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Posts tagged ‘aftercare’

Toughen Up

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Jay gave his sister a big hug after she received her belt and certificate.

Mae tested for her first belt in Tae Kwon Do this week. She was so proud of herself for passing. I am too.

It was a bit scary to watch.  The instructors are hard on the kids.  As the students sat waiting for the testing to begin, the Master Teacher called out some students by name to ask where were their parents.  One little girl, maybe six years old, said, “I think my mom and dad forgot or maybe they’re at work.” Why make children answer for their parents?  The kids had probably already noticed that their parents were missing from the audience and felt some kind of way about it.

Then, one little boy didn’t break a board with his foot after a few tries. Master.Teacher.was.not.happy. He told the kid to get serious and take the smile off of his face. The smile was probably more from nerves than playfulness. The boy still didn’t break the board after a few more tries. Master Teacher told him he’d failed the test, made him do 50 push ups, and sent him to the side! The boy started to cry. Master Teacher asked him his age, and he said six. Master Teacher told him that he’s not a baby anymore. What does a six-year-old do when he’s told to stop crying? Cry some more.  At the end, the little guy was given another chance and he chopped the board and earned his belt and got a mini-lecture from Master Teacher.

An older kid was not so lucky and he failed his test, even after Master Teacher gave him a final try at the end. As a teenager, he cried as hard as the six-year-old.  I can imagine that if my child had failed, we probably would have needed a straight jacket and a stretcher.

I didn’t grow up in a sports or martial arts family, nor a Tiger Mom or military family or any of the environments where discipline and competition thicken the skin.  I’m learning that that makes me quite a wuss when it comes to watching my kids participate in activities that involve physical contact and competition. Tonight, when I picked up Mae, there were kids sparring and – my goodness! – they were kicking and hitting each other HARD. I thought they were supposed to just sort of simulate martial arts.

Soccer season has ended and that wasn’t so bad because at the kindergarten level, the emphasis was on having fun and learning the rules and skills of the game. Jay really enjoyed himself.

Mae is lukewarm about fencing and doesn’t want to continue beyond this beginner’s class. (I’m somewhat relieved because I lost interest in it after the first lesson I watched.) She says she wants to do more Tae Kwon Do instead.  I’ll have to work on my ability to watch without wincing and learn how to handle failing or losing, if it comes to that.

Hubby, of course, is like, “ah, no big deal.  It’s life.”  Except, he quickly backtracked this week on canceling our Netflix subscription.  Mae and Jay are hooked on the service for their favorite TV shows.  When Hubby told me last night that he’d canceled, I said, “I don’t want to be in the house when you tell the kids.”  This morning, he told me that he re-activated the service after I went to bed.  We both laughed.  So, he’s not so tough all the time either.

Unmasked

A couple of weekends ago, Mae watched BrainPop movies on ADHD and autism as we were driving home from somewhere.  The short video on ADHD, or ADD, described the characteristics as inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.  The narrator said that people with ADD can’t concentrate sometimes no matter how hard they try and get bored easily.  He described children who call out answers to questions out of turn and have trouble sitting still and difficulty interacting with others.  In the autism video, the narrator explained that someone with autism has a strong interest in a particular topic, difficulty communicating and relating to others, and problems interacting with family and friends.

As we came into the house, Mae asked me if she has ADD.  I said no.  Then, she asked if she has autism.  I said no.  Then, I remembered that the video talked about autism spectrum disorders, of which Asperger’s is considered one.  Though the video didn’t specifically mention Asperger’s, I realized that I should change my answer.

I began, “Wait, do you remember meeting Dr. Mike and taking a lot of tests?”  I told her that the outcome of the testing was that Dr. Mike said she has Asperger’s Syndrome.   Mae asked what that means.  I started with, “Sometimes, you’re impulsive” and explained that sometimes she speaks and acts without thinking first of the consequences or impact on others.  She recognized that and said, “Oh, yeah.”

I started to talk about a second characteristic (I don’t remember which) but she went off on a tangent and started describing one of her classmates that she thinks has ADD.

