Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The view up here

Somewhere during our journey through the last 18 months, I developed a mental picture viewing my role as a special needs parent from the perspective of a mountain-climbing experience.  In this mental picture, our entire family is working as a team to scale this monolithic rock face, and each family member has a role in the process.  We all take turns being the motivator, the weak link, and the worker-bee.  We gather tools along the way, and we are constantly pushing Jennica ahead of us. Or, let's be honest, some days we're dragging her kicking and screaming behind us. 

Some days/months, we seem to make a lot of progress on our ascent.  Other days/months, we all seem to be tied together and scrambling desperately for a foothold.  But overall, we're always headed in a generally upward direction.  My vision of what lies at the peak of the mountain changes a bit from day-to-day.  But it is always some version of an independent, functional Jennica in early adulthood and we're all gathered around her, smiling.   

Every once in a while, in this mental expedition, we all get to stop and take a long drink of water.  We sit down on a rock, share snacks, smile at each other, and enjoy the view for a little while. 

This past Monday, we all got a reason to take a break and enjoy the view.  Let me explain.

On Monday, Jennica visited her naturopath for the first time since last September.  For a long while, visits with the naturopath were frequent.  To say the least.  But as of last September, we had completed all the testing we were going to complete for awhile, we had a dietary plan in place and were following it, and we had a supplement plan in place.  It was time to just "walk the walk" for a while, from a nutritional standpoint.  Improvements from nutritional changes are not instantaneous, and it was time to just let it all work. know how we all get the comments of, " you've grown!" from the long-lost aunt?  But we don't see it as pronounced in a child that we see daily because we have witnessed the changes slowly?  Well.......I got the "long-last aunt, bug-eyed look" from our naturopath on Monday when she opened the door.  It was good great for my ego to have her look at Jennica in absolute shock.  And then she started bubbling over, "WOW!  She looks great!!!  She's grown!!  Her weight is up, too isn't it?"  And then more, "WOW!"  I admit that I felt like I was basking in the sunlight while she commented under her breath throughout the visit, "Look at that eye contact...." and "The shadows under her eyes are gone!" and more, "Wow!"  And through her eyes, I could see that Jennica does, in fact, look healthier.  She is also chattier, brighter, and much more focused.  We both agreed that it is time to re-run the amino acids test that provided devastating insight into my daughter's nutritional issues, and diagnosed Jennica last summer with malabsorption (on top of the SPD).  Its been almost exactly one year.  I'm a little nervous to see the results.  What if the improvements are all external and she is still internally malnourished?  But then again, we need to know.  It is what it is and if she is still facing deficiences, we need to set about correcting them.  So....until the results are in, I'm going to enjoy the moment of her obvious, external health.  We're going to pray and pray some more for internal improvements as well.

After visiting our naturopath on Monday, we went to our first private occupational therapy appointment since December.  At the suggestion of our OT, we had taken a 6-month break.  Jennica receives OT in our school district, and we were driving 3 hours round-trip to private OT.  So.....we took a break to let Jen really integrate into school full-time and let things just sort of "be" for awhile.  Our OT session this past Monday started on a flat, platform swing.  Jen has always loved to lie or sit on this swing, but this time, she hopped on it and rode it like a surfboard.  She was using a ton of upper body strength to pull the ropes, and was really sailing--something she has been resistant to do in the past.  From the flat swing, she moved to the trapeze bar where she initiated a ton of knees-to-chest type moves--more stuff that she has been prompted for in the past and responded to with marked resistance.  I could see the wheels turning in our OT's brain, and she quickly moved Jennica to a sequencing activity with Play-Doh.  And then they went to jumping with a counting association......back to the flat swing.......and at Jennica's request, more table activities.  The OT finally turned and mouthed a huge, "WOW!!!" at me.  We finally got a chance to talk freely at the end of the session, while Jennica pumped herself (Can you say motor planning?) wildly on another swing with huge pulling arm movements.  The OT raved about the level of improvement since December.  Jen's core strength, motor planning, and mental focus are SO much stronger.  She initiated a variety of conversations with the OT throughout the session, with great improvement in pragmatic language.  The OT asked me what direction we wanted to focus on with our sessions this summer, since the child that she was expecting to see (the "old" Jennica) is ready to tackle some more advanced obstacles!

Does Jennica still have SPD?  Absolutely!  Do we still have a long climb ahead of us?  Definitely!  But the enthusiasm and boost that we get from these positive signs of progress are huge.  So....I'm picturing us.....sitting on a rock in the sun, sharing a snack and some conversation, before we stand up and dust ourselves off and head for the heights above.  The view from here is great!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Those who relate and express it!

I initially sat down at the computer this morning, thinking that I would explain my great day yesterday.  However, before beginning to write my blog, I visited several other blogs that I've been following recently.  These are bloggers that are on similar parenthood journeys, and I greatly enjoy their humor and insights.  I happened to land on two blog posts that really spoke to me today.  So, instead of sharing my own "wisdom" today, I'm going to pass on their wisdom. 

