Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Hello friends! I haven't blogged for awhile, but I'm back now. I've been feeling like the deflated lawn decorations in this yard so I thought I'd take a picture to give you a nice visual symbol as you read. I came down with a cold on November 25th, and it quickly turned into a sinus infection, ear infection, and lung infection for which I've taken numerous medications and...I'm gradually improving but still not over it. My right ear drum perforated and I've been like the auditory processing struggler who says "Huh?" for the past several weeks. I've decided to try to get back to some of my regular activities and hope that full recovery will happen ANY DAY NOW. There's never a good time to be wiped out of commission, but I think the month preceding Christmas was especially inopportune. This is the first year that I've ever been unable to get Christmas cards sent before Christmas. I started my gift wrapping the day before Christmas and recruited my family (okay, "coerced" would be a better word) to help with the wrapping and food preparation. Did you know you can wrap gifts for someone with AD/HD while they are in the same room as long as you put a movie on to watch? I did very little shopping other than online, and am very grateful for Amazon's selection that allowed me to shop from home. When Christmas Day arrived, I felt a bit like Dr. Seuss's Grinch proclaiming:
"It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! (Or Christmas cards from the Borings!) " And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! "Maybe Christmas, " he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"
Well I know that Christmas means a whole lot more, and I hope that my Christmas traditions never overshadow the birth of Christ. How comforting it is to know that nothing I do, or don't do, can stop Christmas from coming or minimize its gift to mankind in any way.
It was wonderful to spend time with family. Even our rescued dog, Slapshot, did great being in a new place with new people. I used to worry about how my kids would do with the relatives, and this year I was worrying about how the dog would do. He was very subdued and calm, I suspect due to the Christmas sock he had eaten, but he made a very positive impression on his new extended family members. And so, though I coughed through the Christmas season like Dicken's Tiny Tim, I join him in saying "God Bless Us, Every One!" and may your 2010 be filled with peace and joy.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
When my son was having trouble with the concept of “borrowing” in math, I lined up my children in place value positions, gave them Cuisenaire cubes and rods, and we acted out a story. I was the sheriff from Robin Hood (one of their favorite movies at that time) and came to collect taxes from the “ones” child. When she didn’t have enough cubes to pay her taxes, I showed her how to “borrow” from her neighbor and explained that she could only borrow 10 cubes from that neighbor. We did the same thing for the “tens” child borrowing from the “hundreds” child, and enacted several scenarios for practice.
I had lined them up in birth order with my youngest, Beckie, in the ones place. My middle child, Beth, was in the tens place. Josh, as the oldest, was in the hundreds spot. I recently asked my children if they remembered doing that activity, and they responded with an enthusiastic “Yes!” Josh also pointed out to me that a variation of the activity has continued over the years, because Beckie asks to borrow money from Beth, who in turn asks to borrow from Josh. He blames me for this generalization of a skill learned in those early years of our homeschooling. Before you feel too sorry for him, I want to point out that I’ve also taught him how to say “No” nicely to refuse requests.
Friday, October 23, 2009
I'll admit that I'm not strong in geography. I have a feeling that my children learned as much from the PBS show "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" as they did from me. But I'm o.k. with that. As long as they learn it, I'm happy. I do have some good geography materials by Cindy Wiggers, and I made it through all of the U.S. Geography book with my children. At least at one time they could name the states and capitals, and they know how to label mountains and rivers on maps. My daughter Beckie and I are currently working on world geography. I am learning it along with her, since if I ever knew this information the files must have been deleted somewhere along the way. (When this happens, I blame one of the car accidents I've been in for killing off some brain cells. They've been minor accidents, but I think whiplash and trauma might have messed with my brain for stuff like geography.) While we were learning about North America, we pulled out maps and had the globe in front of us. I would ask Beckie to locate various landmarks, oceans, etc. Following along in my curriculum instructions, I asked Beckie to find Nunavut. Beckie, whose AD/HD manifests in both a short attention span and a tendency to blurt things out, is not good at hiding her frustration. She glanced at the globe for a few moments, then informed me that she didn't see "None of it". Ah...and did I mention she has auditory processing difficulties as well? Being the adaptive instructor that I am, I showed her the spelling of "Nunavut" and encouraged her to look pretty far north on the globe. With that support, she was able to find it but continued to tell me that she could find "None of it" for several other items that day since she was amused by her own misunderstanding and pun. At least she's having some fun during a subject that does not hold her attention easily.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I picked up a button at a conference because it caught my eye as I was walking past. It reads, "I love someone with ADHD". Having a husband, a son, and a daughter who all share that diagnosis I placed the pin on my nametag to wear for the rest of the conference. In reality, there are many people in my life who have been diagnosed with AD/HD and I do love them. But I thought it would be interesting to see which of my three family members would:
1. Notice the button and actually read it.
2. Ask which "someone" the button represented.
Once again, my family surprised me. They all noticed the button and read its message, though at different times throughout the day. When my husband, Scott, read it he sighed and hugged me. When my son, Josh, read it he grinned and hugged me and said, "I love you too, Mom." When my daughter, Beckie, read it she beamed with pride and gave me a hug. I guess this means I'm doing something right and my family feels secure in my love for them since they all three assumed the message was about them!
