Tag Archives: siblings

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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RULES by Cynthia Lord

What a wonderful book.  I wish this could be on the required reading list for 5th, 6th or 7th graders everywhere (it might already be at some schools – I have no idea!). 

…I keep re-writing this review…my words aren’t doing it justice…

This book tells the story of approximately a month in a 12-year old girl’s life.  She’s a pretty typical 12 year old girl, only she has an autistic 8 year old brother.  She feels her family’s world revolves around him and she alternates between trying to protect him and wanting to get as far away from him as she can.  She writes “rules” for him in the back of her sketch pad.

“That’s where I keep all the rules I’m teaching David so if my ‘someday-he’ll-wake-up-a-regular-brother’ wish doesn’t ever come true, at least he’ll know how the world works…”

The author helps Catherine put words to her emotions through a new friend – Jason, a paraplegic the girl meets at her brother’s occupational therapy sessions.  Jason can’t talk and relies on his communication book – he taps at the words in his book to form sentences.  They meet when Catherine is busted trying to sketch him and he gets upset.  As they get to know each other, Catherine starts making illustrated words for his book so that they can talk to each other.  She begins using this as an outlet to share her feelings regarding life with her brother. 

Again… words escape me.  This book had me in tears last night. 

After an encounter with her brother and the neighborhood bully – in front of her new “popular” friend, no less – Catherine runs to her room and writes down many new words for Jason. “Murky” was the one that required the most explanation.  She explained that there’s a pond she and her friends like to visit, and the bottom is covered in mud, old leaves and pine needles.  She and her friends often dare each other to dive down to the bottom and bring back a handful of this murky mud and leaves as proof that they made it.  When she dives down, she says her foot sinks into the murky stuff at the bottom – up to her ankle – and just when she feels she’s almost out of breath and afraid the murkiness might not let her go this time, she rushes to the top and feels the exhilaration of fresh air.  She explains to Jason that sometimes with her brother, she feels like she won’t make it back up – she’ll be sucked down instead.

Jason responds by confessing that he sometimes wishes he was dead, which upsets her. He explains that he feels incomplete.  He dreams of running and asks her what that’s like.  After trying to explain it, she decides to take him for a run instead.  His mother is wary, but allows it.  She takes him outside in his wheelchair and runs as fast as she can, until she hits that runner’s high feeling.  Even bound to his chair, he feels it, too.

The author does a wonderful job of juxtaposition with Jason vs. Catherine’s brother David.  One has physical abilities, the other has mental ability.  Catherine battles with what matters more – her own feelings or the opinions of others.  In the end, she decides that her friendship with Jason and her love for her brother take precedence over what others might think or say.

I saw many similarities between Colin and the character David.  At this point, Ryan and Robbie don’t seem to ever be embarrassed by Colin, which is good.  I worry that won’t always be the case.  I hope we can raise them to understand that friendship and love are more important than what small-minded people think and say. 

One of the “Rules” Catherine made for David struck a chord with me:

Sometimes people laugh when they like you. But sometimes they laugh to hurt you.

I read this out loud to Rick.  He agreed that’s something we both worry about Colin facing as he gets older.  We have zero tolerance for bullying in our house – from anyone – but what can you do to protect your kids outside the home? 

Colin and Ryan are in the same grade.  I hate to put something so heavy on a 7 year old’s shoulders, but I hope Ryan will always try to protect his brother.  I know it won’t always be easy.  I hope we can raise Robbie and Ryan to understand that it’s never okay to make fun of someone for being different – that standing up for the people you love is more important than following the crowd.

And baby makes… six?

Just a little bit ago, a fellow blogger posted about siblings and foster care and it inspired me to share a story of something that happened to us not too long ago.

If you’ve followed this blog at all (or checked out my family page), you know that we have three boys.  Rick had two and I had one when we first met.  We’ve talked before about whether or not we’d want to have a baby together.  Rick is such a wonderful husband – he’s the kind of man who you justknow would be wonderful during pregnancy.  It would be nothing like before.  I wouldn’t be going to doctors alone. There’s no way he’d leave me alone the night our baby was born.  He wouldn’t leave me to find my own rides to the NICU.  He’d definitely rub my swollen feet.  In short, he’d do all the things I wish my ex had…and none of the things I wish he hadn’t done.  And we’d make a super cute baby – dark wavy hair, green eyes…

But the reality is that we have three kids!  And one of those kids has special needs.  It would be nearly impossible to handle a baby.  We decided that we would take measures to insure we didn’t have any more kiddos…but at the same time, if it was ever to happen, we would make it work.