I realized this was an opportunity to talk about one of our cousins who has autism.  We only see Jaden once or twice a year, and I’d wondered when Mae would notice and ask why Jaden seems different from other teenagers she knows.  I wanted to help Mae connect what she show on the video with real life and develop more sensitivity.  I told her that I think Jaden is the only autistic person in our family, and I talked about Jaden’s fascination with spoons, her monotone way of speaking, and need for routine.  Mae, ever focused on herself, asked if she’s the only person in our family who has Asperger’s.  I said yes, I believe so.  Mae clapped and said “Yay!” with a big ol’ smile.

I’ve heard Mae mention Asperger’s only twice since that conversation.  Once to tell Jay that she has it, in a tone that sounded as if it were a badge or at least something that made her unique and special.  On the other occasion, I was reminding her to focus on her homework and she said, “It’s because I have Asperger’s.”  She didn’t press that point because I’m a stickler about homework.  She’s gonna get it done no matter what and she knows it.

It’s interesting that she recognized herself in the BrainPop videos.  Of course, we and her teachers have spoken to her many times about blurting out in class and staying focused.  I try to keep her to a routine, especially on school nights and she’s gotten help from a therapist, which the videos also discussed.  And, my goodness, she knows that she has trouble making friends, or at least the friends she wants to have.

I told Mae this morning that she will be moved to a new homeroom class when she returns to school this week.  The school sent home a form letter on Friday announcing that, based on test results, 3rd grade homeroom class makeup is being adjusted to better match the needs of students.  Mae fell into a funky mood right away.  She’s worried that she will be separated from the one friend that she’s made, and I understand.  Frankly, I’m worried about that too.  Mae has consistently been complaining about the general rudeness of the kids and requesting to go back to her old school.  On top of that, she continues to complain specifically about Gigi.  Mae said this morning that she has been trying to steer clear of Gigi because she continues to be mean and bossy.  Gigi, according to Mae, insists on sitting with her at lunch and trying to play with her.  Yet, Gigi says that she doesn’t like anything about Mae.  Two weeks ago, at aftercare, she gave Mae and another student the middle finger and said, “F*ck you.”  The aftercare director says that she called Gigi’s parents and sent a note home.

I’m so hoping this homeroom change doesn’t place Mae in the same class as Gigi.  I’ve been communicating with the school guidance counselor as well as the aftercare director about the girls’ interactions.  Both women have been very understanding of my concerns.  This past week, they both thought that things were mellowing out between the two girls.  I’m not sure what to think because Mae paints a different picture.  I do know for sure that it would be a setback for Mae if she is separated from the classmate who has become her friend and placed in the same environment with Gigi for several hours a day vs. just seeing her at lunch, recess, and aftercare.  One of those things would be bad.  Both?  I don’t even want to think about it hard.

School is closed tomorrow because of Hurricane Sandy.  When it reopens, my top priority is to see the class rosters.

Get Up, Stand Up

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Hubby and I had a good meeting last Wednesday with Mae’s four teachers and the school’s talented and gifted Coordinator and guidance counselor. I requested the meeting to get a better idea of how Mae has been adjusting. I’m still trying to determine what intervention(s) to pursue next and what’s available through the school system now that we’re public.

The meeting went well. As it turns out, the teachers have been pleasantly surprised that Mae is not the kid I described in my introductory email to them. I was expecting a much tougher transition than we’ve had. I’m happy that I was wrong. They counted among them 3-4 meltdowns, and two of those were on the same day and may have been one extended meltdown. The teachers have observed some of the same behaviors we’ve been working on — not picking up on social cues, difficulty working in a group, frustration and withdrawal when others don’t accept her ideas, trouble making friends. They offered some supports that they think may be helpful with social, transition, and organizational skills.

I wasn’t aware that she had such trouble with organizational skills at school (though her neuropsychological evaluation report said that she would). For example, even though she began the school year with a well-stocked pouch for pens, pencils, colored pencils, etc, and the pouch stays in the backpack that she carries from class to class, she’s caught the devil keeping up with the items. And, I check the pouch regularly to restock as needed. Students are actually graded on work habits, and can lose 20-25% of a daily work habit grade for forgetting to take crayons to math. One of my friends asked if the emphasis on organization creates too much pressure at this age. Right now, I think the teachers are being reasonable. The school’s stated goal is to make them “college and work ready,” even though it’s an elementary school (2nd through 5th graders). Working in human resources, I see how a lack of organizational skills can hamper career success. Once I receive the first grade report, I’ll know if I should change my attitude.