First, visit Ray of Light at

And then, at Welcome to Normal, visit

These two Moms get "Beth's Pulitzer Award" today! Thank you for touching my soul today!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Imaginations gone wild

I had an overwhelmingly good day today--the kind that is keeping tears of relief and hope hovering very near the surface.  I will blog about it in the next few days--I promise--but right now I'm still processing and savoring the moment.  :)

But at dinnertime tonight, I had a great time in a different way.  Mike was gone to a meeting this evening, and the boys were away, so it was just "me and the girls."  I heated a frozen pizza for Tiersten and I, made Jennica one of her allergen-free pizzas (which she LOVES), the girls drank milk (soy milk for Jen) out of champagne flutes (a new thing they like to do after Jennica found them on a very top shelf on my kitchen counters last week), and we enjoyed some "girls-only" time. 

Somehow, we ended up on the topic of what they want to be when they grow up.  Tiersten reported she wants to be a veterinarian, a horse trainer, and a chef.  Jennica said she's going to be a lion tamer, a ballerina (interesting.....since she refused to take ballet lessons a year ago), and a chef.  And from there, the two of them just let their imaginations run!!  They decided that they are going to open a restaurant together and call it "Sisters".  Tiersten is going to cook the meal-type food, while Jennica is going to make only desserts.  Tiersten insisted that they will have a lot of gluten-free/dairy-free food, so that Jennica and "other kids like her" can eat there (This impressed me!  Thats pretty generous for a big sister that doesn't have any dietary restrictions and hasn't always been terribly thrilled about what Jen eats!  Very gracious of her!) 

I pretty much just sat there and let them plan!!  It is SO cool to hear them collaborating like this!  Tiersten is so strong-willed and....ummmm.......bossy that she doesn't always let Jen have much input.  And Jennica's SPD caused early challenges for her with imagination and conceptualizing.  Well, lemme tell ya.......They HAD IT tonight.  They've got their menu planned!!!  :)

I'm finding myself in uncharted territory.  I'm SO excited to hear this new level of "play" between my girls that I'm fighting an urge to go overboard.  I briefly considered making them a huge "restaurant sign" tonight after they went to bed......just to surprise them with tomorrow.  I want to encourage this type of play, but I also am aware that, for them, by morning they are likely going to be on to an entirely new adventure with their restaurant plans long forgotten.  Or not.  But either way, I need to butt out and let them be.  Sigh......  :)

Just fun to listen to.  "Sisters."  With some gluten-free/dairy-free food on the menu.  I think its got some serious potential.  Any investors?  :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Random "boy stuff"

Being the youngest of three daughters, I am dumbstruck at times by the antics of my two sons.  Considering that they are now 15 and Almost-17, you would think that I would be used to them by now.  But nope.  They still have the ability to make me speechless.  Take these few examples from this week:

1) On Monday, I received two identical envelopes in the mail.  Addressed to the "Parents of......" so I naturally assumed that they were my boys' final grades for the school year.  Much to my surprise, they were instead form letters informing me that my sons' grades were being held.  Once their "fines" were paid, the school would release their report cards.  I also attended this school a bazillion years ago and had several of the same teachers.  I also paid their stupid book fines each spring, so I wasn't too worried about that part.  Several of our teachers delight in charging $1.00-$2.00 for the slightest dent/bump/whatever on a textbook.   If my children were responsible for defacing a textbook, or losing some piece of school property, there would be some ramifications.  But I didn't think that was the case.  But holding their report cards for ransom???  Seriously??  Today, I stopped by the school, paid their fines, and collected their report cards.  Dane actually owed money for Honor Society dues.  (Dues to belong to Honor Society?  So much for the honor.  That one is new since I was there, but whatever.)  They both ended up with 6 As and 1 A-.  I think I can live with a minor book fine with those grades.  I'm just glad that their grades reflect that they are USING their textbooks.  :)

2)  Despite the fact that we live in a rural area, we try pretty hard not to look like rednecks 'round here.  We don't have any broken household appliances in the front yard, all of our vehicles are fully operational....that sort of thing.  So when Mike brought home a tire this week, I frowned.  When he tied it to each boy and had them run around the front yard dragging it?  I about came unleashed!!!  And then he proceeded to "increase the weight" by having their little sisters sit on the tire while they ran around the yard dragging the tire!!!  Apparently, the point is to improve conditioning for football.  But isn't there somewhere they can do this where they won't be seen?  Or recognized?  Sheesh.

3) And lastly, my sons went water-skiing and wake-boarding today on their boat.  With no sign of the sun and only 64 degrees outside.  And then they griped about how cold it was.  Well.......duh.  They drove home in Dane's car with wet clothes and he has cloth seats.  Those still-wet seats are going to feel good tomorrow!  NOT!  Funny thing?  They bumped into my Dad on the river.  He was fishing......and they stopped to chat with Grandpa.  (At least he was smart enough to stay dry!)  Why would you go water-skiing in cold, overcast weather?  I don't have the answer. smart are you?  What was that GPA again? 