Last year – I can’t recall exactly when, but I want to say early fall – Rick got a call from CPS on a Friday morning. He called me and texted me at work – said he needed me to call him as soon as I could.

Ryan’s mother had another baby.  He was 2 months old and in the hospital recovering from methadone addiction.  CPS wanted to know if we’d be willing to foster and eventually adopt him.

I just started crying.  I wasn’t even sure why.  Rick started crying, too.  What were we going to do?  What could we say?  This was Ryan’s blood – how could we turn him away?  What if he wound up in a bad situation because we didn’t say yes?  How could we live with that?

But we have THREE KIDS already!  Our house is pretty damn full. Our lives are already chaotic.  We both work full-time. How could we do this?  Rick said, “I keep thinking the same things… but then I think, if you were pregnant, we’d find a way to make this work.”  We were both so torn.  We told the CPS agent that we needed her to give us the weekend to talk this over.

After a lot of talking and crying, we decided we couldn’t take him.  Rick called CPS on Monday to let them know.

We found out that the 2nd call they made on Friday was to the couple that adopted Ryan’s older sisters many years ago.  They had taken the baby for the weekend while we thought things over! They also agreed to foster him until a decision was made on whether or not he could be adopted by another family.

What a relief.  If he couldn’t be with his brother, at least he was with his sisters!

We also found out that the baby’s mother was fighting this time.  To my knowledge, she never really fought before.  And this time, she won.  Little baby J is back with his mother.  That’s something I could not have handled.  How could we have explained that to Ryan?  “Your mother gave up you and your sisters, but she fought to get your brother back.”  How much damage would that do?  I’m sure it hurt his sisters as well, but at least they’re a little older and they might be able to understand the situation better.  Ryan couldn’t have gone through that without getting scarred.

I couldn’t have, either!

 

I’m happy with our little family.  Our youngest will be 6 in September, so I just keep telling myself that means I’ll only be in my 40s when all the kids are out of the house!  (Of course, I realize Colin may always have to live with us. Let me have my fantasy for a minute!)   Rick and I will be able to enjoy some crazy middle-aged years together alone since we didn’t spend our crazy 20s together.  If we were to start over now, I’d be in my 50s before that time came.  Rick would be in his 60s! 

I’ll keep the level of crazy and happy we already have and focus on the future – for us and our boys. 

Otto Learns About His Medicine

Last night, I read Otto Learns About His Medicine to Robbie and Ryan. 

Colin was sitting on the floor nearby, putting a puzzle together.  He rarely sits with us when we read together, unless I’m reading Where the Sidewalk Ends (that one is my favorite, too).

Ryan and Robbie are always very excited when a new book turns up.  And this one’s bright red, so it was hard to miss that Mom was holding something new when they finished with their showers.

Before I started, I said, “While we’re reading this book, I want you to think about whether or not this story reminds you of someone you know, okay?  When I’m done, we can ask questions about everything and talk for a bit.”

The story tells of a little car named Otto (whose last name is “Mobile”).  Otto’s engine runs too fast.  He gets distracted by every little noise in the classroom. He speaks out of turn too much in class. He can’t hold still and sometimes runs into other cars without meaning to.  At one point, he ran off from a gas station while still getting filled up because he saw a friend with new racing stripes – gas wound up going everywhere. 

Otto’s teacher suggests to Otto’s parents that they take him to see a “mechanic” for a check up.  The mechanic decides he should go to another mechanic for more help.  They explain that the different mechanics, family members and teachers are part of the “pit crew” that is there to help Otto.  The new mechanic (specialist) suggests that another helpful member of the pit crew might be medicine.  He explains that medicine can’t make you learn or focus or behave.  It is there to help Otto – just as the rest of his pit crew is also there to help him.  They even discuss that sometimes medicine can have side effects and that this special medicine may make it hard to sleep and make Otto not as hungry. [I was a little surprised at the mention of side effects! But I feel they did a good job explaining what they meant.]

