Sunday, August 31, 2008

My First Meme

Renee at Life with My Special K ´s tagged me for my very first meme, 6 Quirky Things About Me. Ok, let´s see:

1. When I make a PB&J sandwich, I HAVE to put the pb on the bread on the right, jam on the left
2. I am a devoted Coronation Street Junkie (American readers are saying ¨hunh¨?)
3. I exclusively ate pizza with toppings I didn´t like for almost 10 years before I confessed to my husband. I would wait until he went out of town and then I would pig out on ¨my¨ pizza.
4. I over empathize with movie characters e.g. in Transformers I felt horrible for all the innocent people being blown up and having their cars and homes destroyed.
5. I didn´t know how to daydream until I was 17 (honestly I had no clue what people meant when they said that, how did they do it?) and even now I think rather than daydream
6. I really struggled to list 6 (and I only did 5), I don´t think I am really all that quirky - but anyone who knows me who thinks different feel free to leave a comment.

The Rules:

1. Link the person who tagged you
2. Mention the rules on your blog
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged

As for tagging people - I am going to bow out on this part, at least for now. I don´t know enough bloggers at this point to pass it on. If someone wants to take it on, by all means do so. Leave a comment so we can link over to learn more about you.

Are We There Yet

J and I are at my parents, staying overnight and then taking my mom back with us in the morning. Sheś coming for some follow up doctors appointments because for over 7 years she has been without a family physician in her town. So we have been doing this jaunt (3 hours each way) a lot lately because she also doesn't drive.

Usually I bring both boys and I will say honestly that it is not exactly an enjoyable or relaxing experience. C tries hard but he is out of his element. Anytime we are away from home his anxiety shoots through the roof, add to that his excitement to hang out and play with his two cousins (and his ONLY cousins) that live 2 streets over from my parents and he is a ball of pure energy. He is getting better, rarely does anyone get hurt anymore. But I have to be on the ball, constantly nearby, ready to intervene when his OCD and the need for things to be ¨just right¨ threatens to turn physical.

This time, C decided not to come. He hasn´t been sleeping as well as we lead up to school and his OCD is in overdrive. I was so proud (and shocked) when I suggested he might want to stay home with Dad and he answered"yeah, I think thatś a good idea¨. More importantly, this morning as we got ready to leave he STILL thought it was a good idea not to come. I really thought he would have changed his mind.

So off J and I went. I got to listen to J ask Äre we there yet?" over and over and the best was ¨Mom, can you pull over? I´m a little tired of you driving and I want to rest¨. Once we got here all was good. He was embraced by his cousins, 7 &11, and basically I haven´t seen him since. I almost don´t know what to do with myself. How do other parents do it?

The best part? Heś going to have a sleepover with his cousins at their house (usually because of C´s needs we end up with all the kids wherever we are). He is soooo excited and I am happy he has them all to himself for once. They are all playing so nicely and they even made him a wagon to pull his stuffed monkey out of cardboard and other craft supplies. oooooh, crafty kids - I don´t have any of those either!

Itś all good

p.s. sorry for weird punctuation, there´s obviously something wrong with parents keyboard

Friday, August 29, 2008

You Love Me, You Really Love Me!

Mady at Sandwiched Genes was kind enough to tip me off that Mommy Dearest over at The Quirk Factor has bestowed this honour on me.

I am so honoured, my very first blogger award. Of course, this means people are actually reading this stuff and there was something to be said for thinking no one would read my drivel, it felt freeing. Then again, I also would check my blog several times a day hoping someone would leave a comment - disappointed over and over when it didn't happen. A comment made my heart soar. So who am I kidding? I write these because I want people to read them. I don't expect you all to love me but it sure does make my day when someone does.

The rules of the award are:

1. The winner can put the logo on their blog.

2. Link the person you received your award from.

3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.

4. Put links of those blogs on yours.

5. Leave a message on the blogs of those you’ve nominated.

This could be hard, especially since most of the blogs I read I discovered via Mommy Dearests blog and she has already given them the award. The Quirk Factor was the second blog I ever read, having linked there from MOM-NOS. I love both of their writing styles and feel a sense of camaraderie as we all raise our boys in this complex world.

