Work with me, please.

Posts tagged ‘playgroup’

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.

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!

Glad We Made It Through That

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Mae and I were on the town last night.  We went to her school’s spring show, which included a number of dance performances and the play that Mae would have been in if she hadn’t missed too many practices due, in large part, to the social skills playgroup that she attended for two months.  I wanted her to go to the show anyway to support her friends and practice getting over disappointments.  She was excited to be at the show.  Besides, there are few things in the world cuter than three-year old ballerinas and tap dancers.  During the performances that preceded the play, Mae waved to her schoolmates on the stage, whoop-whooped, clapped, and gave standing ovations.

Then, enter her fellow drama students and up went her right index finger, pointing to the three fairies.  “I’m supposed to be up there.  It’s not fair . . . . ”  I asked her to be quiet, and she began, “But, Mommy, . . . .”  Outside of the auditorium, I would have let her go on and shown empathy.  I absolutely get how she feels.  However, in the quiet of the auditorium, I leaned down to her ear and threatened that we would leave if she didn’t sit quietly and pay attention to the show.  I kind of felt bad for cutting her off.  It just wasn’t the time and place for her to press the issue.  Fortunately, she relaxed within a few minutes to enjoy the rest of the play.

We have seen Mae grow a lot in the past few months.  I’m more confident now that when next she takes drama or a similar activity we can postpone something like a playgroup intervention.  As difficult as it may have been for her, she showed last night that she can be reasonable and I’m proud of her for that.

Let’s Make a Deal

Another weekend is winding down, and as I measure how it went, I have to say not too bad overall. Jay made his basketball debut. Hubby says he did a good job and enjoyed it. He learned to dribble with one and two hands and practiced shooting. He talked excitedly about what the “basketball man” (i.e., coach) taught him. Hopefully, I’ll get to see him in action when the next lesson takes place in two weeks.  Although I missed his first day at basketball, I was right there when he made his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich (with a little bit of help), one of his favorite things to eat, and announced “Mom, I’m gonna be a chef when I grow up.”  I said, “Oh, yeah?”  Then, he said, “What number do I need to be?”  I had to think a few seconds about what he meant, and my first thought was to say “18” because that is the age at which I hope Hubby and I can begin downsizing to a condo and traveling the world.  But, I figured that he’ll need time to complete culinary school, so I answered “21.”

Mae enjoyed her third meeting with the social skills playgroup on Saturday. She and Ms. N had a talk afterward about the importance of listening and following instructions. Apparently, Mae resisted moving from one activity to the next. Once she starts having fun with something, it’s hard to get her to shift focus.  She’s great at ignoring the sound of an adult’s voice, especially if some sort of instruction is being given.

Later on Saturday, I took her to a laser tag birthday party for one of her oldest friends, Taylor, a boy that she started daycare with when they were both 3 months old.  Generally, birthday parties and similar social situations are a source of dread because of a latent threat of fun turning to fright if play doesn’t go Mae’s way.  However, I looked forward to Taylor’s party and went in more relaxed because our family has been celebrating birthdays and having playdates with his family and several of the other invited families for over 6 years now.  The parents and children know Mae as an energetic, spunky and talkative kid, and they would expect no less from her.  She generally plays well with this group of kids and doesn’t require as close supervision as with kids that we have not known as long.  The moms and dads follow the “it takes a village” approach and will call her out if they see her begin to show attitude.  Well, she enjoyed laser tag and I did too — so much so that I’m thinking about having my own laser tag party when I turn 40 this year!  Everything went well right through the birthday song, cake and favor bag distribution.  Just when we should have been putting on our coats and thanking the birthday boy for inviting us, Mae dropped her bomb.

“I didn’t get to play much on the arcade games.”  Huh?  As we’d waited for more guests to arrive, I’d let her play one round of an impossible game that involves pushing a “Stop” button at the precise moment that a moving light lands on a red bulb to win an MP3 player or some other shiny gadget.  Ok, one more arcade game, and then we would go.  Of course, she wanted to go back to the impossible game.  I tried to steer her towards something that might last a few minutes, something where maybe she could actually earn some points and not feel like it was a total waste of time and coins.  What about the skateboard or dance game?  Noooo.  She marched right over to the MP3 player showcase and dropped two tokens for one chance to push “Stop.”  As the light landed just one bulb past the prized red bulb, Mae’s face went long, her shoulders slumped, and the whining began.

“I didn’t get to play much.”  She said that she wanted a toy and she hadn’t gotten any toys.  I pointed out that there were toys and treats in her favor bag.  Mae’s eyes started to fill, and I resorted to threatening to return the favor bag to Taylor if she couldn’t hold herself together.  She began whining again as we pulled out of the parking lot, and I all but lost it.  I told her that outings with her are more fun when she shows gratitude for what she did do and have instead of complaining about what she didn’t get to do and have.  Then, she began one of most unnerving spiels — “Nobody likes me.  Nobody wants me anymore.”

This is a common ending for us.  Hours of fun can come undone if there comes a point when Mae doesn’t get something she wants, whether it’s more time at the venue or a souvenir or toy.  If I know what the pitfalls might be, we have a talk beforehand — usually in the car after we reach our destination — so that I can set the ground rules and manage her expectations (e.g., We can play games at Chuck E. Cheese, but we will not buy any toys at the end.  We are going to play, not to shop.  Do you understand?  Yes.  Do you agree that there will be no whining, crying or complaining when it’s time to go?  Yes).  “The talk” is an effective technique, I think, in part, because Mae places a high value on sticking with a deal.  She’ll keep her word and she expects the same of others.  As this was our first time at the laser tag/arcade venue, I did not know to have “the talk” in advance.

Next Saturday is bowling for Jaden’s 7th birthday.   You best believe we’ll make a deal before we get out of the car.

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