Welcome to the Nerd Side

Matt and I have always been huge fans of the Star Wars franchise.  We’ve seen all of the movies, read most of the books, and even been to a convention or two.  So back when Brendan was 8 we decided that it was time to introduce him to the movies.

At the time he said that he enjoyed them, but as he paid little to no attention to the movies as they were playing we weren’t really sure that was true. Since then he’s shown a passing interest here and there when the subject of Star Wars is brought up but expressed no desire to watch the movies again. That meant that when The Force Awakens was released late last year we didn’t bother taking the kids to the theater.  Why spend all that money on movie tickets for a movie that they’d shown little to no interest in.

Then a few months ago Matt bought a new game for he and the boys to play, Star Wars:  X-Wing.  If you aren’t familiar with the game, the basic explanation is that you have little miniatures of the ships from the movies and books and you move them around the table in battles.  Both of the boys were immediately taken with the game.  Cameron has some trouble focusing through some of the longer games, but even with his attention span (or lack there of) he enjoys playing.  Kaylee even requests to have a battle once in a while though she ends up flying her ships off the table more often than actually doing battle.

Brendan is, by far, the one most interested in the game.  He and daddy battle on a regular basis and even occasionally go up to one of the local game shops to play.  Playing the game so frequently has given him quite a bit of interest in the ships that are represented in the game and he began to want to see them in action.  So we decided that maybe it was time to dust off the movies and introduce Brendan to them again.

Our journey began last night with The Phantom Menace and I’m sure that some of our friends who are die hard fans of the series would be shaking their heads that we started him off with what’s considered to be the absolute worst movie in the series, but we felt that it would make more sense to Brendan if we showed the movies in chronological order.

We weren’t sure how invested Brendan would get in the movie because none of the ships he’s played with in the game appear in the first three Star Wars movies, but as it turns out he loved it.  According to him it was the best movie he’d ever seen.  That gives me hope that he will enjoy the remaining movies in the series even more, but as he spent the bulk of the movie laughing hysterically at Jar Jar Binks…well I can only shake my head at that.

All I know is that its really nice that Brendan and Matt have this to share.  I admit I’m a huge fan too, but Brendan doesn’t seem to connect with me on this subject like he does with Matt, and that’s okay.  I just stand back and let the boys have their fun.

Welcome to the Nerd Side Brendan.

 

 

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Screentime Rant

I have never been a big fan of my kids playing video games non stop.  I have spent years fighting the good fight and limiting the amount of time they spend in front of a TV or device.  I’ve always felt as though I was doing well with my anti-electronics campaign, at least until last summer when it all came crashing down.

Last summer was the summer we decided to move.  The last time I had moved I had only one child and he was only about a year and a half old.  All I remember about that move was that whenever we would get a call about a showing I’d have to quickly scramble to pick up all of Brendan’s toys and get them put away while he was following along behind me and getting them back out.  So the thought of trying to move with three children playing toys was much more daunting to me.  I knew it would be near impossible to keep the toys cleaned up all the time, even though my kids were much older and much more able to help me in that task.

So we made the decision to pack away every single one of the kids toys when we put our house on the market.  Matt worried about them having nothing to do over summer vacation but I assured him that between camps and video games that the kids would be more than entertained for the weeks or months that it took our house to sell.  And I was right, the kids had zero issue with filling all of their time with video games.  I, on the other hand, was driven absolutely insane by it.  My natural instinct was to holler and lecture about the amount of time they were spending in front of the screens, but I tried to let it go.  I knew there was nothing else to do inside the house and we were actually outside of the house quite frequently.

Reminding myself that this was only temporary I made it through the 4 months that we were selling our house and told the kids that once we got settled into the new place that the video game gravy train would come to an end.  Except that it didn’t.  Oh sure, their toys were back out and we now had school to take up their time during the day.  But no matter how hard I tried to go back to my old ways of limiting their screen time I had to admit that things were just going to be a little bit different going forward.

For starters Brendan was getting old enough that he just wasn’t that in to toys anymore so if I denied him video games as often as I had before he would be hard pressed to find something to occupy his time.  Because the other big thing missing from our new neighborhood was a park.  We’d lived only a few doors down from a playground pretty much for all of Brendan’s life and whenever I wouldn’t let him play video games he’d run off to the park.

The other two kids were just as hard to break of the habit.  At 4 and 7 I wouldn’t accept that they weren’t into toys, and the set up of the new house meant that their toys were actually stored in their bedrooms instead of in the basement play room.  I thought that this would actually increase the amount of time spent playing with their toys, but I was wrong.  It seemed that being separated from their toys for 4 months made them not want them anymore rather than making them have a new appreciation for what they hadn’t been able to play with for months.  So no matter how hard I tried to go back to my old ways it felt like the kids were getting more and more video game time every single night.

