Archive | September 2015

October Updates

I don’t always have the time to write as much as I want anymore (and by don’t always have the time, I mean I never have the time…) but I think about it a lot.   There are many, many half-written posts in my head, but until I get better at time management or hit the lottery and can afford to stay home and write full time – the blog will have to limp along sustained only by these quick little snip-it updates.

Julie is doing really well in school, and even started Hebrew school yesterday.  Rocked it – and it was beautiful – to have her go to class without hesitation, I was so happy.   She’s become a lot more clingy lately, and I cherish it.  She loves me, I’m her default. If I’m going somewhere and she’s given the option, she’s with me.  She wants me snuggling beside her at night until she falls asleep, she comes with me to the store, to the library, and wherever else I happen to be going.   She’s SO smart, and yesterday, she starting asking me questions, from the way-back of the van, about liability and what would happen if a tree fell on our car when we were at our friend’s house – who would pay for that?  That’s the kind of questions she has – seriously.   She’s growing up, faster than either of us are comfortable with – and that’s why she wants to be with me all the time.  She’s heading in to school every morning and bouncing off to religious school on the weekends, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I miss my little girl.

Sam may be a reader after my own heart.  I forced reading on Jessie.  I did.  I was so excited about having a daughter who could read all the books that I read – and got way carried away at introducing new authors and books to her.  She was easily in the fourth or fifth grade before she started reading, and still doesn’t read as much as I do.  She reads, a lot, and always has a book with her, but it’s only after stepping back, WAY back, that she was able to find her own way into reading.  But my Sammy… he fell in love with books.  I tricked him into it with audio books (I had tried that with Jessie too – but she didn’t like them – she needs to hold a book in her hands like I do).  He devours them – shutting himself into his room and listening to stories while he colors or writes or builds with minecraft.  But he’s still a struggling reader, and as much as I love that he’s doing the audio books, I wanted him READING.  Enter – graphic novels.  I found some GREAT ones, historical and just a touch above his reading level – and he’s LOVES it.  He’s just like his dad, now that I think of it – especially as it relates to his reading material.  Marc loves audio books too, he listens to them in the car (which is how I got Sam into them, riding around with his dad), and Marc picked up Sam’s graphic novel a few minutes ago, and is reading it while I’m typing.

Jessie, oh, my Jessie.  She’s so driven and so ambitious and works so very hard.  She’s overwhelmed and dramatic and intense – and wants so much out of life.  I struggle with boundaries, with letting her fight her own battles, and make her own decisions about homework.  The Jewish holidays wreaked havoc on her academic schedule, and she was under water for most of the past two weeks, making up school work missed.  Her school is academically advanced – and they have high expectations.  Jessie’s thrived in that environment, and she works her little butt off to get the grades.  Mixing in any kind of activity on top of that, like religious school or bat mitzvah lessons – and it’s hard.  It’s hard because she puts an enormous amount of pressure on herself, and I can’t stop her.  But when she’s not sobbing in frustration, she’s happy – really happy.  She loves her school, and she lights up when she’s being challenged and learning something new.

 

A family of night owls (and one early riser)

Am I the only mom who’s firmly convinced, all the time, that my kids aren’t getting enough sleep?  They never get to bed early enough.  And Sam always pops up at the crack of dawn, no matter what.

Jessie ended up crashing on the couch last night, and is still sound asleep.   Julie took over an hour to fall asleep (!!) and is still all snuggled up on her bed.  Sam bopped out of bed as I was getting up and is wide awake and watching minecraft videos.  He is, of course, the only kid that isn’t doing religious school today.

We decided against religious school for Sam, and are only sending Jessie part-time.  But hope springs eternal, and we enrolled Julianna and are hoping for the best.  Maybe she’ll love it.

Sam has hated it from the very beginning, and after struggling for five years, I finally gave up.  Truth be told, I gave up last year, about a quarter of the way into the year – but this was the first year that I didn’t even sign him up for it.   Jessie doesn’t love it either but it’s her last year.

