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Posts tagged ‘play’

It’s a Wrap

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Well, that was fun, one of the best summers I’ve had in a long time. It ended for all intents and purposes when Mae returned to school today. She saw one of her classmates from last year as we were walking into the school building. She promptly ditched me and went about her business. I think she said bye, but I’m not sure.

Jay has two more weeks of camp, and I expect a similar ditching from him when his school opens after Labor Day. Over the summer, his attitude matured more than his body. He’s still a sweet kid over all but he developed a smart mouth somewhere along the way this summer.

Ahhh, it was a sweet summer. We rested, we took it easy. I took it easy. That’s unusual for me. I did it and I’m proud of myself. I read at home, not just on the train during my commute. I did only one day of yard work. The yard was plain and boring, and I was ok with that; fortunately, Hubby kept the grass at a decent level.

I baked for no reason or special occasion. I even took naps on a couple of days. I started the summer with a plan for the kids to have 20 minutes of study time per day. I wasn’t a stickler about it, so they had 20 minutes most days. And, most days, I didn’t check the work to see if it was correct. Bless their hearts, they didn’t complain much. They acted like studying during the summer was normal. Mae especially surprised me because her summer workbook was all math. I asked her to focus on fractions, multiplication, and division. She struggled most with fractions. Still, every time I suggested that she go to the multiplication or division sections of the book, she said she wanted to keep working on the fractions. That’s my plucky girl.

She and Jay enjoyed their camp at Jay’s school. Since it’s Mae’s old school, she got to see some of her old classmates. Jay is easy; if there are Legos available, he’ll be fine. I thought for sure Mae would be bored out of her mind. Nope. Day after day, she told me camp was fun. In fact, she didn’t have a meltdown until the last day. Some girls yelled at her because she bumped into one of them. She thought they were being mean to her and she said they had been mean to her before, for no reason. I could tell from some of her daily reports that she’s still learning how to pick up on the social cues and keep her distance from children who don’t like or accept her. Otherwise, it appears that she got along with her fellow campers ok.

The kids had swimming lessons, and Mae had Tae Kwon Do and Jay drum lessons. It was manageable, no overscheduling. We actually had several free Saturdays and Sundays, sometimes both in the same weekend. That was a beautiful, lovely, awesome thing.

One of the best parts of summer was that Mae had no hypersensitive reactions to bug bites. Like the doctor said, she outgrew the sensitivity (it appears). This was the first summer since she was about 3 years old that the mysterious brown spots and sores did not appear.

We all needed that relaxed break; last school year was grueling. I think I’m ready for 4th and 1st grades. Deep breath in . . . .

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Winding Down

It’s been so long since I’ve been here! The clouds are breaking. Work has lightened up, at least for now. We have a new staff member, which I hope means that my workload will stay reasonable. Homework is decreasing as the end of the school year gets closer. Whew! I’m convinced that 3rd grade has been harder on me as a parent this year than it was when I was a student myself some 30 plus years ago.

20130522-072907.jpgI finished my cake decorating class. If grades were given, I would have been lucky to get a C. For the last class project, my cake leveler broke and I was unable to get the nice, smooth surface I wanted. I made cream cheese frosting, which the instructor recommended against. I’m a hardhead.  I could not bring myself to put butter cream icing on a red velvet cake, and I didn’t have time to make two frostings. I took my chances. As a result, my frosting was too soft to make the pretty flowers I saw in my head. At least the cake tasted good (or so I was told). You couldn’t tell by looking at the final cake, but I actually learned a lot.  I need practice, which means that I need to bake, which I haven’t had time to do. Well, this weekend I will have time as well as a reason to celebrate. Yesterday was the birthday of Albert, Jay’s favorite stuffed puppy. Albert has birthdays every few weeks. Jay decides the theme and plans the party, including the type of cake and how it should be decorated. He gave Albert three birthday gifts yesterday, including a sleeping bag that looked like a sock. So, we’ll top off the celebration with a special cake for Albert.

