Friday, November 30, 2012


Today, when MacTroll and I walked over to pick up X-man, we were met by his teacher. She has very pretty, large eyes. And as she started talking to me, I focused in on them. They were happy -- no. They were elated. His teacher walked him out today to tell me that he had a phenomenal week at school this week. It was awesome to hear. 

I opened his backpack and found some writing samples from earlier in the week where he was practicing his spelling words. The difference between how he's writing now and how he was writing in late September is amazing. He's met with the OT four times at school and three times and there is considerable improvement, particularly in his Rs. 

I honestly gushed over him all the way home. 

When we got home, X-man and MacTroll wondered down to the basement to start playing the new Lego Wii game we ordered. It's Lord of the Rings. And this time, MacTroll and I have decided to play a slot together that is different from the game X-man has declared "the family game" or "group effort" (because he doesn't like to start from the beginning). 

Our new oven got delivered today because the old one broke right before Thanksgiving. But we'd been eating our way through the things in the cupboard and had no groceries, so we went to Burger King (X-man's choice). Ironically, BK actually has something I can eat that's not a grilled cheese sandwich or a pile of iceberg lettuce. So I had a veggie burger without the mayo and a diet soda. While we're waiting for our food, X-man looks up and sees an Exxon Commercial. And he says to me, why are they lying?

I turn around to see the commercial. It's got a lot of green in it and the words I see are about ExxonMobile helping teachers. Then X-man starts to go into an advertisement he saw on TV where ExxonMobile was talking about having cleaner gas in an effort to try to put a "green halo" on their non-eco-friendly product. X-man still sees things in black in white most of the time, and he's aware that the oil companies are pretty much raping the Earth for oil because Americans (including our family) use depend on our cars way too much. And if he didn't get enough of that view leftist me, he totally remembers the BP oil spill in the Gulf. (I'm pretty sure Valdez was when my childhood distrust and disgust for ExxonMobile started, so this makes sense to me.)

I pointed out to him that it is possible for large oil companies to give money to lots and lots of causes that help humanity out (like donating to school teachers) but that it doesn't really make up for the environmental issues. It's pretty much just a misdirection. I also talked about how Exxon was the richest company in the world until a year ago when the Fruit passed them up.

X-man seemed to like this information. It made him smile. 

Then we dropped him off at the Little Gym for a parents' night out. He hadn't been to Little Gym since August. They're relocating to Urbana in January, so I'm not sure he'll ever really go again. We've been making use of the longer (and cheaper) parents' nights out at the Savoy Recreation Center and the YMCA. 

Now he and MacTroll are playing Legos. There's a whole military command scenario being played out. 

Now he's using Facetime to tell me he's coming to give me  a hug. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Where are those dang sheep when you need them?

I have not been sleeping well since MacTroll left on his trip on Monday. Every night I crawl into bed at 9 p.m. after doing the dishes and letting the dog out. And every night I toss or turn until around 2 a.m. I've gotten up at 11 p.m. and written some. I've done late night laundry, figuring if I can't sleep, I should at least do something useful. I've tried melatonin.

I'm not sure what the deal is, but I've also noticed that after only getting 4 hours of sleep, I'm very tired around 11:30 a.m. So I returned from physical therapy on both Tuesday and Wednesday and ate a quick lunch and took a two-hour nap until 1:30 p.m. then I've hopped out of bed, still tired, and driven over to pick up X-man from school.

This morning, I also woke up with a nasty pain in my Achille's on my bad foot. I wonder if it's from the physical therapy exercises. When I go in tomorrow, I'll have to let them know. But here I was planning on going to the pool this morning, but it hurts to walk around even in my walking boot, so I'm resting, instead.

I do have to introduce a speaker at Rotary today and do the reflection. So, I guess I'm going back to bed now and will try to get up and get moving in a couple of hours.

Bleh! I might as well have the cold/mucous thing that the boys have both had in the last week! Since I'm down, I might as well be out! :-P

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let the Torture Begin

I showed up for my first physical therapy appointment today at Accelerated Rehabilitation. My neighbor Gretchen is a therapist there. She's amazing at her job. She's like a muscle whisperer, except she doesn't whisper as much as she beats them into submission.