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I just got back from the CHADD Conference (Children and Adults with AD/HD) yesterday and it was great to attend some sessions and connect with old friends. I did a video interview with Sarah Wright, one of the authors of the book Fidget to Focus. I also interviewed Kathy Kuhl, author of Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner and Clark Lawrence of the Executive Function Center. I enjoyed re-connecting with those folks and it was a blast to interview them considering I have absolutely no expertise with any videos other than my home videos! I suspect it is far easier to interview than to BE interviewed, but all of my "subjects" were informative and appeared relaxed. I also got a kick out of meeting Kim, who approached me the first night there to tell me she had seen the video I did with my daughter about the Sock Boxes for ADD-Friendly sock organization. A few others recognized me from this blog or other conferences where I've been a presenter and were nice enough to make a point to come over and say hello. I met Deisie from Chicago, who sat with me through two sessions and then came to my panel presentation the next day. I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up presenting at CHADD in a few years herself. I answered a question in Chris Dendy's session and she said she liked my idea and might use it in her future presentations. How cool is that to have someone you admire (and her books are on my shelf) like your idea enough to use it? Woo-hoo! I left the conference motivated to keep advocating for our children with differences and with a few new ideas to work on to add to my skill set when working with these kids. I heard stories that helped me keep things in perspective. Things with my children could be worse. Things with my children could be better. I'll keep working to support and encourage them as we teach each other through life. Stay tuned for those author interviews as a future blog posting.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I've met many parents who are pretty sure their child has AD/HD or some other learning challenge but they are hesitant to make it official by having their child evaluated and diagnosed. The fear that a label may limit their child, be inaccurate, or be used in discriminatory ways is valid. When my son, Josh, was approaching school age I thought about the advantages of private schools with smaller class sizes. Several people suggested that I go ahead and enroll him without telling the school personnel about his AD/HD diagnosis so they couldn't turn him down. That was before we knew he also had an auditory processing disorder. I was assured that once he was enrolled in the school, they couldn't kick him out just because he had a diagnosis and they would be forced to work with him. Wow! For one thing, Josh was pretty easy to pick out of a group as being different than his peers. I'd give it 5 minutes tops before things became unavoidably noticeable. So basically I would have had to keep him out of sight until school had officially started. Then there was the whole idea of the people he would be spending hours with each day being tricked into having a student that they weren't prepared for and apparently didn't feel equipped to deal with in their classroom. That made me feel sorry for Josh and for the teachers, since having someone who was "forced" to work with my child because I had hidden some vital information from them just didn't sit well with me. I loved that boy, and the thought of sending him somewhere that he might not be wanted didn't make sense to me. I had the same dilemma when it came time for Sunday School at church. I didn't want to bias the teachers against Josh by telling them all his struggles, so I coached him on the way there and dropped him off like all the other parents with their children. The Sunday School teachers, bless them all, are volunteers in the church and most don't have training as educators - and for most kids that's just fine. But to do the "drop and run" with a special needs or challenging child is not a good idea, as I came to realize. Every week, the other parents would pick up their children and happily leave. When I came to pick up Josh, I inevitably got pulled to the side and told, "I need to talk to you about Josh." Then I heard, week after week, a full litany of complaints from frustrated and bewildered teachers who were describing things that were not unusual for Josh but were not typical for most children. For example, Josh was not adept at sitting still for long. He was not deliberately disruptive and was never disrespectful, but his need to stand at the table while coloring his page instead of sitting in a chair like everyone else was considered problematic. His sensory issues led him to sit at the back of the group on his carpet square, and everyone else was huddled together and bumping into each other which Josh was carefully trying to avoid. But that meant he wasn't "with" the group because he had made a row of one - just himself! And the list would go on and on until I was finally allowed to leave with my miserable son who knew that somehow just by being who he was he had screwed up again and people were unhappy with him. Those experiences led me to advocate more and be preemptive with anyone I left Josh with for any length of time. When there was a sub or a new Sunday School teacher, I made a point of telling them a bit about Josh and strategies that would help them, and I was careful not to dwell on the negatives. I shared Josh's strengths, too, for I found that if I became negative about my son others felt free to share every little thing they saw as being wrong or weird about him. I was well aware of Josh's struggles and it served no purpose other than to discourage me when others felt the need to complain about him. All this, and he wasn't even doing anything "bad" on purpose! When someone was going on and on about all the things Josh did or did not do, I learned to quietly point out something that he had done right, or I'd share something that Josh had enjoyed learning in their class previously. This seemed to derail some of the negativity some of the time. Just as with our kids, nothing works all of the time but something will work some of the time. We need strategies for working with those who are in a position to care for our children, and hope that something will work some of the time. Whether you are a natural advocate or a reluctant one, if you have a child with a learning difference or special challenges, you must be an advocate unless and until your child one day develops the skills to advocate for himself. In my experience, being deliberate in my advocacy was hard but preferable to what happened when I just waited and hoped things would work out for the best.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NASB)
When you are homeschooling a special needs or struggling child, you are not always on the same timeline as others. The curriculum you use needs to be adapted and usually one of the biggest modifications involves time.