Mae is done with social skills training until the fall while the therapist takes a summer break.  I definitely plan to return to the social skills playgroup.   I had a nice, long talk with the  therapist during our last visit.  She talked about helping the kids recognize “unlikeable” behaviors that make it difficult for other kids to stay friends with them.  I’m convinced that there is value in structured play time with interventions or corrections as necessary, both in being corrected and seeing others corrected.  A teacher told me recently that kids need to see or hear something at least 17 times to master it or make it habitual.  So, I’m going with that.  The cognitive behavioral therapy is on hold because we couldn’t get a regular slot that worked for our schedules.  If Mae asks to go during the summer, it may work out better since we won’t have to worry about homework.

This weekend I’ll also be working on travel plans for a vacation in June.  Sooo looking forward to that!  The vacation, that  is, not the planning.

Spread Thin

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I would have written this post days ago were it not for Ruzzle, that addictive word game that has become my go-to mental break.

Work was on fire the past two weeks. I gave away hours of personal and family time in the evenings and weekends to keep up with the demands. I went to bed exhausted and woke up groggy and still exhausted.

Mae went back to therapy and social skills training last week, after a break of over one year. Overall, the school year has been great compared to past years. This is still a critical time. She’s made some friends and she seems to have a lot of fun with them . . . until someone doesn’t want to play tag. Then, the crying begins and then the teasing about the crying begins. Last week, she decided to give an upper cut to some boy who wouldn’t stop mocking her crying. She told me that night that no one likes or wants her anymore because they won’t play tag with her.

It’s the self-degradation and the hitting that worry me. I’m afraid that her classmates will stop wanting to play with her at all because of how she reacts when they want to do something other than what she wants to do.

So, we’re continuing to work on how to play what others are playing or learn to move on and play with someone else, and how to handle disappointments and disagreements.

Before tonight’s appointment, Mae said, “Today is a perfect day to go to Dr. [M]. I have a bunch of stuff to talk about. Last time, she did most of the talking. This time, I think I should do most of the talking.” And talked, she did.

I was unsure that more one-on-one therapy would be beneficial, but I’m glad we went. I think it’s good in the long run that Mae has a practice of going to safe places and people when something is troubling her. Unfortunately, we have a scheduling issue. Our choices now are 5 pm or 8 pm appointments. So, we’ll have to postpone more sessions until the therapist has different openings or I can change my work schedule.

Mae thinks social skills training is fun because she gets to play with other kids. The group meets on Saturday mornings, so the scheduling is working for us right now. She is the only girl in the group, which sucks. She seems to have more trouble playing with girls, and I was hoping for some practice in that area.

In better news, Mae and I had an awesome time for her birthday in NYC. It was a fun-packed two days. We got to do everything on our list and we made a new list of things to do on the next trip. We’ve already made a photo book, which is a birthday tradition, for the trip. She asked to add the captions this time, which took some letting go on my part. I had to tell myself, “She’s nine. Let her tell her story in her own words (and edit it before ordering :))”.

I started a 4-week cake decorating class. I didn’t do too bad on my first cake. The kids recognized it right away as an Angry Bird, and that’s all the validation I need. I thought it was much better than the “my family” foursome of mini cakes I made for Mae’s birthday. I thought Jay should have been easily recognizable with his two missing teeth and Mohawk. Hubby said that his cake should have had hair although he doesn’t wear any in real life. Oh well, I’m learning.

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Fade to Black

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As 2012 fades to black, I think back on how blessed we have been this year and in previous years. Life hasn’t been perfect or stress-free. All-in-all, though, it’s been darn good.

I had a glorious time in SC with my immediate and extended families during our short winter vacation. We had a Christmas party on the Saturday before the holiday. The food was good, the games were fun, and spirits were high. One of the things I love most about my big (my mother is one of eleven), crazy family is that we manage to consistently have a genuinely good time, without the drama that is typically associated with big gatherings and without the help of alcohol (LOL).