I knew we had to do something, but at first I had no good ideas.  Summer was fast approaching, a time when I knew the battle over video games would become that much more fierce.  Especially since we decided to cut back a little bit this summer and only enroll the kids into one camp instead of multiple.  The answer to my problems came to me one day as I scrolled through my facebook feed (and yes, I do see the irony in finding a solution to get my kids to spend less time online while being online myself)

The basic essence of the solution was to give the kids a list of things they needed to get done before they could have any screen time.  And screen time didn’t just mean playing video games it also meant watching TV, which I was glad to adopt because in the last few months of the school year Cameron had traded video game time for watching Minecraft videos on YouTube pretty exclusively.

So summer vacation began and I allowed my kids a few liberties during the first few days.  They got to sleep as late as they wanted to, and I allowed them to play video games and watch TV as much as they wanted.  Once that first half a week was over though things began to look very different around here.  They now have 5 things they must accomplish before I will allow them any time in front of a screen.  They have to shower and dress, complete all of their chores, play outside, do something creative (such as build with legos, paint a picture, or do some writing), and read at least one chapter in a book.

So far it’s been going fairly well.  The kids don’t seem to mind the list of things they need to get done and each of them has one thing that they seem to spend way more than the minimum required time working on which I am certainly not going to complain about.  They are required to spend no less than 30 minutes outside (which thanks to an idea from Matt’s sister now includes a 5 minute penalty added to their time for every time they come to the door an ask if they’re done yet).  Brendan has been spending no less than 2 hours outside every single day.  Kaylee is the same with creativity.  On Wednesday it was 4:00 before she finished her list and was able to play video games because she spent the entire morning drawing and creating a book.  The one that Cameron spends the most time on is reading.  He and I have been reading Charlotte’s Web together and he never wants to stop after just one chapter.

There’s just one task that I’m having a lot of fights about, and believe it or not it’s the shower.  Cameron and Kaylee both are resisting taking their shower every day.  Brendan doesn’t fight it too much, because his shower is the first thing he does every single day during the school year.  He is at the age where he pretty much never gets to skip it.  Kaylee still has the occasional skip day so she tries to wheedle her way out of it whenever she can.  My biggest arguer is by far Cameron.  The problem I have with him is that during the school year he takes his shower at night in order to both save us time and because he is the worlds most difficult child to get out of bed in the mornings.  He argues that he should be able to continue to take his shower at night during summer vacation, but the problem with that is that we are a lot of times so busy that it isn’t feasible to do it in the evenings.

Despite the hygienic set backs I am very happy with the amount of screen time that the kids are getting.  It’s a bit more than they used to get but at least I know they are getting a lot of other activities in during their days and not just a bunch of screen time.

Chips Ahoy

This summer I have started a new reward program with my kids.  I got the idea from some friends of ours who told us about a program they were doing with their daughter.  We made some minor tweaks so it would work for us, but the essence of the idea is still the same.

The way it works is I set both Brendan and Kaylee a goal of earning something huge that they’ve been wanting for a very long time.  In Brendan’s case that would be a cell phone, in Kaylee’s piercing her ears.  We gave them the date that we would be willing to get them those things and their goal is to earn the items sooner.

They can earn their way closer to their goal by being extra responsible.  By that I mean that they don’t earn their way closer by doing just the right thing.  I expect them to do the right thing at all times.  What they can do is go above and beyond my expectations.  Brendan could comfort his siblings if they’re upset or Kaylee could volunteer to do some cleaning around the house above her expected chores.  There’s a lot of things they could do to earn their way closer.  I told them I won’t make a list of things to do, they need to be caught doing them by their dad and I to get credit.

On the flip side of that they can push the goal date out further as well.  This happens when they’re irresponsible.  All kids are irresponsible some of the time and for the most part I’m not calling them out on the mundane things.  But each of them has a couple of specific bad habits that I’m trying to curb and those automatically push the goal date out.

For Brendan the two things I am looking for him to get better about are doing his school work during the school year and his personal hygiene every day.  Even though we’ve been having him wear deodorant for 3 years now he still will not put it on unless we’ve told him to, he conveniently “forgets” to brush his teeth about 50% of the time and there has been more than one occasion where he’s gotten out of the shower without bothering to wash himself.

Kaylee’s big no-no is being bossy.  Despite being only 5 years old she absolutely thinks that she is the center of the universe and that all must bow to her will.  We are making an effort to teach her to word herself differently and to allow other people to make decisions once in a while.  So far she’s struggling quite a bit with this and isn’t making much progress toward her goal of getting her ears pierced.

