Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kindergarten Reality Shows

I have to admit, with my schedule this week, I haven't been up on the Alex Barton situation in FL. For those not in the know, Alex is a 5 year old kindergartner who was the unfortunate butt of a sick attempt by his TEACHER to vote a child out of the class- 'reality' TV style. The children were all told to say what they did not like about the child and the vote cane out something like 14-2 to vote him out of the classroom. Bad enough for ANY kid to suffer this kind of humiliation, but to find out that this child is in the process of being classified on the autistic spectrum and the jaw just opens even wider.

I just have so many unfinished sentences coming out of my mouth about what is so friggin wrong about this situation:
  • Let's start with the probability that most of the kids in this class have never even SEEN a reality TV show, let alone understand the concept, so have these kids mimic the best(?) that society...
  • Yea let's hold Simon up as a role model for our kindergartners, brutal honesty is going to instill...
  • Since these kids have no idea of the reality show format, what does this prepare the kids for, the 'realities' of grammar school and middle school? Better to get them prepared early for...
  • If this teacher had a beef with the child about...about...ANYTHING, it's best she left out the administrators and parents and took it to the court of public opinion...
  • Let's change this to the same situation, except in the teachers lounge where all the teachers got to critique Wendy Portillo and vote HER out the school. Even with a fully functioning adult with a full understanding of parody and comic relief, this sort of demeaning behavior would hurt like hell and would probably meet with the dismissal of some of her...
  • And the school and police found nothing WRONG with this? They "concluded the matter did not meet the criteria for emotional child abuse", yea right, he'll just bounce back from...
  • I guess Mrs Portillo didn't have enough time the night before for a lesson plan...but had time for Survivor, Dancing With the Stars, Idol and the host of other shows that are part of the real America...
Folks, bullying from KIDS should not be tolerated. Thankfully, it is being treated more and more with the seriousness it deserves. Most of us carry the emotional scarring of those days through our entire lives. To let a teacher do this to a 5 year old boy and just shrug our shoulders is just...just...dispicable

Diary of a Mad Week- Monday

Mon May 19, 1:00 pm- So begins the practice journey into me solo-ing this whole kid thing. Today is just a dress rehearsal; Linda is going to a graduation party for her brother. I have to do the lunch for Grace, the 2:00 pickup of Liv, the 2:30 drop-off at speech, the 45 minute entertainment of Grace, the 3:15 pick up and the scramble for the 3:35 pick up of the boys. Then it's on to dinner, baths and homework and bed before 'da boss' gets home, hopefully before 11.

Optimism and cockiness permeate my being, I can DO this. I have one day of work tomorrow, then she leaves on Wed at noon and I'm ALONE Wed-Sun night, with just myself and 4 of the kids. Aly, the oldest, is going with her mother and her grandmother to Chicago.

What did Linda tell me? Stay off the computer and stay focused, but this is going to be too good to NOT document. Either complete and utter victory or abject'll be a compelling story either stay tuned...

4:15pm- So far so good. Caught a break when Grace fell asleep on the way to speech (normally her patience level is that of Veruca Salt from Willie Wonka, so I dodged a bullet). Didn't get a break finding that my patented underwear under diaper combo wasn't on Liv; had to run back to the car. Hard to look 'manly' in front of construction workers running into speech with a diaper...oh well...Timing perfect getting boys. The kid is GOOD!

6 pm- Amazing how a turn of events can turn events quickly against you. Kinda like a Spielberg movie where the seemingly inconsequential details come together to create HAVOC. Mine were a slow draining tub and watermelon. Livie LOVES watermelon, I had watermlon in the fridge. Perfect desert. Hey, now I'm sailing way ahead of schedule and get Liv into the tub. Liv's happily splashing away in the tub and Grace decides to join her. Suddenly, without warning, as if the staff of Moses was placed into the Nile, the water not red. Out comes Liv, onto the toilet, Grace, wandering the hall naked, proclaiming the news.