4) After a year of high school Spanish, Dane has started referring to me as "Madre".  The first time was funny.  The second time was still funny.  The 92nd time......let's just suffice it to say that its become annoying, which gives him even more reason to do it.  He going through a stage right now where annoying people is FUN.  And at almost 17, he's darn good at it!!  I try not to let him "get to me," but Madre?  Seriously?  Perhaps the best way to combat this would be to find an annoying-sounding name for "son" in another language.   Hmmmmmm......two can play this game.......Suggestions?

Boys!  :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Glad to be sharing the journey

Almost from the moment we met, Mike and I were inseparable.  Almost ten years later, we're still that way.  We might be physically apart due to work or other normal commitments, but we generally talk several times each day and almost always know where the other one is and what they are doing.  We don't really have many friends that we do things we do everything together.  Odd?  Maybe.  But its who we are.

Six years ago, Mike and I had never heard of Sensory Processing Disorder.  We had an infant baby girl that we named Jennica, which means "Gift from God."  (And she has been a gift in so many ways.)  And through her, we have come to experience SPD.  Not as a next-door neighbor.  Not as an Aunt and Uncle.  Not even as casual acquaintances.  But as parents. 

Our experience with our diagnosis and discovery of SPD is pretty typical to the journey of many parents.  A child that fussed more than usual, and was ever-so-slightly behind on certain milestones.  Never enough to really draw attention, but just enough behind to raise a few half-hearted red flags.  Looking back, the subtle signs were there.  But were they glaringly obvious?  Definitely not.  If we could go back knowing what we know now?  I'm still not sure that we would have reached a diagnosis sooner than age 4.  The signs, in our particular case, were just too subtle. 

In any case, I'm so grateful that we're walking this journey together.  When Jennica first visited Mary Bridge at 8 months of age, we went together.  When she was sedated for some early blood tests, we were there together.  We've both attended preschool, Day Care field trips, and we've sat together through IEP meetings.  It took some horrific scheduling, but we even attended the first 10 or so occupational therapy appointments together after she was diagnosed.  When she underwent extensive testing this last winter for seizures and sleep disorders, we did it all together.  (Still grateful that neither of us attempted to endure that 48-hour EEG alone!)  We attended the neurology appointments for results of the testing together.  We attended her eye therapy appointments together.  And even last night, as we sat and debated whether or not to continue soccer, we made the decision together.  (It went better the third night, by the way.  Thanks, in large part, to Mike's intervention.)

Mike and I bring very different skills and life experiences to the parenting table.  Neither of us is the "heavy", while the other is the "push-over."  We take turns on the discipline.  We take turns reading stories at bedtime.  We take turns shopping for gluten-free/casein-free/egg-free/peanut-free food.  And we take turns feeling frustrated, inspired, encouraged, and defeated. 
No matter what turn the roller coaster takes in a day, or how many turns it takes that day, I'm always grateful to be sharing this journey of parenthood.  Some days I'm uncertain of what the future holds, but I'm always always always certain that Mike was meant to be Jennica's Dad. 

I've got the "Second-Guessing Blues" today

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me mention again that Jennica has made large social strides in the last year.  With these strides has come great improvement in the ability to tolerate noisy environments, lots of movement around her, and chaos in general.  She has gone from being a wall-hugger in the school hallways, to zipping around with friends smack dab in the middle of the chaos.  And she's been happy and engaged in those environments.....not just present. 

Both of our girls passed on the opportunity to play T-ball this past spring.  Tiersten was worried that she might miss out on too many riding lessons with her horse, and the lots-of-waiting-for-your-turn environment of T-ball didn't strike a chord with us as being a great idea with Jennica.  And admittedly, having the two boys both absorbed in track and Grant's surgery scheduled for April didn't really make me inclined to "push" the girls to add another set of games/practices to our schedule on top of school.

But rec league soccer is played here during the summer.  It starts after school is out and is completed long before school starts again.  And soccer involves a lot of physical running outdoors.  We mentioned it to the girls in May, and both were excited with the idea.  So.....we signed them up.  We bought the cleats and the shinguards, and we have practiced with them at home.  Both girls can dribble the ball surprisingly well!   We started practice with their assigned team this past Monday.

After two practices, Tiersten is doing great.  No surprises there.  Jennica is doing......not so great.  And I'm stunned.  She got through about 30 minutes of the first practice before the whining and tears started.  The second practice was even worse.  None of these kids are accomplished soccer players and the coach keeps things light and fun.  But Jennica is falling apart. 

