Making Adjustments Part 2

Brendan.

I don’t even know where to begin with him.  My buddy has always been the sweetest most caring kid I have ever known.  However, since starting middle school he has become the most moody, smart mouthed child I’ve ever known.  I’m not sure if it’s being in middle school that’s changed him or if it’s the pre-teen years, but at the moment he’s definitely a lot harder to get along with than he used to be.

School is the biggest problem.  Not his school specifically, but school in general.  Brendan has always enjoyed going to school.  It wasn’t just for the friends either, he loved learning new things and just being in the classroom.  His love affair with school took a bit of a beating in 4th and 5th grade as he dealt with the bullying issues and his best friends moving to different schools, but overall he still loved being at school and continued to do well in school.

Moving to the alternative middle school was Brendan’s choice.  We supported his choice, but worried slightly about him having no friends at his new school.  Making friends was always a challenge for him, and while he had kids he was friendly with in his last couple years of elementary school he lacked anyone he could really call his best friend.  Now that we are halfway through the school year, those fears have been laid to rest.  Brendan has made quite a few new friends including a best friend that he seems even closer to than the boys he called his best friends in elementary school.

We couldn’t be happier with the friend situation, and Brendan is extremely happy with his choice to move to this school.  Looking back, it may have been better to get away from the kids who had known Brendan during his more awkward years and give him a fresh start.  But while that is going well, the rest of his schooling is not.

No matter how much preparation the elementary school does for the 5th graders to get them ready for middle school, it just isn’t enough.  They increased the amount of homework the 5th graders had by almost double, yet there was still enough time in the school day for the kids to get almost all of the work done.  Now that he’s in middle school there is no time for Brendan to work on his homework during the day.  Each class period is just 42 minutes long and the teachers teach from the beginning of the period to the end.  On top of that the 6th graders get one study hall period each day unless of course they take any music courses.  And with Brendan still in both band and orchestra that means that he gets no study hall period and all of his homework has to be done at home.

Now this shouldn’t be an issue.  Middle school gets out almost an hour before elementary school does, leaving Brendan plenty of time to get his homework done in the evenings.  And despite the fact that we have drilled for years about doing our homework before any other activities after school Brendan has decided this year that he absolutely has no desire to do his homework in the evenings.  That means that at least once a week, if not more, he’s forced to stay after school and complete the work that he is missing.  It also means that the straight A’s that he pulled in elementary school have given way to mostly B’s and C’s.  He’s even had the occasional D and F on his mid-term grades but thankfully hasn’t actually failed any classes.  Yet.

I can totally understand his feelings towards homework and school in general.  Middle school was not my best time either.  But our choices are to keep pushing him to do well, or to sit back and let him fail.  In the long run, we’re sure he will come around and learn to deal with the changes that came with moving on to middle school so we keep pushing.

I knew parenting a teenager would not be easy.  I get along with my parents fabulously now that I am an adult, but it was definitely not smooth sailing when I was a teen.  I fully expected that Cameron and Kaylee would be those emotional, irrational teenagers that every kid turns into.  But for some reason I thought Brendan would be different.  I really thought his sunny, innocent side would override the teenage turmoil.  I was wrong.

No matter.  One way or another we shall weather this storm just as we have all the others.  I can still remember a time when I wondered if I would ever be able to navigate Brendan through a simple change without having to endure a 3 hour temper tantrum.  We made it through those days, and somehow we will make it through these too.  Now if only I could be so confident on the rest of the kids…

 

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Making Adjustments Part 1

Looking back, the last time I put out a blog post was the weekend after I broke my leg.  At the time I could think of no worse situation to find myself in than to be less than a week at a new job, in the midst of selling my home, being unable to house hunt and not having a house purchased, all while sending the kids back to school (and in the case of two of them a brand new school).

Now that almost 5 months have passed, and the dust has finally begun to settle, things ended up working out about as well as they could considering the situation my fall had put us into.  It wasn’t perfect, but with the help of family and friends we managed to work out a schedule for getting kids to and from school every day.  We had just over 30 days between when I broke my leg and the date the buyers needed to close on our house.  Matt worked his tail off to take care of the kids, pack the house, and still hold down a full time job.  I did what I could, but there wasn’t a lot I could do while encumbered with crutches and a cast.  With the move behind us, I was finally able to go back to work and begin to adjust to my new role as a part time stay at home mom of three school aged children.

I was thrilled when I got the go ahead from my doctor to return to work.  I am not the sitting around type and I had had more than my fill of sitting still for 6 long weeks.  I wasn’t out of my boot, but at least I was finally off crutches.  My first week of work was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.  I’d been feeling somewhat overwhelmed in the two days of training that I’d had back in August, and now I was coming in almost two months behind everyone else.  The staff at my school were awesome though and they helped me adjust and get up to speed in just a few days.

Home life has been somewhat of a larger adjustment.  When I started staying home Kaylee was only 18 months old, not much more than a baby.  I struggled to keep up with the housework as I constantly had a tiny tornado following me around and undoing what I’d just done.  I thought as she grew older and more independent things would become easier, and they did for a little while.  As the kids grew older, however, so did the complexity of their schedules.  Still I managed to keep the house from completely falling apart.

I knew going back to work would really alter what I could and could not get accomplished during the day, but at first it was difficult to determine what that change would look like.  For the entire first month that I was working I spent my every spare moment unpacking boxes.  I realized I had spent the better part of the last 6 months either packing or unpacking boxes.

Now that we are more settled and all the boxes are finally unpacked it is more evident what this change in my life really means.  I have approximately 90 minutes in the morning between when I drop off all the kids at school and when I have to be at work.  That means I can usually get one or two things accomplished in the morning if I put my mind to it.  I’ve found it best to plan in advance what I want to accomplish otherwise I spend about half of the time I could be working on things just deciding what to do.

