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Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

Picking and Choosing

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It’s a good thing I’m not the type of person who panics easily. I should be freaking out about being told today at 6:45 pm or thereabouts that Jay’s martial arts-themed birthday party on Saturday (less than 48 hours from now) may be without a martial arts instructor. The party scheduler didn’t know that the usual party instructors will be participating in a tournament this weekend.

She said she’s trying desperately to book one of two possible substitutes. Hey, a lot can happen in two days, right? I do wonder about the capabilities of the leftover instructors who aren’t participating in the tournament. Does that mean they suck? Would six-year olds notice? If I can fit into Mae’s uniform, maybe . . . .  Well, the scheduler is going to call me at noon tomorrow and give me an update.

This is our first week back from vacation and then I was home sick on Monday and Tuesday, so I’m still getting my energy back and adjusting to our summer routine. Jay and I both picked up some crud. The pediatrician asked me if Jay had had any recent “exposures.” I said, “Between the zoo, pool, water park, beach, and hotel, I’m sure he was exposed to something, but I don’t know what.”

During vacation, my work piled up and I worked last night and I’ll work tonight to get caught up. I had three great colleagues on standby to babysit help my clients. However, the Lovelies left “urgent” voicemail messages despite my out-of-office greeting and disregarded my email auto-reply asking them to contact my co-workers. Ah, to be valued so much that they would have no one else but me!

I don’t feel like being panicky right now. I chose calm for today. I think better in this state. I have too much to do for home, self, and work and not a lot of time to get it done. Like, I have a hair appointment tomorrow after work and I need to shop for and bake a cake for which I still need to decide upon a recipe.

Woosaaaah . . . .

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37 and Going Strong

We spent last weekend in Myrtle Beach, celebrating my family’s 37th annual family reunion. I love those crazy people! We were close to 160 in number, six generations deep. Reunion is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s amazing that it comes together and gets hailed as such a good time with all of the last minute additions, cancellations, and changes that take place. Planning and execution is now led (supposedly) by my generation. You’d think it would be easy after all these years.

A few weeks ago, one of my cousins and I were “voluntold” to serve as the master and mistress of ceremonies. The head-aunt-in-charge gave strict instructions that we were to begin the program promptly at 6:00 pm. We did as told and then realized after our welcome remarks that Cousin Reverend RD was late and couldn’t deliver the scripture and prayer. Thankfully, an elder cousin stepped up and filled in. My co-host and I plowed through the rest of the program, both hoping it would be our first and last time in that capacity. It’s a role that doesn’t fit me well; I lack the wit, animation, and enthusiasm I think an MC should have. Unfortunately, so does my cousin. Fortunately, the family was kind to us during the program and we can say that we did our part to help. People seem to care more about the fellowship than the ceremony anyway.

It was a short, fun-filled weekend and we packed in as much as we could — mini golf, science museum, amusement park rides, and arcade games. Mae and Jay enjoyed it all, especially the beach and pools. I’m so grateful that they have a high comfort level in the water. It takes away the anxiety I used to feel. Hubby still tells me that I need to learn to swim. At this point, I just need for my kids to be able to rescue me.

The kids seem to have recovered from the trip already. Hubby and I are still exhausted, and probably will be for the rest of the week. I have no major plans for the coming weekend, and I intend to keep it that way. I will rest. I will. I will. I will.

Moving Up and On

20120403-102450.jpgIt’s Spring Break! We’re free! We’re free!

Yesterday, I was talking to a girlfriend whose 2-year old is on Spring Break this week too. My friend was talking about her plans for events all around town. I felt bad. I have plans for all around the house. The kids and I were in the yard yesterday afternoon. Jay said, “I like pulling up weeds.” I thought to myself, “. . . until you go back to school and hear your friends talk about their trips to Disney or other exotic places.” Oh, well. We did have a play date today at an inflatables place. The kids ran, bounced, and slid for two hours straight. I felt better. I reminded myself also that they have had several busy weekends in the past two months. We’ve been to the National Building Museum twice, the Chesapeake Children’s Museum, Maryland Science Center, and the Natural History Museum. That’s in addition to birthday parties, field trips, and park visits. They get around. The father of the little girl we met today spoke of an article he read recently about how we schedule our kids’ time such that we deprive them of opportunities to use and develop their own imaginations. Instead of learning to plan and organize and be creative, they look to us to tell them what to do and play. And, on that note, while I spend the reminder of the week cleaning and organizing, Mae and Jay will be free to figure out what they want to do.