So...I admit that I'm frustrated.  She has done GREAT at home with our family playing in the yard.  She gets right to the ball and will even steal it from her big brothers.  This is an outdoor sport, so the noise of gymnasiums that typically bothers her isn't a factor.  I honestly thought that this would be a good opportunity for her to play and run and exercise.  Instead, it appears that its going to be an overwhelming failure for her.  I wish I had never signed her up. 

Tonight, we have our third practice and I think we'll try again.  My goal is to get 20 minutes of "engaged behavior" out of her at the beginning of practice and then she can do....whatever.  Sit on the sidelines or whatever.  She is already whining that she doesn't want to go at all.  So where did we go wrong?  Do we just let her "quit"?  This doesn't seem like something you force a kid to do.  And who is it really for?  I don't need her to play soccer, so why am I still trying?  When do you begin to talk to kids about "quitting"? 

Soccer schmoccer.  GGGGGRRRRRRR.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Mom.....I don't like school."

Jennica told me tonight that she doesn't like doing "school" with me anymore.  I almost said, "Too bad!" which is what I was thinking.  But I rubbed her back and sounded sympathetic so she would go to sleep.  And tomorrow.........we'll do "school" again.  :)

You daughter made TREMENDOUS social gains in kindergarten.  And really, she made pretty good academic progress, too.  But she's still academically behind.  So......she's attending "Mom's Summer School."  We only work about 15-30 minutes per day and my goals are reasonable!  And she's being heavily rewarded (or bribed, if you prefer).  But I'm specifically working on the areas that are difficult for her, which means she is resistant......and she's letting me know.

I will admit.......its exhausting.  If I push too hard, she quits altogether.  If I don't push hard enough, we won't make any progress.  I don't have any grand illusions that she's going to be a model 1st grader by September, but she needs to be more fluent with several skills or she's going to really struggle.  She might really struggle anyway, but I'm going to feel a whole lot better about it if I've genuinely tried over the summer.  Thankfully, she will move on to first grade with a 1:1 para that can provide her with sensory breaks as needed.  (I'm becoming even more aware how rare it is to have a child with only an SPD diagnosis receive the services that my daughter receives.  Thank you thank you thank you....)

The one area that Jen really needs work???  Oddly enough???  Testing!!!  Seriously!  When put into a 1:1 situation where she needs to tell someone what she knows, she turns into a little mouse, hunches her shoulders, and refuses to speak above a whisper.  This is an extroverted, outgoing kid!  A sensory-seeker.......a swing from the rafters type kid.  But not in test situations.  So anyone that doesn't know her well and observe her in a regular classroom setting ends up thinking she knows zilch.  Which is NOT the case.  So.......I'm trying to teach her to "test".......which basically amounts to being able to sit with a "stranger" across a table and point out ABCs and 123s on a piece of paper when asked.  She's fully capable.....but dragging it out of her is another issue!

And lastly......I'm compiling a list of "changes" for her IEP.  One of my "beefs"???  Our school district is standards-based grading, and her PE teacher gave her a well-below-standard grade for PE.  Part of me says........"Who cares?  Its PE!"  And another part of me is horrendously annoyed.  This is a child that can count to 17 while hopping on one foot (without ever putting the other foot down).  She can throw a ball.  She can run and dribble a soccer ball.  She has NO gross motor delays.  The reason she got a below-standards grade?  She can't function well in a noisy gymnasium with a busy group of kids!  She has auditory and visual issues that make that environment impossible!  But you know what?  She's there!  She is managing to stay in that environment and is learning to tolerate it!!  She needs to be recognized for that accomplishment, because its HUGE!!! 

Okay......enough of my ranting...........being a schoolteacher is hard work.  'Nuf said.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Unleashing "the beast"

I still remember sitting in absolute horror at some of our early occupational therapy appointments with my daughter.  She had been recently diagnosed with SPD, and we were in "sponge stage", where we were trying to learn as much as quickly as possible in order to help her.  (A totally normal and typical parental response to diagnosis.)

In any case, the absolute horror was generated from watching our therapist playing with her and having fun with her to an extreme that I had learned not to let her reach.  Let me explain......(and you SPD parents might relate).....Even though we hadn't had a specific diagnosis, we learned early in our daughter's life to keep things "toned down."  There were signs when she was getting too rambunctious and over-stimulated, and we learned to recognize (the incessant giggling out-of-control, the too-bright eyes, the high-pitched squeaky voice of excitement) signs that we would be paying the price for HOURS to come in trying to get her to settle back down.  So....we learned to not let her get that "high" in the first place. 

During occupational therapy, I sat on the sidelines watching my daughter on swings, or jumping on trampolines, or participating in other activities with an ear-to-ear grin and LAUGHING.   And while I wanted to enjoy the moment of watching my daughter enjoying life, I inwardly cringed knowing that I would likely have to pack her out of the session kicking and screaming, or that she would fight me with everything for most of the rest of the day. 

