Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm so over this school year

...and ready for the next chapter of my life. :) It feels like it's already happening, which is even better. For music teachers, the big hurdle at the end of the year is the Spring Concert, which for me took place last Sunday. It was alright; nothing to write home about, but respectable and certainly better than I expected. And the best part? IT'S OVER!!!!!!! So now, we tread water for the next 2 weeks, and I'm outta here. Plus, the cloud that was hanging over my head is beginning to recede..........

That's really how it feels. Like I was in a dark cave somewhere, and winding my way through, not sure of the direction I was heading or where the exit was, but now I'm seeing that light and knowing I'm going the right way. Going with Mr. Ls class on a field trip tomorrow for Career Day, and then with them for another one the following Friday to a local state park. Going to Energizer's K4 graduation the week after that! Mr. L has his end of the year IEP meeting, I'm going to be meeting the principal of their school to request next year's teachers, etc etc etc.........finally, getting (again) to do those things that mean so much more to me, that matter more and that make me feel like I'm being the Mom I want to be, if that makes sense. :)

There's a thing or two about this place that I'll miss, but in general I am extremely burned out around here and know it was right for me to go at this point. The thought of being here again literally hurts my heart, so I know I've made the right choice. :) :) :)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Do you hear me sighing?

*sigh* What was I thinking? This always seems to happen, just when I let myself get too comfortable......

When I was taking AP English class in high school, our teacher told us something that I have always remembered, and it comes to mind tonight: She was about the same age as our mothers were at that time, and used to talk to us, advise us, etc like a mother would, in some ways. Most of us were new drivers, and she gave us advice about driving.....saying that when you start getting too confident, too comfortable at your driving, that's when you need to watch out because you'll end up in an accident. Always have to keep your guard up, don't get complacent, or face the consequences, basically.

I guess I didn't learn the lesson from Mrs. Fowler, or at least not when it comes to being an autism-spectrum parent. Instead, I keep making the same stupid mistake over and over and over again. :( People that know me or have read this blog for a while should roll their eyes at this, because it's the same old crap you've heard before. You'd think I'd learn.

So, every time Mr. L gets in a new situation, I set myself up for disappointment. Because he's doing so well, I stupidly think he can "pass" for being a typical kid..........pass as "non autistic" and that we can get by without telling people like Sunday school teachers, sports coaches, etc. I just want to blend in, is that so crazy? Just to be the regular old parent with good, rock-solid regular kids, not the one who's hanging on by a thread the way I am and whose next meltdown could be as near as the next pitch of a baseball.

Saturday was as prime an example of my idiocy as you could hope for. Living in a crazy-house dream world, I somehow thought that because last week's baseball game went so well, we could have hope for a mostly autism-free season this year, unlike the last two years. Yeah, right. Who am I kidding? Obviously, only myself, and today proves it. We played the toughest team in the league, knew we'd lose, but didn't know how Mr. L would completely meltdown when he got thrown out at first base and ended up 0 for 2 on the day.

Not sure if I can remember the last time he melted down this severely. It was horrid, he was not just crying, not just sobbing, but loudly moaning in a repetitive rhythm like "AAAH, AAAH, AAAH, AAAH, AAAH, AAAH........" and I'd say that went on for maybe 15 minutes. He was balling up his fists and hitting anything in sight, including his dad and the car doors, inside and out. Refused to go back out into the field with his team to finish the game, refused to go out for the post-game high fives with the other team. And the more anyone tried to help him, the worse it got.

One of the worst parts for me, though, is the sympathy and pity of others. And how do I explain why he's doing this? Another mom from the team latched on to me and tried valiantly to help.....gathering up my stuff so we could leave, trying to talk to him and help convince him how well he'd done, gave me a hug, even told me "God gave him to you for a reason". But as soon as she started asking to help and doing things for me, the water works opened and I started crying myself.