I was on the fence about sending her, and then the decision was taken out of my hands.  She has been dying to do Model UN since last year, and the meetings are at the same time as Wednesday.  It wasn’t even a contest – she’s so much happier, inspired and enthusiastic – she loves debating, discussion and learning about different countries and understanding their positions, I couldn’t ask her to sacrifice that.  So she’ll go to religious school on Mondays, Model UN on Wednesdays, bat mitzvah studying on Thursdays, and services on Saturday and that’ll be enough.

In other news, my toe is still sore and has broken back open.  It’s on my toe, and walking bends it – and it’s not like there’s a toe cast, or a splint that I can use to not bend it.  I just limp a lot and hate it.  Because it’s not a serious injury – it’s a cut on my damn toe, but it’s super irritating and I can’t wait for it to heal.

All is not well

As a collection, we’re kind of a hot mess at the moment.

Marc is sick as a dog – he’s got that gross cold where he’s a dripping, hacking disaster.  Jessie killed herself all week trying to make up schoolwork for the two days of Rosh Hashana and is now completely destroyed.  She manifests stress physically – and when she’s pushed to the max (or pushes herself there), she gets migraines, body aches, and miseries.  Sam and Julie both have massive seasonal allergies, I think.  They aren’t sick the way the other two are, but I’m going thru benedryl and boxes of tissues like there’s no tomorrow.  I cut my toe open last night, and it still hurts like hell.  Ended up sending Marc to the store last night at nine to get liquid bandage to glue it shut, and it’s still achy.

But the day dawns again, and I can see the tree outside my window just starting to change colors.   My plan today involves picking up Sam’s violin, his new glasses, and a big bag of honey crisp apples and kettle corn from Tougas.  I’ll probably be going by myself, as rest of the family is sick and exhausted.

I worry about Jessie, she’s so independent but not old enough to stand up for herself the way she should.  We should have interceded with the school and made sure that she got enough time to make up the work missed for the holidays, but she hates that idea.  And she was so worked up and stressed and overwhelmed that I just wanted to make it easier for her – and ended up sitting up with her until eleven twice this week, helping her do the homework.

Sam bounces between blissful and oh-my-God-disastrous.  Mostly blissful.  He’s happy, doing well, socially comfortable and relaxed.  Except that Thursday was so bad, worse than it’s been in years, in terms of getting him into the classroom.  He’s getting slightly, maybe, better at getting homework done, but it’s still a process.  He’s fallen in love with reading.   I’m tricking him into a little bit with audio books.  He’s not a proficient enough reader yet to read books at his comprehension level, and he’s a kid who functions best when he’s multi-tasking.  Like his dad, now that I’m thinking about it.  Marc needs the radio on while he cooks or does dishes – Sam needs a book on while he colors or plays minecraft or builds with legos.  But he’s devouring books at a rate that delights me.

Julianna is doing SO well in kindergarten.  She’s still a little clingy at drop off, but never (or at least really rarely) cries.  She’s learning so much, just soaking it all up.   She’s still my little observer – much more likely to watch than participate.   Julianna benefits from being my third child – after having survived her brother and sister, there’s not a lot that she could throw at me that I haven’t already seen.  She’s still my sidekick, her preferred spot is always at my side.  She’s still weird, she sings all the wildly inappropriate songs that Marc has taught her.  She wrestles with her dad every night, plays for hours with her barbie dolls and castles.  She loves to be read to, and snuggles beside every night to fall asleep – and then sleeps all night long in her own bed.  She likes her hair in a side ponytail, isn’t fully dressed unless there’s a headband on her head, and still won’t wear pants.

So, other than the sneezing and hacking and dripping and stress – we’re all doing okay.  And today will be a quiet day, at home.  Jessie and I are planning on going out to buy apples and glasses and pumpkin mead, and maybe Julie will come.  Maybe Julie will stay home with Daddy and her big brother.   But we’ll relax and rejuvenate and recover from a busy week.  We’ll be ready for Monday.

Crappy days

They happen.  They just do, and when it happens, I’m always shocked at how bad it can be.