I brought up during the conversation that Mae has become more anxious about her relationship with one student in particular, Gigi, which may eventually lead to problems in class. Mae’s homeroom teacher offered to monitor them when she has recess duty and she said that she would suggest to Mae that they try peer mediation. She did just that later in the afternoon after our meeting. The guidance counselor agreed that peer mediation may be appropriate.

Mae has been talking about Gigi more and it seems that they are becoming less and less friends. Mae has said that she’s afraid not to do things that Gigi tells her because Gigi may gossip about her to other students who have been friendly and then those friends will stop liking her. There is one girl in particular that Mae admires and enjoys being with, and she’s afraid of loosing that budding friendship. I swear, this is the first time in her eight years that Mae has shown any inkling of being unwilling to stand up for herself.

I started reading Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements to Mae last week, mostly because of the second agreement, ‘don’t take anything personally.’ I thought the concepts would help her understand the importance of protecting herself emotionally and build up the confidence to do so. On Wednesday night, we read agreement one, ‘be impeccable with your word.’ This requires using words for good, not evil.

When I picked Mae up from aftercare on Thursday, she asked me, with urgency, “What’s the second agreement?” I told her we’d read it later and asked why she needed to know.

Mae: “I told [Gigi] to be impeccable with her word.”
Me:  “Did you tell her what it means?”
Mae: “No, I told her to figure it out. We were about to switch classes.”

And, just like that, she was ready to give the kid the second agreement and she hadn’t even explained the first.

Ironically, I met Gigi and her dad that same day. Hubby was right about her — she reminds me too of my child!

I’d asked Mae to introduce me to Gigi, and I was glad the opportunity came.  I’d like to get to know this child who is the first person — big or small — I know of that Mae has been unable to stand up to and defend herself against. Mae had her own agenda; she walked over to Gigi.

Mae: “My mom wants to talk to you about being mean to me.”
Gigi: “I’m not mean to you.”
Mae: “Uh huh. You called my baby brother annoying and stupid.”
Gigi: “No, I didn’t.”

Gigi followed Mae back to me anyway, and I asked about her day. She seems friendly and outgoing. We walked down to where her dad was waiting for her. I introduced myself as Mae’s mom and told him that the girls ride the bus together to aftercare and sometimes do their homework together. He was friendly too. I asked him if he was aware of any of the “friendship drama” between Mae and Gigi. He looked confused and said no. I thought to myself, ‘I guess that’s Mom’s domain.’ Mae said to the dad, “She’s been mean to me. She said she’ll be my friend Monday through Thursday, but not Friday, and that’s just wrong. Wrong.” Without taking a breath, Mae then went off on a tangent about having swim lessons on Fridays and not liking having to swim in the deep end of the pool.

Gigi’s dad went with that line of conversation and asked questions about swim lessons. I would have liked to talk to him some more about the girls. However, since he made no attempt to explore what Mae and I meant about “drama” and “mean,” I decided that I would postpone that conversation until I have an opportunity to meet Gigi’s mom. Hopefully, she’s a reasonable person and open to having a candid talk about her kid. We chatted for several more minutes about swim and I don’t remember what else.

When it was time to go, Gigi began hugging on Mae and refusing to let her go. Gigi said she wanted to come home with us. She held Mae’s hand as we walked out of the building, and walked with us in the direction of our car instead of with her dad in the opposite direction. Finally, when I teased that she would have to help clean and cook if she came to our us, she gave Mae a last tight squeeze around the neck and kissed her on the cheek three times before she went off with her dad. It reminded me of the same clingy type behavior Mae had towards her friend K at her old school, towards whom Mae was often bossy and possessive. I wonder if Gigi displays that same sort of possessiveness and becomes “mean” if Mae tries to play with someone else or wants to play or do something different from what Gigi wants.