And this certainly happened.  A few times.  But for the most part, what I saw after therapy was an IMPROVEMENT in my daughter's behavior.  And I wanted to know WHY?  Why could this OT wind her up and bring her down?  I wanted this ability!!!  So I demanded, "Teach me how!!!"

What I learned shocked me at the time.  In an unintentional way, I had been contributing to my daughter's inability to calm herself.  By never allowing her to really get "wound up", I was keeping a tightly coiled spring....well.......coiled.  The OT was releasing the pressure with carefully-designed play routines, and then helping my daughter to regulate and bring herself back under control.  By repeating this over and over and over, my daughter was "boiling over" and then coming back to a "simmer".  And "boiling over" and coming back to a "simmer".  And she was learning to self-regulate in the process.

In most situations, Jennica now self-regulates very well!  I can let her run and yell and be rowdy without fear that she's going to be a raging lunatic for the rest of the day.  I know that when we leave the playground (with proper wind-down time), or whatever the setting may be, she's going to be able to adjust to heading to the grocery store, and that we're all going to be able enjoy the afternoon. 

For you parents out there that I know are still in the hardest part of your journey, find a great OT that can and will teach you how to relieve your child's inner pressure, and then regain control of their brains, bodies, and emotions!!!  You can do it!!!  You don't have to be the Mom (like I was) that watched with envy as other children left the playground, happily holding their parents' hand and willingly moving on to the rest of their day!  Life is waiting! 

Friday, June 18, 2010

"Go Fish!"

I overheard this conversation between my girls yesterday morning.  Tiersten is neuro-typical, age 7, very bossy, and the "cruise director" in our family.  Jennica has SPD, age 6, and has perfect "little-sister radar" on making her bossy older sister crazy.  (I understand "little-sister radar" very well.  I'm a youngest sister, too.  Mwah-ha-ha!)

Playing "Go Fish" with a regular deck of cards:

Tiersten: Do you have any Kings?  Those are the ones with the "Ks" on them.
Jennica:  Well........yeah.  But it has a heart on it and I like hearts.  So I'm not giving it to you.
Tiersten:  You HAVE to give it to me.  Thats how the game is played.
Jennica:  But I don't want to.  Oh......Fine then. (Throws the card at Tiersten.) Do you have any with Js on them?
Tiersten:  Nope.
Jennica:  Me neither!  HA HA! 
Tiersten:  JENNICA!!!!  That's not how you play!!!

End of game.  :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

And then there is the pickin'......

So.....over the weekend, I developed a "summer plan" of sorts for Jennica.  For the most part, it probably contains your average, typical goals of a child between kindergarten and first grade.  Cement the ABCs.....both recognition and phonic sounds.  Improve number recognition and patterning for math skills.  Strengthen handwriting skills.  Strengthen handwriting skills.  Strengthen handwriting skills.  You get the idea.....

And then there is the pickin'.  It ain't a pretty issue, but it also needs addressed.  I'm talking about perpetual wedgies.  Or skin irritations.  Or some other form of......something......that has my daughter digging constantly at her nether regions.  During toddlerhood, it is socially-acceptable.  In first grade, it is fodder just waiting for ridicule.  My daughter has enough issues to deal with already.  We don't need to add anything more. (Picture her at Age 30 lying on Ms. Psychologist's couch and talking about how she was permanently damaged by the classmates that teased her incessantly in first grade for constantly scratching her fanny.  UGH!  Let's not go there.......)

So this weekend, I bought some rather spendy version of organic, hypo-allergenic laundry detergent guaranteed to soothe the most sensitive skin.  I've ordered her some new undies, constructed of only the finest organic cotton.  Today, I bought some new organic everything-free body wash for her. 

And the clock is ticking.  If the pickin' doesn't improve.......we'll start talking gently about the social ramifications of the issue.  (I don't think she's probably even aware that she's doing it!)  But first, I thought we'd give her the benefit of the doubt and assume some honest irritation somewhere. 

Academic skill-building and pickin' remediation.  Those are my summer goals.  Ain't parenthood grand?

Friday, June 11, 2010

A moment to celebrate...

8th grade graduation is a BIG deal at our school.  It cracks me up a little, as grades 7-12 in our small district are all in the same building anyway and they all interact freely.  But, nonetheless, 8th grade graduation has always been, and always will be (for the foreseeable future anyway) a BIG deal.  There is the traditional "dance" after ceremonies, and it is always held the night before the last day of school. 

Well....last night was Grant's big night!  As well as participating as a class member, he was also a speaker, member of the band, and a recipient of an Award for Academic Excellence.  I'm posting some photos.  Way to go, Grant!!!  And good luck in High School!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reality check

Lately, I've been on kind of a "high" where Jen is concerned.  I've seen such huge signs of progress lately, and some things that I had anticipated would not go well (Disneyland...Disneyland....Disneyland) have gone pretty darn smooth!  So........when I went to the school Wednesday morning to participate in an informal "transition meeting", I wasn't mentally prepared for the reality check that I was about to receive. 