Sam’s got an anxiety disorder.  I hate it – so much.  And because it’s so specific, it’s not a general anxiety disorder, he’s not an anxious kid as a rule. He’s laid back, chill.  Relaxed and mellow.  Except when he isn’t.

School refusal is a thing.  It’s not just general I-don’t-want-to-go-school-today – that’s normal.  That’s typical.  I can handle that.  When the school refusal starts up, it’s not something that I can jolly him out of.  It’s not something I can bribe him out of, or punish him into moving past it.  It’s a battle that he fights, trying to get control over it – and watching him fight that battle breaks my heart more than I can possibly express.  When you’ve had your child literally shaking and sobbing, begging you to please not leave him – and you know that leaving him is the only way he’s going to see that he can survive without you – that staying with him is only reinforcing the fear, confirming that you don’t think he can manage without you – it’s devastating.

I know that I should be grateful – he’s healthy.  I am.  I know that a physical ailment would be so much worse, in so many ways.  He’s physically healthy – and the anxiety is mostly under control.  We’ve worked on it a long time, after all.  We’ve learned what works, what doesn’t.  How to communicate with each other, how to communicate and explain to teachers and faculty and to work with the anxiety.  I’m incredibly lucky because the staff and faculty at his school really do understand.  They are a thousand times better at it then when we started this five years ago.

But by the time Wednesday afternoon was over, I was so worn out and exhausted.  I had spent the whole day at the school, half of it with him, probably an eighth of it sobbing outside the school, desperate for someone to tell me that it would be okay.  Knowing that there was nobody who could guarantee that it would be.  I spent the rest of it sitting in the car (because I had given him my keys, to reassure himself that I’d still be there), and then I went and volunteered in Julie’s classroom.

He made it thru the day, and I’m so proud of him.  Because it’s hard, really hard, to fight that battle, and he keeps trying.  He keeps fighting.  And wins.

But the rest of the day stayed crazy.  I came home from school, and got everyone settled down.  Once Marc got home, I took Sam and his homework and went down to the library.  He loves audiobooks.  He listens to them the way I read books.  And he’s better at doing homework outside of the house – and since he had two days of homework from Rosh Hashana, in addition to all the classwork he’d missed that day, we needed the quiet.  We talked a lot about what happened that day.  We went grocery shopping and finally made our way home.

Once I got home, both girls promptly burst into tears and crawled on me.  Not literally, but it felt that way.  Jessie was so overwhelmed with the missed school work, and the exhaustion from staying up too late trying to get all caught up – and Julie was emotionally wiped out after watching her brother fall apart earlier.  I didn’t get to bed until close to eleven.

Yesterday was not as bad.  Nowhere near.  But it was still really lousy.

And around five thirty, I explained to Julie that I was like a kindle, and needed to go recharge.  I was all used up, and needed some quiet time all by myself.  I got in the car, and made it halfway out of the driveway before Julie came sobbing out the door after me.  I came back in, administered drinks and hugs and turned on the television.  I waited until Marc had dinner ready, and was prepared to handle all of the kids.  Then I got back in my car, got take out chinese, and parked the car with a good book.

Today, my house is a mess.  I’m behind in laundry, and there an ocean of dishes and things that I should have done last night.  But I’m calm now.  A little bit more recharged.  A little bit more patient.

Crappy days happen.  They do.  Anxiety disorder is real, and it’s never going to go away.   But the crappy days are less frequent than they were.  In fact, they might be more crappy because I’m not used to them anymore.  There was a time when crappy days were the norm.  When every day of going to school was hellish and scary.  That’s not the case anymore.  It’s easier.  It is.  It just doesn’t feel like it when it’s your son, wrestling past the school psychologist and escaping out into the school, prompting a school wide search.  When it’s your son lying under the desk, not talking to anyone, completely shut down because when you can’t fight, and you can’t flee, you just shut down altogether.

Anxiety sucks.