In order to keep track of their progress toward their goals I bought each of them a jar and filled it with poker chips, they reach their goal when the jar is empty.  When they’re good we take chips out of their jar, and when they aren’t we add chips back into the jar.  We are still only a few weeks into this so at the moment they’ve actually both pushed their goal dates out past where they started, but only by a few days.  I think once they really catch on to what causes chips to be added they’ll curb those behaviors, which is the main thing we are looking for, and begin to make steady progress toward their goal.  Because both are being quite helpful and have earned at least one chip closer every day, it’s just the things they’re not doing as well that are pushing it out.

At this point you’re probably wondering where Cameron fits into all of this.  Well he doesn’t, at least not on the program that those two are on.  For starters, no matter how much we talked with him and amongst ourselves, Matt and I could not find anything big that Cameron wanted to work towards earning.  Then on top of that we had an incident go down around the same time we were starting the program with the other kids that put him onto a different path.

When Cameron is not on his ADHD medications he has a very hard time keeping his temper in check.  While we try to be understanding about why he is angry, not being medicated is not an excuse that we will accept, so we try to redirect him and hold him accountable for his actions.  In the last 3-4 months he has picked up this very bad habit of screaming “I hate you” at us whenever he was in an angry mood and not getting his way.  We redirected and flat out punished him at those times but it wasn’t enough to stop him from making those comments.

Finally as we were going to the grocery store to pick up a few items one afternoon, I denied
Cameron something (to be honest I no longer remember what), he ran ahead of me, turned around and screamed as loudly as he could, “I hate you!  You’re all losers!”  That was enough for me.  We decided that drastic measures needed to be taken in order to teach him that this was not acceptable.  We decided to hit him where it would hurt most…his video games.

We took away all screen time privileges and told him that he would need to earn them back.  I bought him a jar as well, and unlike his brother and sister his goal is to fill his jar.  Similar to what they’re doing he earns his way closer with good behavior and earns his way further with bad behavior.  The biggest difference is that if he screams “I hate you” or something along those lines at any of us all chips are removed from his jar and he has to start over completely.

Before you think that I am being completely unfair to him by holding him to that, he only has to earn 50 chips to get all of his privileges back, and he earns small pieces of it back at 10 and then 25 chips.  Comparitively Brendan  is looking at approximately 250 chips to get to his goal and Kaylee’s is over 500.  Those are big goals for big rewards, but they have nothing that will reset their goal all the way to the beginning.  We haven’t decided what to do for Cameron when he finishes earning his privileges back.  Maybe by then he’ll have come up with a large reward that he wants to work for.  Maybe we just continue on with the small rewards, since this program is so far working so well for him.  Either way I think we will need to come up with something soon because he’s almost halfway to his final goal after just a few weeks.

 

Are You Going to Miss Me?

Matt and I have always been extremely careful about how we discuss weight loss in front of the kids.  We want them to focus on getting or remaining healthy rather than focusing on the actual act of losing the weight.  This will become especially important as Kaylee gets older and is faced with the unrealistic stereotypes of what girls bodies should look like.  This all comes about because I had some trouble shedding the baby weight I gained with Kaylee.  And by some trouble I mean that I never shed any of it.  It’s bothered me for quite a while, but to be honest with three kids underfoot, two of them essentially toddlers at the same time, I just didn’t have the patience or energy to do anything about it.

Since going back to work in September and walking up and down the stairs of our school 150 times every single day I’ve been able to shed about 10-15 pounds.  I’ve made it my personal goal to double that over summer vacation if I can.  Earlier this week I was talking to Matt about my goal and trying to determine if he wanted to get into an exercise routine with me to help him meet his own weight loss goals.  During the course of the conversation (which was taking place in the middle of my kitchen) I shook my belly and said to him that I’d just like to be able to get rid of it.  That was the end of the conversation.

A minute or two later Kaylee, whom I had forgotten was still sitting at the table finishing up her dinner, asked me if I had a lump on my belly.  I was quite confused by this question, told her I didn’t and asked why she wanted to know.  She then asked, while imitating the gesture I’d just made to Matt, why I wanted to get rid of my belly.  It was then that I realized that she’d listened to my entire conversation with Matt about our weight loss intentions and had done exactly as I feared any of my kids would.  She was focused on the belly rather than the reason I wanted to lose it.

I tried hard to explain to her why it was that I was interested in losing my belly.  That it had grown bigger than I wanted it to and I wanted to lose some of it so I could be healthy for her and her brothers.  Again she heard what she wanted to, stuck out her belly as far as she possibly could and said that she needed to lose her fat belly too.  (which in my conversation with Matt I never referred to my belly as fat so I have no idea why she decided to refer to hers as fat).  I tried again to emphasize that at 5 years old she needed to have a little body fat and that she would use it to grow big and strong whereas I was no longer growing so I had to monitor and control how much fat was in my body.

The next question she hammered me with was asking why I wanted to get healthy anyway.  That was a first for me.  Whenever we’ve had similar conversations with the boys they totally seemed to understand and be on board with mommy and daddy trying to do things to get healthy.  I explained that I wanted to be as healthy as possible for her and the boys sake so that I would live a nice full life, and be around for them as long as possible.  I went on to explain that if I were unhealthy I might not live as long and wouldn’t it be sad if she didn’t have her mommy around anymore.