More than that though I find myself not coming home in the mornings, and just going to school with the kids.  I spent a lot of last school year volunteering in Cameron’s classroom.  Pretty much any time that Kaylee was in preschool I was up at the elementary school.  After I ran out of boxes to unpack at home I found myself missing the sense of pride and accomplishment I got from helping out.  So now, I spend a great deal of my mornings helping out wherever I can.

The other project I’ve taken on that eats up quite a bit of my time is joining the Girl Scouts.  Kaylee joined the Daisy Scouts in August and I volunteered to be one of her troop leaders.  I wasn’t sure how that endeavor was going to go at first.  I’d been a scout myself in 3rd grade and that lasted exactly one year before I’d had enough of it.  But after watching how Cameron’s Boy Scout pack was being run and assuming I could do it better if I were in charge myself, I figured it was time to put up or shut up.

Starting a Girl Scout troop has been much more complicated than I would have thought possible, but now that we are mostly up and running things are getting much easier.  I’m a very organized person and I love to plan things out.  My c0-leader is an art teacher and very good at the creative aspect of the troop.  Together we make a great team.  We are only a few months in, but already I’m enjoying the Girl Scout experience a whole lot more than I did when I was the scout.

All in all, it’s been an absolutely crazy few months, and I’m learning to adjust to my new roles as working mom and troop leader.  But I’m not the only one who is adjusting.  The rest of my family has been learning new roles as well.  More on them next time.

Fresh Start

And so today another new year begins.

The start of the year is a time for new beginnings.  Resolutions are made, with the best of intentions of course, and the first few weeks of the year are filled with changes in our lives.

Sometimes the resolutions stick, other times they’re thrown out like last weeks garbage.  Either way, year after year we make these promises to ourselves that this year is going to be different than the last.

Well folks, this year is going to be different than the last.

I started this blog at a very different time in my life.  A time where, for the first time since I was a child myself, I wasn’t working a 40 hour a week job.  Instead I was busy trying to run a household while raising 2, 4, and 8 year old children.  While it was difficult to find time during the day to write about my children’s exploits, at those tender young ages they gave me so much fodder it was hard not to make time to sit at the computer and tell those tales.

At the time I told myself that as the kids got older finding time to write would get easier.  Kaylee wouldn’t always be underfoot 24 hours a day, Cameron wouldn’t be such a difficult toddler to manage, and Brendan wouldn’t need the amount of time and attention that he required back in those days.

Interestingly enough, I was right on all those counts.  My kids stopped needing as much of that type of attention just as I predicted they would.  What I did not foresee was that the amount of time they would require my attention would not decrease in the ways that I thought.  In fact, over the years, the time has increased ten fold.

I’m most certainly not complaining about the time I’ve had to spend taking care of my children’s needs.  All the change meant was that my blog posts went from almost daily, to weekly, to monthly, to sporadically whenever I remembered to get online and write.  Believe me, my kids have given me no less to write about then they were back when I started my blog, but I haven’t been taking the time to write about their exploits and that is something I’ve come to regret.

And so another new year begins, and this year my resolution is to breathe new life back into this blog that I love, and to keep sharing the stories of my children for as long as they have stories to tell.

Not My Day

Although my posts usually center around the lives of my children, today’s post is all about me and the horrible, crappy day that I had on Thursday, August 6.  I won’t go into all the little things that happened during the day, but needless to say by the time I went into work that day at noon I had been having a pretty bad day.  I like my new job, and figured working for a few hours might make my day a little better.

It didn’t quite succeed in that but at least it did not contribute to making my day worse.  After work I picked up the kids from my mom’s house and drove to Target to get a couple things for a quick dinner.  That was the first clue that my bad day wasn’t quite done picking on me yet.  As we pull into the parking lot I realized that I had forgotten my purse at my mom’s.  Bad enough that I had driven a few miles down the road with no driver’s license, but I realized that meant I didn’t have any forms of payment on me so I would have to turn around and go get it before we went to get our groceries.

I know that doesn’t seem like much, but I was in a time crunch.  The kids had open house at their school that night which is the time when they get to meet their teachers for the very first time.  And thanks to another issue that had been ongoing for a couple of days we needed to make sure that we got in and out of open house right at the beginning of the night.  Running back to my mom’s meant that I added 20 minutes to my run to the grocery store, but I still managed to get what I needed, get dinner cooked, served, and eaten in time to leave for the open house.

We parked a couple blocks from the school and went through the open house.  We had about 45 minutes to get all our stuff done, which left us 20-25 minutes in each classroom.  Cameron’s took almost half an hour, leaving us not too much time in Kaylee’s, but she had time to meet her teacher and greet a couple of friends that she met last week on the playground.  Soon it was time to go and address the other issue that I mentioned earlier.

You see our house sold the previous weekend but the house that we’ve been looking to buy all summer long was having issues coming to terms with us on a purchase.  Since it did not appear that we were going to come to terms with them, we scheduled some time with our realtor to look at some additional properties.  One of the properties he wanted to show us did not meet all of the criteria of what we were looking for in a house, but it was directly across the street from the school so we agreed to check it out before saying no.

We left the school and walked over to the house where he was waiting for us.  The house was only partially finished and at the stage where we could choose a lot of the finishes.  It had a very nice layout and if there wasn’t one small problem with it we may have considered buying it.  The price and timing were right, but it was lacking the fourth bedroom that we are looking for.  The reason he thought we might still go for it is that the basement would come unfinished and with an egress window already put in, and it had a rough in to put a 4th bathroom down there as well.  With a lot less work to be done there than what it would take to put the same bedroom and bathroom here we weighed our options.  We decided as we finished the tour of the house that building the bedroom and bathroom down there would eat up almost all of the living space down there.  Something that we have grown quite accustomed to here.  Standing in the upstairs hallway we politely declined the house and began to make our way down to the main floor and onto our next stop.