Our children with various challenges and differences do not develop at the same rate as those who are typically developing. They need more time to learn skills and retain information. They may mature more slowly and need additional practice and support to progress. My son could take two hours to do an assignment I thought should take twenty minutes, and it was the same way with chores. Other children have medical issues like seizures that can interfere with their ability to remember previously learned skills. They need to re-learn information, and that takes time and makes the rate of progress variable. So given those kinds of situations, how can we make the most of our time and be good stewards of that resource?
One lesson I learned about my use of time was that I really needed to focus on my goals for each of my children. Once the goals were in the forefront of my mind, it was easier to eliminate things that were not conducive to helping achieve those goals. When everything is treated as being equally important, there is no priority and the important issues may get pushed aside by lesser matters.
With my son, Josh, it became clear that he was not going to be able to do many different subjects in a single day and finish all of his work. Although he didn’t need as much sleep as I did in those early years, I didn’t want him spending all day and then the evening trying to get his schoolwork done, struggling all the while. I homeschool for many reasons, including helping my children develop a love for learning. Spending too many hours on school tasks seems like a good way to achieve burnout for all of us. My husband and I agreed to focus on the basics with Josh, and limit the amount of time spent on highly structured learning tasks.
I had to pare down my long list of what I would like to do and instead think realistically about what I could do each school day. Because Josh and his sister, Beckie, had learning challenges I had to eliminate some of the supplemental material I had originally planned on and limit the work to the core essentials of their education.
In addition to recognizing the best way to invest our time, we need to try to teach our children to make the most of their time. Many kids live in the moment, which is a perspective that has blessings of its own. Without losing that ability to fully experience life as it happens, we need to gently guide our children to consider future events and plan for them in a thoughtful manner. This does not come naturally for most children, and there may need to be consequences that occur as part of the learning process.
Here is an example from the Boring family homeschool: I have a lesson planned and go over it with the kids. They start goofing around, are not working on their assignment even though they know what is expected and are capable of completing the work. I do not mind spending more time on a lesson if my children do not understand something. However, when it is clearly a matter of choice and they are choosing to be silly, they are wasting their time and mine and there will be consequences. I think that the children should experience the consequence of their poor decisions so that hopefully they will make better choices next time.
With that goal in mind, we started “homeschool homework” when the children were wasting time. I would set a time limit for a certain assignment, and if they did not complete it within that period, they had homework with Dad when he got home. This kept them accountable to Dad, and kept them from more play time until their homework was done. This worked well for us since my husband did not have to plan or teach the lesson but could just follow-through with what I had assigned.
Making the most of our time will be manifested differently for each of our families. We all have limitations and demands on our time. Finding balance, remembering our goals, and investing time in our children will allow us to experience the satisfaction of time well spent.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Here is an idea for an easy matching game for colors and sizes using recycled materials you probably have in abundance. Start saving the plastic lids from jars - peanut butter, mayonnaise, milk and juice jugs, pop-up wipes, etc. When you have a collection of lids, take a plain file folder and arrange the lids however you like on top of the file. Trace around the lids, then remove them and color in the circles to match the lid colors. I didn't color in the circles for the small milk jug size since most of my small lids are the same color, but you could match colors on that size as well if you have a variety in your own collection. I outlined my circles in black to provide a greater contrast to make the target stand out. Store the lids in a gallon-sized zipper bag and you have a quick and easy matching game. The larger lids are great for little hands or for those who find fine motor tasks difficult. To make the game more durable, laminate the file folder. You'll be able to re-use this game with your own children, plus it's a great portable game to take with you since it's lightweight and doesn't take up much room. It's an inexpensive, fun way to help kids learn and a great way to recycle those lids.
