Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just when you think things are settling down...

So, Frank started school exactly one week ago.  My husband and I brought him, instead of just putting him on the bus that morning.  I wanted to see for myself where he would be, and to finally meet his teacher! We drove in separate cars, and Frank went with my husband. (We were going directly to our respective work as soon as we left Frank's school.  My lovely boss graciously told me it was fine for me to be an hour late for school myself that morning.)

Frank was wide awake and dressed at 6:30am that morning.  School doesn't start until 8:45am.

He was excited and chatty all morning...while he ate breakfast...while he stood outside my bedroom door talking to me while I got dressed...while he followed me back downstairs...right up until we walked in the door of the school building. Then he turned and buried his face in my chest.  (Yes, my first grader's face is at my chest height now.  Shut up.) 

He cried, a lot.  We met his teacher, who seems nice, and she told him she was going to need him to be her special helper that day.  He tried to stop crying when she said that, but he just couldn't- he put his head down on the cafeteria table and cried some more.

We finally made the (for me) gut-wrenching decision to leave.  "I don't think he's going to stop crying as long as we're here," I said quietly to my husband.  So, we gave him one more hug, told him we loved him and were proud of him, and we left.

He's been pretty quiet about his classroom experiences so far. He plays with D, a friend from his daycare, at recess every day, and they do a lot of work during the school day, but that's pretty much it.  He never mentions any other new friends he may have made.  He does play with one little boy from his class at aftercare, though.

I don't know...I kind of hoped to hear some new friend names by now, after a week.  Am I being unrealistic? I hope no one in his class is being mean to him because he cried the first day. 

Next week on Monday and Tuesday, his school is closed for Rosh Hashanah.  My school is closed Monday only.  His aftercare program, which is run by a local YMCA, said they run an all-day care program, at the Y, if they get 16 or more kids to sign up for it.  I just got the form yesterday with the instructions to call if we wanted it for next week, so I called as soon as I got home.  I then had a voicemail on my cell phone this morning, while I was in class, saying they weren't running it next week because of lack of interest.  lack of interest?  In a district as huge as ours is, they can't get 16 kids?  Really?  Maybe it's because you allowed less than 24 hours for parents to sign up for it before you decided whether to run it or not! Jerks.

Anyway, one of my coworkers had a brilliant suggestion.  I emailed Frank's former daycare and asked if we could do a dropin for one day, and they said yes, since he won't be seven until NEXT September! We can in theory do this all year.  It'll cost us, of course, but it's better than having to take personal days and sick days to look after him.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

School starts this week!

It's going to be an interesting week. I start back at work on Tuesday.  Frank starts Thursday. My husband is working from home Tuesday and Wednesday.

Frank and I toured his new school last week.  Our tour guide was one of the office secretaries, Mrs N. Everyone was very nice and welcoming, even the principal.  We met several teachers who were in setting up their classrooms, but didn't meet his classroom teacher.  We were able to walk into his classroom, though, and he sat in his seat, briefly. 

When Frank is nervous or worried or upset about something, he simply refuses to discuss it. After we toured the school, I let him play on the playground for a while.  After we left, I asked him what he thought his school. "It's fine," was all he said.  When I sked him, "That's all?"  he responded with, "Yes, Mommy it's fine." Okay, then.

He has taken the same approach towards the death in the family. He flat out refuses to mention the decedent, and if her name is brought up, he pretends not to hear. He is still alternating between being angry at me and being very clingy, though. I'm not sure what else to do.  So much change for this child within a short school, the absence of an important family member...I hope I am not screwing up here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Death in the family

As the title says, we have had a death in my husband's family, someone who Frank was close to.  It fell to me to tell him. You know how, at least once a day, as a parent, you think to yourself, "Man, I really hope I did not screw that one up too badly."? Yeah, that was my moment today.

He cried for about thirty seconds, then told me to go away so he could watch his shows. Two minutes later, he asked if the deceased had felt anything when they died. When I told him no, they just drifted away to be with God, he said okay and went back to his shows.