Now, looking back, I'm a mixture of sad and angry. Not angry at him, but at myself for the stupidity of it all. Was it stupid to even try to do coach pitch baseball? He's never dealt with "outs" before, never had winners and losers, etc. Last week was nice, when they won, but we know there will also be some losses and if they are anything like today, I know I just cannot take it emotionally. And angry about the pathetic part of me that just wants to blend in with the other parents, maybe make some new friends who don't (yet) see the big multi-colored puzzle-piece-shaped A on my chest. But again, who am I kidding? Most kids go through upsetting situations, like losing a game, etc, and they might be upset, but they learn from that. They grow over time, they mature, they learn how to cope with it and it's not so tough after a while. ASD kids.....I'm not so sure. He lives so "in the moment" much of the time, and even as good as he's gotten at talking the talk of "it's ok if we lose", when it happens, you see the result and it is most definitely NOT ok.

The sighs are still echoing over the Atlantic, even now, and this happened 48 hours ago. Sighs tinged with tears, and with frustration, and loss, and embarrassment too, as much as it pains me to say that. When a parent asked me "is there anything I can do?" while Mr. L screamed and sobbed in my arms, I just shook my head no and cried right along with him. Just closed my eyes and tried to shut out the world, to not notice the people looking at us (or trying hard NOT to look) and the way in which the team and parents quickly dispersed and got out of hanging around after the game, no chatting, etc.

I guess there's not much else to say. We're gonna plod right on with the baseball season, hoping with every cell in my body that he gets on base next Saturday so that we can avoid a repeat of the meltdown that came last time. And knowing that no one out there on that field understands, no one realizes what we go through and what it takes for Mr. L and our whole family to get out there every time.....working harder than anyone else just to keep up, just to look "normal" and even to come close to a typical baseball experience. And feeling like a faker the whole time too.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

a moment of wallowing

Not even sure why I want to type this out, but I guess it's just something I need to say, and wallow in it for a moment, then move on. So here goes.....

A former co-worker (from the pre-kids days) sent me an email yesterday. We've stayed somewhat in touch, I see her periodically even though now we have next to nothing in common. She still teaches with "big mega Band program", isn't married, no kids, Band is her life in a lot of ways. Oh, and 2008 was a horrendous and tragic year for her, in which she was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a mastectomy, and lost both of her elderly parents within a month of each other. I respect her very much, both as a teacher and as a person, but I only see or talk to her on occasion now.

So, back to that email. It was a forwarded thing, with the title line "12 women". It was really like an old fashioned chain letter, instructing you to send it on within a certain amount of time, etc. Send it to 12 women who have "made a difference in your life" and are very special to you and close to you. I normally don't even give a second thought to these things, just click "delete", but because of the respect I have for this woman, I decided to follow the directions and forward it on. I was touched to have been included in her "12 women", so I decided to create my own.

Know how far I got? 5. No, wait, I think it was 6. So instead of copying and pasting the contents of the email, I just clicked "cancel" and closed the message I'd started. The fact is that, for various reasons, I feel like I really don't have local friends. Acquaintances, yes, plenty. Colleagues, sure. People I can sit next to in choir rehearsal and chat with afterwards, definitely. But local friends? You know, people who might actually call or email on occasion, want to get together or just chat with you. People who remember that you exist, and who choose to take time to make (or keep) a connection with you that's worth maintaining.

Internet friends are wonderful, but I feel like I've been so wrapped up in my own soul-searching crap over the last few months that I've neglected them as well. Which means that now I'm feeling even more isolated. 300 "friends" learn random tidbits of stuff about me every day on Facebook, but I'd say that essentially none of them really know much about me that is substantive or what goes below the surface.

So who do I share that with? It might seem silly, but I'm so incredibly tired of feeling this way and wondering why I have no strong, long-lasting and meaningful friendships. I read the blog posts of others, the stories they post on forums about "girls' weekend" trips, shopping dates, meeting for coffee or just doing whatever......and I have absolutely none of that. None. Great way to make a girl feel pathetic, I'll tell you that for sure.

Oh, and to top it all off, I'm about to abandon my work relationships, superficial though they may be, and enter a world populated by 19 and 20 year olds. Joy, joy. Wonder how many of them have ever changed a diaper, or dealt with infertility, preeclampsia or the autism spectrum?