Friday, September 04, 2009
1. She wears the first two socks she finds, which usually don't match, and it gives her a clownish look.
2. She "borrows" socks from my sock drawer which I unhappily notice on her feet later.
In this short video I share with Beckie an AD/HD friendly way to organize and keep track of socks. I hope it is helpful for your family as well!
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Here are my annual "Back to Homeschool" flowers. I picked carnations, because they tend to last pretty long and I like the way they look. (Plus, they don't trigger any allergy symptoms or give me an immediate headache the way some flowers do!) I brought home two different cards and let the kids decide which one to sign. Beth picked one card, and the two with AD/HD picked the other. Sometimes they really do seem like twins born 5 years apart. Beth saw the card and immediately jotted a message. Josh and Beckie both looked at me and said, "What am I supposed to write?" I guess I could have dictated something awesome that would make me sound like Super Mom. Instead, I made them think of something with the only stipulation being that they had to sign their names somewhere on the card.
I like that carnations are sturdy. They have nice strong stems and can survive having the vase tipped over and refilled a few times. They are probably not considered to be the most beautiful flowers, but are quite lovely and the aroma is not overpowering. They have staying power and can last a couple weeks and still look good, which is a long time in the fresh-cut flower world. Sure, they can be damaged, but they are not as fragile and finicky about their conditions as many flowers are and that allows us to enjoy them longer. So I guess I want to be like my carnations, lovely in my own way and able to last while doing what I'm created to do. I want to share in a pleasing way without being overpowering. I want to outlast a spill or two and go on despite them. I want to thrive in the conditions I'm in without demanding a certain amount of this or that in order to bloom. I want to be there for my kids when we bump into a learning hurdle - again - and not let the bumps wipe us out. Like my carnations, I want to stay strong and provide a beautiful example for others to enjoy. I want my presence to be pleasing and worth seeking out. I'm not there yet, or even close, but it's something I like to think about and hope someday to attain.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Joyce has time-tested, educational products on her site as well as advice for homeschoolers. My personal favorites on the site are the "Hints" section and the "Links" list of resources for special needs and struggling learners. At Heads Up, we only carry products that we can whole-heartedly recommend as meeting the highest standards that we would want for our own family. Joyce's books, Timeless Teaching Tips, Learning in Spite of Labels, and Choosing and Using Curriculum are available at our website www.HeadsUpNow.com
Sunday, August 23, 2009
It's time for my annual exhortation and reminder for all you homeschoolers who are starting a new school year to buy yourself some flowers! This is a tradition I started for myself years ago, and since then I have been urging my fellow homeschoolers to join me in starting a new school year out right with some lovely fresh flowers to commemorate the onset of another year of homeschooling. Please feel free to join me in this tradition even if it is your first year of homeschooling or if your child is in a more traditional school setting. All are welcome! I began this tradition to help myself get excited and enthused for another school year. Having a learner who struggled with numerous challenges, school was never an easy time for either of us. As the "Back to School" specials and commercials increased in frequency during August, I found I was having to take deep breaths and tell myself, "It's going to be all right, Melinda. You've made it this far. You know this is the right thing to do, and you can do it." While other moms in my neighborhood were counting down the days until school started and making plans to meet for coffee the first day school was back in session, I knew that my work would just be picking up again at that point. So I started buying myself flowers on our first official day of school for the year. I would select a nice bouquet and a card for my children to sign for me. At this point I have to confess that one year I was especially dreading the onset of school because the previous year had been so rough. The coming year held no guarantees that things would be any less challenging, so I selected a "With Deepest Sympathy" card for my children to sign. With their impulsivity issues, it wasn't until after they had scrawled their names on the card that they noticed the "With Deepest Sympathy" part at the top of the card. Then I heard cries of "Mo-om!" and we all had a good laugh together. Besides, I think it's o.k. for our kids to know that sometimes homeschooling is hard for us, too. Still worth it, but hard at times. Most years I pick out a more optimistic card to go with the flowers, remembering to avoid those dark purple crunchy ones that my cats seem compelled to chew until the vase spills. Last year, my daughter who graduated from our homeschool in 2006 bought me the flowers and picked out a card. Perhaps this will lead to an even better tradition where the children buy you flowers! But until that point, please join me in buying yourself flowers and share this idea with your friends as we embark on another school year.