He has since alternated between being clingy and being downright bitchy and nasty to me all day. For the first time since he was an infant, I truly am at a complete loss as to how to handle this child. Do I reprimand him for his bitchy comments, same as I would any other day, or do I hug him and try to reassure him?  Or neither?  Or both?  Or something else entirely?

I am emotionally drained from trying to keep an even keel for my child. It was harder to do that today than it has been since I had (and recovered from) Post Partum Depression.

Have you ever had to deliver this kind of news to your SPD child? How did they take it?  How was it different from your neurotypical children?

Friday, August 10, 2012

School lunches

School starts soon! In about three and a half weeks, to be exact.

Posts in various forums I am on have started giving me a bit of a panic attack about, of all things, lunch. Frank does not eat bread, or cheese, or cold cuts.  He does not even eat peanut butter or jelly. He doesn't eat wraps, or veggies, or cheese and crackers. He doesn't eat string cheese.

Keeping all this in mind...what, exactly, do I pack this kid for lunch???

In daycare/kindergaten, I packed him lunch for most of his time there.  When he was four, in pre-K, he wanted to start ordering the same lunches the other kids ate, so we did.  I started out cautiously, only ordering him chicken nuggets, which has always been the fallback food for him. I eventually got more daring, so, by the time he was finishing up there, his last month, he ate the school lunch every day.  It was great, because first and foremost, he was eating the same things as his peers! Number two, I didn't have to groggily remember on a weekday morning to pack his fish sticks or chicken nuggets. (The teachers would warm them up in the microwave for him.  I sent them in an insulated bag, with an ice pack.)

In first grade, in the local elementary school this fall, though, the cafeteria staff won't be warming up his food in a microwave for him.  Which brings me back to my question...what in the same of all that is good and holy do I pack this kid for lunch??

If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Sussex County Fair

When I was a kid, my aunt and uncle would take us to the Sussex County Fair every summer.  ( I then didn't go for years, but, for the last couple of years, I've taken Frank, and he loves it.  He looks forward to it all summer and asks me about once a week if it's time for the fair yet.

The SCF is what most of the country, I think, would call a state fair- there are a lot of livestock on display and horse shows, 4H kids show off the rabbits and chickens they've raised, and people compete for prizes in their crafts, like the quilts we saw. There is, of course, food, most of it horrifically unhealthy- I bought myself a funnel cake covered with cinnamon sugar and enjoyed it thoroughly.  But I was only able to finish about half of it- it was simply too big for one person.  Typically, I share funnel cake with my husband.  I offered a piece that had no sugar on it to Frank.  He looked at it like it was a poisonous snake and said in a strained voice, "No, thank you." Oh, well.  if nothing else, I've taught the boy manners.

There are also a ton of rides and boardwalk style games. Unlike me, Frank is just not into looking at the cute widdle bunnies or watching someone shear a sheep. He's very quickly bored by such things, and the smell in the livestock area is utterly repulsive to him.  (Yes, he is that kids who walks around the livestock sheds with his t-shirt pulled up over his mouth and nose. Oh well.)

No, Frank loves the rides, and the bigger and scarier the better. This is actually new- last year, he was still reasonably content with little kid rides, and I was safe buying him the unlimited ride bracelet and sending him by himself on stuff while I kept my feet planted firmly on terra firma. However, late last summer, you may recall, my little family went to Disney World for the first time. My husband, a complete Crazy Rides Fanatic, took Frank on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and ruined him for all those little kid rides forever. "Oh, Mommy, no.  That ride is for little kids.  I want to do that!" That inevitably meant something spinning, or a freefall, or something really fast.  To give you an idea, the Ferris Wheel, which I love because I don't have a problem with heights, is "boring".

Great.  Where is my husband when I need him?  Oh, yeah, at work, starting a new job this week.  Terrific.

This year, I bought myself an unlimited bracelet, too. The vast majority of the rides, there was no way they were letting a five-year-old go on alone, so, yeah, me and my vertigo had to take one for the team and go on them with him. It was definitely one of those "shut your eyes and think of England" moments.

It is a testament to how much I love my son, and how much I wanted him to have a good time. I get vertigo very easily. I can do a merry-go-round and a Ferris Wheel and some slides, but that is pretty much it. I'm still not sure I have forgiven the people I went to Great Adventure with as a senior in high school who talked me into riding the Runaway Train, my vertigo is that bad.