I think Mae and Gigi do have the potential to be friends. They need guidance on how, and with help from teachers and parents, maybe they can figure out ways to get along. Or, they may decide not to be friends at all and leave each other alone or just be homework partners in after care. It’s my mediation training, I’m sure, but I’m optimistic and hopeful.

On another friend-related note, Jay’s old pal that pushed him around last year didn’t return this year. Yay! It’s such a relief. He’s such a nice kid and was just unable to assert himself with that little dude. His kindergarten teacher has described him as “quiet and unassertive.” He’ll have reading and computer technology with the first grade class, and I am concerned that he may be too uncomfortable with the older kids to participate in class. I think he’s the only kindergartener reading at his level and so there is no kindergarten reading group in which he can be placed (and still be challenged). I’m sooo hoping that he will test into Mae’s school for second grade. This year, he’s playing soccer for the first time, and loving it. As he develops interest in doing more things outside of home and independent of his sister, I hope more assertiveness and leadership will come.

Jay has brought home his Good Day stick practically every day (a couple days, he forgot to take it back to school). Mae said to him last week, with wonder, not envy, “You’re such a good kid, better than I was in kindergarten.” She even told him that he’s cuter. When he began bringing home the stick, I thought she would make some comparison and feel bad about having taken so long (relatively) to earn the opportunity to bring home her Good Day stick in kindergarten. Instead, she’s been happy for him and encouraging. She still likes to help him with his reading and anything else where she sees a need. That’s a relief too. It reminds me that she’s a good kid too, in a different way from her brother.

Friendship Follies

Blah.  Fall is my least favorite time of year.  It takes away the hot weather and long days that I love so much.  I’m convinced that I’m happier and friendlier during warm months.    Hubby and the kids probably don’t notice any difference, but I think I’m a tad bit more snappy during this season.   I usually adjust by the end of November, which begins the Season of Good Eats, a reason to be cheery again.  Here’s to a teeny-tiny wish for another mild winter in the DC metro area.

Mae continues to work at friendships at her new school.   She has three classmates that she calls friends now, and the infamous not-your-friend-on-Friday Gigi is not one of them.  In fact, according to Mae, Gigi now hates her.  Something about her crying too much.  One minute Mae calls her bossy and mean, and the next she’s bothered that Gigi is mean to her.  I don’t know at what point, if any, Mae will say “forget it” and move on.  Ironically, she is a strong hanger-on when it comes to kids who are uninterested or less interested than she is in being her friend.  I can say a million times “play with others” and it’s like talking to a wall.  Of course, I only know one side of the story.  As most of Mae’s issues with Gigi originate in aftercare, I have a reminder set in my phone for tomorrow to call the aftercare director and ask what she is observing in how Mae and Gigi interact.

Yesterday, she had an opportunity to play with some old classmates, including her favorite, K, at a local festival.  She was sooo glad to see them and thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with them.    When she speaks of her former classmates now, she calls them her “true friends” and seems to have forgotten or at least forgiven the times she felt slighted, disliked or left out.  You would think it was all peaches and cream to hear her talk now.  In a way, that’s good.  When she asks if she can go back, I gently remind her without dwelling (I hope) that there were hard days at her old school and no matter where she goes, there will be people who will accept and like her for who she is, and some who will not.  She tells me that it wasn’t that bad.  Maybe it’s me, maybe my perception is off.

Sometimes, my mind gets ahead of me and I imagine a future where she’s that girl who falls hard for the guy who’s not into her, and people who truly love her will try to tell her so, and she’ll say we’re wrong, and she’ll follow the bad guy off a cliff or let him ruin her life with drugs, unwanted children, crime, HIV, and stuff like that.  There’ll be a Lifetime movie about it.

See, this is what fall does to me.

Legitimate Brownies

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Last week was straight out of Hades as far as work was concerned. I continue to be amazed at what people will say and do in the workplace. People seem unable to contain their bad behavior and bad attitudes. Most will not loose it to the degree of the Empire State Building shooter, but gee whiz . . . there are more than enough who will bring the madness, and I dealt with my fair share last week.