First of all, the attendees at this meeting were our principal, her kindergarten teacher, her 1:1 para-educator from this past year, her first-grade teacher for next year, and me.  The goal was simply to put us all in the same room for an un-official passing of the torch (the torch being Jen).  We had about 20 minutes to just kind of "share" our concerns, our victories, and express whatever we wanted to get on the table.  Jennica will go to first grade with a 1:1 para-educator, but she will have a new para next year (as well as a new teacher) as last year's para has taken a new position in the district. 

Let me say that I'm excited about the teacher that has been chosen to be Jennica's teacher in first grade.  She has only been with our district for a year, but she has rave reviews from her classroom parents and fellow teachers from this past year.  I have seen her around the building and she is friendly, but quiet.  She's not a boisterous, loud person.  She listens intently when others speak to her.  So good. 

But.......HOLY COW......I suddenly realized during this meeting that we have been with the same teacher for two whole years.  Jennica had Mrs. Michalk for preschool, and then Mrs. Michalk moved up to kindergarten with her!  Mrs. Michalk has had classes on SPD!  She knows my daughter.  She has even attended therapy with us!!  And listening to her (and the para) explain to the new teacher some of Jen's quirks and nuances......I thought, "Oh, my goodness!!!"  There are volumes and volumes and volumes of things that this new teacher doesn't know about my child!!!  How is she going to learn it all quickly so that we don't waste half the year?

And somehow, I had managed to convince myself that Jennica was almost on-target academically.  She's not!!  She has learned to be "a student" this year.  She hasn't necessarily learned what she needs to know entering first grade.  Just the fact that she is now willing to sit at a desk and attempt to complete the same exercises the other children are completing doesn't mean that she has the same level proficiency that they do!  Is it encouraging?  Yes!  But is she 100% ready for first grade?  Definitely no! 

So.........I'm in reality-check-mode and we're trying to make some decisions.  What can we do over the summer that will help her do some more learning without stressing her out?  Do we hire a tutor to work with her a few days each week, on top of the occupational therapy that she's going to attend?  Or does tht fact that she is at least "ready to learn" going to be all she needs to catch up during the coming year? 

I've scanned in a paper that she brought home a few weeks ago.  The works is totally hers!  We are VERY proud of this work.....but I'm also willing to admit that this is the upper end of her ability right now!  How do we make this level of work a daily occurrence? 

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

An enchanted evening without melatonin!!!

Jennica has taken melatonin every single night (except for one--after which I swore we would never repeat) since September of 2006.  Seriously.  Just to do the math for you......that is almost four years of nightly melatonin.

It all started at the age of two, when we showed up sleep-deprived to the point of delirium, at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital for an appointment for something else.  She was not yet SPD-diagnosed, and when the occupational therapist asked how she was sleeping......I nearly punched her.  She was NOT sleeping.  At all.  Which meant that neither were we.  And we had been doing this for almost 6 months!! 

The OT suggested melatonin and we got started that night.  (If you aren't familiar with it.  It'll be quicker than me explaining.....)  I picked up a bottle of the suggested dosage on the way home.....and voila!  It worked like a charm!!  Sleep........glorious sleep!!!  The OT at Mary Bridge had warned us that: 1) she might not respond at all, 2) she might have nightmares from it, and 3) it wouldn't probably work forever, as the human body often builds up a tolerance to it.

Now.....over the past four years, we have occasionally tried to go without melatonin at bedtime.  The results have consistently been disastrous.  So we give it to her and she sleeps.  End of story.  It is a naturally-occuring substance that SPD children are often lacking, and it has answered our problem.

However, recently she has had a few nightmares.  Since this can be a side effect, we decided to give another try to the bedtime routine with no melatonin.  Lo and behold........she went to sleep without it!  For the first time in over FOUR YEARS!!!  

Now.....its a little early (or a lot early) to say that we are officially melatonin-less, but I'm still pretty excited!  Has she learned to settle herself down?  Finally?  We're going to give it another try tonight.  So keep your fingers crossed!!!

Monday, June 07, 2010

When "Thank You" sounds so inadequate...

I spent my Monday at Point Defiance Zoo with 45+ first graders.  Since I'm pretty much a zoo-hater (I always want to turn all the animals loose), and some of these children were a tad (just a tad) was a LOOOOoooooonnnnnngggggg day.  But I was glad for the opportunity to spend time with Tiersten and her buddies on their end-of-the-year field trip. 

But that means that.....Its the end of the school year???!!!???  How did this happen???  Where did this year go?  Next year I will have a Junior and Freshman in High School, and a 2nd grader and a 1st grader in the Elementary School.  AAAHHHH. 

In retrospect, its been a tough year.  My boys have done well, but the loss of their friend Max to suicide in January, which I blogged about at the time, was a tough blow from which they (and we) will never fully recover.  We are changed forever, and his death made suicide a personal thing, rather than something that "other people talk about".  His family is still constantly in our thoughts and prayers, even as we all attempt to move on with our lives.