*The photo above was taken on 8-13-09 in Chillicothe, Ohio by my daughter, Beth.
Monday, August 17, 2009
I am a defeated perfectionist. I think I was born wanting to line up my diaper pins and while I was growing up the rest of my family was also neat and orderly. I thought most people were, and even lucked out with my college roommates who were organized and kept their possessions fairly tidy. When I married Scott, I was surprised to find out that he was disorganized. When we were in college and he just had a few things to keep track of he seemed to be functioning just fine. When we had an apartment and later bought a house and shared possessions, he showed me his amazing tolerance for clutter, losing things and misplacing materials. And it is amazing to me even now, after 25 years together. He honestly doesn't notice the piles of stuff and random items left throughout the house. Having children just added to the clutter and extra things to deal with (me) or not deal with (the rest of the family). Remember Felix and Oscar, the Odd Couple who were opposites in their tolerance for neatness? Have you ever watched Monk, the obsessive compulsive detective who is a cleanliness addict? I am drawn to his character even as I relate to some of his behaviors as he attempts to straighten and clean and put things in order around him. Like Monk, I can relate to his genuine distress when surrounded by others who are less meticulous. I have a strong desire for my surroundings to be organized and predictable. In fact, it feels like a need, not just a want. I have a certain spot for items like scissors and tape, and it distresses me to go to retrieve them and find them missing. When I ask my family members if they know where the items are, they typically can't recall or they tell me where they last saw them. It makes so much sense to me to just put things back where they belong so they are there when you need them. I've tried to explain how it will save time in the long run and be less stressful all around, but even when it's another member of my family rushing around trying to find a lost item I seem to be more anxious about it than they are. My husband and two AD/HD children have proudly declared their ethnicity to be "Slob-onians" and the messes really don't faze them. I, on the other hand, am allergic to dust and don't want all these allergy shots and medication to be for nothing, so I try to clean. But I can't keep up with them. I've thought about hiring cleaning help, but that is expensive and much of what needs done is putting things away so that the cleaning can be done. I've written up chore lists in detail so they don't have to think about or remember what to do, just follow the list and check things off as they go. They resist using the list, wanting instead to eyeball the room and announce, "It looks o.k. to me." Trust me, it does not look o.k. I know by now some people are thinking I need to lower my perfectionist standards. I have done that, and I can even be satisfied with just the appearance of clean for some rooms. I have discovered that the Slob-onians can un-clean a lot faster than I can clean and it is impossible to keep up with them. Since I seem to be as incapable of changing as they are, I have acknowledged my status as defeated perfectionist. The desire for clean and orderly is still strong, but the reality of life with Slob-onians defies the realization of that desire.
Friday, August 14, 2009
As you think about materials and activities to use with your children, it's important to take their personalities and interests into consideration. Publishers design materials to be useful to large groups, and it wouldn't make sense from a business standpoint to try and individualize every aspect of the curriculum. As homeschoolers, educators, and parents supplementing their child's education we can individualize to best meet our child's needs. I found that my children did better when I made the curriculum work for them by changing it to fit their learning styles and supplementing with games and other media that would appeal to them. I had one child out of three who could easily go with a curriculum in its original form. The other two needed something different or various alterations to the material for them to maximize their learning opportunities. My daughter, Beckie, is a very versatile child. She easily engages in activities traditionally geared toward girls and in her earlier years could dress up in frilly princess outfits and stroll about with a lacy umbrella and oodles of fake jewels. Beckie could just as easily hold her own in activities typically thought of as designed for rough and tumble boys' play and could make vehicle noises and Lego creations with the best of them. She is already a second degree black belt and frequently sports numerous bruises obtained during her martial arts classes. Beckie made an observation in church awhile back that I hadn't even thought about, and I had to laugh when she pointed it out. The women's ministry was offering a Mother/Daughter Tea for the women to attend. It was a fun time for dressing up and enjoying pretty china and the company of other women and girls. The men's ministry was planning a white water rafting trip that would include some camping and outdoor adventures. Beckie leaned over to me and commented, "Why do the guys get to go white water rafting and we get tea? I don't even like sitting around drinking tea, but I'd love to go white water rafting!" I agree that Beckie's options were rather limiting for her. She is physically fit and enjoys outdoor activities. The rafting trip would be a better match for her, and I'm confident she could have kept up with the boys in the group. In this case, it wasn't a choice she was offered and it was tea or nothing. Beckie made a good point, though, and it reminded me not to limit her because of her age or gender. Someday Beckie will go white water rafting. She may develop skills that are not usually taught in standard curriculum or at the generally expected time for her age. That's o.k., and if someday she develops an affinity for tea parties, I'll support her in that as well. We shouldn't hold our kids back because they are interested in something that won't be covered in this year's scope and sequence or because they aren't at the "right" grade yet. Instead, let's figure out how to make our materials work for what our kids are ready to learn, and remember who they are as individuals as we make our choices.