Our realtor led the way down the stairs, with Matt on his heels.  I came down third with the home builders representative right behind me.  I know I was holding onto the railing coming down the steps because I had just commented to the lady from the builder how much I liked the wood tone.  Immediately after saying that I missed the last step going down to the landing.  I can tell you that this is not the first time that I have done this (nor will it probably be the last), and after watching Brendan do the same thing a few weeks ago I can also tell you it is scary for the people around you to watch you fall like a sack of potatoes.  No matter how many times I have fallen down steps, I have never majorly injured myself.  The closest I came was when I fell down our garage steps (yes the same set Brendan fell down) while holding onto the door handle and wrenched my shoulder pretty good.

This fall was different.  I don’t know if I landed just right or if I was already starting to turn the corner on the landing, or the fact that the stairs were not yet carpeted and therefore didn’t cushion my fall.  But even as I was falling and hitting the ground I knew this was no ordinary fall.  I felt my leg bone crack, and the pain that wracked my body once I was on the ground was so severe I knew there was no way I would be able to stand up on my own.

For the second time in less than a month my poor husband had to dial 911, and my poor realtor had to bear witness to the madness that ensued.  A few painful hours in the ER confirmed what I already strongly suspected.  I’d cracked my fibula bone right below my knee.  They said given the amount of pain I was in and the way my leg was positioned after the fall it looked like it was going to be a lot worse.  My pain wasn’t quite done yet.  When I’d fallen my knee was bent and my foot was kindof leaning in to the center of my body.  That position was what seemed to relieve the pain most while we waited for the doctors and then the x-rays.  When they confirmed my leg was in fact broken they had to straighten it out and apply a splint.  By that time I had been given three different pain killers and I still screamed bloody murder as they realigned my leg.  The only other time I’d been in that much pain all night was when the paramedics loaded me onto an inflatable stretcher to lower me down the stairs since I’d fallen on the landing.  Since it wasn’t hard bottomed they had difficulty moving me without jarring my leg, but it was the only way to get me out of the cramped area I’d fallen in.

broken leg

Through the entire ordeal there was only one thought that was going through my mind.  My new job started on that Wednesday.  I had exactly two days of work under my belt.  I was in a splint that went up over my knee and wouldn’t get a full cast until the following Monday.  As tired, sore, and immobile as I was Thursday night I knew there was no way I would make it to work the following day for the meetings and trainings I was supposed to attend.  Monday, while I would be getting my cast on, the kids would be going back to school and the training for my job would be at an end.  I’d be doing the real thing.  I may have only had two days on the job but one thing was for certain mine was a job that could not be done while on crutches.

I called the school, and texted the assistant principal and broke the bad news to them.  I fully expected and understood that I would need to be replaced since it’s not like I had a job that could just go on hold for 6-8 weeks while I healed.  Much to my surprise when I spoke with the principal on that Friday I was not going to be replaced, at least not permanently.  They were going to do everything possible to cover me in my absence so I could heal up and take over my position again.  I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to hear that.  Thankfully I don’t need my job so if they had ended up replacing me it wouldn’t have caused problems for us, but I want what’s best for the kids I work with to and they need someone at school doing the things that I’m supposed to be doing.  I would have held the school no ill will if they made the decision to offer my position to someone else.  I could always apply again when the timing was right.  But now that’s not even an option.

As for the move, we are still trying to figure out what’s going to happen.  We still can’t come to terms with the house we wanted, I’m in no condition to go house hunting and find us another place to live, leaving us with the very scary option of trying to get out of the contract that we signed with the buyers of our house.  We are firm believers that everything happens for a reason, and for whatever reason it looks to me like we were meant to stay in this house for a bit longer.

Lightweight

A little over a year ago Matt and I made the decision to put Cameron onto ADHD medication.  We were both very cautious about making this decision.  We firmly believe in taking care of things without medication if we are able to.  In the case of Cameron, we really felt that we had examined all other options before finally deciding to put him onto the medication.

Once we did we went through the difficult time of trying to find the correct dosage.  Our pediatrician believes in starting at the lowest dose possible, 5 mg, and making our way up to the right dose.  While I think he’s got the right idea, and I’m certain that we aren’t giving Cameron any more medicine than he needs, going through that entire process was extremely frustrating for us.  He said that most kids react well to dosages about 15-20 mg.  We started at 5 saw no change, and moved up to 10.  That still did nothing so he skipped over 15 and went to 20.  At 20 we began to see a little improvement right after we’d give him the medicine but it was almost hard to pinpoint because it wore off very quickly.  I won’t continue to bore you with the details but we didn’t see marked improvement until we put Cameron onto 30 mg a day.

But this was not without consequence.  One of the side effects of the medication we put him on was that when it wore off in the late afternoon Cameron would crash.  Our pediatrician explained that it was similar to coming off a sugar high.  When you crash off that you feel cranky and irritable.  The same thing was happening to Cameron and he was spending his evenings angrier than I had ever seen him.  After consulting with our pediatrician some more we put him onto a second dose of the same medication.  It was a smaller dose than his morning pill, and instead of being a slow release it was a quick release pill which allowed him to not come crashing down off the high dose pill.

And although we had spent many of the months prior to putting him on medication working with a psychologist to help Cameron with his sleep problems another side effect of his medication was to create the same problems over again.  This time the sleep techniques we’d learned didn’t work to resolve the issues so it was back to the pediatrician we went.  His suggestion was not exactly to medicate Cameron more, but that’s exactly how it appears to Cameron.  He suggested that we pick up some of the herb Melatonin.  He said just a few milligrams of that would help relax Cameron enough to help him to sleep better.  And he was right, mostly.  Cameron is still up a good chunk of the night but at least he’s relaxed enough to stay in bed and not be up wandering all night long.  And what sleep he did get seemed deeper and more refreshing for him.