Once the words were out of my mouth I became concerned that Kaylee would begin to obsess about the thought of mommy and daddy dying.  Brendan has always been especially sensitive to that topic, and Cameron would have taken that statement and wanted to know all of the different possibilities that could potentially lead to Matt and I’s death no matter how small or trivial they seemed.  Not Kaylee though.  She took that statement in complete stride.  When I asked if she would miss me if I weren’t around her exact response was, “Eh.  Probably”

Probably?  PROBABLY? Are you kidding me?  My own five year old has audacity to say that she wouldn’t even miss her own mother if I were to die tomorrow?  Wow that is harsh.

Seriously though that made me laugh harder than anything and I had to share her unenthusiastic response to  the thought of me dying right away with Matt.  It was definitely one for the memory book.

Kung Fu Princess

I’ve written about such serious things this week that I thought it was time for one that was a little more fun.

Back when I was 16 my best friend was taking martial arts lessons at a local karate school.  Somehow she talked me and one of my other friends into taking lessons offered by her school at the local community center.  There we were at least twice as old as every other student in the class learning the basics of martial arts.  Turns out, it was a lot of fun.  By the time I got out of high school I’d earned my way up to the third rank.

Fast forward a few years to after Matt and I had gotten married.  I’d re-connected with my friend and found that not only were the lessons I took in high school still being offered at the very same community center, but now my friend had actually taken over as the instructor of those lessons.  So, Matt and I signed up to take her adult class.  This time around I managed to earn one more rank, and Matt earned enough ranks to be on equal footing with me.  We quit because I was pregnant with Brendan and it was quite a few years before we had time to think about getting back into it.

Around the time Brendan turned 6 we decided that karate might be a good thing for him.  He had trouble doing sports and other activities because he has low muscle tone.  We thought that working out like that on a regular basis might help him strengthen his muscles and build up endurance.  He stuck with it for quite a while and even earned the second rank, but it was hard for him and he could see that he wasn’t on par with the other kids in his class and so eventually he dropped out.

During that time I realized how much I missed doing karate myself, so I dug out my uniform and joined back up.  This time around I stuck with it for more than a year and was rewarded with two additional ranks.  However, life intervened again.  I earned my second rank just a few months before Kaylee was born and despite assuring my friend that I wouldn’t drop out completely and that I’d be back soon after Kaylee was born that was not meant to be.  I quickly learned that having an infant and a toddler at the same time was a whole lot harder than it was having an infant and a school age child and so karate went on the back burner for the third time in my life.

I actually ran into one of my friends from the adult class a year or so ago and he tried hard to convince me to come back and re-join the class.  I was actively considering it until…I broke my leg.  Once that happened all thoughts of going back to karate were completely erased from my mind.  The last 8 months have been spent doing everything I can (which unfortunately there isn’t much I can actually do) to get the nerves in my leg and foot working again.

Somewhere in this time I had a conversation with my daughter about the karate classes that Brendan and I used to take.  She decided that, of course, she needed to do it to because if there is ever anything that her brothers have done before her she must do them as well.  I contacted my friend and sure enough there was a new session just starting so I enrolled Kaylee.  I wasn’t sure how well this would go over because truthfully it is a lot of work, and more importantly you can’t talk during the class.  I knew this would be a major point of contention for my daughter.

Despite that, she actually enjoyed the class and was learning a little bit.  Her classmates seemed to have almost no interest in learning and were holding her back a little bit.  Thankfully, after taking the classes off and on for the past 20 years, I still knew all of the requirements for the first rank and was able to supplement my friends teachings at home.  After a couple of sessions when it became apparent that my daughter would be sticking with the classes my friend moved her up from beginner to the advanced class where she had more assistants and could spend some good quality time working with Kaylee to get her ready for her second rank.

Since moving up to the advanced class at the beginning of this month her progress has really skyrocketed.  She’s still not quite ready for her next rank yet but she’s getting there which is really impressive to me given her age.  I can remember learning what she is when I was 16 and it was a lot for me to try and remember.  I can’t even imagine how she’s processing the same information at 5.

Now that my kids are older, and we don’t have any babies or toddlers at home I’ve tried to convince Matt and Brendan both that maybe it’s time for them to give karate another chance.  Neither is keen to take up the hobby again, and despite telling my friend that there’s no way I can go back with no feeling in my left foot I’ve been contemplating what we could do to accommodate that injury and thinking maybe just maybe it’s time for me to go back and finally finish what I started.