OK, nothing I haven't handled a dozen times before, I send Liv into the living room and, noticing that the tub is draining much too slow for my liking, decide NOW is a good time to try and speed it up. Find the plunger, try to work magic...nuthin'. OK, fair enough, abandon side project and get to sterilizing tub. As always in the movies, there is another twist..."DAAAAAAD! Livie's pooped on the couch and it's EVERYWHERE!" You parents must know the feeling when you become numb to the situation and just put you head down and get to work? I almost went whipping right past that straight to nervous breakdown. Got out the trusty Bissel Little Green Machine, switched it on suction. Eye twitches...investigate and find that the Green Machine is clogged. With what? You don't want to know and I don't want to remember. Got it running finally. Proceed to the couch...

7:15- The hour that would have grossed John Carpenter out is finally over. We have our own 'Oscars' in the house, represented by the Sesame St. Grouch, given for grossest moments in our history. While none of the 3 were the worst in and of themselves (although the couch EASILY cracked the top 20), the combination of events has earned the hours of 6:15 to 7:15 an Academy of Motion Sickness award for nastiest continuous cleanup job...

Diary of a Mad Week- Tuesday

Tues- Nothing new to report, other than my wife shrunk and got younger in the middle of the night (Liv woke up and she gets plopped in the master bedroom with me while Linda seeks refuge on the couch). I have many loose ends at work that may play into the week if I'm needed, my back up is out on vacation too. But the out-of-office messages are set up and off I go...have a nice vacation, yea, right!

Linda grills me on what, who, when and how, I remember by osmosis from repeated exposure to the schedule and quizzing. My mother would have had notes hung up all over the house; from how to operate the dryer to which way to wipe. It was before her time, but if Post-it notes were around in her day, she would have been their Post-er child.

The big difference is nowadays is that we are all cellular-ly (yea, I defy you to try and say that with a mouthful of peanut butter) connected. In the past, you needed hotel numbers, conference hall numbers, you had to time your calls and pay through the nose for them. Now, the only problem is if you forget to put your phone on buzz during a presentation. If I have a question or if I can't find something, I won't hesitate to dial her cell "Hey, hon? Where's the Valium?"

Aly is beginning to get more sentimental and mushy; she, like me, has this thing about good-byes...anything overnight and she gets teary eyed. She's threatened to pack Oreo, 'her' cat, several well as Grace.
Linda is trying to cram in all the things she can do up front to make my life easier, bless her soul. I'm halfway between panic and calm confidence. Yesterday was just a perfect storm and I was just not being careful. Ounce of prevention and all that good stuff...

Diary of a Mad Week- Wed

2:00pm- The '3 generation girls' have left the building. Linda was a blur getting everything set up for me. I didn't get another pep talk, she gave me an operators manual on how to get through the next 48 hours instead (the weekend she figures I can handle on my own). Reading through the book she wrote, I think I'll try and find a publisher and make a killing; this girl can out parent Dr Spock times Dr Sears! Controlling like my mother was...who do you think us guys choose to marry anyway?
3:00pm- hour one out of 110 complete, all children still accounted for
5:30pm- all kids fed, I'm ahead of schedule...a feeling of deja vu and forboding comes over me. Grandma left, I'm not pressing my luck, I still have to do 'bout a cookie? Better yet, a banana...
8:15pm- the girls' plane finally takes off (2 1/2 hours late), one of our fave pasttimes is looking for the plane to see if/when it passes over. "Wave kids!" Unfortunately, it's getting too dark for planespotting, we track the plane online instead.
8:30pm- Both the yougest girls are in bed. We have an 'iffy' for Grace tomorrow for school, she was out sick today with the sniffles; so... not sure, but she was active today, so I hope to get her to school so I can get a 2 hour break in the morning. Meanwhile, I get a well deserved break and will sit down with my DVR'd episodes of Ghost Hunters!

Diary of a Mad Week- Thurs

5:30am- So, it's early but not the middle of the night. I woke up to Liv crying, or was it laughing? I also thought I heard Dora say "Come on, vamanos", but between Dora playing in my head regardless and having the idea of other worldly voices planted in my head last night by Ghost Hunters, I'm just not sure. Yup she was laughing, yup it was Dora, from a book under the covers (they ALL make noise nowadays!). I could get up, but I still I force Liv to stay in bed with me. She waits it out like a prisoner waiting for her jailer to nod off. She turned on the computer and turned on and off the lights so fast, I felt like doing the Hustle. I gave in around 6:30.