So that’s where we’ve been for the past year.  Poor Cameron has to take medication 3 times a day.  Right or wrong we have done all we could to make it as pleasant for him as we possibly can.  His slow release pill, since its such a high dosage, is too large for him to swallow so we have to break the pill open and give him the pellets without him chewing them.  We’ve done everything from applesauce, to pudding, whipped cream, and frosting.  Healthy?  No.  But it makes him take it without a fuss and he’s skinny enough that we figured a few more calories wouldn’t hurt.  Same with the other two pills.  Yes we probably could and should make him take them with water, but instead we give him something sweet to drink to help the bitter pill go down.  To be honest that’s partly because I can’t stand to take medicine with water either and I don’t want to make him do something I wouldn’t want to do, and partly for the same reason we do the treats in the morning we figure extra calories can only benefit my skeleton of a boy.

And it turns out, we were right to do so.  Last month Cameron did a follow up with his pediatrician to make sure the medicines he was on were still working well for him and that we didn’t have any concerns.  It’s standard practice for our pediatricians office to weigh the kids at every appointment.  When I mentioned to the doctor how skinny Cameron appeared to be lately he pulled up the chart and made note that Cameron has not gained any weight in the past year despite growing two inches taller.  He then recommended that we give Cameron yet another medication, this time an appetite enhancer.

My first instinct was to say no way!  He’s already on medication 3 times every single day.  Adding this would mean that Cameron would be taking medicine 6 times every day because he’d have to take it before every meal.  But upon further reflection Cameron really needed to do it.  There were a great many meals where Cameron ate no more than one or two bites before he would say that he was full.

Which brings us up to now.  After just a few days on the medicine Cameron’s appetite increased greatly.  The most notable day was when he ate 3 hot dogs and about 1/3 of a bag of chips for his lunch.  In fact his appetite increased so much that we wondered if he just needed a jump start and stopped being so diligent about giving him the medicine.  It took a few days to see the difference but soon after we stopped giving it to him regularly his appetite decreased significantly again.  That was enough for us.  We put him right back onto the appetite medicine and slowly but surely he’s eating more food again.  We haven’t seen much in the way of weight gain yet but it’s only a matter of time.

And there are other benefits as well.  It seems now that Cameron is eating more there isn’t the major mood swing at the end of his morning pill.  More often than not lately we will either be late on his afternoon pill or end up skipping it all together because he doesn’t seem to need it that day.  It will be interesting to see if being cooped up in school all day again this fall changes that trend, but at least for now we have some improvement.  Long term we are looking to get him off all of these medications and are always looking for alternatives to them.  But in the meantime I think we’ve made the right choice by Cameron.  He’s more loving, more talkative, and less shy than he used to be and I really think we have his medicine to thank for that.

Working Woman

On May 22, 2012 I began a journey that has been chronicled in this blog.  At the time staying home with my kids was the most important thing.  For different reasons they all benefited from having a parent stay at home with them full time.  A common question that I got from people was if I would go back to work once all three kids were in school all day.

And for a long time Matt and I weren’t sure what the answer to that was.  Going back to work full time would mean that Cameron and Kaylee at least would have to be in daycare before or after school (and depending on my hours, possibly both).  We knew that there was no way I could get a job that would pay me the salary that I was making at my old job.  After all it had taken me 10 years to get to the position I was in, and there were few if any companies that would hire me off the street into a similar position immediately.

We considered part time work briefly, but in the last two years changes kept occurring that seemed to nullify that option as well.  First, our school district changed the bus routes so that my house was too close to the school to have a bus stop near the house.  They’d have to walk to the other end of the neighborhood to catch the bus.  Then they changed the boundaries all together so that my kids should have gone to a different elementary school, but we grandfathered in to the old one.  That meant no bussing whatsoever, near my house or otherwise.  Then Brendan decided to go to an alternative middle school that was not his home school, which means he can’t be bussed either.

So here we were with three kids not going to their home schools and needing transportation both to and from school.  My mornings won’t change too much, Brendan gets dropped off by 7:45, but the little ones still don’t go to school until 8:30.  That meant that I couldn’t show up at any job until probably 9:00 in the morning.  After school the little ones don’t get out until 3:45 but Brendan gets out at 3:00, meaning I would have to be off work no later than 2:30.  Then our elementary school throws an even bigger wrench in the works by having early dismissal on Wednesdays at 2:15.  That would mean on Wednesdays I would have to be off work no later than 1:45.

What company would willingly hire someone to work 5 hours or less every day, right in the middle of the day?  Not too many that I could think of so the plan, for now, was to continue staying at home.  That isn’t to say that I wasn’t looking for a job.  But since we weren’t desperate for additional income, I allowed myself to be choosy.  If I was going to go back to work, why not look for something that I enjoyed, rather than something that would pay the bills.

I could think of two companies that sounded like fun to work for and I kept my eyes and ears open for any opportunities that would meet my needs hour wise.  First was our local hockey team.  I spend most weekend nights at the arena during hockey season and I would love to give back to the organization that gives so much enjoyment to the community.  The other was our school district.  The school district in general, and our elementary school specifically have given so much individualized care to my kiddos, especially Brendan that I would love to be able to give back to them.  I spent as much time as I could volunteering for both organizations, hoping some day to turn my free time into paid time.