I Can See Right Through You

About 6 months ago we noticed that Cameron was making this horrible noise at random times throughout the day.  It was a cross between a snort and a throat clear.  At first we weren’t sure what to think of it.  He didn’t appear to be sick, and it wouldn’t be the first time that one of my children picked up a completely random irritating habit, Brendan is the king of habits that make you want to rip your hair out.  So for a while we ignored it and when that didn’t work we’d draw his attention to it and ask him to stop.

After 2-3 months of the issue not getting any better we finally decided that maybe we should take him in to see the doctor.  Our pediatrician diagnosed him with chronic rhinitis (constant runny nose), and sent us to an allergist to see if there was something that Cameron was allergic to.  It took us yet another month to actually get into the allergy doctor and in that month I wracked my brain like crazy to think what Cameron could suddenly be exposed to that he would develop this kind of severe allergy.  The only thing I could come up with that had changed in his life was our house.  The people who lived here before us had two large dogs, and no matter how many times I have cleaned, and scrubbed, and steamed the carpets I am still finding random deposits of dog hair.

I had a vague understanding of what to expect from allergy testing, and while I am usually a big advocate of making sure my kids know what to expect from their doctor appointments, I decided that in this case I would keep Cameron in the dark until the last possible second.  And I’m glad I did, because what I would have described to Cameron as shots, the nurse assured him would be only pricks.  He took the news that his arms would be pricked a couple dozen times about as well as you can expect any 8 year old to do.

I fully expected Cameron to scream, cry, and carry on when they came in to do the actual shots.  This is the same kid that cowered under a bench an sobbed one day because there were gnats at the park.  He did cry and moan a bit as the nurse was actually administering the pricks, but to be honest I’d like to moan and cry a bit when getting shots too.  What impressed me was that they told him that if he moved his arms that the stuff inside the pricks would get all mixed together and they’d have to start over.  By golly that was enough to make the kid sit still as a statue for the 30 minutes the test took.  And this is my hyperactive child who can’t even sit still through dinner at night.

When all was said and done the doctor came back in and let us know that Cameron was allergic to nothing.  He didn’t have the slightest reaction to anything that they tested for.  Which was great news.  Sort of.  I mean, yay, I’m glad he isn’t allergic to anything, but that still left me at square one for what in the world was causing him to have all of these sinus issues.  I figured that would be the end of things for the allergist and that we would need to search out an ear, nose and throat doctor next, but that wasn’t the case.  The allergy doctor would not be satisfied that Cameron had a runny nose for no reason.  The next thing he suggested was to have an X-ray done of Cameron’s head.

Within a few minutes the X-ray was complete and the doctor came in again with more news.  Cameron’s issues were stemming from a sinus infection that hadn’t cleared up on its own, and that with a round of antibiotics we’d be able to clear it up and he’d quit making that horrendous sound.  Now I admit, I am not a doctor so when they tell me something needs to be done I generally trust that they know more than I do.  However, that did not stop me from wondering how in the world you can see a sinus infection on an X-ray.  An MRI, or CT scan sure, those look at tissue.  But an X-ray?  The last time I checked those only look at your bones.

Despite my reservations I figured that one round of antibiotics couldn’t hurt, and maybe it would turn out that the doctor was right.  Cameron took the full course of the medicine and I have to admit he was sounding better.  He still made the sound from time to time but it wasn’t as deep throated as it was and he was definitely doing it less frequently.  The doctor had asked us to come back after Cameron completed the antibiotics but like the first time it took us a full month to get back in to see him (and that was with me making the follow up appointment before we left the office from the original appointment).

In between all of this we were all due for dental cleanings.  When I took Cameron in for his I mentioned to the dentist that one of Cameron’s adult teeth had come in but the corresponding baby tooth had not fallen out.  He recommended that we pull the baby tooth, but said that before he did that he wanted Cameron to have an orthodontic consultation because, like his brother before him, Cameron had some major crowding issues and he said by waiting we could see if the orthodontist wanted any additional teeth removed and then he could do it all at once.

Which leads me to this week.  School let out on Tuesday, and Cameron had his orthodontist appointment on Thursday, and his follow up allergy appointment on Friday.  I knew that the orthodontist would be taking X-rays of his mouth (because how else is he going to determine if Cameron needs work), and I had a strong suspicion that the allergy doctor would take X-rays of his sinuses to see if the infection had been cleared up with the antibiotics.

Turns out I was right on both fronts.  The good news was that while the orthodontist agreed that Cameron’s baby tooth needed to come out, he didn’t feel Cameron needed any additional teeth out or orthodontic treatments at this time.  They’re going to monitor him for a couple of years to make sure his mouth grows as much as they’re thinking it will, but for now he’s in the clear.  As for the allergy doctor he said the antibiotics did kill a lot of the infection, but the reason we are still hearing Cameron snort once in a while is that a little bit of it is still hanging on.  He prescribed another round of antibiotics just as strong as the last dose and he’s confident that this time we will knock out the issue.