8:15 am- I had plenty of time today, since Aly was not going on the bus and since Grace is still running like a faucet, she's home... at least I didn't have to get her ready. So much for 2 hours free time, though. It's not like I'm trying to get anything done. But it would have been nice to do a couple of loads of laundry without having to worry whether Grace is going through the cat door.

2:15pm- Grace has been trying to escape all day. She's reasoning out how to get to her nemesis...the door chain. It reminds me of that scene in Jurassic Park where the game warden guy is explaining about how the raptors are testing the fences for weaknesses. She had tried smaller boxes, step stools; finally I hear her grunting and groaning. After the grunting stops I see that she has a huge heavy box in front of the door; and her goal was achieved. She was messing with the chain to see how it can be removed. She was still two steps from freedom (she still had to move the big heavy box out of the way), but I shut her down and distracted her as much as I could. Next thing will have to be an invisible Grace-fence.

5:30pm- victory as I get a BM out of Liv. I would have been satisfied if I never saw it again, but that ain't the way life works. It seems there had been no tremors since Mt St Helens erupted on Monday. I went with 'ol reliable...watermelon...

10:30pm- I've been fighting with doing my other job my (not so) real job today, and I'm still doing it. I've fixing 700 orders throughout the day; connection to the network crashing every 15 minutes, my daughters pulling on me for the other 14. That's the only difference between me and Lin: I have this other mistress that pays our bills that I have to pay attention to. Sometimes I feel like I give my parenting job second shrift; but I try not to.

Today was tougher, partly because of the job, partly because it was my first REAL day by myself. Friday's gonna be easier...I hope anyway

Diary of a Mad Week- Friday

6:00am- Better Liv, but still not great. I push it to 6:45, but she makes sure I don't even get an extra 4 winks...

9:10am- I'm left at the curb with Grace and NO bus. The bus driver and I had a confusing discussion about who would be on and not on the bus (Liv had no school today and Grace had been out sick for two, so our wires got crossed). I can't blame the bus driver, I have left her beeping at the curb for 5 minutes; I forget to tell her when Grace is not going to be on the bus; I physically pinned a note on my chest once to make sure I told her (she's STILL talking about that one). So, my 10 minutes to get Liv ready and out the door with Jason at 9:15 turns into 10 seconds of scrambling to get Liv dressed while Grace screams in confusion as to why I dragged her back in the house. I drop off Jay and swing over to the other school and drop Grace off.

9:35am- Livie's a good sport through the entire escapade so I decide to reward her (and me) with a trip to Deep Cut Gardens, a local county park. Beautiful day, but halfway through, I realize that both Liv's getting too big and I'm getting too weak to haul her onto my shoulders anymore. I have a torn rotator cuff. so my shoulder just don't GO that way anymore. I finally get her up there, but halfway up a steep hill, I find my weight and hers too much. "Sorry, girlie, you're hooffin it with me!". We still had fun despite my handicap.

10:00pm- day went off without a, truth be told this is EXHAUSTING, even when you limit yourself to the bare survival stuff. Me and Liv have been struggling with the potty thing, she went in MY bed and Jason's (shhh, don't tell him, he came to me and said "I think I've been pee-ing in my sleep, cuz my bed over here is wet."). I washed my sheets, moved the pillowcase from Grace's bed over to mine, moved one of Livie's over to Grace's, found only the Jessie from 'Toy Story' sheets were clean, couldn't put them on Jason's bed, so switched them off onto Liv's mattress and took her unisex sheets for Jason's bed ('every thing's a contingency' is the phrase we always use) .
I let the boys out until 9:30 with the other 5 boys in the neighborhood to play Manhunt (ringalario?). It's almost summer again...remember those days? All the Benny's are gonna invade my sweet coastline again, happy Memorial Day weekend...

Diary of a (Not So) Mad Week- Saturday

As the title implies, Saturday has been uneventful and even somewhat wonderful. You'll notice no times today, because there IS no schedule, this Saturday is appointment-free. Normally Liv goes to a Sat. program at 8:30, Grace goes to same at 10, Liv picked up at 10:30, Grace at 12. Thank those who sacrificed everything that I did not have to do THAT today!