Exactly 1,134 days after becoming a full time stay at home mom, I made the decision to become a working woman again.  It was another of those things that I wasn’t expecting to happen, and the opportunity just kind of fell into my lap.  For the past two years I have been getting notifications of new jobs available in our school district.  I check them out, but to be honest I was not interested in working at just any old school.  I wanted to work in one of the schools my kids either currently or will soon be attending.  My ultimate desire was to work at the kids elementary school.  Having had students there for the past 6 years I knew what an awesome environment it was.  But no jobs ever seemed to be posted for our school.

That changed the last week in June.  Late Monday evening of that week I was sitting on the front porch and skimming the newest job openings.  A position at our elementary school caught my eye, and I decided to check it out.  The position looked interesting, it would be a part time paraprofessional in the resource room.  Based on that alone I knew, to a degree, what the job would entail, I can’t count the number of paras who had helped Brendan throughout his six years there.  Reading on I appeared to meet the basic qualifications for the job, so I checked out the hours.  Hours are generally what kills my ability to take on a job.  As I said above I have to be able to get the kids to and from school each day.  The hours were almost perfect.  I could still get all of the kids to school, and I had no problem getting the little ones picked up after school.  The only fly in the ointment was that I wouldn’t be able to pick up Brendan from school.

Despite that minor setback I decided that this was as good a fit as any for a job, and I applied right then and there.  The last time I applied for a job with the district it was a couple of weeks before I heard anything back, so I was quite surprised to get an email the very next day requesting I come in for an interview.  I had no time to prepare.  I knew from years of interviewing people for jobs what basic things that an interviewer is looking for in their answers, but I was rusty.  I’d made it to the interview stage for a job at the kids high school as a secretary and was so out of practice with my interview skills that I completely botched it.

I was determined to not do that again, but with almost no time to prepare all I could really do was hope for the best.  I decided to worry about all the things I could control, like showing up for the interview early, and making sure I was dressed to the nines; and not worry about those things I couldn’t control like being unprepared for the interview questions.  The interview lasted less than 15 minutes.  I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.  I answered all of the questions, some, I felt, really well; others not so much.  I did the very best I could and now all I could do was wait.

I can’t tell you how surprised I was to get a phone call just hours later saying the job was mine if I wanted it.  For a brief moment I considered what I had done and wondered if going back to work was the right thing to do.  Only for a moment though.  With all three kids in school all day there is almost no reason for me to be home all day every day.  With this job I will be able to transport them to and mostly home from school with ease.  Even Brendan won’t have to be stuck anywhere for too long.  Within an hour he will be home with us as well.  As for school vacations and summer break, I’m off almost all those times as well.  It will be very rare that I have to work on a day that the kids aren’t in school.  Where else could I get that kind of flexibility?  This really is the perfect job for what our family needs.

It’s a little scary to get back into the working world after such a long absence, but I think I will enjoy it very much.  Plus I can begin to give back to the school district that has done so much for my oldest boy.  I can never pay them back completely, but I can at least make a down payment.

Taking Flight

Today Brendan took the first step into his middle school career.  School doesn’t start for a couple of weeks yet but they had a summer program for incoming 6th graders where they would have a few hours to go up to the school and walk through their new schedule, find and open their lockers, and most importantly meet a lot of other kids and hopefully start to build some friendships.

All summer this is all that Brendan has been able to talk about.  He goes back and forth between being super excited about moving on to middle school, and super scared about going to a brand new school where he has no established friends.  I don’t think he regrets his decision to move out of his home middle school exactly.  I think he’s still excited about the program that the school offers and all the opportunities being in middle school will allow him.  But I think it’s finally sinking in that, for a while at least, he will have no friends.

I can remember being in a very similar position to Brendan, and walking into that very same middle school both excited and anxious for what was to come.  My family moved here when I was in 7th grade.  My dad was transferred and moved immediately, while my mom stayed back where we used to live so she could sell our house.  My brother and I were given the choice to move with my dad, or stay with my mom.  It was the only time, in the many times that we moved, that we were given that option because my dad’s family lived here in town and that’s where he would be staying until our house sold.

I wasn’t particularly close to my dad when I was growing up, but the thought of spending months away from him yet again was something that I decided I didn’t want to do this time around.  Besides if I was going to transfer to a new school I might as well do it early in the school year as opposed to the end of the year when friendships were more cemented into place.  My brother, who was in 10th grade that year, decided the opposite.  He didn’t want to leave his friends and his school until he absolutely had to.

So November 1, 1992 I moved with my dad into my grandparents house, and a few days later started my new school.  What I do remember was that the staff was very nice, and arranged for a student to help me to my classes for a couple of days.  That student didn’t treat me poorly by any means but I also got the impression fairly quickly that she and I had very few things in common and would not be becoming best friends any time soon.

I wish I could say exactly how long into my new school career it was before I met my first friend.  But time has a way of dimming certain aspects of memories.  What I do remember was that the girl sitting next to me in music class was very quiet and seemed nice.  Somehow we struck up a conversation and soon after she introduced me to the rest of the girls she hung out with.  After that I had a group of friends that I would stick with through the rest of my school career and into adulthood.

I keep thinking back to that time to help myself remember that no matter how hard and hopeless it seemed at the time I did make friends and Brendan will too.  Making friends has never been easy for him, but I think it will become easier in middle school.  In elementary school he was singled out as being different from a very young age.  And even as he got older and started to shed some of those stereotypes they really stuck with him because the same kids were in his classes year after year.  Besides, as the kids start getting older their interests develop more fully.  There were a lot of kids who tried band and orchestra in elementary school that didn’t stick with it.  Kids who are still into music in middle school generally have at least some interest in the subject making some potential built in friends right there.

