Tag Archives: children

First Day of School!

Like so many other parents, yesterday was a big day for me.  Er, I mean…for my boys!  Yeah, that’s what I meant!

They love Ninjago. Can you tell?

Colin and Ryan both started 2nd grade and Robbie started 1st grade this year.  Colin and Ryan went to the same school last year, so it was exciting to see what teacher they’d have and which friends were in their class again this year, but otherwise they know the ropes pretty well and I’m not terribly worried about them.  As an added bonus, Colin’s special education teacher was also moved to the 2nd grade wing, so that was one less change for him!

Robbie, however, is new to this school. And he’s a 1st grader.  It’s a tad unorthodox, but he really is a sharp kid with a big heart, so I’m hoping he’ll do well.  Of course, I was still a nervous wreck yesterday morning.  I took off for the day and scheduled some other appointments as well, but my main focus was making sure everyone had a smooth start for their first day.

We were all ready to leave the house and walk to school together when we realized Rob’s glasses were missing!  Aw, man!  We searched high and low – all five of us turned everything upside down and still couldn’t find them.  Rob’s response, “Well, we’re going to get new glasses later today, right? So it’s okay.”  Uh. NO.  I mean, yes, we were going to get him an eye exam and get new glasses, but that doesn’t make it okay to lose the first pair.  Those things are EXPENSIVE!

Ryan is blind as a bat without his glasses, so he has kept incredibly good track of them! (The lady at Lenscrafters told us he likely would!)  We just ordered him a new pair the other day, but mainly just because his current ones are a little scratched up and he needed a check up anyhow. 

Rob’s last pair of glasses were purchased in MARCH.  And now they’re MIA.  *sigh*  We learned yesterday afternoon that he needed a new prescription anyhow.  I had been a bad mom and not taken him in for a check up for entirely too long.  He has strabismus (his right eye is not strong and sometimes turns in), so he sees a specialist.  They’re a little harder to get into…and a million other excuses I could make, but won’t.  I won’t let him go that long again.  In fact, with the new script, doc wants to see us back in 2 months anyhow (appointment has already been made!).

Check out those stylish new frames! We swear by these “twistable” frames. I won’t buy anything else. These things are practically indestructible!

I felt bad picking him up from school early on his first day, but it was really great to get the chance to talk to him about his first day at the “big boy” school.  And boy did he have a lot to tell me!  He loves it.  That makes me SO happy.  He also loved the lunch I packed him. I quizzed him about what his favorite parts were (the cheese cubes and the granola) – I’m trying to get away from the boring-old-sandwich routine. 

Robbie’s birthday is in 2 weeks.  Eep!  Starting a new school so soon before your birthday can cause challenges – namely, who do you invite?  I told him he should start thinking about that as his birthday party will probably be on the 15th (we might push it out a week to give him more time) and he’ll have to tell me who he wants to invite.  I wish we could invite the whole class – that would be easier in a way – but I can’t afford a party for 25 kids! 

His response?  He wants to invite his teacher and the other 1st grade teacher (Colin and Ryan’s teachers last year).  I told him he probably needs to think about kids his own age instead.

Best part was all three boys had green days.  Yay!  What a great start to the week.  We had a great dinner, watched a little TV and then spent the last hour reading books before bed.  I’m really glad school is back in session. 🙂

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Keeping a Close Eye

Just like most moms, I worry about my kids.  I worry about their social interactions, bullies, etc.

I worry more than usual – for good reason – about Colin.

Whenever we’re in a social situation with other children, I can’t help but keep a close eye on him – not just because I worry about him running off to chase something sparkly, but because I am acutely aware of his surroundings.  With adults, I’m usually more concerned that Colin with bother someone with his incessant questions and non-sensical “conversations.”  Around children, I worry he will be made fun of, misunderstood…possibly hurt.

Children don’t have the filters and patience that most adults do.  One time at an indoor pool, Colin was pestering some kids who were trying to play a little game of water basketball.  At one point, one of the kids backed into him, essentially pushing him out of the way.  He had this look in his eye that said one more annoyance would likely get an even worse reaction. 

Colin doesn’t understand those looks. He has no idea when he’s pushing someone’s buttons.  I swooped in and pulled him away from that group of boys before things got worse.

Last night, we went to a local Independence Day celebration.  There was a band playing, a bounce house, kids playing on the playground – it was a great night.

At one point, I saw Colin go up to an older boy – I think he must have been somewhere between 13-14 years old – and start asking a million questions.  The kid had a smile on his face and I thought, “Oh, great – he’s about to be told off, probably made fun of. I hope he backs off when that happens and he doesn’t push the issue!”

But something else happened.  This kid started playing with Colin.   On a playground covered with roughly 40 kids, these two seemed to understand each other.  He let Colin boss him around and laughed at his jokes.  He’d wander off for a while and then come back to the playground for long stretches. 

I don’t know where his parents were – maybe he was there alone – or what his story was, but he definitely seemed a little “different”.   I actually thought he looked familiar…then had to laugh at myself when I realized why.  He looked like a young Jessie Misskelley (of the “West Memphis Three“), minus the crazy hair.