Friday, August 07, 2009
Monday, August 03, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Yesterday I added a wallpaper border in the master bathroom. I am a complete amateur with wallpaper, but considering that I can read directions and few people actually see that bathroom other than my immediate family members I decided to go for it. When my husband came home from work, I told him that there was a surprise upstairs. Earlier my 16 year old AD/HD daughter had walked in on me during the application process and saw me standing on the bathroom counter. She asked me what I was doing since she didn't notice the wallpaper, so I didn't tell Scott what the surprise was so he could have fun looking for it. How playful of me! AD/HD guys love that! When I heard him heading upstairs I followed him up to see his reaction to my surprise. He was standing with his hand on his hip, shaking his head and saying, "Well, it's kind of hard to miss this." Unfortunately, in an apparent attempt to out do my surprise, one of our cats had hurled her stomach contents across the carpet leaving her own surprise for us to find. Welcome home, honey! Surprise! Our room is the only one with carpet in the entire house, so Popcorntail perversely always pukes in that room. Anyway, that was definitely not the surprise I had in mind for my husband. As we were in the process of getting supplies to clean up after the cat, Scott noticed the wallpaper and actually seemed to like it. When you live with AD/HD, you often get unintentional surprises. For example, you may be surprised to find an empty milk carton that has been carefully placed back in the refrigerator. Why do they do this?!? Do they think you won't notice, or maybe will blame yourself? Likewise, you may be surprised upon receiving a letter from your local library that your child has not returned books you didn't even know they'd checked out and now they owe a substantial fine. You may be surprised, as I was just this morning, to find out that your child is having a sleepover at your house that very night - and the other parents have already agreed that it's okay. You might be surprised when listening to the old messages on your answering machine when you realize that the call you've been expecting actually did occur but your family didn't bother to let you know on the dry erase board that is right next to the phone for just such a purpose. Best of all, though, is when you are surprised because they DID remember your birthday or some special occasion. It is harder for them to plan ahead and remember things, so it means even more when they do it without repeated coaching from you. That's the good kind of surprise.
Monday, July 20, 2009
When are kids are small, we try to teach them what it means to be a good friend. When a child struggles with social skills it is difficult for them to discern who is actually behaving like a friend. My son, Josh, had great difficulty recognizing body language and tone of voice and often missed social cues. At times this was a blessing because it meant that he missed the facial expressions, unkind comments, and even blatant rejection that was frequently directed at him. I felt enough pain for both of us sometimes, I think. I remember so many incidents of Josh trying to connect with other kids and my trying to coach him so he would be more successful. One summer, years ago, Josh was probably 6 or 7 years old and we had gone to the community pool for the afternoon. He saw a boy about his age and approached him to see if he wanted to play. They exchanged a few sentences, and suddenly I saw the boy shove Josh as hard as he could into the deep end of the pool. Josh had only recently learned to swim and was not yet up to swimming in the deep end, and I ran to the side of the pool and pulled my spluttering son out of the water. There was a red hand print on his back from where he had been pushed. By then the other boy had run off, but I approached a life guard and made her look at the mark left on Josh and pointed out the boy who had left it. She said she knew him and would talk to him about it. Another attempt at a relaxing afternoon was superceded by this distressing incident. Josh and I talked about it at the time, trying to figure out what went wrong and how to avoid similar events in the future. It wasn't until years later that Josh was able to tell me more about what he was thinking that day. He said he'd really wanted to play with someone and that boy was also by himself and looked to be around the same age. He never did figure out why the boy shoved him into the deep end and took off. But Josh remembers what he was thinking as he was sinking down in the water. "Maybe if I make it back up we can still be friends." Wow. There was never any hint of friendliness from that boy toward Josh, and certainly propelling another child into the deep end of the pool without knowing if he can swim seems obviously hostile. But not to Josh, who didn't innately understand how a friend should act. For most children, an experience like that makes a huge impression and they have no desire to be around the one who rejected them. For Josh, it was just one more confusing experience in the confusing world of social interactions.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
We found him through a poster hung on the bulletin board at Big Bear.
“Mixed Lab/Boxer puppies. Free to a good home.”
As it turned out, he was priceless.
For fourteen years he was a part of our family.
He either traveled with us, or waited faithfully guarding our house for us until we returned home.