It's funny, up until fairly recently, I never thought about this as anything but a character flaw. Now that I know a lot more about sensory issues, though, I would definitely categorize me as an avoider when it comes to crazy rides. It is helping me to get a glimpse into the world of the child with SPD. I do not have SPD, by any stretch- my inability to enjoy a good carnival ride is not a disorder in that it doesn't really interfer with my life any, usually, because my husband is usually there to do all this stuff, and I sit and wait and hold everyone's stuff while they ride. But at the fair yesterday, it was definitely a problem, one I had to take a deep breath, think of England, and just soldier forward to overcome.  I did it, and my seeker son had a marvelous time, even though I have a sneaking suspiscion he felt a bit sorry for me as I squeezed my eyes shut.

But next year, the kid is either bringing a friend or my husband is coming with us.

Adventure Aquarium

Tuesday, Frank and I drove over two hours south of our house to lovely Camden, NJ (Yes, that was in fact sarcasm.).  We went to Adventure Aquarium (  The aquarium has been there for years, but, like a lot of good things in this state, I simply just hadn't gotten around to going; the long drive and the fact that it is in Camden, which, I'm sure many are aware, has been voted worst city in America or something like that, both kind of intimidated me.

Well, the fact that I am here blogging about it tells you that we survived the trip. The powers that be, when they re-did the entire Camden waterfront (there is also a battleship there and a minor league ballpark), decided to essentially make a flyover ramp from the neaest highway to the waterfront, so you don't really get into the worst parts of Camden.

We were at the aquarium for over four hours.  It's a nice place, with plenty to do, especially for kids.  I did not, of course, have time to leisurely read through much that was posted next to various tanks, but we did manage to see everything, including their Shark Tunnel two or three times.  The Shark Tunnel is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: It is a tunnel built going through a tank full of sharks, so you have sharks to your right, left, and swimming directly over your head.  It was very cool; both Frank and I agreed that was the best thing there. (There were several exhibits where you could touch various sea creatures, too, and I asked Frank, "Really?  The Shark Tunnel was better than touching a sting ray?" "Oh, yes, Mommy," he assured me. "Those were great white sharks in there!")

We ate lunch there, too.  The cafe had a wide variety of options, health and unhealthy; all, however, were way overpriced. The pizza was rather good, though.

I would recommend this trip, except parents of SPD-ers who get overwhelmed in a lot of noise, stimulation, and crowds should consult the website and plan their trip carefully.  The website lists "high volume days", when they have a lot of field trips scheduled.  Tuesday was not listed as a high volume day, and it was stll pretty crowded; I think I would even be overhwelmed on a high volume day!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Land of Make Believe

We live in northern New Jersey, and, despite the fact that I also grew up in northern NJ, I don't think I ever went to the Land of Make Believe (  as a child.  And, despite the fact that it's less than a forty-five minute drive from our current home, where we've lived for four years, we had never taken Frank there before, either. I decided to remedy that today.

I had always assumed that it was a place full of little kid rides and not very big.  Well, it is a bit compact, but there's plenty to do, for little and big kids. The fact that it's so compact actually works in the favor of the short legged little ones who walk with their parents!  There's also a decent-sized water park with slides and a wading pool, as well as different water-based activities.

Frank LOVED it. We were there for about four hours, and he didn't want to leave! We spent about an hour and forty-five minutes in the water area, which I was very happy about. You see, while at camp, after he had gotten a good start with swimming, he fell into the pool at one point, and had to be fished out by a lifeguard, which scared him, and he had developed a serious fear of the water. His counselors, once I alerted them that was what was bothering him, helped him to become more relaxed in the water.

Today, in the 18-inch-deep wading pool, he and I practiced his kicks- I held him while he lay prone in the water, kicking like crazy.  He also had no problem frolicking around in all of the water areas, and even dragged me onto a terrifying-looking water slide! Thank God.  I'm not a strong swimmer myself; it took me years to get over fear of even putting my face in the water. Now, though, I am an awesome dog-paddler, but that's pretty much it.  I do not want him to grow up with the same fears and inability to swim that I have. He doesn't have to become a competitive swimmer, but I want him to be a better swimmer than I am.