Instead, we took it as it came. I decided that we would ALL go the the Monmouth Battlefield State Park, I talked the boys into being responsible for one of the girls. Pretty good layout, it's basically wide open farmland so even if the girls got too far ahead or behind, where were they going to go? The boys did a little 'who's holdin' Livie's hand THIS 5 minutes', but all were happy...except when we told Grace it was time to go. If it ain't HER idea...there's gonna be a fight. Hey, I got up at 6:45...I had plenty of fight in me.

Liv was amazingly playful in the evening. She kept changing the TV station to 'static' and I'd tickle her in retribution till she was giggly-sore...then she's get up and do it again. Me, her and Jay went at this game for a full 15 minutes. A real good time.

OK, 24+ more hours of solo work and the girls come home. I think I'm actually gonna make it, and I may actually be better rather than worse for the wear...

Diary of a Mad New Week- Paying the Piper

Home stretch, the girls plane is due in around 11 pm which means they should be home somewhere just after unconsciousness. There are no serious horror shows in any rooms, I've seen it worse. I think the main issue now is we have to 'catch up' after all this fun and frolic. I've only done 7 or 8 loads of laundry during the 5 days, most of that was 'survival loads' of sheets and towels. If we don't average 2 loads a day, the piles creep up like a slow leak in the basement. Stocks are low, so a trip to the market is inevitable tomorrow. We also need to get prepped for the school week. If the older three are astute, they will realize there are Memorial Day parades around the area, and try to add that to the docket. Monthly cardboard recycling is Wednesday morning, seems like nothing, but with the amount of online purchasing we do, it's easily an hour job to bundle them.

We do project post mortems at work to see what the 'key learnings' are. So first, just like at work, attention to detail and a preventative approach will save you in the long run. I paid for it more than once this week taking the shortcut, rolling the dice and coming up snake eyes. Next, I'm not kidding myself, had this been a REAL week (we missed 4-6 therapy sessions during Wed-Sat timeframe), I would look like silly putty dripping off a seat right now. While I can DO this, I can't do it well. Last, of course, I have to recognize the master, the guru, the zen Buddhist of this universe, the one who can not only handle the extras that I did not, but still manage to get just a little bit ahead of the game by the end of the day. Baby, you're the greatest! Together, we're better than Lewis and Clark (or is that Martin and Lewis)!

And now, some outtakes from the week:

Grace, after opening the gate and starting down the stairs "Come on Livie, Come on!" She never addresses Liv directly

Grace again after having two pieces of a tub toy separate in the water, quite normal but she cries out "We need Sticky Tape!" (of course, from a Dora episode).

Aly, after being asked to watch the girls so that I could clean up one of the worst natural disasters in the living room Monday "Daaad, me and Dillan wanted to PLAY!"

"I'll do it." Dillan immediately after Aly once he realized the scope and gravity of the situation...

"Ha ha Ha!" Liv seemingly recognizing the irony of the situation at 5:30 am Thursday when the Dora book called out "Come on, Vamanos!"

"I'll have two Fla-vor-Ices instead" Jason after taking a look at the living room after being offered a big bowl of ice cream with Magic Shell and sprinkles if he helped clean up.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Yea! She's Disabled!

It's a bittersweet triumph for a parent of an autistic child. "Your child has been approved." "Your child has been diagnosed." "Your child has been accepted." "Your child IS on the spectrum."

Our latest 'affirmation' was through our state's DDD, confirming Grace was indeed eligible for services. YEA! more money for the coffers, more availability for services in the future. It's indeed a good thing. But, there's always that voice in the back of your head hoping that they'll say "I'm sorry, but you daughter does not appear to be on the spectrum, she's a little quirky, but we don't feel she's going to need any services, especially in the future." So, after we say "YESSS, she's disabled" we think "Did I just say that?"