Cameron was quite happy to be done with these appointments, and super glad that all he was required to do was smile for the camera.

 

The More Things Change

Talking about how much things have changed yesterday really got me thinking about all of the things that haven’t changed.  Number one on that list is how Brendan reacts to school ending.  To put it bluntly, he just can’t handle it.  Admittedly, when he was young it was a lot harder for both him, and us to deal with.  Brendan does everything by routine, and when you set the routine of going to school 5 days a week, and being home all day only 2 days a week and then you change that up for summer vacation its sure to mess with his coping abilities.

The story I remember best from when he was that age was his first full year in pre-school.  The district was bussing him across town to a pre-school best suited to his needs and it met 5 days a week.  Everything was going just peachy until the first time the kids were out of school on a break.  I can remember Brendan standing in front of me sobbing because it was Thursday, and he was supposed to go to school on Thursday’s.  No matter how many times we explained about school vacations he was absolutely fixated on the fact that it was Thursday and he needed to be at school.

Nowadays he’s much better about school breaks.  He’s come to realize the same school breaks come every single year and so he looks at them as part of the routine vs. a break in his routine.  Except for one school break, and that would be summer vacation.  To this day he can not handle the change from school to summer.  I keep hoping that one of these years he will be able to make the transition from school to summer without having a complete meltdown, but this year is not that year.

Take Tuesday for example.  School let out mid-day so I scheduled Brendan an eye doctor appointment for the afternoon.  Up to the point that we got to the doctors office Brendan seemed to be his normal happy self.  Once in the doctors office I noticed that he had a very large hangnail on his thumb that he could not seem to leave alone.  Knowing that if it got torn off unexpectedly that it was going to hurt like crazy, I got him a band aid so that it wouldn’t get caught on anything and so he would leave it alone until I got home and cut it with a nail clipper.

From the moment I put the band aid on his thumb he went from completely rational to out and out crazy.  He absolutely could not deal with the fact that there was a band aid on his finger and he kept trying to rip it off.  Sitting in the waiting room he cried, he whined, he became completely obsessed with the band aid and could not focus on anything else.  The meltdown went on until the point that they called him back for his appointment.  Thankfully that distracted him enough that we were able to get through the rest of the appointment without further issue.  I hoped that maybe that was a one off scenario.  There’s lots of textures that bother Brendan and I can’t truly say when the last time I put a band aid on him was.

Wednesday proved that it was not one off and that we are following the same routine that we do every single summer.  Wednesday Brendan came to me after his shower and asked if he could go outside.  My exact words were, “not right this minute, it’s supposed to rain, but I’ll check the forecast and see when it’s supposed to clear up.”  That wasn’t good enough.  He stormed to his room and began muttering to himself and running between his window and door, a sure sign that he’s not handling a situation well.  I let him run himself out, and hoped that would help him to deal with the rest of the day.

Nope.

Later in the afternoon he wanted to play Xbox.  It had been a while since the Xbox had been turned on and things weren’t working right.  I was in my bedroom folding clothes and all I can hear is him screaming and sobbing at this video game because it won’t work for him.  I talked to him about it, but as I’m not a video game expert I had no idea how to fix the problem.  I calmly suggested that he wait until Matt got home from work so he could fix the Xbox and then he could play that night.  I also reminded him that it was not that big a deal because it was just the first day of summer vacation and we had plenty more time to get some gaming in.  Despite those reassurances he spent another big chunk of time in his room running and muttering.

And that’s pretty much how the day progressed.  Something little going against what Brendan had in his head and him not being able to deal with the change.  Unfortunately this can and has lasted up to 2 weeks.  He becomes almost unbearable to live with because you never know what tiny little detail is going to set him off.  The other two have learned through the years to give Brendan a wide berth and pretty much just steer clear of him until things improve.  Having more room to spread out in the new house really helps with that as there aren’t as many arguments between Brendan and Cameron about who gets to be in their room when Brendan is having a meltdown.

Their camps start in a little over a week, and I can only hope that Brendan can pull himself together by the time they start.

Coming Full Circle

When I began this blog 4 years ago, Brendan had just wrapped up second grade, Cameron was preparing to go into preschool and Kaylee was only beginning to walk and talk.  Now here we are 4 years later and Brendan has wrapped up his first year in middle school, Kaylee her first year of elementary school, and Cameron is in the same place that Brendan was when I quit my job.

It’s interesting to finally be at this point.  When Brendan was Cameron’s age he seemed so old to me.  It was the first time I’d had an 8 almost 9 year old, he was already halfway through his elementary education and I couldn’t figure out how time was getting away from me so much that I had this big kid in my house where my baby had once been.  Now Cameron is preparing to make the same leap into third grade and I don’t feel the same way at all.