After much agonizing and searching here are the seven I am awarding:

1. Gretchen's Blog - I find myself thinking about Gretchen and her family even when I am not at the computer. She writes so openly about some of her struggles and she is so accepting of who all of her children are. I also love her comment about these mom's who can do "everything".

2. Kristina at From here to There and Back - a fabulous writer who's insight into her son and what he needs is heartwarming. She is working on a book and I, for one, cannot wait to read it one day.

3. Kyra at This Mom - aside from loving to read about parenting her son Fluffy, is it geeky for me to admit that I love her candor (read: swearing)? I am always so cautious about things like that in my own life and blog, I love that she lets loose and tells it like it is.

4. Bea at Bub and Pie - for so many reasons above and beyond her writing. Partially because she is also from Southwestern Ontario, it's nice to read and understand some one's references so completely. Also because I admire her decorating skills! There's also the fact that her kids sound so sweet!

5. Drama Mama at Like A Shark for dishing it like it is, keeping it real and keeping me in tears of laughter.

6. Renee at Life with My Special K's - she has 4 young children (very cute kids), one with Leukemia and Down Syndrome, AND her husband is in the military AND she keeps up with her blog - need I say more?

7. MOM-NOS - She probably has tons of these awards but I just have to, she started this obsession for me. I learn from her thoughtful posts and sometimes what she doesn't post teaches me just as much if not more. Her posts are thoughtful and respectful of her son and what he might not want shared with the cyber world.

If you haven't already, head on over and check them all out. Word to the wise, make sure you have lots of time as quality posts are a plenty.

There - all done! Who knew accolades could bring on so much work.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Road to Independence

Lots of other bloggers are posting about school preparations and trepidations. I have been doing what I do best - living in the world of denial. I did the bare necessity of school shopping a few weeks ago and I called the school to make sure my youngest actually starts Kindergarten the first day of school (some schools have staggered start for Kindergarten). Other than that I have tried not to think about it.

If I do I start to have pains in my chest. Funny thing about nagging worries, even when you are not actively worried they sneak up on you, start to affect you. I have been having more migraines the past week or so and I have drank a lot of Pepto. If anyone brings it up though I act confident and nonchalant about the plan for this year for C.

He is going into Grade 5 (a whole issue all on its own - for me that is) and will be on the "other" side of the school - out of the primary wing. He will have a teacher he has never met before. The EA he had the past 3 years was supposed to have moved to a new school this year. He is anxious and worried about her. I found out last week he will also have a new Learning Support teacher and today I found out he will have a new French teacher.

Today we visited his classroom and met his teacher. She seems very nice and I am very optimistic about his year in her class (more on that later). The principal came by to tell me she still doesn't know who one of his EA's will be but the afternoon one will be an EA that has been at the school for years but never been C.'s EA other than to fill in at times. What I am really concerned about is that we are back to the school pushing for C. to have 2 EA's (one a.m., one p.m.) because they are worried he is becoming too dependant. People PLEASE! How many times do we have to go over this? We have been down this road several times before, with the same Principal! I love this woman but why oh why does she think this will work? And why would we do it now when his anxiety is so high, his OCD is in high gear and there are so many new things and people to adjust to? Doesn't she know the saying - the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

Here is part of the letter I wrote and emailed her today (I'll spare you the whole diatribe):

I wholeheartedly respect that you view C. as an individual with so much potential for independence. Thank you for that. I understand that you are of the opinion that too strong of a bond with one EA is hindering C's independence.

My view is that in previous years when he has only had one EA all day, that individual was able to build the required safe, trusting and successful relationship with C. By building this relationship it allowed him to feel secure, successful and independence could then flow from that. Last year when C. went back to having one EA towards the end of the school year, his grade 4 teacher made concerted effort to encourage C.'s independence and build his self esteem. I still remember the day she called me to tell me how wonderful he was doing, he was managing his emotions so much better and he was doing things like walking to the bathroom on his own and returning to class safely and appropriately. That was because he felt safe and secure. For C, as with any child really but just magnified in C's situation, he needs to feel safe before he can be more independent.