In our journey, we've always known well before the experts confirmed it, so we were never surprised with the news. Liv, we had seen the signs around 18 months; Linda did research on the internet, she had me and my mother in law in denial for a couple of weeks before we realized Linda wasn't just matching symptoms to disorder. By the time we had the proclamation from the pediatric neurologist a few month later, it was anti-climatic and more a rubber stamp to our conclusions. We always had that hope (maybe hope is not the right work, maybe it's outrageous fantasy) that he'd say "No, your grossly mistaken, she's just going through a non-talking, stimming, anti-social, no eye contact phase, she'll grow out of it." (Wow that sounds like a couple of pediatricians we saw!)

Grace was at around 13 months...we weren't sure she had enough symptoms to warrant a diagnosis. We weren't sure because we hadn't seen another kid develop in almost 4 years; we had autism on the brain, so we weren't positive we could trust our judgement. We were sure, but we weren't sure we were sure. She was one of those kids that could have easily been missed by the lay doctor; but with a trained eye, we showed the early intervention folks exactly what we saw and they confirmed that they saw the issues too.

But because Grace's skills are so great and her autistic tendencies more subtle, she's been a fight with the people with lots of skepticism and funding. Her school system finally gave in a few months ago and we're moving her to an autistic program starting in the summer. DDD had to have an in-person evaluation to see for themselves. She 'performed' as well as we could hope. She's always a little nervous in new situations, and she'll show it by trying to eat inappropriate things (she tried to eat a tack and a paper clip), try to get out of the room (he had to barricade the doors) and generally make a lot of ruckus. The 'poop' in her pants was ('scuse the bad visual) icing on the cake. Where else would you think to yourself "Thank GOD, she acted up and was completely out of control in a state office!"

She's not nearly that bad at home though. It's an interesting dichotomy: The fantasy of trying to get her to perform poorly and the reality of better behavior at home, vs the typical version where the fantasy is them being perfect in office and digressing at home. I've long since given up on making sense of my life though; way past dreaming of my girls as something they are not and far away from lamenting the things that go along with. I'm just glad our kids are getting what they need...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Where Others Run the Other Way

Lemme start this post by saying this post should not minimize the legitimate heroism of fire departments around the world. Along with the other professions of the armed forces and police officers, theirs is the heroism and sacrifice, that being said, let's get to business.

I remind those with weak conthitutions to refrain from reading further.

It all started with one word today, one word that most certainly send terror into the hearts of all singles and DINKs (dual income no kids) out there. But words like this are second nature in our profession. The profession: parenthood; the word: boogie.

Yes, it all started in the midst of a conversation between my wife and her mother, Grace came in, index finger extended, and told mommy "boogie". Now, most would not exactly know what was transpiring here, unless you are part of the 'profession'. Perhaps you'd think she was an early imitator of John Travolta preparing for the pose in Saturday Night Fever.

There was something on the end of that finger, and it was passed to mommy without a second glance, flinch or even an "OH MY GOD...I'M GOING TO BE SICK". Of course, the boogie had an 'R'...
So, "what" you say "would motivate a person to accept things from another human that would cause others to run to their therapist?" I tell you the name: parenthood.

A parent is fearless in the face of all that is excreted from their offspring. From the tiniest sleeper to the largest vomit ever recorded, a parent will always be running TOWARD that danger. Countless times, when the dark stain of wetness appears on the lower portion of the buttocks, we're there pealing back the layers to repair the 'leak'. When the cry from the upper bunk of "I feel sick" comes; who is there to take the shower? When the spill of a major glass of milk or food or whatever may befall a tabletop or carpeting, the parent is there to take it and make it alright. The cuts and bruises, major and minor; the late night trips to the emergency room and the weekends at the doctors and CVS; we'll be there to make it right.

We're there at every turn, not only to make it right; but to make it better. All those projects cleverly disguised as 'third grade art projects' that are more challenges to parents to make something inspiring out of recycled material and make you THINK HE thought it up. So many room clean-ups that would have taken us 30 minutes, but children struggle to do in 1/2 a day.

We are there, protecting the under 18 humanity from certain failure, malnutrition and certain death. Making sure that the homework is done; the bodily odor is not there; that the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter are met. We are the few, the proud, the parents...

I could not figure out how to fit this into the post, but one of the things that parents have to instill in their children is that boogers can't be chewsers...words to live by