Going back to this morning, we were in the car making our way across town to Brendan’s new school.  We recently downloaded the soundtrack to the movie Home which is currently the kids favorite thing to listen to.  As we drove the kids and I were all singing along to the songs and I glanced over at Brendan, who was sitting next to me.  He belted out the songs with no cares in the world.  Even as his voice cracked from time to time he just sang on unabashedly.  From experience I could tell he was nervous, but to the untrained eye he looked cool, calm, and collected.  It made me realize that this was not the same little boy who used to get completely out of sorts any time there was a day off from school because it threw off his routine.  This was a boy who’d learned through the years how to internalize those emotions and deal with them appropriately.

I walked him inside because he wasn’t sure where he needed to go.  Inside the front doors was an absolute mad house.  I couldn’t believe the number of 6th graders who had signed up for this opportunity.  It looked, at least to me, like more students were milling about the entryway than all of the grades in Brendan’s elementary school combined.  I stayed with him as he made his way through the crush of people to the sign in table.  I let him do the talking and get his information packet.  He seemed both overwhelmed and yet confident that he could do this.  After that, I stopped him only briefly to make sure he could read the small print on his new schedule and locker information and then sent him on his way without so much as a hug or kiss.

My little boy is growing up.  His caring heart is still there, and at home he seems to know instinctively when mom is in need of extra hugs.  But no more will I get those hugs as he goes off to school.  His focus will be getting to his friends to be social rather than worrying about leaving his parents behind.  He asked me this morning if I would be this sad when Cameron moved onto middle school and I realized that I probably wouldn’t be.  Middle school is a new experience for all of us right now and I worry for Brendan having to learn to navigate it all on his own.  By the time Cameron gets to that point it will be old news for us and teaching him to navigate it will be a breeze.

I guess I’m just not ready for my boy to become a man.

Fright of my Life

The scariest moment for anyone, parent or otherwise, I think comes when you realize that the situation you find yourself in has become an emergency and that you’ll have to dial those three dreaded digits, 9-1-1.  That moment occurred for me yesterday for the very first time in my life.

It was around 10:30 in the morning.  We had a showing scheduled for 11:15, and Matt and I feel its always best to be out of the house no later than 30 minutes before the showing is scheduled to start.  By 10:30 we had shoo’d Cameron and Kaylee out of the house and into the car.  Matt wasn’t far behind them, lugging the cat in his carrier.  A few feet behind Matt was Brendan, and I was right behind him taking care of all the last little details and getting ready to shut the door behind us.

Matt had just reached the bottom of the two steps down into our garage when Brendan came to the top of the steps.  He was focused on getting the cat into the car and missed what happened next, but as I was only a step or two behind Brendan I saw the entire thing.  Brendan went to step down and somehow missed the step or tripped or something, and the next thing we know he’s falling face first into our garage freezer.  He hits it with a hard thud which drew Matt’s attention and we both rushed to him to see how badly he was hurt.

At first, it didn’t seem too bad.  He was alert, and there wasn’t blood gushing from anywhere.  He said his hand was hurting, so Matt reached down to pick him up off the floor so we could get a better look at him.  In that moment we knew this was not going to be our standard run of the mill minor injury.  Matt only had Brendan about halfway to his feet before Brendan passed out and slumped back down to the floor.  We both knew right away that this was far beyond our parental abilities to diagnose.  We knew he needed a doctor, and we didn’t want to risk moving him and potentially injuring him further.

After that things began happening quickly.  Cameron and Kaylee were safely buckled into the car and at least out of the way for the moment, though we knew that watching Brendan crumble to the floor had to be scary for them as well.  In that moment Brendan needed us most and so we left them where they were.  We knew we needed to call the paramedics to have Brendan looked at even as he started coming around and trying to sit up.  We kept him still and I tried desperately to dial 9-1-1 on my phone but my hands were shaking and my mind was racing and I couldn’t remember how to unlock my phone and make the call.

When he realized I was a complete basket case, Matt took over and made the call himself.  Truthfully, he was much calmer on the phone with the emergency crews than I would have been.  And despite the fact that I was completely falling apart in the face of this emergency there were two things that I knew needed to be done and with Matt on the phone to the paramedics it was up to me to take care of them.

First I placed a phone call to my dad.  My parents live less than a mile away from us and I wanted to get Cameron and Kaylee out of the situation as soon as I possibly could.  Once my dad sorted through my hysterics he promised he’d come right up and pick up the kids.  Next, I realized that time was ticking away and before we knew it strange people were going to be coming to the door wanting to look through our house.  That was a stress I did not need at that moment.  We needed to cancel the showing ASAP.

It’s moments like this when it’s actually very convenient that my real estate agent lives in the house next door to mine. While I had managed to place the phone call to my dad, I wasn’t 100% sure I would be successful in looking up my neighbors phone number.  Besides I knew they had to be home because they had movers taking furniture out of their house as this was all going on.  So I made the decision to run next door and talk to him in person.

Next came the most embarrassing part of the day for me at least, rather than knocking or anything else I just ran straight into the open front door and hollered for my neighbor.  Lucky for me, he took my hysterics in stride got the showing cancelled and then came out to help us in any way he could.

By then the paramedics had arrived and my dad had been there and gone with the kids.  Brendan was fully alert by then, and although he still complained that his hand hurt he seemed no worse for the wear.  The paramedics said his vital signs all checked out and they didn’t think his hand was broken so they gave us the option to take him into the emergency room or to just schedule an appointment with our regular physician.  They sounded confident enough that there wasn’t any major trauma that we agreed to take him to his doctor.

Everyone left, and I began to calm down.  Brendan was up off the floor and walking shakily around the garage. Matt got him settled on the couch inside and got him some ice for his hand.   Meanwhile, I had finally calmed down enough to be able to actually make a phone call on my cell phone again and called our pediatrician to set up an appointment.  Generally it takes weeks to get an appointment in with our regular pediatrician and I was more concerned with getting Brendan seen than I was with seeing our regular doctor.  I told them I wanted an appointment today and I didn’t really care which doctor it was with.  By some miracle our normal pediatrician had an open appointment just a couple of hours later.