Last night, Mae had her last appointment with the therapist for what will be a while. During the visit, we talked about improvements she’s made and how it seems that the gap between her emotional and intellectual development has narrowed significantly. She has better self-control, and Hubby, her teacher, and I know better how to anticipate and head off triggers. Things have been relatively quiet on the school front, and issues she’s had — like losing time off recess for talking during class — are typical 8-year old behaviors. She rarely complains about not having anyone to play with or feeling left out. I think she’s accepted that she is not a part of certain circles. She doesn’t like it, but she doesn’t obsess about it. Right now.

The last quarter of school will be more challenging academically, and that will take extra coaching. When she doesn’t breeze through her work, she gets down on herself, saying that she can’t do anything. I have to coax her out of that frame of mind by reminding her of past success, which can include getting the previous 19 problems on the page correct with no assistance, and giving constant encouragement. I expect that transitioning to summer camp will take some special coaching as well. The therapist and I agreed that I’ll give her a call in early to mid-June to talk about how that transition is going.

I’ve given up on finding another social skills playground. So much effort, so little results. If she continues to have play dates and other social events where we can monitor her interactions with other kids and intervene as necessary, I think we’ll be fine. For now.

Jay had his follow-up appointment with the gastroenterologist today. I think his heartburn issues resolved shortly after our first visit in February. He continued to complain about more general stomach pain for a few weeks after, until about a week ago. Hubby and I became skeptical after we noticed a pattern of complaints after lights out on school nights. His stomach seemed to be pain-free on weekend nights and also at certain special times, such as when he had his blue comforter instead of his brown blanket, or when he listened to soft music at bedtime. There were many nights that I wanted to put my nose to his and say through clenched teeth, “Will you please just tell the truth?” That would work with Mae. Jay is my sensitive one. When I use a stern tone with him, he ignores the message and focuses on telling me he doesn’t like “that voice” and asking me to apologize. The conclusion is that his stomach did hurt sometimes, most likely due to constipation. So, we’re on to more fiber, water, and exercise.

My new job has gotten off to a good start. I swear this was a good move for me, and not just because I’ll be working from home two days a week. It’s going to be more intense and focused on employee relations (ER). After spending the past 6 years splitting my time between ER and other areas, I feel as though I finished my undergraduate degree and now I’m in graduate school. I’m excited about the new skills I’ll develop and new relationships I’ll build. It’s not that I wish for people to have problems at work or that I enjoy basking in other people’s problems. It’s just that problems are bound to happen because we’re human, and I like helping to solve them. So, I’m looking forward to talking to the supervisor of the “creepy old guy” who keeps putting his hand in his pants, much to his cubicle mate’s dismay. Ha’mercy!

“Take chances. Make Mistakes.”

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Mae took the School and  College Ability Test (SCAT) today.  It’s an exam that, if she scores well, will allow her to participate in summer camps and academic programs through Johns Hopkins University.  I registered her almost two months ago.  I thought I read all of the pertinent material about the test at that time.  When I went online this morning to get directions, I saw a link for a practice test.  So, there I was 40 minutes before test time asking her to answer sample questions.  She answered a few of the verbal questions, said that she got the idea, and turned to go back to cartoon-watching.  I said, “Wait, there is math too.”  She made a pouting face and came back to the computer.  She looked at the screen and asked, “What’s a whole number?”  I started explaining, inadequately, I think, because I didn’t see a “lightbulb” moment.  Cramming is probably a bad idea for a second-grader anyway.  I let her go back to the TV.  I felt bad about not noticing the practice test earlier, and, for that matter, not doing anything in particular to prepare her. 

At the testing center, she was the only kid amongst a bunch of adults taking the MCAT and whatnot.  As the proctor signed her in, I thought, “Oh, no, she’s going to be fidgety.  She’s going to whine if she doesn’t know an answer.  She’s going to distract someone who has been working long and hard for something that will determine their life’s destiny.”  The proctor gave her instructions about staying quiet, logging in, using the tutorial, paying attention to time.”  Then, I realized that she was going into the testing room on her own.  I wasn’t even sure that Mae was paying attention to the instructions.  When the proctor asked if she had any questions, Mae said no.  I thought about backing out.  I wasn’t sure she was ready for this.

Then, I thought about something Mae had said to me once.  She was trying to convince me to buy some sugary cereal and she told me to “take chances.  Make mistakes.”  She learned this from Ms. Frizzle on “The Magic Schoolbus.”  Ms. Frizzle was probably talking about something other than sugary cereal.  Nonetheless, it’s good advice.  We were there already; the $55 exam fee was spent.  If Mae scores well, it will open doors for some challenging and exciting educational opportunities.  If not, so what?  This isn’t the type of thing that would upset her.  I took a deep breath and let go.