Mae and Jay got to see all of their first cousins. They played well together, and I’m especially proud of Mae. I think she managed to avoid falling out with her big cousin, who is just 9 months older, even once. Usually, Mae whines or has a meltdown about not being able to play with her cousin’s things or something along those lines. No meltdowns at all on the trip. Growth is a beautiful thing, and she’s been doing plenty of it physically and otherwise.  Lately, she’s been asking questions on topics like periods and the N-word.  She’s becoming less and less of a “little girl,” a term she now detests.

Last week, Mae told me that she wonders if she should tell her friends that she has Asperger’s.  She said, “I don’t know what they’ll think of me.”  I told Mae that she can tell her friends if she feels comfortable, and that it’s more important to focus on what she wants her friends to understand about her and show them who she is without using a label.  I told her that the doctor said she’s barely on the spectrum, so Asperger’s may not be the best way to explain who she is.   Her question is an interesting question given recent media coverage of Asperger’s in relation to the Newtown tragedy.  Mae is aware of the tragedy because her school principal made an announcement the next school day.  She’s unaware of the media coverage and how some have attributed the shooter’s behavior to Asperger’s.  We’re not much of a news-watching household, and that’s a good thing.

After we returned home from SC, we buckled down to Mae’s homework.  She actually completed some of it while we were in SC, bless her heart, with little resistance. She has had so much homework over the past few weeks, more than I could have ever imagined for a 3rd grader.  We spent hours each day last Thursday through Sunday working on a book about the planets. There is a required 15-page minimum with limited use of illustrations, which Mae had to create herself. (Thank you, Microsoft, for Insert>Shapes.)

Last night, as Mae put the finishing touches on the book,  she told me that she enjoyed working on it, that she had looked forward to it.  She’s really had a good attitude about this homework business.  Hubby and I have been the ones grumbling for weeks.  I’ve been trying to think of a way to complain to the school, but I don’t know if it’s me or them that’s being unreasonable.  I wanted an accelerated and advanced curriculum, so maybe I should keep my mouth shut. What I didn’t know was that we’d be trading loads of personal time and family time, weekends and holidays included.

Mae worked so hard on her planets book and still needs to make progress on her science fair project, so much so that I can’t even bring myself to ask her to write thank-you notes for Christmas gifts.  That’s normally one of our projects over the winter break.  I may saddle Jay with writing for both of them, if I can get him to be still long enough. He has been a ball of energy, literally running in circles around the house, for no apparent reason.  He’ll go round and round the kitchen table.  He’s in constant motion, still at five and a half.  I don’t remember his sister being this way.

Yesterday, I surprised him when I told him that I like candy cereal too, but I don’t eat it.   He said, slowly, “That’s strange.”  Then, he added, “If you like something, you should just eat it.”  Oh, my dear boy, I have fillings in the double digits and a pouch to prove that I have done plenty of that.

I’ve got to work on my “just eat it” problem in 2013.  I’m not big on resolutions, but I do need to create a new exercise plan and cut back on sugar.  This year was not good for me in terms of healthy living.  I tried to eat healthy (though the green smoothie project didn’t work for me; I decided that eating should involve chewing.  I like chewing.) and exercise (I quit yoga after one session because one full hour of yoga is just too much).  I got off track, mostly due to exhaustion in the evenings from hard, long days at the job I started in March, and then curtailing weeknight gym visits to help with homework in the evenings.  On too many evenings, I ate salty or sweet snacks for dinner instead of a proper meal.

Despite exercising less and eating more than I should have, I’m ending 2012 with a pat on the back for myself.  I’ve already ordered our photo album for 2012, a year’s worth of pictures bound in a hard cover book.   It’s an annual project that I sometimes don’t get to until the spring.  And, I’ve ordered our Happy New Year photo cards to send to family and friends.  I think our 2012 cards went out in February last year.  I feel like I was more organized in 2012.  Also, I spent more time with the kids, making more of an effort to do fun stuff on the weekends whenever we could.  House and yardwork suffered, but I have no regrets about that.

So, I’m good.  We’re good.  2013 will be good.