All in all, it was a really nice day.  The weather even cooperated, giving us relatively low humidity for a change. He wants to go back, soon.  I think I do, too.  The rides were just scary enough for him, but not too much so even my wimpy system could handle them. And the water park was actually pretty great.

If you live in the area, and decide to go, I recommend first thing.  (They open at 10am.) It really wasn't crowded at all when we first arrived, but by the time we left, the place was PACKED!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


So, rugby ended last week. Overall, Frank liked it, and says he wants to play again next year, but, "I don't like having my flag pulled, Mommy.  I want to do TACKLE rugby!"  Um, okay, but you have to wait a good six years or so before you can do that, kid.

The situation with the other boy got marginally better.  Frank made more of an effort to stay away from him at practice and during matches.  However, this kid simply could NOT take a hint!  He kept following Frank around.  "Frank, look at this...Frank, wanna play?  Frank, watch me!"  Ugh.  He apparently behaved pretty similarly at day camp, too.

Frank is in a different grouping at daycamp for this week and next week, because it's a different session, and this other kid is not in this group.

I'm just relieved we do not live in the same town as this family, so the boys won't see each other in school.  They will go to the same regional high school, though.  I guess I'll worry about that in nine years...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I think I need advice.

There’s this kid, M, who went to the same daycare as Frank until they turned four. He left as they were starting preschool. I breathed a sigh of relief when the kid left, because he is a big kid for his age, and he plays roughly. Frank for some bizarre reason was drawn to this kid like a moth to flame, and he was on the receiving end more than once. It turned out, we were not the only parents happy to see this kid leave; parents started confiding in each other, and pretty much all of us had hated this kid for a couple of years! I also found out that he was quietly asked to go by the daycare director. (She didn’t tell me; another parent did. Turns out, this kid had hurt her daughter, badly enough she had to bring the kid to the doctor, and Mom is a lawyer, and you can fill in the blanks...)

 Hooray, we thought, the kid is gone, and he lives in the next town over, so he and Frank won’t meet up again until high school, and then they probably won’t even remember each other.

So, Frank started playing rugby in a tri-town team, and guess who’s on his team? Yep, M. Now, in the four weeks they’ve played so far, the only times I’ve witnessed the coach really yelling at Frank for not paying attention have been when he’s been goofing around with M. Then, last week, at practice, M grabbed Frank by the head and threw him down on the ground! I actually ran onto the field and helped him up, because he was not moving at first, and we haven’t had rain in I don’t even know how long, so the ground is rock-hard. Frank cried for a few minutes afterwards, and I actually yelled at M. I don’t like yelling at another kid when the parents are there, but M’s mom never said a word, either to her son or me.

I actually sat Frank down after that one, and told him something I never wanted to tell my child, mostly because I know this usually backfires dramatically: I do not want him to play with M. Play together during rugby games, yes, to help the team, but I do not want him fooling around with him before or after. He promised me he wouldn’t fool around with him anymore, but then they fooled around again at last night’s practice, getting yelled at again by the coach for not following directions.

Then, Frank started YMCA daycamp this week. GUESS WHO’S IN HIS GROUP? I swear we are never going to be rid of this kid.
Honestly, after observing him at rugby these last few weeks, I think he could very well have a raging case of ADHD and need medication.  He has incredibly poor impulse control, for example.  But his lack of impulse control is impacting my kid, and it pisses me off, and I just do not know what to do!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Day Camp

Frank started day camp at our local YMCA today. So, if he was the one starting something completely new, why was I the one who slept so poorly last night?

Turns out, I didn't need to worry. There are at least three kids in his group whom he knew from school or rugby. As for the other kids? "I don't remember their names.  We just played."

I should have known he'd be fine this morning when I dropped him off. He leaped out of the car and barely waved at me as he ran towards his group.