He never complained about anything, except for the not-so-subtle reminders that it was time to feed him. He usually waited for visitors to carry around his big, metal dish around the room, as if to say "Dog on strike! They never feed me!"
The days of playing fetch, or tug-of-war were over long ago. When we went for walks, you could tell that his spirit was much more vibrant and playful than his body would allow him to exhibit. Getting up the stairs was a burden and he sometimes needed a little help to surmount the challenge.
I knew the time was near a few months ago when a construction worker left the gate to the back yard open. My daughter let him out late at night to do his business, but then couldn't get him to come when she called. She woke me up at 3:00 am, because she was afraid that he had died out there. When I went out and found the gate open, I knew he was out running the neighborhood again. But this time was different. I walked around the block until I realized that I wouldn't find a black dog in pitch darkness, and he wouldn't hear my soft whistles. I went back to bed. He was barking to be let back in within an hour. When you're 81 in dog years I guess running wild just doesn't have the same appeal as it did when you were young.
His body was ravaged.
Five years ago the vet cut out a big tumor. The tests came back. It was cancerous. We didn't get it all. The damnable stuff came back; slowly, but inexorably, like....well, like a cancer. It was on his chest, which made it difficult to walk, or lay down, or climb, or run. But he never complained.
He started having seizures about a year ago. The vet said it was way beyond what he could analyze or treat and suggested we take him to the University Vet clinic. $800 later they wanted to do more tests: MRIs, CAT scans, consults with heart specialists. We took him home with no suggestions or treatment. He was glad to be home.
The worst was his incontinence. Usually during the night. In the morning, I would come downstairs and clean up the mess, with him standing nearby with an embarrassed & apologetic look on his face. Very undignified for such a handsome dog.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend told us about some vets that make house calls named, oddly enough, "House Calls." I made an appointment. Yesterday they came out. We started explaining everything that was going on with my dear friend. The more we talked, the clearer it was that there would be no medication that would clear this up; no pill or special food. Then she mentioned that the arthritis was probably making it very difficult for him as well. Arthritis. I hadn't considered that. It would certainly explain why his back legs shook when he was just standing there. And why he seemed to sink, lower and lower as he walked by.
The vet gave us some options. Pain meds, seizure meds; but they all had some nasty side effects.
There would be no hospice, or pain management. He had suffered in silence. And he had seemed very content, even if he only got five minutes of petting or scratching a day in return for 23 hours, 55 minutes of pain, he was willing to take that deal. But we had to decide for him that it was a bad deal.
The vet helped him to go to sleep for the last time. They shaved a small place on his leg and started an IV. We were petting & loving on him to the very end.
Some things God allows to be a mystery to us, unanswered. I hope that when I arrive in heaven, I will find my Lord Jesus waiting to welcome me. And you will be by His side.
Goodbye, my friend
Friday, July 10, 2009
My son, Josh, has hypersensitivity to smells as part of his sensory processing profile. He used to lift his plate up to his nose to sniff his food before eating it. This happened even with familiar and favorite foods. Fortunately as he got older he was able to inhibit this behavior, or at least do it so surreptitiously that no one noticed. Once I cooked a chicken drumstick in the microwave, and Josh wrinkled his nose and announced that it smelled like our dog Shadow when he is wet. Wet dog never smells good! Consequently, Josh wouldn't eat the drumstick, and his description of the smell grossed out his sisters so much that for months they all refused to eat chicken. Last night I made cilantro rice with fresh cilantro. This recipe also included orange marmalade for a taste of citrus. The main course was to be served over the cilantro rice, but I noticed that Josh skipped the rice. I asked him why, and he grinned and told me he had sniffed out the rice but that it smelled like Febreeze or something so he didn't want to eat it. Josh is not a picky eater, but when a smell reminds him of something non-edible he can't bring himself to eat it. I'm guessing that the orange citrus smell is what reminded him of cleaners, so I can see why he wouldn't want to eat it. We like fresh food, but not "cleanser fresh" smelling food. The rest of us didn't get the Febreeze impression, so we ate the rice. I didn't push it with Josh, because he wasn't complaining about it and we all have foods we don't care for and choose not to eat. Plus, I imagine the Febreeze rice for Josh would be like asking me to eat something that smells like bleach or Pinesol. I'm just glad he is able to tell me why some foods are o.k. with him and others are rejected.