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Archive for June, 2011

“Writing Apologies Embarrasses Me”

Well, camp today was probably even worse for Mae than yesterday and Tuesday.  When Hubby picked her up, the head counselor told him that Mae had had a bad day — touching other kids, being defiant, throwing an ice pop.

From Mae’s perspective, she says that the kids touched her first and that there are a lot of mean kids at the camp.  Recess was cut short because the counselors lost track of time, and that wasn’t fair because she had just started to play.  She says that she threw the ice pop because it was lime-flavored and she was told “no” when she asked if she could choose a different flavor.  It’s better to choose, according to Mae, and besides, a fellow camper got to choose his ice pop, and that’s not fair.  Sigh.

Of course, in discussing it this evening, she could acknowledge that she should not have thrown the ice pop.  After bath, I put her art kit and a notepad on her bed and told her to write an apology to the camp counselor who had given her the ice pop.  She gave me a look and said, “Writing apologies embarrasses me.”  I almost said, “Throwing an ice pop should embarrass you.”  Or, I could have said, “You throwing an ice pop embarrasses me.”  I didn’t.  Instead, I reminded her that it’s understandable to get upset sometimes, and that it’s better to use words to express how she feels.

I talked about things she can do to get calm . . . well, I started to and she cut me short, saying that she’s tired of people talking to her about how to stay calm.  Her solution — as she put it, “a better option” — is to go back to the camp that she attended last summer, at her regular school.  I reminded her that she’d had a rough first two weeks there as well, and that the teacher took her to the office frequently in those first two weeks.  I told her that getting used to a new routine and new rules can be difficult and making new friends and getting adjusted takes time.

I get where she’s coming from.  Sometimes, it’s hard being her.  Things don’t always go her way, and life can seem unfair.  Grown-ups don’t get it.

As she gets older, I’m sure it will become easier for her to make better choices and understand that what seems like unfairness is really just how life goes sometimes.  (I am a realist, though.  I see adult versions of tantrums and melt-downs all the time.  Working in employee relations, I am exposed to some of people’s worst behaviors, including pushing, crying, whining, tattling, throwing objects).  My hope is to mitigate as much as possible so that she embarrasses herself as little as possible.

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Dealing with Rejection

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Mae said she had a bad day and cried a lot at camp yesterday.  She wanted to play with these three boys and, for whatever reason, they didn’t want to play with her.  Well, she doesn’t like “no” and she kept asking.  She says that the boys yelled at her because she kept asking to play.  I asked if there were other kids that she could play with, and she answered that she didn’t want to play with anyone else.

Some of the friends she made last week are still at the camp, but they or their parents chose a different theme for this week.  I tried to give Mae hope by telling her that maybe she’ll be grouped with those friends next week.

I asked how many times she thinks she should ask a kid to play, and she answered sadly, “once.”  Then, I asked how she thinks it feels to be asked again and again, and she responded slowly, “annoying.”  She knows, but it is hard for her to stop or re-direct herself once she’s on a certain path.

Talking about her day upset Mae.  She started to cry and say that nobody likes her.  I told her that I’m sure people like her because she is fun and funny.  I told her to try asking to play once, and find something else to do if she gets a “no.”  I reminded her to show her friends how kind, polite, and fun she can be.

It saddens me too to think of her trying to convince someone to let her play and then crying when they say no because I’ve seen this happen on the playground, and it’s a pretty pathetic site.  At recess one day, Mae wanted to play with a little girl, K, that she wanted to be her best friend.  K was clearly enjoying the chasing game she was playing with another group of classmates.  But, Mae didn’t want to play that game, she just wanted to play with K.  So, Mae ran after her on the playground, screaming, “Will you play with me?” louder and louder.  When I finally got Mae to stop chasing K and come to me, I suggested that she play with someone else.  I told her that maybe K was really enjoying herself right then and maybe she would play with her later.  Not good enough.  Mae broke into a hard cry and tried once again to catch up with K, calling her name repeatedly.  I had wanted to allow her to finish recess before taking her home early that day.  Instead, we left before recess ended because it was clear that it wasn’t going to end well.

At any rate, I hope today was better for her.  Tonight, I’ll try to write a social story for her or do a role play on accepting no to help her practice what to do.

Monster Jam Success

I think it’s safe to say that Jay and his friends thoroughly enjoyed his Monster Jam birthday party.  He was so amped up yesterday morning and on the way to the party that I was afraid he would wear himself out before we arrived at the party place.  He and my 17-year-old brother were in the back seat play fighting and cutting up non-stop for the entire 30-minute ride.

There were eleven kids total, including Mae and Jay.  Nice families, great kids.  They ran, played, dressed up, climbed, and laughed so that I almost wanted to be four again.  Almost.  I think it was the easiest birthday party I’ve hosted.  It was great that I had family in town to help with setting and cleaning up the party room, and even better that we didn’t have to deal with cleaning up the toys and whatnot afterwards.  Everything went well.  When Jay and his friends sat down for pizza, I looked over at him, and he gave me a smile and a thumbs up. 