Leaving Matt caring for Brendan I left for my dad’s house to pick up the kids and reassure them that their brother was going to be okay.  By the time I got to them they had calmed down considerably, and a few assurances that Brendan was at home resting comfortably on the couch were enough to get them over the last of their fears.

In a semi-amusing twist of fate the real estate agent coming to do the showing hadn’t gotten the cancellation message from her office before heading to our house and while I was off picking up the kids she and her clients showed up on our doorstep.  Well we weren’t about to pack up Brendan and head out of the house so they could tour it, so they toured it with Matt and Brendan still there.  Probably not the ideal situation, but at least things had calmed down enough that we didn’t really mind they were there.

Thankfully after that, things started to get better.  Brendan, who up to that point had been looking pale and shaky still, managed to eat some lunch and perked up quite a bit after that.  The doctor did a thorough physical and said that while Brendan did have a minor concussion from the fall, there were no other major injuries.  To be on the safe side he did order a CT scan for Brendan and asked us to stay at the office until they could do the scan and get the results.  That meant a total of 3 very long hours in the doctors office, but we left confident that Brendan was fine and would soon be on the mend.

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As for his finger?  Thankfully it was not broken, just painful from being jammed into the freezer when he put his hands out to break his fall.  He’s got a nice purple bruise on the tip and under the nail, but otherwise he’s perfectly fine.  The biggest injury he sustained through the entire ordeal was a big old bruise to his ego.

I’m thankful that we can put this entire situation behind us, and I’m extremely grateful to all those that helped us through the situation.  To the paramedics who came to the house, to the friends and family that supported us and took care of the other kids, and mostly to my husband who kept a level head even as I fell apart.

Above all I hope never to need to make that dreaded phone call ever again.

A Fly in the Ointment

It’s summer vacation again, my fourth as a stay at home mom.  Every year I work hard to find the balance between planning enough activities to keep my kiddos busy, and yet leaving us enough downtime to enjoy our summer.  Every year I do things a little bit differently, and learn another important lesson for the following summer.

I thought that I finally had it down.  This summer was going to be the summer that I finally perfected that balance.  I had registered my kids for camps for a good chunk of the summer again.  They loved them last year, and we were actually doing an exact repeat of the ones from last summer.  The lesson I learned with so many camps is that on a camp week, camp is enough.  I don’t necessarily need to plan additional activities for those days.  If the opportunity presents itself, then great we will take it, but no need to fabricate activities either.

The other thing that we’ve done every previous summer was to have a big project.  The first year it was to put on a play.  We spent almost all of the summer creating props and backdrops, and writing the play itself.  (That started as a small project, I had no idea it would end up taking me 8 weeks to complete it.)  The second year we made home made volcanos.  It looked so fun, and I remember discovering the joy of watching baking soda and vinegar react together from when I was a kid.  That one turned out super messy, and again took us most of the summer to complete.  Last summer I decided to focus on semi-educational things for our big project, and I realized that the age difference between Brendan and the others meant that I would probably need to do two projects.  So the little ones worked on an alphabet train while Brendan focused on creating a 50 states book.

Of the three, last summer’s project was the most fun for all of us I think.  But it was a lot of work, the most work I’d put into a summer project so far.  So this spring I sat down and thought about what I wanted my kids to remember about summer vacation.  I thought about my own summer vacations as a kid and tried to think about the memories that stuck out most about them.  What struck me most profoundly was that my parents both worked, so my vacations were not filled with endless camps, and projects and things to keep me busy.  Mine were filled with relaxation and downtime.  Yes, there were days of boredom but I was also able to just be a kid.

So that was my master plan this year.  Camps would go on as normal, but in between there would be down time.  I had no other major things planned for the summer.  If the kids began to show signs of boredom then we would plan an activity, things like bowling or going to the zoo.  Things we could throw together last minute.

The first week of summer vacation went exactly according to plan.  May was an extraordinarily busy month for us, with school activities all but three days that month.  So that first week of vacation we pretty much did nothing but enjoy the fact that we had nothing to do.  It was perfect.  Then came the fly in the ointment.  Moving.

Let me back up a little bit.  We moved into our current house about 10 years ago.  When we bought the house it seemed perfect for us.  It was a nice large three bedroom ranch house with a finished basement.  The kids bedrooms were a bit smaller than I liked but with that huge basement turned into a playroom it didn’t really matter.  We figured this was it for us, no need to ever move again.  When we moved in we had only one child, but my husband is one of four kids and he shared a room for a good chunk of his life, so we figured even if we had more than two kids we’d be in good shape to stay here.

What we didn’t count on was Cameron.  Cameron is, unfortunately, an insomniac.  While Brendan needs a lot of sleep most nights to function, Cameron needs very little.  There are nights that he will still be awake at 11:00, and then up the next morning at 5:30.  It would be fine if he could read a book, or lay quietly and try to fall asleep, but he can’t.  If Cameron is awake he is active.  It was really bad for a while because we would put him to bed at night and then spend the following two hours shoo-ing him back into bed every 5 minutes.  The combination of working with a psychologist and putting him on melatonin at night has at least kept him in bed at bedtime.  But he needs something to do to keep him occupied while his brain winds down. What we’ve found works best for him is transformers.  He loves to sit there and transform them back and forth between robot and vehicle mode.

While this works well for Cameron it does not for his room mate.  The constant clicking sounds from the toys and the fact that Cameron can’t seem to have mini transformers battles in his head makes enough noise to make Brendan crazy.  As Brendan’s gotten older he tends to like to stay up later at night when we will let him, so weekends and summer vacation aren’t as bad, but during the school year when he needs a lot of sleep at night is the worst.  So Matt and I decided to look into building another bedroom in the basement so the kids could each have their own room.