Tiersten lost her first-grade teacher to a very sudden heart attack in December, just a few weeks before Christmas.  I also blogged about this unexpected tragedy, and marveled at how miraculously our school pulled together and mourned her in open and healthy ways.  While I worried at the time that first grade would forever be remembered as their first close experience with death, Tiersten and her fellow students have blossomed beautifully with their new teacher.  I have no doubt that Joan is looking down proudly at her beloved students and cheering them on! 

And then there is Jennica.  WOW!  We started her kindergarten year with a child that was somewhat "awestruck" in the overwhelming sensory environment of public school.  She ran away from school.  Literally.  And when that failed, she closed her ears and eyes to the environment around her and "shut down".  But we have been SO blessed with a school district that listened!!!  By the end of Week 3 of her kindergarten year, Jen had the most fantastic 1:1 para-educator that we could have asked for.  And even more miraculous, that para-educator (who had no previous experience with SPD) found the delicate balance between helping and hovering.  Jen tried to convince her to be her maid/servant/chef/nurse/etc. and Christine "got it"!!  Between Christine and the classroom teacher, Jennica has not only improved, she has SOARED!!  The same little girl that hated the chaos in the hallways before recess is now happily shouting to friends, playing, sharing, and is a part of that chaos, rather than an outsider looking in.  Perhaps our principal gave me the biggest compliment of all when recently she told me, "Jen is no different than the rest of the crowd anymore.  She is just one of the gang!!"  THAT is what an SPD parent lives to hear!

So.........I have so many people to thank at the end of this school year.  But how?  All four of my children have had life-changing experiences at school this year.  My school district has not only "handled" the situations, but they have cried with our students, loved them through their losses and challenges, and walked with them until the situation improved.  Our school administration could have made many different decisions in all of these situations but, in my opinion, they made the right decisions.  Not the cheapest decisions.  Not the easiest decisions.  The RIGHT decisions.  I'm so proud that my children attend the Raymond School District.

To Steve Holland, Jesica Bryant, Hailey Michalk, Joan Leach, Kacie Bingham, Christine McLaughlin, and all the other people that have had daily contact with my children through their daily school trials this past year.......Thank you!  You are truly the best!!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The weekend that didn't go as planned

I was supposed to be spending this past weekend at high school graduation, and doing some random things around home, and maybe going shopping......and definitely going for a ride on Yodi. 

None of that happened.

Instead, I spent the weekend gutting the bathroom.  There is currently nothing in there except lighting (which is fairly new and wasn't damaged by our little "flood"), drywall, and subfloor.  Everything else is lying in a heap on the side of the driveway.  The re-construction is ready to begin.  We've made decisions on flooring, vanity, countertop, new toilet, new shower/tub, faucets.......Tomorrow I will call the flooring people to get that ball rolling, and call the electrician since we're going to move some switches while its torn apart. the middle of all this chaos.....I totally forgot that Jennica was going to likely need a little "extra" explanation at some point.  I felt really bad when she dissolved into tears as we sawed through and packed the existing tub/shower out in pieces.  I sat down and talked to her about what was happening and why, and she was fine after that.  But it was a good reminder for me that transitions are still tough for her.  Even when they are transitions that are unavoidable, or that you wouldn't think would bother her. 

Tiersten helped texture and put the first coat of new paint on the drywall today. She was messy, but she did pretty well!  Its going to need another coat of paint before the flooring folks arrive, but the second coat should go quickly.  I'm hoping that there are no hold-ups in this process and that all the people we need for installation will just be sitting around waiting to work around my schedule.  Right?  (Sure!)  A family of six sharing one bathroom sucks!  I'm trying to remind myself that the kitchen disaster was MUCH worse,(which it was), but this is no picnic either. 

I really would have rather spent my weekend at graduation.  :(

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Can't vs. Won't

My daughter has generally had a hard time learning to do multi-step tasks.  Getting dressed......buckling her own seatbelt........tying her shoes (which we're still working on, by the way).  When we talked to our OT about this a couple of years ago, her response was pretty much, "Well.....duh!"  And then she explained the sensory-processing and motor planning required for each of these tasks, and we had an "Ah-ha!"-moment.  Sort of. 

After talking to our OT, we began to understand that Jennica wasn't always just being lazy on the chance that she would wear someone down and they would dress her, or tie her shoes, or whatever.  (Remember......she's the youngest of four children.  There's generally someone around that would prefer to be accomodating rather than listen to her yell.)  But knowledge also gave us a new problem--How did we encourage independence even while knowing that she had some sensory issues with multi-step tasks?  Where did we draw the line between forcing her to step outside her comfort zone, or insisting that she do something that her brain is seriously not ready yet to process?  And as we all know, SPD does not equal stupid--these kids know how to manipulate parents/teachers/siblings into doing things for them just like any other kid.  So.....where did she really need our help, and where was she just yanking our chain?  In essence, how do we know that difference between whether she "can't" do something, or just "won't" do something?  And is there really a difference between "can't" and "won't" when there are sensory overload issues at play?