I told you I'd be wallowing, didn't I? My wallowing sessions are typically worse when I write late at night, and it's 11:12 pm now, so draw your own conclusion. But I had to get this out, even though it hurts to do so and is embarrassing too. I just don't want to keep feeling alone like this, even feeling like my husband has more real friends than I do and resenting that fact. Am I really that horrible to be around? Is there something I could do differently? (reminder: suggestions must be appropriate and usable by someone who has no free time, has 2 children in therapy, and who is about to re-enter college). Ok, talk amongst yourselves.........

Saturday, April 18, 2009

2 posts in one day???

Yeah, yeah, I know, what is the world coming to when I post twice in the same day, right? LOL!!!!!!!! Well, I owed you the book review post, and since the fam is asleep already I've got a little extra computer time, so here ya go---a bonus post which I promise will be much less intellectual and psychological, etc. ;)

Mr. L played his first coach-pitch baseball game today. It was nearly over before it started, due to an unfortunate bump on his head from a baseball during the pre-game warmups. The coaches, dads, and boys were standing in 2 lines facing each other, throwing balls back and forth, and of course no one gets hit except MY child, my autism-spectrum/uber-sensitive child. I look over and he's got his back to the field, wiping away tears and sobbing and I thought we might be truly screwed for the day. If he gets upset enough, sometimes we end up just having to bag whatever activity we were trying to do, but thankfully he and I pulled it together with some deep breaths and got him back into line. The game started soon after, and was a resounding success from that point on, thank God.

And since it's not often that I get to spout off in the style of a bragging NT parent, give me a moment to revel in the experience, ok? ;) He had 3 at-bats, and went 2 for 3. Came in to score both times too, and the team won 19-6! Oh, and he volunteered to be the catcher, to my surprise. Other than the fact that the catcher gear is heavy and HOT, I think this position will be a good one for him. (think padding, protection from pain when balls hit you) So hey, maybe we've got a future Mike Piazza or Jorge Posada (pro catchers) on our hands.....



The rest of the afternoon, in the gloriously cool but oh-too-brief Lowcountry Spring weather, was spent on yardwork stuff. I got some new pine straw to replenish last year's in the front flower beds, bought an oleander plant which I hope will 1) bloom prettily and 2) live more than 5 minutes. I kill every plant I touch, seemingly, but I keep on trying. Also decided the kids and I would try a mini-garden, so I bought a big round planter, and a packet of yellow squash seeds. That, combined with a bag of Miracle-Gro seed starter soil, hopefully will produce something worth eating in a few weeks. Hopefully. Of course, Energizer's reaction to hearing that we were planting squash was basically "ewwwwwwww, I don't like squash", but maybe we'll get some science knowledge out of the whole thing, if nothing else.

Glasser's book, part 2

Here it is, the much-anticipated second part of my discussion/review of the book "Transforming the Difficult Child" by Howard Glasser. I'm almost halfway through the book-on-tape now, and have gathered some more thoughts to share with you.

Lots of the things he says hit home for me, but here's one that really struck me hard: He asks the listener to think about a time when someone's complimented you, on your hair, or weight loss, or clothes, etc. For most of us, if self-esteem is any kind of issue for you, compliments are very hard to take, and they end up "hitting our radar" as he says. Meaning, those inner voices of doubt jump up and argue against the kind things that others say......."she said I look nice in this dress, but I know I really look fat in it", or "what do you mean my hair looks nice today? Does it normally look crappy?" etc.

He wants the things we say to our challenging kids to "fly under the radar", meaning that the statements are indisputable facts, not opinions that the child can argue or disagree with (even in his mind). I don't think I'm explaining this well, but I'll keep trying..........

He gives the example of an art teacher, who walks around the room making 2 or 3 sentence comments to each child, something like this: "I see you've taken crayons and used them to create a rainbow pattern. With some of the colors, you pressed down really hard, and with others you only traced lightly. Now, it looks like you're starting to make some pink and yellow flowers. See ya later!"

The premise behind this, according to Glasser, is that so many of these challenging kids are used to being singled out and having attention and energy focused on them when they are "bad"/misbehaving/acting up/breaking rules/causing trouble, whatever. Consequently, they end up believing that this is the only kind of attention they can get, or are worthy of. So, if you (in trying to remedy this and being positive, etc) go overboard with compliments "I LOVE your picture, it's beautiful, it's fabulous" etc, the radar will go off in their minds because they "know" they're not good artists, not worthy of praise, etc.