When the book was over, I asked the boys if the story reminded them of anyone.  I had a feeling I knew how this might go.

Robbie said, “That sounds kinda like me!  Like when I get distracted at school!”

I was worried he would relate to the book.

I said, “You’re able to sit down and focus when you want to, though, right?” He admitted he could.  “Does this book make you think of anyone else?”

Ryan quietly said, “It’s like Colin, right Mom?”

I told him he was exactly right – the little car Otto was a lot like Colin.

When I said that, Colin perked up – suddenly he wanted to know what was going on.

“This book is about a car that’s just like you, Colin!” Robbie was so excited. “It’s motor runs too fast, just like yours does sometimes! And he takes medicine like you do to help!”

Rick chimed in, “What part of your body is like a motor?  Can you think of a body part that’s similar to a motor in a car?”

The boys thought for a moment, but couldn’t come up with anything.

“How about the brain?” Rick asked.  They all agreed – a brain is like a motor!

Rick explained that sometimes Colin’s brain runs too fast and it makes things very difficult for him.  His brain tells his body to do and say things even when he knows he shouldn’t.  We explained that we’re trying a new medicine that can help.

“Can medicine make Colin behave?” I asked.

“Noooo!” answered the boys.  “It just helps him so he can try to make good choices!”  (I was really glad the book explained this aspect of medicine. Before, Robbie kept thinking that the different doctors and medicine were going to somehow be a cure-all for Colin – I think he’s been disappointed that we kept saying we were trying different things and yet Colin was still…well.. Colin.)

“Remember that part in the book where Otto couldn’t sit still?” I asked.  “Remember how he ran into the other cars and they got mad?  What did they do?”

“They pushed him back!” said Robbie.

“Is that what they should have done?” I asked.

“Nooo!  He didn’t mean to run into them – it was an accident. He couldn’t help it because his engine was running too fast!” Robbie answered.

“That’s right.  And sometimes Colin does things he can’t help, too. We need to remember that.”  I hugged my boys.  I think this book has helped some things about ADHD click for them.

Meanwhile, Colin had the book in his hands and was looking through the pictures.  “I want to read it now. Can you read it, Dad?”  It was already after 8pm – bedtime, for sure.  Rick promised Colin he’d sit down with him tomorrow and read it with him.

I’m thankful for this book.  It’s a bit wordy, but not too bad.  The only thing I’d change are the illustrations.  The cars stand up on their back wheels and start to look a little creepy during the “mechanic” sections.  I think the car metaphor worked well because our boys are big fans of the Cars movies and understand what a pit crew is. 

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Colin is definitely having issues sleeping.  Last night, he was still up at 9:30pm and I couldn’t keep my own eyes open any longer.  I was reading in bed and kept nodding off.  I finally called it quits around 10pm and shut off the light.

At around 1:30am, Chloe started pacing.  When she does that, it usually means she really has to use the bathroom. If you don’t get up, you’ll find a present in the house later.  I decided I’d take the dogs out.

When I walked into the living room, I saw Colin was asleep on the couch.  I’d bet he came out there as soon as he thought I was asleep.  I woke him up and sent him back to his room.  My guess is he’s sleeping on the couch more than I care to admit – that’s probably how he’s waking up within seconds of me in the morning. 

Thankfully, once he was in bed, he crashed pretty hard.  He was the last one up this morning at around 6:10am. 

The 20mg twice/day of Adderall has done wonders for him at school – two green days so far this week!  But it’s making sleep very difficult.  I feel bad for him.  Not sure what we can do to help.  I’m going to call the doc today and see what he thinks.  We have an appointment on Friday, too, but maybe he can suggest something in the meanwhile.

Adderall Auction

[No, no, I’m not actually auctioning off Adderall…hold your horses!]

I almost feel like this is an auction.  5mg! Do I hear 5mg?!  Okay, 10mg, 10mg? 10! Can I get 15mg, 15mg, anyone? You! 20mg – do I hear 20mg? SOLD! 20mg!

We went up to 20mg, twice/day, over the weekend and saw such an improvement!  Midday report from school also came back saying he was having a wonderful day today.