He wandered back over to us just before the fireworks started.  Colin was sitting next to him and they shared a few laughs and talked about the fireworks as they went off.  Then Colin looked at him and said, “Can I sit in your lap?”

Ugh.

I called out to Colin that it was inappropriate to ask that.  I felt bad interrupting their momentary friendship, but I knew this boy was enjoying Colin’s company – he had made a friend that didn’t think he was “different” – and he would probably have gone along with whatever Colin asked.  No matter how innocent their friendship was, my 8 year old sitting in the lap of a stranger just made me uneasy. 

When I called out to him, he got up and came over to hear what I’d said – the explosions overhead made it difficult to hear.  That was the end of their exchange.  Colin sat/stood/played near us through the rest of the show.

The boy got up and walked off quickly after the fireworks ended.  I wanted to say something to him.  I wasn’t sure what.  “Thank you for being nice to my boy,” just didn’t seem like enough.

There’s not enough kindness in the world.  You realize that even more when you have a child with special needs – one that doesn’t quite “fit in”.  I find myself wanting to thank people for acting human and decent.

What makes those furry things tick??

I’m about 80% sure that’s what Colin thinks every time he interacts with our dogs.

Last summer, we sent our middle son – Ryan – to spend a week with his Mamaw.  One street over from Mamaw is Uncle R and his boy C. And they have a puppy dog. Ryan fell in love with this scrappy little thing. So much so that when he came home from his trip, he was depressed.  He missed this pup so much he was crying and whining off and on for a good couple of days. 

Now Ryan’s a “tough guy”.  He’s built like a brick and alternates between being the funny guy…and being entirely too cool for all of us.  So to see him crying like this just broke my heart.

We’d already been talking about getting a dog. Rick and I are both dog people and we felt a dog could be good for the boys as well.  Ryan’s tears prompted us to stop putting it off and see what we could find.

We searched petfinder.com for a couple of weeks – emailing each other links to dogs left and right.  Then we narrowed down the list to about 5-6 dogs we wanted to go see.  We decided to go without the boys. Friday before we were going to go on our doggy hunt, Rick found a pup just north of where I used to work in a shelter that was open until 6pm.  He sounded like a great little guy, so we wanted to check him out. He decided to bring the boys and meet me there after work.

Of course, we fell in love.  Rodeo was SO gentle with our boys.  He was advertised as a “lab/shepherd mix”, but he’s obviously got some pit in him.  He’s white with brown spots…and then black spots on his skin beneath his fur. Just playful enough and so sweet.  We fell in love immediately.

The next day, we bought doggy supplies (including a tag with his name and our info on it) and went to pic him up.

What a great dog – so patient with our kiddos and such a snuggle bug.  He made himself right at home almost instantly. After a few weeks, we noticed he was also very protective of his new family.  As much as the boys might drive him crazy, if you even jokingly spank one of them or raise your voice, he will get on the defensive!  (This has become a long-running gag in our house… poor dog.  One of us will tell one of the boys to cry out as we pretend to spank them and Rodeo comes running to the rescue EVERY time. I love this dog!! The funniest is when Rick and I try to make him pick between us…if we act like we’re hurting each other, Rodeo is just at a loss… he has no idea what to do and just looks at us and whines.)

[Let me take a moment to say that domestic abuse is far from a joking matter – I really hope no one reads this and thinks I takerealabuse lightly. Abuse against anyone – adult or child or animal – is no laughing matter.]

One day my mom made the mistake of walking in our unlocked front door unannounced. Rodeo hadn’t met her yet and he just lost it.  Hair raised, teeth bared…he was flipping out!  My awesome little guard dog! 

He also gives our boys warnings.  If they bug him too much, he gets up and walks away.  If they don’t take the hint, he will give them a little growl.  The most extreme thing he’s ever done is to nip – never breaking the skin, but he makes sure you get the idea.

At first, I thought he wasn’t a fan of Colin.  Colin made him uneasy – always poking and prodding him.  I really think he was trying to figure out where the batteries were on this new toy we’d brought home.  We kept a close eye on them as much as possible – I was scared to death Rodeo would snap eventually.  He never has.  In fact, he seems most protective of Colin out of the three boys.  He won’t follow him when he calls and won’t put up with him very often, but if Colin gets upset or is sent to his room, etc, Rodeo is there, trying to console him.

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Did I mention he’s a snuggle bug?

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The only down side was he would get so lonely whenever we were gone on the weekends.  We have soccer games and always try to go have some fun as a family on the weekends.  Sometimes it involves the dog park, so he gets to come, but usually it’s other, less dog-friendly activities. 

After about 6 months, we decided we should look into getting another dog – a companion for him.

Rodeo’s no small fry, so we thought we should look into a smaller dog.  Our house isn’t huge, by any means.  Yeah… a small dog.  That sounded like a good plan.  Let’s say 30 lbs or so.

We resumed our petfinder.com search – sending each other pictures and links left and right.

With each email, the dogs seemed to get bigger and bigger.  Who were we kidding? We’re not small dog people!  We like big dogs! 