The test should have taken 60-75 minutes.  Mae went through the verbal portion in less than ten minutes.  Umm, that seems too good to be true.  She used the full time allotted for math, and didn’t finish all the questions, which she didn’t seem bothered about at all.  It’s an above-grade level exam, and it’s meant to be difficult.  We’ll know the results in about five days.  Now,  off to home to enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Back to Cruel

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School hasn’t started yet, and it’s already not going the way that I planned.  Ms. J, who looked after Mae after school last, including making sure her homework was done, informed me last week that she hadn’t yet received commitments from any other families for her at-home after school program.

As her youngest child is a sixth-grader, she knows, and I agree, that he and a second-grader are not ideal playmates.  Ms. J shared with me that she thinks that Mae needs a smaller, more structured program than that offered by her school, where Ms. J works and has seen some of the trouble Mae has had in her interactions with other students and some teachers.  Ms. J remembered that I’d approached her originally about help with finding transportation to an aftercare program in our neighborhood, and offered to drive Mae there.  So, that was good news.  I also appreciated that Ms. J called me and asked to talk face-to-face.  She didn’t want to email me or talk in detail over the phone.

Fortunately, there is still space in the neighborhood program.  It costs about an additional $100 per month over Ms. J’s place, plus whatever we’ll pay Ms. J for transportation.  In total, we’ll pay per week what Mae’s school charges per month for aftercare.  All for a child who is quick to complain that we don’t take her enough fun places and all our vacations seem to be in SC.  Oh, I wish I had started adding from day one.

And, I’m wondering if we should be doing more for her social skills.  Playgroup sessions again?  An aide to be with her during recess at school?  At her last appointment with Dr. Laura two weeks ago, she had a meltdown right smack in the middle of the session.  Jay was with us because Hubby was out of town.  He was playing with a plastic truck on the rug, and put it down to pick up another toy.  Mae and Dr. Laura had been discussing how camp was going, and Mae left the conversation and went over to pick up the truck.  She did so quickly and then jumped to the other side of the room.  Jay began to protest, and Dr. Laura insisted that Mae hand over the truck.  Mae did so reluctantly, arguing that Jay wasn’t using it.  The doctor pointed out the cues that Jay wasn’t done — he’d put the truck down  near him and he sounded upset when Mae picked it up.  She asked Mae what else she could have done to get the truck.  Ask Jay if he was done with it?  Ask for a turn afterwards?  Then, the tears started.  Then, the arguing — she could play with it if she wanted to because he wasn’t using it.

Jay and I went to the reception area and left Mae and Dr. Laura behind the closed door to try to work it out.  I don’t think it worked at all.  The crying continued except for a short break until the session ended.  By that point, Mae had decided that Dr. Laura was mean and she never wanted to see her again.  Frankly, I was a little surprised and disappointed that the doctor couldn’t turn the situation around.  I’ve seen this behavior at home, and I can intervene without a meltdown ensuing.  Maybe Mae was more dug in because it was her first such encounter with Dr. Laura.  I’m not ready to break up with the doctor just yet, though I did have a moment when I thought, “$150 for this?  I can do better for free at home.”  I should avoid judging too quickly.

So, one and a half weeks until school starts.  New teacher, new after school program.  Maybe the same social skills, maybe not.  I expect the beginning will be rough for Mae.  Hopefully, she’ll adjust and find a rhythm before too long.

Thank Me Later

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We left Mae and Jay in SC yesterday.  They are with my mom for the last two weeks of summer.  Mae was crying when we left, pleading with us to stay with them.  Jay was the trooper.  He said, “It’s ok, Mom.”  I did feel bad, and I started thinking that maybe this is the last year that we should leave them in SC.  Then, I thought, ‘It is what it is.’  Hubby and I have to go back to work, camps are closed and school opens after Labor Day.  Before we left, I reminded Mae and Jay that at Nonny’s house, they can have treats like sugar cereal and chocolate chip frozen waffles (which I even bought myself this time) that they can’t have at home.  I told them to try to enjoy this break from our rules and routines.

If they don’t appreciate it now, perhaps they will in time — whether it’s spending time with Nonny, getting to know cousins, or the freedom.  And, how many of their friends will be able to say that they picked scuppernongs (a type of wild grape, also known as bullets) from a vine in the back of someone’s yard?  Mae and Jay saw their first pear trees, which was a “wow” moment.  The pears were too high for them to pick, but they will get to enjoy them (if they get over the fact that these pears look funny compared to those from the grocery store).