I would put forth that there are indeed other ways to increase C's independence. For example, having the EA give C less verbal instruction (possibly having a book with a visual schedule inside that would show C step by step what to do next); sending him on short errands to the office; having him help a teacher other than his own with a task; and so on. I believe that by linking him with more of the school community on a very brief, situation specific scale we could gradually increase his success which in turn would increase his self esteem and independence.

In all of this though, we must keep in mind that C has very real and quantifiable challenges that might preclude complete independence free from any additional support from an EA. As his parents we would love to see small, incremental steps taken toward setting him up for success. However, given his needs, I don't think we should view his collaboration with an EA as a dependency but rather as an adaptive accommodation - it is just one piece of the puzzle in making him successful and supporting his learning at school.

I very much want this to be a year of continued growth and independence for C. I've written about it before on here and I have had ongoing conversations with the school. As I told the Principal though, we have differing views on the road to get there. I have no doubt she will join me on my road soon but I left that part out when I spoke with her :-)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Walk the Walk

For the most part I think I am a fairly rational person. I like to mull things over, ruminate for a while before I comment or commit to something. I am usually afraid to offend someone or overstep my bounds. I am all too aware that words, once spoken, can not be taken back. However, for quite some time I have been mindful of the fact that there are those situations where I really should speak up. Those times whereby my silence would be taken as implicit approval or agreement. If I don't speak up I spend days replaying it in my mind, quick come backs coming to me now - when it is too late to say or do anything. For the past several months I have begun to hold myself accountable, forcing myself to speak up no matter how uncomfortable I am. No matter how much my voice wavers and my hands shake. Funny thing is, this only happens when I feel I have to state my feelings, defend my point of view. If I am "defending" the honour or rights of someone else I don't seem to have the same difficulty.

Yesterday I attended an educators conference. I am not an educator. I gained admittance by being on a task force that was partnering with a school board for an. The head of the task force had mentioned that our members could attend, for free, the daytime symposiums for the educators. I figured, free information, why not? At the very least I could use some of what I learned when doing my advocacy work with families trying to navigate the education system. I signed up for an all day learning opportunity about children with ADHD - which was to include practical tips for accommodations in the classroom. GREAT!

Once there I seriously began to reconsider my decision when in her opening words the presenter, an educator and self proclaimed parent of a "difficult kid", referred to "these kids" as "PIA's" (pronounced "pee-ah's"). Hmmm, that was an acronym I had not heard before. Maybe you all are more worldly than I am, it stands for "Pain in the Ass". My blood began to boil as this woman moved into discussion about how important it is for teachers to establish clear "community agreements" within their classroom from the very first day. Stressed in all of this are the terms such as "attentive listening", "right to pass" and "mutual respect". Hmmmm, has this woman lost it? Here she is trying to reach these teachers and enlighten them about building a community within the classroom so that every student feels safe and supported and will not be ridiculed by teacher or peer. But what, it's ok to have a bad day and walk around calling one of "these difficult kids", a kid like mine (cause believe me, he can have VERY difficult days) a PAIN IN THE ASS?

So I admit - I stewed for a while. I saw glimmers of hope - she was REALLY challenging these educators on how easy it is to make accommodations. It was obvious she was an experienced and knowledgeable educator. There was some great discussion and dialogue going on amongst the teachers and support staff about how to make accommodations work in the classroom and on taking ownership for making inclusion work. Wonderful ideas and strategies were flowing. As a parent and advocate it was wonderful to witness and I began to relax. I began to think that perhaps her proclamations of "PIA" were all about hooking her audience while she lead them to why no kid should be referred to in this way. Just maybe she was purposefully empathizing with them, joining them in the trenches, and then she was going to lead them to a whole new respectful place where we don't make derogatory remarks about students.

We broke for a lunch break and I shared the situation with a few of my fellow task force members who had come for the lunch time speaker. From their reactions I could only conclude that I was not overreacting - how could I try to convince myself this was something innocent just to avoid having to confront it? I couldn't. I walked back for the afternoon session knowing I would need to address it if she didn't somehow backpedal and right this wrong. When I realized the other speaker would be doing the entire afternoon address I began to doubt my plan to confront the issue. However, when this woman stood up to interject another reference to "PIA's" , I locked in my resolve to address the issue.