Sadly, I missed the moment when Jay first saw his birthday cake.  But, I think it was a hit.  He said it was “Yum.”

A thumbs up and a “yum” — that’s all I need.

What’s funny is that Jay is really trying to milk turning four.  Before the party, he and I made a run to the store for some drinks and food.  I stopped to look at boys’ socks, and he reached for a pack and said, quite seriously, “Those are four-year-old socks.  Yea, I need those.”  The socks are a size too big, but I wasn’t going to fight that battle.  On Saturday, we went with my mom, brother, and my sister and her family into DC for the National BBQ Battle.  Mae and my niece rode without booster seats, and when Jay was buckled into his car seat, he immediately started whining.  It wasn’t “fair” that Mae and Nya Noodle were not sitting in car seats.  I made the mistake of saying that they are “big kids.”  That hurt his feelings even more, and he protested, “I’m not a little kid.”  I tried to backpedal, and it didn’t work.  My mom distracted him with bubble gum, and then all was well.

I have to work on negotiating a balance between “you’re a big kid now” with “you’re not big enough to do some things that your sister can do.”

I LOVE My Family

Before I talk about Jay’s birthday party, I have to tell about our family reunion.  The kids and I participated on Friday at a good ol’ fashioned cookout and Saturday at a dinner banquet (Hubby had to work).  I am one of five, my mom was one of eleven, and her father was one of thirteen.  For the past consecutive thirty-six years, my mother’s family has celebrated the lineage beginning from the parents of those thirteen (that is, my great-grandparents).  We’re up to six generations now, and this year, some new cousins by way of my great-great grandfather’s brother found their way to us.

I mention it here because I realized on Friday at the cookout how lucky my kids are to be a part of this long, strong, proud tradition.  A first-time attendee used the word “extended” to describe her connection, and my cousin Sharon quickly corrected her, “Don’t say ‘extended.’  You’re family.”  Other words you will rarely, if ever, hear are “half” and “step.”  And, exes hang on for decades.  One of my cousins introduced her new husband to an aunt at a family gathering last summer, and the aunt told him that he is welcome to still come around even if things don’t work out between them.  He was a little mortified, but Auntie was quite serious.  There are more than enough examples to prove she was speaking truthfully.  Not only are exes still welcome, but there is at least one who has brought his second wife and their children to family events.  And, his children from his second marriage have been listed in our annual family reunion program booklet.  For many years, I thought the kids were my blood cousins.

Are we perfect?  No.  We keep secrets, gossip, fuss, fight, and have some drama now and then.  Sometimes, we annoy the heck out of each other.  During the banquet, three of my aunts sent me to get second plates for them.  Yes, I said three.  One had the photographer get my attention from across the room.  I was flattered, thinking that she wanted to have her picture taken with me, and all she really wanted was more carrots.  Later, I was complaining to some cousins who are also in the late 30s, and we joked that by now, with kids of our own, we should be past the age of having to fetch stuff.

For the most part, though,there is a tremendous amount of love and support.  This family is a big, loving, enveloping organism, and I’m glad that my kids are seeing and experiencing what it’s like to be a part of something so big.

To Mae and Jay, right now, reunion may be about fun and games, and adults patting their heads and remarking about how much they have grown and from where they get that stubborn streak. 😉  They will realize one day that there is much more to it.  I always feel a tinge of pity for people who describe their families as small or say that they don’t know their cousins.  In my mind, that’s a form of poverty.  One of my great-aunts will turn 100 on July 10 and she asks about my children by name whenever I talk to her, which is about once every other week.  That is rich — to be known and asked about, to have your name spoken and stretched over a bridge 96 years long.

I Am Da BOMB Mom

Ok, the party hasn’t happened yet, but I am taking a moment to recognize myself because I am so pleased with my work on Jay’s Monster Jam birthday cake.  So pleased, in fact, that I have given myself an award.  It’s the I’m-Da-Bomb-Mom award.  There are some people who helped me along the way, and I’d like to thank them also at this time.

First, Hubby found the pictures for the sponsor banner and crowd.  He had them printed at Staples, and I’m glad he chose the glossy paper.  Nice, realistic effect.

Second, my niece Nya Noodle crushed graham crackers for me for the arena dirt.  She rolled a can of beans over a plastic bag of crackers, and then I finished the job in the food processor to get a finer texture.  We were using regular graham crackers, and Nya Noodle’s mom (my big sister) suggested that chocolate grahams would look better.  I’m grateful to her for sharing her opinion because she was absolutely right.  And, as she pointed out, chocolate grahams would be a better complement to the red velvet cake because the cake has cocoa in it.

Then, there is my youngest sister, she deserves thanks for letting me store/hide the cake in her fridge.  I snuck out this morning to go decorate it, and my little brother gave Mae and Jay breakfast while I was gone.  My younger sister, who wasn’t able to make it up from Florida, kept me company by phone while I cleaned up my cookie crumb mess and put the decorated cake away.  Back here at the house, my mom and brother-in-law kept Mae and Jay in line until I returned.

