing viola in the orchestra. He is very excited about it. Their first session is tomorrow. Oh, my ears. I am accepting recommendations for superb noise-cancelling headphones!!)

Oh, and not to leave out Cole…he is in the integrated preschool program. He’s a neurotypical child mixed in with other typical kiddos, as well as kiddos with IEPs, like Tate. He is LOVING preschool. His teacher told me that he’s a great role model, and that he is wonderful about including everyone. He has helped out kiddos who aren’t able to do some of the fine motor play, and he wants everyone to play on the playground outside. She said he’s the life of the party. Oh, she knows him well!

I hear all about his day from the moment Cole gets in the van until we pull up the driveway at home. He tells me about calendar time, about the songs they sing, about what projects they make, and the games he plays on the playground. I absolutely adore the window into his world. I cherish it more than words can say, because, well, I know the other side all too well. It’s a breath of fresh air to not have to wonder about what was done and how he feels about it.

One week down….and many more to go!

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