When the day came to an end, I waited for an opportunity to get this woman alone. I knew that making this public was not appropriate. I started out telling her what I did like about the day, I really wanted her to know that I was not just some disgruntled parent. I really wanted her to hear my words and deeply understand why it is not ok to call our children, especially her own child, a pain in the ass in a room full of people. I pointed out that it seemed highly hypocritical to stress community agreements of safety and mutual respect and then violate children's rights in such a way. She tried to explain her reasoning, which indeed did include trying to let the teachers know she has been in their shoes. I did not back down. Yes, I said, you have been in their shoes and I would hope that being in this position today that you would have shown them how to walk the walk of compassionate, skilled and rational teachers, not people who would use those shoes to beat up the children who so desperately need help and understanding.

We all need to walk the walk, including me. Which includes not only choosing to use respectful words when speaking of others but speaking up when someone is disrespecting others.

Edited to Add: I would be remiss to not mention that this woman did say that she was glad I came and talked to her and that she did understand what I was trying to convey. I have hope that she will choose her words and terms more carefully.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

These Three Years

Dear J
I know you think you are a big boy, and you are getting bigger but you will always be my baby boy. I cannot believe that it has been three years since you came home to us, your forever family. We are so thankful to all those who came before us and cared for you until it was our time to be your mom and dad and big brother. I laugh every time I remember back to our first meeting - you sitting in your highchair eating, food all over your face. You looked so wary of us - but within thirty minutes you were climbing all over A., a man you had no way of comprehending was going to be your dad - forever and always.

You have filled our lives with so much laughter and a few tears, mostly from all the laughing but from pride as well. When you laugh, that deep belly laugh, I cannot help but join in. That probably explains why you get away with so much - how can I scold you when I'm too busy laughing? You are so outgoing, saying "Hi" to every person you meet and making conversation with various customer service people every stop we make. You fill this house with noise and activity from the moment your feet hit the ground every morning (EARLY every morning).

You are such a good little brother - doing your share of revering your brother one minute and making sure to annoy him the next. You are so desperate to do the things your big brother can do and every day you dare to dream that you have magically grown and closed the five year age difference between you two over night. Such an imagination you have! Music is your "thing" right now and while your father and I hope you maintain your desire, we will pray that your Elaine way of dancing is just a phase.

When I look at you I cannot believe how quickly the time is passing and how old you are getting. I am trying hard to put the work aside and just spend time experiencing and enjoying life with you - there is so much you can teach me, especially about living in the moment. I promise I will try harder to embrace your energetic spirit and to be more patient as you crash and tumble your way through life. Believe me when I tell you I have a hard time remembering what life was like before you came and I hope to never experience it without you again.

We love you J., Happy Gotcha Day

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

An Open Apology to Kirk

Dear Kirk

I am sorry that I did not stick up for you more in the first grade
I am sorry that I didn't ask you to come to my house to play
I am sorry that you didn't get to live with a forever family
I am sorry that the kids at school were so horrible to you
I am sorry that they called you "Kirk the Jerk"
I am sorry that I do not remember your last name

If I could have it all to do over
. . . I would have played with you at recess when no one would, EVERY day, not just sometimes
. . . I wouldn't have let go of your hand when we were walking home and other kids were coming
. . . I would have shared my Jos Louis with you on the field trip and sat with you on the bus
. . . I would have been your best friend

I am glad that I kicked those boys HARD with my Cougar boots that day they were bullying you after school. I wish that there wouldn't have been a need for anyone to have to protect you - I wish people could have been nice to you and that grown ups would have made the world a safer place for you.

I think of you often. I feel much shame and sadness for the things that never were and all that should not have been. When I watch my son as he struggles so much to fit in, I often think of you. I will do better by him than what was done for you.

I am sorry and I hope life got better. I hope you found someone to sit with on the bus and who would share their lunch with you.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Dream a Little Dream

My husband and I used to joke, particularly at the end of a really harrowing day with C, that at least when we became parents he was already sleeping through the night. I think if we had added sleepless nights into the mix with all that was going on - we all would have toppled over and our quest for the elusive happy and adjusted family would have imploded. What I didn't realize at the time was that my own body was already robbing me of sleep. Insidiously and gradually, undiagnosed sleep issues were robbing me of REM that, low and behold, I actually need to function.