Yesterday, Colin did something I haven’t seen him do in months.  He sat down and completed a puzzle.  This used to be his favorite thing to do – he can knock out a puzzle faster than just about anyone I’ve ever met.  And then a few months ago, he stopped enjoying it as much.  When he would sit down with a puzzle, he’d get frustrated or distracted when he was part of the way through and give up.  Yesterday, he picked one of our more difficult puzzles – a map of the world – sat down and knocked it out.  He was so focused!  He even sat down and read a book at one point this weekend – without any instruction or guidance to do so.  He wanted to. 

I was worried that the meltdowns would return in the evenings when the meds wore off, but so far so good. What little anger/upset he’s had, he seems to be able to control fairly well.  I’m still worried about his sleeping.  I wish sometimes that we could rig a camera in the living room with motion detection.  I could have sworn I heard him up around 3am this morning, but the dogs didn’t budge or notice at all, so I figured I was dreaming.  He can be pretty sneaky when he wants to be.  He was up entirely too early over the weekend, too.  6-7 hours of sleep is not enough for a 7 year old.  (It’s not enough sleep for Mom and Dad, either!)

I ordered some books this past weekend – I’m hoping they may help us explain things better to Ryan and Robbie.  I’ll do a full review once we’ve tried them out, but here’s what I picked out.

Otto Learns About His Medicine by Matthew Galvin – A story about medication for children with ADHD.  In this book, Otto is a little car whose engine runs too fast and no matter how hard he tries, he just can’t stay on track and keeps getting in trouble at home and in school. Otto finds a special mechanic that helps him by giving him medicine for his engine.

Why Does Izzy Cover Her Ears? by Jennifer Veenandall – This is a story about a little girl named Izzy who is often misunderstood as she attempts to deal with sensory overload.

I found a few others that I want to try, but thought I’d start with these two.  I’ve tried in my own words – Rick has, too – to explain what Colin goes through to our other boys.  Best we’ve come up with is that you shouldn’t judge people – or make fun of them – for being different…and you need to have patience and be kind. We’ve explained that Colin can’t always control himself and that he says things he doesn’t always mean.  I’ve tried using the word “autistic” a time or two, but those conversations never seemed to go smoothly. We want them to understand him so that they can learn how to have their own relationships with their brother.  I read through probably two dozen book descriptions trying to find ones that matched our boy.  A lot of the Autism acceptance books out there deal with the non-verbal side of the spectrum, it seems.

I also bought a book for myself.  I’m hoping the boys will enjoy it in a few years – I’m not sure they’re ready for it yet.  I couldn’t pass it up.  They might be ready sooner than I think.  The boy in this book sounds a lot like Colin.

Rules by Cynthia Lord – “Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She’s spent years trying to teach David the rules from “a peach is not a funny-looking apple” to “keep your pants on in public”—in order to head off David’s embarrassing behaviors.
But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the next-door friend she’s always wished for, it’s her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?”

 

Do you have books that you’ve used to help others – your other children, classmates in your child’s school, family members, etc – understand your child’s disability?  What words do you use to make sense of it to siblings?

Tattling

When you have three kids – especially aged 5-7! – the tattling can get to be a little out of hand.  The most frustrating part for me is what they choose to tattle over.

“Ryan’s copying me!”

“Colin said ‘nanananana!’ in my face!”

“Robbie’s biting his fingers!” (And by this, I mean he’s biting on HIS OWN fingers, not someone else’s!)

But when Colin decides to rewire the bedroom TV, does anyone speak up?  When Robbie pees on the floor, do I hear about it??  No.

I’ve developed a new response every time someone starts to tattle and it sounds like nonsense. “Is someone hurt?  Is something broken??”

If the answer is “no” to both questions, I probably don’t want to know!  Especially if I’m in the middle of my 5 minute long morning shower. Those are MY FIVE MINUTES. Unless you are on fire or bleeding, please go away! (I’ve actually said that to my kids a time or two before!)

We’ve been trying to instill a sense of responsibility in Ryan and Robbie (our “neurotypical” kiddos, for those just joining this blog).  Yes, Colin should be – and is – held responsible when he breaks things or potentially does damage to electronics, someone’s bedroom, etc… but ultimately, you should have some level of responsibility for your own room.  I will set ground rules to help – Colin is rarely allowed in Robbie and Ryan’s room if they are not present – but you can’t claim blind ignorance if you sit back and let something happen. 