Swayed by Feng Shui

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Mae came to me this evening with her National Geographic Kids Almanac 2013 in hand, all serious, as usual. “Mom, mom. I need you to help me move the furniture around in my room.”

My first thought, probably before she finished speaking was, “No.”

I asked “Why?”

Mae showed me the page she was reading.  Across the top:  “How to Feng Shui Your Room.”  I asked why she wanted to Feng Shui her room.  Mae pointed to and read aloud the opening words of the article, “Want to make more friends? Get better grades?”  She said, “Only 3 of my friends are in my class and I want 5.”

Alrighty then.  I told Mae that 3 is a good number of friends and I pointed out a disclaimer in tiny print in a box on the page: “If Feng Shui doesn’t work for you, that’s ok. This story is just for fun.”  I have to intently manage this one’s expectations.

Years ago, when I first heard of Feng Shui, I gave a “whatever” shrug and went on with my life.  But, I wanted to be open-minded and supportive.  So, while Mae took her shower, I started working on the 12 suggestions in the article.  It was simpler than I expected and we had most of the materials needed.

I took a mobile from the kids’ play room and hung it from Mae’s bedroom ceiling.  One of the kids’ aunties brought it for them from India.  Mae believes that “it’s magic,” and the magazine says that a mobile keeps positive chi moving.

I hung a jingle bell on each side of her door knob, which gives positive thoughts and inspire good luck and happiness.  Putting the bells to use helped me feel less guilty about having put them in the garage a few hours before.  The bells came with a holiday decoration kit that I tried to use as little as possible of when the kids and I dressed our little Christmas tree today.  They wanted to put on it every shiny bauble within reach.  I sneaked things back into the box when they weren’t looking because I swear there is a fine line between tasteful and tacky when it comes to Christmas decorations.

Mae has a bulletin board where some pictures of her and former classmates were pinned.  I added a picture of Jay and arranged the photos into a triangle.  This may help her get along better with family and friends.  Threes and triangles are important in Feng Shui.  I wonder if I should find a picture of me and Hubby and substitute it for one of the pictures of her friends?  From her perspective, Mae would probably say that the relationships with her friends are more important.  She had a tough day last Wednesday because she’d gotten into a pushing match with her friend-non-friend Gigi, a girl who seems to not like Mae and still insists on being around her.  It’s a strange relationship.  Even Mae said last week, “I kind of like not liking her.”  Go figure.

Fortunately, Mae’s bookcase is already to the left of her door (for better grades) and her bed is against her wall and gives her a clear view of her door (for better sleep).  So, we didn’t need to move any furniture after all.

I added two pillows to the one on Mae’s bed plus a stuffed monkey, the animal of her birth-year according to the Chinese zodiac.  These might bring more fun with friends and extra luck, respectively.  Mae has a cactus plant that I moved from the play room to the desk in her bedroom; which might bring more time with family and friends.

The article said that a quartz crystal on her desk can help with concentration, which Mae sure could use.  We don’t have a quartz crystal in the house, but my sister has one at her place.  I called her and she promised to bring it by tomorrow.

We don’t have a light green or purple bowl, which could help Mae save money if she puts a coin in a bowl as she leaves or enters her room.  And I’m going to risk not moving her bulletin board to the wall opposite her door, which could help generate positive thoughts as she enters the room.  We’ll take our chances on those two because they would require too much effort.

Mae handled the last item from the list on her own.  She drew a picture of something she wished for and placed it under her pillow to make the wish come true.  I fully expected her to hold up a drawing of, perhaps, her and a friend holding hands.  Instead, it was a picture of a book.  With Feng Shui written across the cover.  She wants a book on Feng Shui.

Dang it.  This is worse than Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy combined.  If I get the book it means Feng Shui works, or at least it says something about the power of positive thinking.  But then, she’ll come up with all kinds of new Feng Shui ideas and maybe even turn this whole house upside down.  Or, she might start putting slips of paper under her pillow every night for ever more ambitious stuff.

What now?

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.

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