We have been working on this for close to 6 months.  Call a contractor, schedule an appointment, wait weeks (or sometimes months, and in one case never) for them to get back to us with a quote.  Realize the quote is way more than we can afford to do and start the whole process over again.  While all this was going on, our next door neighbors put their house up for sale.  We have a very good relationship with our neighbor and we were very sad to see that they wouldn’t be living there any more.  I talked to my neighbor about why they were moving and it was a problem similar to ours.  They also have three kids and just needed more space.  When I told them about what our plan was, and the lack of success we’d been having with it they suggested we move as well.  (my neighbor is a realtor by the way)  I laughed off the suggestion and said that we’d need to find a house bigger than what we had now, but with a payment no larger, and the target area would be miniscule as I absolutely refused to move out of the kids current elementary school zone.

Wouldn’t you know it, but a house meeting every single box on my criteria hit the market shortly after that conversation.  It could not be more perfect.  For about the same cost as putting a bedroom and bathroom into my current home we would end up with more square footage than we have today, 5 bedrooms instead of 4, 4 bathrooms instead of 3, and best of all the backyard at the house literally backs up to the elementary school.  So Cameron and Kaylee can walk to school every single day.  We know the neighborhood around the school has a lot of more upscale housing, so the price tag on the house was amazing to us, but we didn’t hold out hope that the condition of the house would satisfy our needs so I asked my neighbor to take us through the house so we could see for ourselves.

In person the house continued to deliver, and I could quickly see myself living there.  Matt was a bit harder to sell on the subject and it took another week to convince him that it would be a good thing.  He knew that moving was going to be a lot of work, and he still thought it would be easier to build onto our current house.  We sat down with our neighbor again to discuss our options.  His house (identical to mine by the way) had just sold and he’d had multiple offers on it so he knew that there were buyers ripe to make a move now as opposed to later.  So with no time for preparation, Matt and I spent a frantic weekend decluttering our whole house.  With only two days to get things done all we had time to do was basically shove everything into our storage room and pray that we’d have time once the house went on the market to get the stuff in the storage room moved to a storage shed.

But we didn’t.  My neighbor was right about one thing, there was definitely some interest in the house.  In the first week the house was on the market we had a dozen showings.  The last two days of the week things finally began to slow down, and he met with us again to discuss our options.  No offers were made on the house and people could not seem to get past the fact that our carpet is in terrible shape.  (we knew that going into this and were hoping that we could make the sale by giving the buyer a carpet allowance).  His recommendation was to take the house off the market for a few days, throw a fresh coat of paint onto the walls and replace the carpet.

Which brings me to today.  Summer vacation; one week of relaxation, followed by a weekend filled with 15 hour days of backbreaking work, another week of frantic cleaning to keep the house showing ready, and finally a week of packing and moving things into a storage shed and painting.  It’s hard to believe that three weeks ago the kids were just getting out of school, and that three weeks ago moving wasn’t even close to being on our radar.

It hasn’t been the summer that I planned, but the kids are all for the changes made.  Matt was concerned that an upheaval like this would upset the kids a lot.  But Brendan is thrilled about the prospect of getting his own room, Cameron is thrilled that we will get to live closer to the school, and Kaylee…well not much phases that girl.  So here’s to our new adventure.

Unimaginable

I still remember the day Brendan started Kindergarten as if it were yesterday.  Unlike most moms I wasn’t sad about it at all.  After all, he had been bussed across town for preschool for the entire year leading up to Kindergarten, so going to school just up the street was actually something to celebrate versus something to be sad about.  And with the big smile on his face, it was hard to be anything but excited right along with him.

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He seemed so big and yet so little all at the same time.  After all we had to do for him in the first 5 years of his life, just getting him to this point seemed somewhat miraculous.  No longer would we host weekly therapy sessions in our house, no more would we have to discuss whether he should be in a fully special education preschool or a half and half class, no more would we have to schedule an IFSP meeting every six months to update his goals and progress, and no more would we be working with the team who had been with him since the time he was a baby.

That was the scariest part for us, transitioning to a new set of professionals.  We knew the early childhood team well, and they knew Brendan.  Now we were going to have to get to know a whole new group of people, and teach them all about Brendan.  What if they weren’t as caring and understanding as the early childhood team had been?  What if they didn’t have Brendan’s best interests at heart?  Were we about to be spending the next 6 years in an uphill battle to make sure Brendan’s needs were met at school?

As it turned out all our fears were baseless.  The team we had at Brendan’s elementary school were amazing.  Even on those rare occasions where we had disagreements with his classroom teacher about what Brendan needed, the special education team came through and made sure he had all the tools in place to be successful in school.

Back when he started Kindergarten I couldn’t imagine him as a 5th grader.  6 years of school seemed like a lifetime, and trying to imagine him going off to middle or high school was just something I couldn’t even fathom.  Yet now that is exactly where I am standing.  I am again at the end of one thing and the beginning of another.  This fall my baby boy will be off to a brand new school again with a brand new team of teachers dedicated to making sure he can be successful as a middle schooler.

I’m both happy and sad, scared and confident.  My own middle school years were filled with many ups and downs and I worry about my sweet tenderhearted little man going through those same hardships that every pre-teen goes through.  But Brendan has had ups and downs even in elementary school and has come through the hardships much more gracefully than I think I would have in his shoes.

So tomorrow is it.  At 3:45 in the afternoon he will walk out of the elementary school as a student for the very last time in his life.  Tomorrow.  That is when the tears will fall.  That is when it will finally sink in that my little boy is no longer little.

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