Part of that is just a parenting perspective.  When you have an almost seventh grader in the house, an almost third grader doesn’t look nearly so large.  In fact we generally lump our kids into two categories:  Brendan, and the little kids.  Not necessarily a fair grouping, but with Cameron and Kaylee so close in age they seem to go through phases at around the same time.  Meanwhile Brendan will have already been through that phase, gotten past it and started on a new one.  He’s really not that much older; he’s 4 years older than Cam, who’s only 2 years older than Kay, but that extra two years seems to make a lot of difference in what he’s going through.

The other reason I don’t think Cameron seems as “big” as Brendan did at this age is because he is actually physically smaller.  All of my kiddos are tall.  It’s only in the last year or so that Brendan hasn’t been a full head taller than a good chunk of his classmates.  That’s not to say he isn’t still tall, he recently hit 5’7″ and is pretty darn close to being taller than me.  (I’m not quite sure I’m ready for that day yet). And despite being the youngest kindergartener at the school, Kaylee is taller than a pretty hefty chunk of her classmates.  Cameron, though, seems to be more on par in height with his classmates.  He’s not the tallest, not the smallest.  He is, however, one of the skinniest, and that makes him seem so much smaller than he actually is.  I’ve written about his weight issues in the past, so I won’t get into that again today, but I keep hoping that one of these days I’ll find the magic food that he will eat a million pounds of and plump up just a little bit.

The other thing kind of weirding me out this summer is knowing that with Kaylee being done with Kindergarten that I will never have another kid going into Kindergarten.  I have zero regrets about putting her into school this past year.  She proved that she could definitely handle the workload and the information, and I really think being able to socialize with kids her own age on a regular basis has helped her as well.  Way more so than another year of pre-school would have.  And whether I put her into school last year or this year, I would have been having the same thoughts about not having a Kindergartener any more.  I wouldn’t say I’m sad exactly, just having a little trouble coming to grips with the changes.

Brendan is causing me a similar amount of anxiety.  Sixth grade was definitely a struggle for him, and it took him until the last 6 weeks of the school year to finally get things under control.  It was hard to watch him struggle, and most certainly frustrating at times when he brought the trouble down onto himself, but hopefully we’ve survived the worst of the adjustments and it will be smooth sailing from here on out in middle school.

It’s not the struggles that are causing my anxiety as much as knowing that he’s already 1/3 of the way through middle school, and that there’s only two more years before I will have a high schooler in my house.  Being the youngest in my family, and marrying a man who is also the youngest has always given me a complex of feeling younger than I actually am.  It was a big shock to me this year when I realized that I am older than a pretty sizable chunk of people at my job.  At my last job I was one of the youngest supervisors, so to find that I am now one of the older people among my coworkers felt very weird since internally I still feel young and inexperienced.

All my crazy quirks aside, today I start my fifth summer as a stay at home mom.  A lot has changed over the past four years and I’m certain it will continue to do so over the next four.  Regardless, some things never change and this fall I’m looking forward to again having a third grader.  Third grade was Brendan’s all time favorite school year and I can only hope that Cameron enjoys it just as much.

Making Adjustments Part 4

Little miss Kaylee has been truly amazing in adjusting to her new changes.  When we were going through the early entrance testing to get her into kindergarten I knew I was making the right decision.  Even with that, I had a brief bit of doubt right before school that while she could manage it that she just wouldn’t fit in.

Those doubts are long gone.  Kaylee is definitely having no social troubles at school.  Well, I take that back.  Her trouble is the fact that she is too social.  In fact she’s had to be moved a few times at school because she can’t keep her socializing to recess time.

Despite that obstacle she is doing quite well in kindergarten.  When we went for conferences in October, her teacher told us that they were testing the kids on how far they could count and that Kaylee could count all the way to 40.  Then she added that she could probably count even further than that but they stopped her at 40 because that was well past where she needed to be at that point.

So while my daughter might be a bit young to be in kindergarten, I absolutely would not change my decision to put her into school when we did.  She’s proven that she can handle it and I think it would have been a huge mistake to hold her back for another year.  I’m interested to see if her learning curve stays this steep as we move onto first grade and beyond.

The only member of the family I haven’t discussed adjustments for is my hubby.  It’s not that he hasn’t been adjusting like the rest of us, it’s just that there isn’t much to tell.  He changed jobs in April and like any job there’s been a bit of a learning curve with it.  The timing of the move during the first few months of his new job probably didn’t help his stress level any, but he’s come through like a champ.

So that’s it.  That is how my family has been adjusting to all the changes and upheavals in our life since we made the decision to move out of our home of 10 years.  While we are physically settled into our new house, it doesn’t quite feel like home yet.  Kaylee’s room is still blue (the previous occupant was a boy), a lot of the walls need to be painted from where pictures hung, and the basement still sits unfinished.  But every day we are working to get the house fixed up the way we want it to be, and before we know it this house will be as much like home as our previous one was, if not better.