School refusal

Sam’s got an anxiety disorder – and while we’ve got it pretty much under control, it still flares up at various times and feels just as challenging as it ever did.  Especially around the beginning of the school year – some years are better than others (they range on the spectrum to his horrific first year of kindergarten and his transition into first grade which was AWESOME).  This year isn’t the hardest one he’s had, but it’s pretty close.

He’s come so very far – and we’ve all learned a lot about how to handle the anxiety in a way that really minimizes the duration and difficulty.  Sam’s worked exceptionally hard, I’ve worked exceptionally hard, and even the school has changed the way they approach anxiety.

On Wednesday, we had his first school meeting – and those are hard.  They’re team meetings, me and a whole bunch of people I don’t know very well trying to suss out what’s going to work for my son as we go thru the year.  Just before the meeting, I was waiting in the lobby.  There was a mom and a little boy struggling with separation – he was just a little thing, maybe first grade, and he was straight up horrified at being dropped off at the school.  Screaming and begging his mother not to leave him – and it was like being transported back three years to Sam starting school.  He was so scared, and so desperate to be rescued, to have his mom save him from having to go…. I was wiping away tears and a little shaky before we started the meeting.

Everything went well, and I think he’s in a good place for the rest of the year.  It’s so confusing – trying to decide what to do and how to proceed.  With Sam, he struggles academically, but it’s hard to tease out how much of it is the anxiety, how much of it is actual trouble understanding the academics vs being afraid that he doesn’t, whether it’s emotional or a learning disability, or actually a physical matter of not getting glasses until the end of second grade and how that impacted things.  Do I have him pulled out of class to be formally tested for a learning disability, when that might reinforce the anxiety – which might be the real problem?  I looked at getting him evaluated outside of school – and that’s literally thousands of dollars, all out of pocket and none of it reimbursed by insurance.

Suffice it to say that I was a little raw when it came to yesterday morning.  Completely confused as to what to do, guilty because I still blame myself for the fact that he’s got the anxiety in the first place, and then not knowing how to proceed – if I need to have him evaluated or not.   He’s been really good about going to school – even if he really didn’t want to go – he still got up every morning and got dressed with a smile.

Except for yesterday.  Yesterday, he didn’t want to go – and it quickly escalated.  I blame myself (shocking, I know).  I was already so stressed about school and him, the idea that we were wading back into school refusal and he hasn’t even been going to school for a week… I lost it.  Screaming at my little boy, who’s clutching his stomach and screaming that he’s SICK and NOT GOING.  Thank God for Marc –  because he was calm, and rearranged his schedule to stay home with him.  I insisted that he had to go to the doctor – because by God, I was going to get a note to excuse this absence, but I knew that there was nothing wrong with him.  Nothing physical, anyway – the problem is that he hates going.  I was a mess – a screaming, sobbing disaster, and I yelled at my little boy.

Only… he really is sick.  He had a stomach virus last weekend, and damaged his stomach lining.  He’s on a two week course of probiotics.

There’s nothing like the guilt you feel as a parent.  There’s literally nobody else to blame when things go wrong, and I still like to assume that I’ve got total control over everything.  Which helps me to feel a little bit more like nothing is really that bad, because if I’m in control, I can fix it.  But the reality is that I’m not, in control or capable of fixing everything just by trying.  I can’t magically fix the anxiety, and I can’t always know when it’s school refusal and when it’s an actual physical problem.  I can’t control the amount of snow we get, or how many days that he’ll miss because of it.  So I freak out when I think he’s missing school and shouldn’t be – and end up screaming at a poor kid who’s got damage to his stomach lining.

In other news – the girls are both doing well in school.  Sam is doing well too – and that’s important to note.  I might not be, I might be hopelessly confused and baffled about what to do next – but he’s getting up and going to school with a smile on his face, and wearing his glasses and trying his best.  His teacher seems lovely, and he’s at grade level across the board, ahead in math, ever-so-slightly behind in reading and crap at spelling.  But he’s gorgeous and brave and bold and cheerful, and maybe third grade will be a lot better than I think it will be.