At age 6, Jennica can now dress herself and buckle her own seatbelt.  She's learning to tie her own shoes.  But we still struggle daily with the can't vs. won't issue.  To make matters worse, everyone in the house clashes over this issue!  Have you ever heard these arguments in your house?

-"Quit baby-ing her!  She can do it!  She just won't because she expects us to do it for her."
-"She's spoiled!  She's just whining so we will do it for her."
-"So let her sit there until she figures it out.  I'll bet if you tell her she can have a cookie (or a TV show, or whatever treat you have available) when she's done, she'll show you how fast she can do it!!"

And as parents, we've had some very heated discussions over this.  If one of us insists that she do something she can't or won't do, she runs to the other one crying.  Sound familiar? 

Jennica's motor planning issues are improving tremendously.  While I sometimes feel guilty for it, we've had to do some "tough love" at times.  Those moments of, "I'll wait for you in the living room.  Come out and we'll read when you get your pajamas on," are horribly painful when you're the one sitting in the living room waiting for 20 minutes and wondering if she is sitting in there naked and just trying to out-last your patience. the tasks that we are tackling are increasing in difficulty.  She's writing her alphabet.  Finally.  She's working on shoe-tying.  Finally.  She can actually grab a coat and a backpack in the morning without help and head out to the bus-stop.  But when she pulls the old can't-vs.-won't-trick, I admit to still never being sure and always questioning whether she's yanking my chain, or if she just can't process the tasks in a logical order to accomplish the goal. 

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Testing.....testing. 1, 2, 3, 4....testing.

Truly.....I'm not a psycho-blogger.  Or an interNut that spends all day every day playing here with colors and fonts.  I've been having some formatting issues with my blog.  Hence, all the color/background changes lately.  Assuming that I can actually get the HTMLs all to work for more than 24 hours, things should look the same for awhile. 

In the meantime, enjoy "popping in" to see what the blog looks like today.......  :)

Beth's Plumbing...Which room would you like to remodel?

I'm sure there's some humor to be found here somewhere, but I haven't found it yet.

First, let me back up a little.  In March of 2006, I broke a pipe under our kitchen sink.  It was a hell-ish experience that resulted in a completely new kitchen at a total cost of over $30,000 (mostly paid for with insurance, thank goodness).  The girls were only 2 & 3 at the time, and the boys were 10 & 12.  If you're interested, you can read all about that experience at the link below: forward to May 31st, 2010.  Last night, I was stacking towels under the kids' bathroom vanity, and bumped the cold water pipe.  SNAP!  Instant geyser.  No kidding, by the way.  I bumped the pipe.  We must have the most brittle pipes on the planet, because I hit this one even more lightly than the kitchen one!!

In any case, we got the water shut-off relatively quickly.  And while I'm not proud to say that we're experienced with water damage after the kitchen.....we knew what to do this time and didn't waste any time.  When this amount of water is involved, it has to be handled aggressively!  Our oak bathroom vanity got turned into toothpicks with a crowbar and hanmmer, and hurled out the back door in a hurry.  All the trim boards followed. Sheetrock is like a sponge......and there's only one way to make sure you get it dry.  Black mold is almost instantaneous in this part of the country, and you don't try to "salvage" $500-$1,000 worth of cabinetry to risk ending up with $10,000 worth of more extensive damage.  (Did I mention that we're experienced?) The cold air fans have been blowing non-stop since last night, the carpet is elevated in the adjacent hallway, and everyone is banned from entering that area for the time being.

Of course, while I'm glad Mike was home, Jennica totally "flipped out" while the water was exploding out of the bathroom cabinet.  Having your parents anxiously shouting instructions at each other and rushing around tends to "freak out" the most stable child, much less one with SPD.  She's better today, but still a tad "off".  She's referring to it as "the flood" and talking endlessly about being afraid about not being able to swim well enough.  There is no use reasoning that swimming would not be necessary.  This is her reality.  (Maybe we should consider a Noah's Ark theme in that bathroom from now on?  Nah......)

So.......we're back in the "Land of Plumbing Accidents by Beth."  I'm not Amused. One. Bit. 

We're currently in the "holding pattern" that consumes the dry-out process.  Until we've got everything dry, nothing happens.  This time, we are going to make some different choices regarding the actual plumbing repair, so that we should be able to re-construct a little more quickly than the four months of misery with the kitchen.  Of course, the amount of water was also less and a kitchen remodel is way larger in scope than a bathroom remodel.........but still.

Honestly, the entire house needs to be re-plumbed, but I think that bid out at around $10,000 when we checked the last time, and the insurance wouldn't touch it.  Lovely, huh?  Why couldn't Mike have stacked those towels under there?  GRRRR......