Of course, swimming starts tomorrow.  He's never swam before.  Sure, he's frolicked around at the edge of the water at the beach and stuff, and he does love his bath, but he's never been in water more than a foot deep. As I said to his counselor this morning, "He will either turn into a fish and you won't be able to yank him out of there, or he will completely freak out as soon as he touches the water. I honestly have no idea which it will be."

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A door closes...

Yesterday, we picked up my son from his daycre for the last time.  He'll go to day camp during the month of July, and in September, he will attend our local elementary school, as a first-grader.

This daycare, which is also where he attended Kindergarten, has been a part of our lives since he was five months old, and now he is five and a half years old.  I'm not sure it's really sunk in for any of us that we are well and truly done with daycare yet.  I'm sure it hasn't for Frank, and am not sure it'll sink in until he starts school in the fall.

So odd...he doesn't need daycare anymore.  My baby is growing up!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Saying good bye to Kindergarten

My son will graduate Kindergarten in two weeks and two days.  He attends Kindergarten at the school he has always gone to, a daycare he's attended since he was five months old.  Along the way, the staff there has seen us through many things: my serious illness (when he was six months old) that required me to be hospitalized for five days and home on disability for seven weeks after that.)  Many childhood illnesses.  (You don't really want to know what Toddler Diarrhea is, do you?)  And, at 17 months, a diagnosis from an occupational therapist of Sensory Processing Disorder, with severe oral defensiveness as a key issue.

The diagnosis for us was both an end and a beginning.  It was an end because at last, after many months, we had an answer as to why my son flat out refused to eat "normally".  Why wouldn't he eat Cheerios?  Pretzels?  Chicken nuggets?  Why didn't he ever gum anything as a teething baby except for his own hands, or a pacifier?   Why couldn't he get a latch good enough to breastfeed? 

It was a beginning for me, because I had to educate myself.  I had vaguely heard of kids with autism having sensory issues, so when the OT gave me the diagnosis, my first response was, "Wait...he has autism?"  No, he doesn't, she explained to me.  Most kids with autism do have sensory issues, but not all kids with sensory issues have autism.  Okay...I guess I have some reading to do, I thought.

And so, I read.  I bought every book I could find on the subject, which, at first, was not much.  Books have never let me down, so they had to give me the answers I needed.  How did this happen?  Is it hereditary?  Did I eat something, or get exposed to something, during the pregnancy that did it?  Was it the 21-hour long labor that ended in emergency c-section? 

Personally, I think it was the last; the c-section was because his heart rate was dipping with each contraction, and that went on for a while before they did the surgery.  I will never know, of course, and sometimes I lie awake at night, still, thinking about it.  If I had hired a doula, like I had thought about doing, maybe labor would have gone differently for me, and I would have delivered faster, vaginally.  Maybe, if I hadn't asked for the epidural when I did, and just kept walking around, things would have gone faster.  Maybe maybe maybe...all these decisions I made that may have affected how my son will live his entire life. 

I will never know what caused my son to have SPD.  For all I know, it's in how my genes and my husband's genes mingled together, or some completely different cause science hasn't yet discovered.

What I do know, however, is my son would not be the well-adjusted child he is without the love and support from his daycare.  I shared the diagnosis with the director immediately.  She had heard of SPD, but didn't know much about it, and she began to read up on it, too.  The staff never treated my son as "different".  This was just Frank, and this is how he eats.  Oh, you need us to put a food item on his plate at lunchtime?  No problem.  You need us to make him touch the food item, take one bite of it at lunchtime?  No problem.  He's not toileting at age four?  No problem. 

I wish everyone who had children with special needs could have such a positive experience in their child's schooling.  And I hope and pray, as we get ready to say good bye to his first school, that his experiences in the rest of his school years will be as positive.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Random musings

Note: I originally wrote this in September, but never published it.

Frank ate a cupcake!  Actually, two cupcakes- one at OT the day before his birthday, and one at school on his actual birthday.  He ate the cake, and not the icing, but: My.  Kid.  Ate.  A.  CUPCAKE.  (His teachers were just as excited as I was, too.  It was very cute)

My husband thinks I worry too much about this sort of thing.  In one respect, he's right: every six months, when I bring him to the dentist, I get compliments on the state of his teeth, to which my response is always the same: "His teeth should be pristine.  He doesn't eat anything with sugar in it!" 