In order to soothe my soul, I cooked and baked this weekend. I was on my feet a lot, but it felt good and it was worth it. Well, the black bean brownies were not worth the time and effort spent. Actually, I take that back . . . Mae likes them. It worked out because I took a pound cake from the freezer that Jay loved (he said it was "overgood," which I translated to mean "You outdid yourself!"). Mae dislikes pound cake, and the brownies allowed her to have a treat of her own. For the record though, black bean brownies are not legitimate brownies. And, I am not Todd Akin. I know brownies and I know how they are made.

I had planned to have a small cook-out on Saturday evening. I canceled it on Friday after I realized that I would not have the energy to pull off anything decent. I did spend some time on the couch this weekend, including catching up with a favorite friend who was visiting from LA.

The school week ended so-so for Mae. She said she cried four times during the week, twice on Friday. She complained about mean teachers and students, and people were never like that at her old school. Of course. I reminded her that the first week of school last year was also hard and she cried a lot. She didn't believe me.

By Thursday, she was already tired of the cafeteria food. Hubby said, and I think he's right about this, if she doesn't want what's on the school menu, she needs to pack her own lunch. He and I both detest packing lunches for the kids. We are loving the cafeteria!

Lunch woes aside, I always expect the first two weeks at a new place or in a new routine to be rough for Mae. If she's complaining still in week three, I'll look at it differently. I did send her teachers an email, as the school counselor recommended, expressing my interest in meeting with them and giving them heads up about some aspects of Mae's personality. I received a nice reply from the woman who will be Mae's homeroom teacher.

A good start, I thought. Then, Hubby and I missed back-to-school night, for which I felt like a louse. Now, I'm worried that we look like uninvolved or uninterested parents. This means I need to prioritize getting out to the school.

Aftercare seems to have gone ok, especially since there was little homework to do and thus lots of play time. Unfortunately, the place has a huge candy and snack sales operation. Mae made a good argument, or so she thought, for eating candy everyday. Brain neurons need glucose, and you have to get the right amount or your brain will not function properly.

Jay is enjoying himself at home. He is taking advantage of my mother by declining meals and then asking for snacks all day long, claiming that he's hungry. And, we have allowed him to stay downstairs or read longer because he doesn't have school yet. The grin on his face when he comes back downstairs after Mae is asleep is just plain funny. It's the "I'm getting over" face. I asked him not to tell his sister about this because it will upset her. So far, I think he's been quiet about it.

I would rather not ask him to keep a secret. However, that girl would never let us hear the end of it.

I'm turning in, calling it a night. I'm feeling ready for a new week, hoping it will be kind to me.

Pretty Brown Thing

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Honestly, my primary reason for this post is to display this cake. I saw the cake pan, or the product thereof, in Cooking Light magazine. I ordered the pan and it came with a recipe for Lemon Ginger and Pepper Cake. Fresh lemon, fresh ginger, a pound of butter, a cup of buttermilk — how could anything with those ingredients be less than good? Ground white pepper? Weird, but worth a try. The cake turned out fine, just fine. I’ve been enjoying it, though I’m not sure I’d make it again, especially since I think I’m the only person in the house eating it. This is one area where my family consistently lets me down. They will let me eat a whole cake by myself. Even if they have some, their rate of consumption isn’t fast enough to keep me from doing a lot of damage. Jay is the only person in the house who comes close to appreciating cake the way I do. He pronounced the cake “sour, but a little good.” No help. I took slices to a good friend and some co-workers, all of whom said it was awesome or delicious.

In other news, we’ve been gearing up for next school year. The kids have had their annual well-child exams. We have Mae’s school shoes and uniforms, and the bottom halves of Jay’s uniform. Jay is registered for aftercare at his school, and aftercare is almost in place for Mae. The good thing about public school near home is that we will have many more options for aftercare, and transportation will not be an issue.

We have three more weeks of summer camp and then my mom, bless her, is coming to town to watch the kids until school starts.

Camp is going ok, although today was particularly bad for Mae. She’s gone to bed late every night this week. So, I’m not surprised that she had a whiny, tearful day. She wanted to do her own thing in her own time and became uncontrollably upset when other campers didn’t want to play with her.

Tonight, we’re back to our regular routine. Hopefully, she’ll have a better day tomorrow.

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