It’s Shark Week

Mae is near the end of her first week of camp at her regular school and it’s been a so-so week.  Monday was the hardest day so far, and the tough parts were during unstructured play time.  My poor babe had trouble getting that there are times when little boys playing their handheld game systems would rather not have a little girl looking over their shoulder or sitting at their knee looking over their arm.  Monday evening, we read and talked about a social story I wrote for her about what you can do when someone says”no.”  I understand that it’s confusing for her because, she says, sometimes the boys would let her watch them play, and she “wasn’t doing anything wrong.”  That’s been one of her most used lines this week.  Emphatically, “I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”  It’s always the other kids; they are mean and they get her in trouble.  I did get Mae to agree that if someone says “no” the first time she asks to play, then she won’t ask again and she’ll look for something else to do.  I know it will be hard for her to honor that every single time.  Hopefully, she’ll remember at least some of the time.

Today, Mae declared that she doesn’t want to go to any summer camp at all at this point.  She had a tough day, which she seems to measure now by how much she cried.  Monday, she cried almost the whole day.  Tuesday and Wednesday, she only cried once (said each day in a positive tone as if to make me feel better).  Today, she cried a lot.  It was some of the usual stuff — she thinks some kids were ignoring her when she wanted to play with them and she says a fourth-grader threw her to the floor while they were playing sharks and minnows.  After the latter instance, the teacher made her sit out for five minutes and “nothing happened” to the boy.  Hmmm.  Sounds like there is more to that story, and I’ll ask the teacher about it tomorrow if I remember.

I know at least some of today was good for Mae because she was playing happily when I arrived at the art room.  Once she and Jay were buckled into their seats, they were both excited to tell me about the Mad Science demonstrations they had seen (the week-long Mad Science camp was canceled due to low enrollment, but the school arranged for one Mad Science day).  Mae and Jay both said it was the best part of their day.  And, Mae was wearing a yarn necklace that a fellow camper had made for her.  Unfortunately, Mae sometimes lets one negative incident define the whole day for her.  She is the minnow and all the other kids (and sometimes the teachers too, as she tells it) are the sharks.

I have my own measure for how Mae’s day goes.  If Hubby and I have a day with no phone calls, no emails, no conversations with the teacher at the end of the day, and no glares from other parents picking up their kids, then that is a good day.

I will be out-of-town next week for a job-related conference in California, which means changes to routines, and . . . oh, I’m just not going to even think about it right now.  Hubby will have to dust off his superhero cape.  I will instead think about the packing I haven’t done, which is almost all of it.  More precisely, there is one outfit at the foot of the bed and the suitcase is still in the closet.  I intended to log into my work computer this evening to try to get ahead on some things, and that is clearly not going to happen now.

I will give myself credit for going to the gym this evening, which I considered not doing because I still have unanswered questions about my health.  I still feel fine, despite the numbness that continues to rove from limb to limb.  I’ve had normal results from a carotid duplex (ultrasound of arteries in my neck), EKG, cardiology consultation, MRI, neurological consultation, heart ultrasound and basic blood work, which all indicate no MS, brain tumor, or stroke.  Today, I had five vials of blood drawn for more extensive bloodwork to test for things diabetes, HIV, blood cancer, thyroid abnormalities, and vitamin deficiencies.  Boy, oh boy, does a vitamin deficiency sound delightful right about now.

I have at least one more task to complete before I go to bed.  I have to send an email to the supervisor of the lab I went to for the bloodwork.  I’m anemic with small veins and normally low blood pressure.  The first lab worker who tried to get blood from me was unsuccessful after poking both arms, not an unusual experience for me.  I asked if I could return later in the day after drinking more water.  When I returned two hours later and Lab Worker #2 was told that I had been there earlier and my veins wouldn’t cooperate, she placed her pen on the counter firmly and put on a “Don’t worry, I’ve got this” face.  I thought, “Oh boy, an ego trip is coming on and I’m going to get poked relentlessly because she has to prove that she can get blood from a stone.”  I learned to ask for another nurse or offer to come back later if I get a cocky one.

Fortunately, yes, Lab Worker #2 accepted this as a challenge, and she was smart about it.  After her first poke came up dry, Lab Worker #2 switched to the other arm.  She tied the rubber band thingy above my elbow.  “Uh-uh.”  The veins didn’t look or feel good, so she didn’t bother to poke.  She removed the band and tied it around my wrist, very, very tightly.  Then, she placed a heat pack on the back of my hand to increase the blood flow and make the veins bigger.  That was a first for me, and it worked.  Lab Worker #2 was kind and apologetic throughout the process and asked several times if I felt ok.  So, I told her that I would send an email to her supervisor to say what a good job she had done.

After that, I’ll get some zzz’s and get cracking in the morning.

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