I have always snored and I have always fallen asleep at the drop of a hat. Put me in an idling car and I am out like a light. As soon as my head hits the pillow at night I am dead to the world. It drives my husband crazy. What also drives my husband crazy is my snoring and gasping for air. I knew I snored - LOUD! It has been a source of embarrassment for me my entire life. I make jokes about it to defuse my embarrassment as I had been lead to believe as a kid that it was just my cross to bear. But the gasping for air was new for me, or so I thought. I kept meaning to see the doctor about it - I really did. I knew I probably had sleep apnea but instead of taking the time to get it checked out I pushed it to the bottom of my huge to-do list.

I threw myself into being a mom, a wife and working with kids with special needs. Sure I noticed that I was drowning in paperwork that never seemed to get done, that the housework was largely left undone for days at a time (ok, weeks) (OK! months). So I went to my doctor - secretly convinced that I had some horrific disease that was robbing me of my energy and that I was going to die. Funny how I didn't think to tell my doctor that I snored or that I thought I might have sleep apnea. All the bloodwork and tests came back negative. So I joined a gym, convinced I was just lazy. I dragged myself there for several weeks, wondering when I was going to start getting that endorphin rush I remembered from my work out stint in my early 20's. It never came and my work out clothes have been sitting unused in a bag for a VERY long time.

Early in the New Year my hubby threatened divorce if I didn't do something. Then I started waking up with a bad headache, often a migraine, every morning. I was waking up everyday feeling like I had a hang over, with none of the fun benefits the night before. I went to the doctor and he immediately made a referral to the sleep clinic. I know many people who put off going for a sleep test because they don't want to wear the "fighter pilot" mask if they have sleep apnea. I put it off because invariably when I think I have a "simple" issue it blows up in my face (all stories for a different post).

I went to the sleep clinic in late June. It was . . . interesting. You would think a sleep clinic would have sound proof rooms. I am sure my snoring kept the light sleepers awake and the conversations between the insomniacs and staff jostled me repeatedly. The best though was the guy in the room beside mine, we shared a bathroom. Dude, if you are reading this - I don't think you have sleep issues - I think you need to go to a urologist and cut down on your fluid intake. Every hour on the hour the guy was in there peeing like a race horse. So NOT the sound I really want to be woken up with. Anyhow - I made it through that night and woke up with a killer headache which lead me to believe I had "performed" exhaustively that night.

3 LONG weeks later I get a call from the sleep clinic. A nurse there wanted me to call back and get my results over the phone. I figure anytime a doctor gives results over the phone it means that nothing is wrong. WRONG!!!! Turns out I have Central Sleep Apnea, not the Obstructive Sleep Apnea that the majority of people with apnea have. So, my brain forgets to send signals to my muscles to breath. Hmmm, yes that sounds like something I would do. I wake up anywhere from 44 to 88 times on average an hour. No wonder I am tired.

So now I have a CPAP machine that blows air up my nose at night - and yes I look like a fighter pilot. If I talk while I am wearing it I sound like Darth Vader. Very cool according to the kids. People keep asking me if I hate it and saying they could never wear it. Honestly, I would wear or do almost anything at this point if it meant getting a good night sleep and waking up refreshed. Since starting to use it I have had far less headaches in the morning. It is going to be a long road because Central apnea is not as straightforward as the other kind.

Last Friday I went for my second sleep study. It was a horrible night. I kept waking up gasping for breath - which is what the doctor (and my hubby) say that I have always done but this time I was actually conscious of it. It felt like I was suffocating every 30 seconds or so. I thought the night would never end. But then, sometime around 5 a.m., the sleep tech was able to get the pressure at an optimal level for me and I did something I haven't remembered doing (and probably haven't done) for a VERY long time. I dreamt! It was wonderful and after I woke up I had such a longing. This whole sleep issue crept up on me so gradually that I never stopped to realize that the wonderful, powerful, dynamic dreams that I used to have had stopped. I want them back.

We all need to dream don't we?