However, as someone who was picked on for 13 straight years of school, I worry about social implications of his food issues.  I don't think it's any secret to anyone who has regular interaction with children, or was once a child, that kids can be cruel.  I don't want Frank to be That Weird Kid Who Won't Eat a Cupcake.  Or whatever.  Granted, at least at this point, he's very self-confident, and if someone says something mean to him, he gives as good as he gets, but who knows what will happen next year when he's in public school?  He'll be entering in first grade, whereas most of his classmates will enter as kindergarteners, and will have had a year to cement friendships. 

I worry because I read a lot, and I know that kids with SPD tend to have more social problems than kids who are neurotypical.  I also know that I was picked on a lot (I was an easy target- I was painfully shy and wore glasses and had health issues.), and I work in schools, so I see firsthand every day how cruel kids can be. 

But, at the moment: he ate cupcakes, and he's loving kindergarten, and doing very well.  And according to his pediatrician, he's in the 89% for height for his age, so, from a purely physical standpoint, we definitely made the right decision to start him in kindergarten now instead of waiting until next year.


I can't believe this school year is almost over!  Frank has done extremely well in Kindergarten.  He's reading tons, and his writing has improved dramatically.  At the parent-teacher conference in January, his teacher assured me that any silliness she sees, and his abilities, including handwriting, are all perfectly age-appropriate, and she is well pleased with his progress.  He'll enter public school first grade in the fall without an IEP or a 504.  I registered him for first grade last month, and they told me we would know who his teacher would be by mid-July.  Once we get that notification, I'll email her, intriduce myself, and explain about Frank's SPD.  I have plenty of books she could borrow to read up on it, if she's not familiar with it.  If he shows signs of needing additional interventions, then of course I'll ask for him to be evaluated, but right now, I'm okay with him going in unclassified.

Food-wise, he's made some great strides recently.  He now eats the school lunches more often than not, even things he's never eaten for us at home!  Peer pressure, despite what some think, is not always a bad thing; he's watched his classmates wolf down cheese quesadillas and turkey "dinners" and been intrigued.  Each time he gets a new meal, I send in a backup lunch for him, but he's never eaten any of these backup lunches. Today, at OT, he wanted to try a cheese sandwich: "Not grilled cheese, Mommy.  Just cheese." He was lukewarm on the cheese and bread together, but did eat them seperately.

Our big bugaboo has always been and still is fruits and vegetables.  He's tried several in OT recently, with varying degrees of success.  D and I agreed long ago that once he was consistently eating one or two of each, he'd be done with OT, but I haven't shared that with Frank.  He loves OT, and I could easily see him deciding to never eat another fruit or vegetable if it meant he got to keep playing with D every week!

That brings me to another change: he decided about a month ago that, "I'm a big boy now, Mommy, so you don't need to come into OT with me anymore."  I had always gone into and participated in the sessions with him and D, since he was 17 months old.  He's five and a half now, and I actually asked her last summer about this very issue; I had noticed many kids in the center about his age in there with the PTs and OTs, and not a parent in sight.  D said it depended upon a child's issue; in Frank's case, food is such a personal issue that required a great deal of daily consistent followup at home, it was important for the parent to be involved at that point.  She said she'd leave it up to me and Frank if we wanted me to keep going in or wait in the waiting room.  I didn't say anything to Frank at the time, but deicded I was going to let him drive it, and had, over the last few months, been leaving during the session here and there, just to see what he'd do.  Well, once Frank got a taste of it, he decided he rather liked the independence of it.  He seemed rather taken aback by how easily I agreed with it, but has never turned back.

Part of me is somewhat relieved, as I admit to feeling frustrated sometimes during the sessions, but part of me feels something of a pang.  This is my baby, and this is a thing he and I have always done together.  My husband has come to a few sessions here and there, but, as I work a school schedule, it's far easier for me to do OT, so I've always done the bulk of it.  But, now, my baby doesn't want me in there with him anymore.  It's the first real thing with Frank that I can remember feeling this "he's no longer a baby" feeling, and it's very disconcerting.