Making Adjustments Part 3

We expected Cameron to have, by far, the easiest time adjusting to all of the changes in our lives, and on the whole he has.  His biggest adjustment here at home has been learning how to deal with having his own room.  The funny thing is that Cameron is the reason why the boys have their own rooms.

For as long as I can remember Cameron has been an insomniac.  His issues with ADHD make it difficult for him to settle down and fall asleep at night.  It used to be so bad that he would get out of bed and come into my room two or three times every single night.  That was the worst, it was seriously like having a newborn in the house again because I would get 2-3 hours of sleep in between each time he’d get up.  We worked with a psychologist for a few months and helped Cameron learn how to self soothe so that if he did wake up in the night he could get himself back to sleep without needing to wake me up too.

Even with her help though he still had trouble getting to bed at night.  There were some nights where he would still be awake well after 10, and wake up the next morning before 6.  We worried immensely about how little sleep he was getting and it didn’t help that his light sleeping habits were interrupting Brendan at night as well.  We finally talked to our pediatrician about the issue and he recommended we give Cameron melatonin at night.  We worried about giving Cameron more medication (he was already taking two different medications every day to keep his ADHD issues under control) but since it was a natural supplement vs another drug we decided to at least give it a shot.

The melatonin has worked wonders for helping Cameron at night.  One of the other issues we had with him in the evenings was once we put him to bed at 8:30 every night he would be up a multitude of times for various reasons.  Either he suddenly needed a drink, or daddy forgot to hug him, or he needed the one specific stuffed animal that nobody could find, or he needed to tell us something.  The list went on and on.  With the melatonin he was still awake (it didn’t make him sleepy) but he was calm and relaxed enough that once we put him to bed he’d stay there until he fell asleep.

Even with that change earlier this year he still was awake for far longer at night than he should have been.  To keep himself entertained he’d play in his bed at night and there was where the issues with the boys sharing a room began.  Brendan is one of those kids that needs a solid 12-15 hours of sleep to function properly.  With his brother in the bed below him making noise for hours on end it interrupted his sleep pattern making him that much more of a bear.

While we were moving over the summer I took down the boys bunk bed, staged their bedroom as an office, and had the boys sleep on air mattresses in separate rooms.  That little change did wonders for Brendan’s attitude and reaffirmed my decision to get the boys into separate rooms one way or another.  Cameron was okay with the changes I made during the move, probably because he was the one who still got to sleep in their bedroom at night making the change seem not so big to him.

That all changed once we moved into the new house.  Once we had his bunk bed back up and the furniture in place he wanted Brendan to share a room with him again and we had a few bad nights as he learned to adjust to sleeping in a room all by himself.  Now that a few months have passed he is completely comfortable with the change and he prefers to have his own room.

Where we were not expecting Cameron to have to deal with adjusting was school.  Cameron was the only one of the three kids not changing schools.  The familiar school, and same group of friends should have made transitioning into second grade a breeze, and it was for a while at least.  Around the end of the first quarter Cameron’s teacher began reporting to me that Cameron was having some pretty rough days.  He was having trouble concentrating on his school work and wild and crazy enough to get himself into a bit of trouble during the day.  That could only mean one thing, we needed a medication adjustment.

Overall I guess that shouldn’t have been too surprising.  Cam went through something similar around the same point in time in first grade.  It’s hard to keep the medication levels right when your boy keeps growing and changing.  The biggest difference between this year and last year was that his teacher noted that even when his medication should have been at its highest concentration (mid-morning) Cameron was struggling to focus on his schoolwork.

We took him into the pediatrician and described the problems he was having in school.  The doctor agreed with the assessment and said we needed to increase the dosage of his medicine, but also let us know that this new dose was the maximum dosage of his current medication and that if this change didn’t work we would have to put him onto a different medicine.

It’s hard to believe how much things have changed for us in a little under two years.  We were extremely hesitant to put Cameron onto medication in the first place.  But the difference we have seen in him since putting him onto it are so amazing that if we were to go back in time we wouldn’t change a single thing about our decision.  Pre-meds Cameron was constantly destroying things, generally bad tempered, and a lot of time in tears.  We spent the majority of our day yelling at him for one thing or another.  The poor kid had to feel completely picked on because he was constantly getting into trouble for something.

Even with all that we could see (briefly) a glimpse of a sweet and loving kid.  I recently was reading through some of my older blog posts and found the one where 4 year old Cameron brought his favorite stuffed animal to the dentist for his dad so that dad wouldn’t be scared.  Now we get to see that kid almost all of the time.  He’s not perfect, he is a 7 year old boy after all, but at least now the destructive, cranky kid is the exception instead of the rule.

For now the new dosage of medication is working, and we will keep working with the doctor and the school to find the right balance for Cameron.  But all in all I’d say he’s become very well adjusted.