A month or so ago, there was a day when the boys were all home from school and Rick (who works nights) was trying to catch a nap on the couch.  While Rick was napping and Ryan and Robbie were watching TV in the living room, Colin walked through the living room to the master bedroom, collected a handful of various cords and cables… walked back through the living room (in front of R&R – this is not a big room or a big house!) and then into Robbie and Ryan’s bedroom where he proceeded to plug things in wherever he could – mostly in the back of the TV and into the wall.  His brothers didn’t say a word.  They swear up and down they never saw anything.

I discovered this when I went to get the boys ready for bed that night. I noticed the dresser that the TV sits on was pushed out a bit. I looked behind it and noticed all these cords and wires that weren’t there before (the only thing that’s ever plugged into the TV is a Leap Frog gaming system – and that plugs into the front). At the time, Rick and I had a box full of spare wires, cables, etc, in our room, and I knew that’s where they came from.  I called all three boys into the bedroom for an inquiry.  Colin confessed (he’s the one obsessed with electricity, so I assumed it was him anyhow).  The other two claimed complete ignorance of any misbehavior.

Colin’s probably twice as likely to tell on himself than he is to tattle on someone else.  If you ask him if he’s done something, he almost always answers truthfully. (Sometimes he’ll even confess to things he didn’t do, which is very frustrating.  I’m getting better at filtering out the false confessions.)

At the end of the day, if he’s done something ridiculous that no one has discovered, he’ll likely point it out.  Thank goodness.  Often, it’s a pile of parts to something he’s disassembled.  One time it was all his bedding stuffed inside a pair of underwear. 

Does your autistic and/or ADHD child hide his/her bad behavior? Or is s/he open and honest about it?  How do you deal with excessive tattling from your “NT” children?

Siblings

No matter what the challenges, I’m so very glad Robbie has brothers now. Having siblings can be such a rewarding, maddening, wonderful experience. I should know! I was also one of three kids. I have a sister that’s 4.5yrs younger and a brother that’s about 6.5yrs younger. Our parents divorced in 2001. Since then, the relationship with our dad has been tenuous at best. About a month ago, he let down his walls and met us halfway. He finally opened up.

I got a call a few days ago from my sister asking if I could meet up with family on my dad’s side in a town about 5 hours from where I live. My dad was in town helping his mom move and we all wanted to meet up for dinner on Friday. Afterwards, my brother, sister and I would go stay in my grandma’s vacation home nearby. None of us could remember the last time just the three of us spent time together. No kids, no spouses, etc.

The drive was beautiful. Central Texas in springtime can be breathtaking. Wildflowers and green pastures in all directions. Winding through the hills on two lane highways going 70mph. Occasionally the speed limit drops as you pass through a town that time’s forgotten. Those towns tug at my heartstrings. Dilapidated houses and abandoned stores line the streets. Some towns have fared better than others. The town we were staying in falls in the latter category. Unfortunately, my grandma recently decided to sell this house and the surrounding land, so we’re trying to get some final visits in.

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Brother's puppy in front of grandma's house

When my grandma bought this house, we all thought she was nuts. This house was a disaster. She completely restored it. Furnished it with antiques, replaced broken windows with antique windows from other houses – the whole nine yards. This house is beautiful now. The land around it has been tamed so hikes to the pond are easy and beautiful.

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Side porch

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Pond

We headed to the house after dinner (which went very well) and had a few drinks while catching up. My sister’s boyfriend of seven years recently broke up with her. I didn’t know before last night. She’s crushed, but trying to keep her head up and she’s not really ready to talk about it. Just being together in that house – joking around together and having fun – seemed to be good for all three of us.

We crashed around 2am. At 7am, my sister woke me up. When I laughed at her for doing that, she said, “I wanted to spend some time together before you have to leave!”

The three of us went for a walk down to the pond with my brother’s pups. We each had a camera in hand – the flowers were in full bloom and the doggies were extra photogenic.

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My lil sis

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We walked into town for coffee, then back to the house to pack up and head out.

Through several moves, divorces, fights, parties, ups, downs and sideways changes…my brother and sister have always been there for me. I know they know that I’ll always be there for them, too.

I love my crazy siblings.

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