And then… we found her.  Well, Rick found her. Miss Chloe.  Her profile just sounded great.  Border collie/greyhound mix!  We were looking for a smallerdog…and wound up falling for a bigger one!

Chloe’s back is about 2″ higher than Rodeo’s…and she outweighs him by almost 10lbs.  She has the same sweet demeanor he has – patient and gentle with our boys as well – but with a lot more energy!  We could hardly believe she’s almost 3.  Rodeo (who is about the same age) seems like an old man next to this crazy dog! 

We joke that Chloe is like the dog version of Colin – hardly sleeps and always ready for the next fun activity.  Colin’s first words on the weekend are typically, “Are we going to have fun today?”  Chloe’s first move almost every morning is to bring me her kong or rope, as if to say, “You’re up – let’s play!”

And – who am I kidding? – it’s nice to have another female around the house!

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Where to start?

I’ll begin with a little background history.

My husband, Rick, and his first wife were foster parents for about 2 years and adopted two children during that time. 

Colin was about 5 weeks old when he first came to their home.  His birth mother went to one CPS hearing and then disappeared, never to be heard from again.  He was malnourished and wound up unable to swallow solid foods until he was around 1.5yrs old because – as a baby – his mother would put peanut butter in his mouth to shut him up. He learned how *not* to swallow as a defense mechanism.  During those first five weeks of life, he was rarely – if ever – held or loved the way a little baby deserves.  This is the root of many of the issues he still faces today.

Ryan was a little over a year old when CPS brought him to live with Rick and his first wife.  He had been removed from his home at birth as his older sisters were already taken away from their mother years before.  (He spent his first year in another foster home that was closed down.) His sisters were adopted by another family (we keep in touch with them regularly) but they were an older couple and weren’t capable of taking on a baby – his sisters are 6 and 14 years older than he is. Rick and his wife adopted Ryan a few months later. He was their last foster child.

Ryan was a quiet boy – hardly spoke at all in the beginning.  Colin is 7 months older, so he did most of Ryan’s talking for him. 

Not long after Ryan was adopted, Rick’s first wife passed away due to complications from diabetes and medications. He was a single father of two very unique boys for over 3 years.

My story is a little more simple.  I married at 24 and had Robbie when I was 26. He was born via emergency c-section 5 weeks before his due date (I came down with HELLP Syndrome). In 8 days, he was out of the NICU and on his way to becoming the crazy, smart, silly little boy he is now.  I divorced in 2008 when Robbie was 15 months old. His father moved back to Australia and has very little to do with Robbie now.

 

In June of 2010, Rick and I met for the first time. 

While trying to figure out when we could meet for a traditional date, we decided to say screw it and meet for lunch at the mall – with all three children in tow.  We had lunch at California Pizza Kitchen and then took the kiddos to the play area so we could talk for a bit.  I was hooked from day one.

I knew there would be challenges with Colin.  He had been diagnosed as ADHD for quite a while by that point and was taking Metadate every morning. Oddly enough, what I didn’t expect was how Ryan and I would interact.  He had very little female influence in his life at that point in time – in fact, he referred to everything and everyone as “him” or “he”.  He was also dealing with some anger issues.  He would get this dark look in his eye and you just knew he was going to get himself into trouble.  Things were a bit chaotic.  He would be sweet to me one minute and defiant the next.  I wasn’t sure how to handle him at all.  All I knew at that time was what little boys could be like from birth to about 3 years old.  5 and 6 year olds were beyond my comprehension!

Robbie also had to learn how to play with older boys – and how to deal with Colin when he acted a little “off”.  He did amazingly well with the idea of sharing his mom.  He did not, however, take so nicely to having a new adult telling him what to do and trying to discipline him, etc. 

 

Fast forward to today.  Rick and I have been married for a little over a year.  Colin and Ryan are both in 1st grade and doing fairly well.  Colin’s meds have changed a time or two (as has his diagnosis – now diagnosed as being Autistic as well as ADHD) and we found out Ryan was in desperate need of glasses.  We’ve put Ryan and Robbie into play therapy with an amazing psychologist that has helped them both with their behavior issues at school and home.  We’re hoping to convince our insurance provider that they should cover Colin’s ABA therapy so that we can get that rolling – meds alone are not helping and likely just masking some of the issues he’s having.  Robbie is in private kindergarten and doing well.  Both Ryan and Robbie play soccer.  And we’ve added two crazy dogs to our insane household.  Rodeo came first – he’s a lab/pit/?? mix and the sweetest dog that’s ever lived.  He is so gentle with and protective of our boys.  However, he was lonely whenever we’d go out on the weekends or at night.  Sooo…we found him a playmate – Miss Chloe.  She’s a greyhound/border collie mix – tall and skinny with the black/white border collie markings.  Just gorgeous.  Even if she is kind of a dip.   She’s a snuggler and has twice the energy Rodeo has, so she keeps him pretty well worn out. 

 

There you have it – the Readers’ Digest version of our background.  Moving forward, I plan to discuss the challenges of raising kiddos – special needs and otherwise – as well as post recipes, home improvement adventures and anything else that pops into this garbled mind of mine.