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Monday, July 06, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Some of you may have read an earlier post about the varmint that moved into my attic this spring. It turned out to be a raccoon with four babies, but they are gone now after spending six weeks with us. Bear with my city girl excitement here...we now have a robin's nest in the tree in our front yard. I have been watching the mama bird since she started building the nest. I've noticed on multiple occasions that she sits in the nest with her beak slightly open. At first, I thought perhaps she was "giving egg" (as opposed to "giving birth") but she has continued to do it off and on for over a week now. I have seen her with her beak closed, so I'm curious about the open beak posture. When I work with kids who are mouth breathers, I encourage the parents to rule out allergies if they have not already done so. A child with swollen tonsils and adenoids may also be a mouth breather. Children who are chronic mouth breathers tend to have chapped lips with reduced sensation, so drooling may be more of a problem because the children are not aware of it or do not feel the wetness as acutely as most. For some children, the initial physical cause may have cleared up but mouth breathing has become a habit. If a child's mouth is open because that's the only way he can breathe comfortably, however, there is no point in addressing the open mouth posture until the underlying cause has been treated. Breathing will always come first. Once breathing is not an issue, you can begin to work on lip closure and better mouth and tongue postures. As for the mama bird, she seems to be doing well. I've decided that birds (at least the mamas) must not ever have AD/HD, or they would not be able to sit there for hours and hours being as immovable as a statue. They may, however, have swollen birdie adenoids for all I know!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
When my kids were younger, they looked forward to joining the local library's summer reading club. They would read and earn a prize like a pencil or a coupon for miniature golf. It was great fun for them, but they did not usually choose books that I would consider educational. I don't mind having them read books at an easy level or just for fun. At the same time, I would prefer that they read some more challenging material as well. So I started a new tradition I call "Mom's Summer Reading Club". My children could join my club in addition to the program at the library. My club was a bit different from the library's, however, since I printed off a list of books and the children had to select titles from that compilation. Occasionally one of my children would approach me with a specific book in mind and ask if it could be added to my list. Sometimes I agreed, and other times I did not think it was a fit for my list but reminded them that they could read that title for the library club. I assigned a point value for the books, with harder and longer books earning a greater number of points. I also individualized the prize list with items or activities that I knew my children would enjoy. I had a long list of book titles for the children to choose from, and they were all books I would be happy to see my kids reading. In fact, some of them were going to be read during the school year anyway even if the children did not select them as part of their summer reading choices. The prizes earned were also based on a point system, with smaller items such as a Dairy Queen Blizzard requiring only 5 points while $10.00 to use at the thrift store cost 20 points. I think it's important to have a range of point prizes, because some children need the reinforcement and reward sooner rather than later. As quickly as my Beckie acquired enough points to cash them in for a prize, she would come and find me to collect what she had earned. My Beth, on the other hand, would save up her points and enjoy the anticipation of a trip to the thrift store. That was my most popular prize with her, and she did a lot of reading during Mom's Summer reading club. To this day Beth enjoys reading classics that Mom would happily add to the book list, although Beth no longer expects prizes for reading. My Josh was somewhere in the middle, able to push past the early prizes but not as interested in accruing points for the bigger items on the prize list. I posted both the book list and the prize list on our refrigerator. Several of my kids' friends thought it was a great idea and hoped their moms might do something similar with them. It's such a simple way to encourage our reluctant readers or motivate our children to read a variety of materials over the summer or anytime.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
I dedicate today's post to my little friend, Brian. Brian's parents are friends of mine, and I started doing speech therapy with Brian late in August 2008. It has been a privilege to get to know Brian during his first year and now past his second birthday. He is one of the few children I've worked with who attempted to say my name, "Melinda" which came out as "Minda" when Brian said it. I think it's the best nickname ever. To impress me further, the next week he came out with my last name, "Boring", using a good "r" and everything! His parents were great at following through with all the strategies and suggestions I offered them. Brian has made steady gains in his language skills and now frequently imitates words and short phrases that he hears adults using. Imagine my surprise when we met in the community for a therapy session and Brian took one look at my bottle of Diet Pepsi and pointed to it while loudly announcing, "Beer!" It was one of his new words for that week, and in typical fashion he was over-generalizing it to every drink he saw. His mom and I shared a good laugh over the fact that I couldn't persuade Brian to say "pop" and his insistence on calling it "beer". Incidentally, I don't even like beer, so the accusation was even more amusing. I saw Brian again yesterday, and administered a standardized test that confirmed my impression that his language skills have reached an age-appropriate level. His mom informed me that thanks to a news story and the adult discussion following it, Brian has added the word "alcohol" to his vocabulary. I'm proud of Brian and his family for how quickly he progressed in his skills and he can now be discharged from speech therapy. He'll never remember our speech therapy work together. But Brian, I'll never forget you! Super job, buddy, and have a cold one! Milk, that is!