I should also mention that I found great cake ideas and inspiration at http://www.coolest-birthday-cakes.com, and that the Neely’s have a superb red velvet cake recipe.

Awesome cast, great support.

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

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Four days after the kids’ vacation with Nonny, and we are trying to get settled back into a routine.  The kids are resisting, complaining that they don’t have enough play time in the evenings, which I don’t understand because they play all day at camp.  During the school year, baths began at 7:45 pm, with reading and bed immediately after.  This week, the earliest they have gone upstairs is 8:40 pm.  I do feel kind of bad ending their play time while there is still sunlight outside.  However, they wake up more easily and they tend to be more cooperative when they get more rest (although more rest is no guarantee for more cooperation).

Mae seems to be doing ok at camp.  This is her first time at a camp outside of their school since she started there at age three.  She is not raving about camp, but she hasn’t complained yet either.  I exchanged emails with the camp director last Friday about some of Mae’s biggest challenges — transitioning to new or highly stimulating environments, heavy crying if play doesn’t go her way, and speaking or acting without thinking first, and tips on what seems to help her manage better.  The head counselor for Mae’s group is an early childhood education major and has a younger brother with ADD, a disorder that shares several characteristics with Asperger’s.  So, I have some confidence that he and the camp director know what to expect and how to manage.

While the kids were in SC, I managed to write six social stories for Mae, including ones on speaking with respect and unexpected changes, and mailed them to her at Nonny’s.  I wanted to introduce the stories before camp began.  She said the storybook I made was “great,” and, unfortunately, we haven’t had a chance to sit and talk about it or go over the stories in detail.  I have not been the most attentive parent this week as I’m trying to get the house ready for company and for Jay’s birthday party this weekend.

Jay is still being a little snarky.  On Monday evening, he told me, for no apparent reason, that I can’t come to his birthday party.  Then, he expanded the ban to all moms and dads, which made me feel a little better.  My first thought was, “Mmm, cake all to myself.”  When I’ve picked him up from camp this week, he has been sooo disinterested in seeing me whereas I used to get a run-up-and-hug and huge grin, kind of the way he got all excited last night when I told him that Nonny wanted to speak to him on the phone.  All that aside, we had a major breakthrough last night at bedtime.  I told him, “I love you” and started to walk away from his bed.   He said, with his monkey pillow half covering his face, “I love you too.”  Because I’m accustomed to not receiving a response to “I love you,” I had to do a double-take.  I almost asked him to repeat it in case I didn’t hear him correctly.  Then, I decided to just go with what I think I heard.   I smiled and said, “Thank you.”

Then, I got out of his room quickly before he could change his mind or tell me that I still can’t come to his party.

 

4 Is the New 2?

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I don’t know what happened to the sweet little boy that we left in SC two weeks ago.  The boy that we picked up is taller, has a more mature face, and talks with a smart mouth.  My mother warned me on Thursday evening.  She called to say that Jay had left a 4-inch scratch in his big sister’s back, and that when she told him she was going to tell me and Hubby, he said “Soooo.”

What? 

Nonny said that he had been fighting and picking at Mae all week.  Mae was complaining that he had spit on her several times during the week (which means that he blew raspberries at her), including on this particular day.  For Jay, that’s a pretty contemptuous act, and he knows how much it aggravates Mae.

My first thought was that he was acting out fatigue.  His nap schedule lapsed during this two week vacation.  As much as he argues that he doesn’t need a nap, he can be quite the grump when he’s tired. 

He was sleeping when Nonny called me, so I figured that I’d see what was going on with him myself once we arrived to get him and Mae this weekend.

For sure, Saturday morning, it was clear:  he looked different and he had an attitude!  I couldn’t believe it then, and I’m having trouble believing it now as we head back up to MD.  He flat out refused to brush his teeth and have his face washed on Saturday morning.  I had to put him behind a closed door until he agreed to cooperate.  Before, a warning alone would have worked nine and a half times out of ten. 

And, I heard him say “so.”  I don’t even think his sister, Queen Smart-mouth, says that.  We went out for lunch on Saturday afternoon, and I had to speak to him more firmly than usual to keep him from putting trash on the floor and pulling tape off  the tears in the fake leather seats (worn furniture aside, the food was great and I like supporting locally owned businesses at home).

Next trip, I want try this place. If they cook like my momma, it's gotta be good.

Yep, Jay’s been salty.  When I ask him what happened to my little boy, he laughs and says, “It’s me!”  I don’t even remember him having the terrible twos.  He’s been so easy, especially compared to Mae.  I think it would be a real uncool trick on me and Hubby to get thrown back into the twos when Jay is a mere five days from four and Mae is a whopping seven years.  And, she, by the way, did a great job of tolerating Jay’s taunting.  Nonny said that Mae wouldn’t hit him back and she didn’t cry when he scratched her. 

Vacation is a perfect time for less structure and more freedom.  I’m grateful that my mother was able and willing to provide that break for Jay and Mae.  I’m hoping that once we get back into a regular routine at home, including more rest and a diet with less sugar and artificial things, Jay will come around.

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