But, the things the teacher said above were just facts, not compliments. But she spent time, energy, attention on the child in a way he couldn't argue with or dispute. And if the theory proves true, over time with repeated interactions like this, the child begins to realize that he can receive attention and energy in a positive way and he will strive for it once he is "retrained" to do so.

I'm trying, slowly but surely, to integrate some of these things into what I do with the boys at home. It's tough, because it's completely opposite of the way I've always handled things, both at home and at school in my teaching. I'm trying very hard to catch those moments when Energizer is 1) actively doing something positive, helpful, cooperative, etc or 2) avoiding a negative behavior, resisting the urge to do something that he might otherwise do but I've told him not to (i.e. hitting etc).....and then to say the appropriate Glasser-ism when those moments arise. And saying it with high energy, lots of positive attention and specificity.....not just "Good job" but more like "Good job, E, I love how you were so flexible with Mr. L and shared your treat with him, that was very sweet and thoughtful" etc. Sounds and feels dorky when you first start it, but it's getting a little easier now.

To be continued again when he reaches the part of the book which tells what to do and how to react when your child, despite your positive parenting interventions, still has wild, manic, even violent outbursts, can't or won't listen, etc. This oughta be good...........

Friday, April 17, 2009

point, counterpoint

So, I got a good idea recently from a blogger friend, PE survivor, etc.....hope she doesn't mind if I borrow it for one example of my own.

Last year at this time, I posted about a fabulous job that K was interviewing for, and we really wanted him to get it. He even got a second interview, and was apparently close in the running......but didn't get it. The job is an administrative/supervisor position in his school district, over all of the Performing Arts teachers. But he didn't get it, and stayed at his same school, teaching music.

THIS year at this time, we hear that the district's budget woes are so bad that they'll be cutting positions for next year, and among the first on the chopping block are the administrative supervisors. Yep, that same job that K didn't get might now be cut completely. Changes the perspective a bit, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm so blessed

I know, I owe you the continuation of my review on "Transforming the Difficult Child", and I promise I'll do it......after all, tomorrow is another day, as a smart lady used to say. But in the meantime, and before I turn in tonight, I just need a semi-public place to thank God for his many blessings, and foremost among them being the lives of my sons.

I was just looking over the blogs I follow, and in the space of 10 minutes I read posts about 2 different of whom has died at only 5 months old, complications from chronic lung disease, and another who has been readmitted to the hospital for lung issues and low sats and is now in the PICU. And both of these are girls! If you know about preemies, you understand the significance of the gender.

Meanwhile, both of my "wimpy white boys" came home before their due dates, and were never readmitted. Never got RSV. Have never had surgeries other than for ear tubes. They eat normally, they talk, they walk, they run, they play. Sometimes they drive me crazy too, like most kids do to their parents, but stories like I read tonight remind me how amazingly blessed I am that my preemies had such wonderful and relatively healthy outcomes.

So tonight, I thank God for his goodness, and I pray for the families of Soli and Maddie, that God will strengthen them in these difficult times and will bring Soli home again (and healthy) very soon. I think I'll go give the boys an extra kiss while they sleep, and just sit and watch them breathe for a while. Can't ever take breathing for granted where preemies are concerned.....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

it's really hard to understand....

....unless you live in our house for a few days, how tough the day-to-day existence can be with little Energizer Bunny. We had the pleasure recently of hosting my Mom (Nana) at our house for a whole two weeks; she just left on Monday to go back home. The kids loved seeing her, and we greatly appreciated the babysitting/dinner cooking/picking up from school help which we desperately needed, but I think her visit had an additional side effect too. She got to see, up close and personal, what severe ADHD with impulse control and aggression issues looks and feels like.

I've thought that, on occasion, she didn't understand or didn't take me seriously when I would complain about our struggles with his behavior. Maybe she didn't understand why we chose to put a 4 year old on meds. She never said so, not to me anyway, but I bet she questioned it. Hell, I questioned it, and still do once in a while, but then days like last Friday come along and I know that we'd all be "committed" by now if not for the blessed Focalin.

I try so hard to explain this to people, but it's hard to grasp until you see it---Energizer has these "manic" periods, that's the only way I know to describe it. He won't/can't sit still at all, everything's running, jumping, climbing, and laughing. It's the laughing that pushes my buttons. I know it shouldn't, but the teacher in me gets riled up every time I see a 5 year old who isn't listening, won't stop what he's doing, and laughs and smirks at your every attempt at "discipline". It's almost like he's temporarily possessed or something....anyone know an exorcist? I'm kidding of course, but I use the word possessed because during those periods, it's like you're not seeing the real him. The real him comes a few minutes later, after the ______________ (time out, occasional spanking, removal of toys or privileges etc) has managed to get him upset enough to snap out of the manic state and become sad and remorseful. And it's not fake, I'm sure of that. He's truly sorry, truly sad and is just so darn pitiful when he's crying and hugging me....."Mom, I'm so so so sorry" etc etc etc.

Sometimes I just hold him and cry right along with him, because I'm at such a loss to know what I could do any differently. How much of this is has a diagnosable cause, and how much is failure in parenting? How much is due to the #*@& preeclampsia, which caused his little body to miss out on 3 months of typical fetal development, and how much is just plain old spunky 5 year old boy attitude that needs to be taken down a peg and taught right from wrong?

So, a couple of months ago I ordered a book on tape that I'd seen rave reviews about online. It was recommended highly by a blogger that I trust (although for the life of me I can't find that post now, so sorry I can't put a link here), and it's called "Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach" , by Howard Glasser. As soon as it arrived, I put it into the van's tape player (yeah, yeah, I know, it's the 21st century already, but my van hasn't caught up yet) and began listening to it on my commute to and from school. After a few listening sessions, I got sidetracked, got busy, decided to completely change my life path........and stopped listening. But I pulled the tape back out yesterday and started it over. I'd never finished it the first time, but am determined to do so now.

But you know what? I've spent tons of money on books on tape and books made out of trees over the last few years, and more often than not, I read it, think it's great and has good ideas I can use etc.......and then do next to nothing with it in reality. Life gets in the way. I'm busy, the dirty laundry pile is taller than I am, the cat just threw up on the carpet, I need 25 cupcakes for Mr. L's class tomorrow, I have 2 rehearsals tonight, etc.......when does that leave time to completely transform the way I interact with my child? Glasser's ideas make sense, I feel sure the idea works for a lot of kids, but it's so opposite of everything most parents do and most of how we were raised ourselves.

Speaking of life in the way....I'm at school now--last day before Spring Break, hallelujah--and I've gotta get some things done before a class comes in very soon. Continued thoughts about Glasser's approach in my next post, so stay tuned! :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

well, I'm doing it

Yep, that's what I said. Still don't half believe it myself, and I keep having to remind my brain and my heart that this is what's happening......but I'm going back to college next fall, to study music therapy. So everyone cheer, ok, because you won't have to hear my whining about the decision-making process anymore! And there was much rejoicing!!!!!!!!!!!

I thought about something earlier this morning: I've been wanting to be a Band director since I was in the 7th grade, which means basically 25 years. (!) Never any questioning it, never any thought of doing anything else once I decided that. But so many things in my adult life (at least the last 8-10 years) have gone entirely differently than I ever would have expected, so why should this be any different?

In more mundane news........DH is taking Mr. Literal to an NBA basketball game tonight. The NBA, and basketball in general, has become his newest obsession over the last few months. Imagine knowing that the one thing which will calm your child after a meltdown is turning on SportsCenter to watch NBA highlights. So, DH had the idea that he could take Mr. L to see the Charlotte Bobcats--our nearest team--if they had a home game this week, during Spring Break. And they do, against the 76ers. So they're headed out tonight for a special bonding time together, and Energizer is in the Upstate with grandparents. Me? I'm still in school---last day before MY break is tomorrow. The house is soooooo quiet. But hey, I slept until 7 am, then pushed snooze a time or two before getting up and taking a leisurely shower. Can't remember the last time I've done that. They'll all be home tomorrow by the time I get home from school, and then we've got until Sunday to all be on break together. The big question now is: What will I do next week when I'm on break and they're back in school? I'm thinking some major house cleaning/reorganizing/decluttering is in order. Sounds like tons of fun, huh?