Anyway, Gretchen is on vacation this week, so her colleague Keith did my work up. He did a lot of measuring and testing and then started me on a few exercises that I'm allowed to do. I've advanced from  just flexing and pointing my foot to being able to do light things from side to side and to try to spell the alphabet with my foot.

When I was in PT over the summer fixing my weak piriformis muscles, I was doing a lot of lunge walking. They had me do some today, too. Needless to say, I can totally lunch like a champ when my right leg goes forward. But when my right leg is in the back, there's no flexibility.

And here I thought I was a bad ass because for the first time in two and a half months I was able to walk down the stairs rotating feet right, left, right, left this weekend! :-)

Keith did a lot of work on my calf, too. He rolled a torture device over is that is strangely more foreign and crippling than a foam roller. It's that "Oh man, this is evil... but it feels so good," kind of pain. The kind where you have to grit your teeth or cling to the table to get through it.

I was there for roughly 90 minutes, and it wore me out, and I have to say, I didn't do much of anything besides a LOT of stretching and a few strength moves on the shuttle.

I get to go three times a week for the next four weeks, and then we'll probably reduce to two visits a week. I'll see Gretchen on Tuesdays, in case she has to beat me once a week with her ASTYM tools, and then I'll see the other therapists for regular work.

Right now, as I type this, Maya, the fuzzball, is sitting in my lap with my zipper pull from my sweatshirt in her mouth trying to zip me up.

I totally wish she wasn't sitting on my left arm, so I could reach the camera!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why Swimming Should be More Like Running

Here's the deal. I don't really have permission to bike or run yet. I tested the "walking for exercise" waters on Thanksgiving and was depressed at the outcome. My usual 15:30/mile pace was up to 27:30/mile. Yes, I know I also had a dog who was excited about being walked around the prairie park and squawked at by pheasants, but seriously, it took me 50 minutes to walk less than two miles.

So, today, I finally stopped eating myself into a coma in self pity and took my lumpy bottom to the pool at the Y. I've been getting better swimming, and I haven't been over doing it.

What I've learned about swimming in the last couple of weeks is that swimmers like to get to the pool right when it opens and get their workout in early. They have the whole "stuff" down pat. They have their suits, their towels, their favorite shampoo and soap, hair products, make up, etc., all organized and ready to go. They scamper into the pool area, claim their favorite kickboards and pulleys and jump into a lane. Lap swimmers don't care about cold water. They just jump in and go. I'm okay with that. I can be hardcore.

But the etiquette of swim lanes at the Y is horribly disorganized. Now, usually when I swim it is during fitness classes, so they usually have 4-6 lanes open for lap swimmers on a weekday morning, which means most of the world is at work, except for stay at home parents, retirees, and folks who work different shifts (or are lucky enough to have some vacation/flex time at their jobs). I usually find someone who is swimming around my speed, sit down on the side of the lane opposite of the one they're using, make eye contact and either verbally ask (usually if they're doing the breast stroke) or point to the lane. The other person nods and I jump in and off I go.

But this morning on a weekend and after a fattening food-focused holiday, was ridiculous. The pool opens at noon, which I hate. Do you know how much more I would enjoy Sundays if rec centers and businesses were open at 9 a.m.?

Anyway, I got changed and limped my way into the pool to see the lifeguards moving swimmers out of lanes. They apparently didn't read the schedule that said that 4 lanes were for the swim team this morning and 4 lanes were for lap swim.

I sat down at the end of the lane and the woman in it swam near me. I asked if I could join her and her reply was, "My sister's coming. I'm sharing with her."

I explained that they were closing 4 lanes so we'd have to all buddy up, possibly have three to a lane and swim rotation. She looked -- unhappy.

So I decided not to push the issue and ended up at the end of the pool with a 12 year old thinking she was teaching a 5 year old to swim and a retiree doing the sidestroke.

And this is when I wish swimming was more like running. When I run at the track, there are posted directions on which way to go. There's a recommendation for where slow people should go versus fast people. At the armory they have two walking lanes, two jogging lanes and two running lanes. I'm usually in the outside jog lane, because I'm slow. When I swam at the ARC outside last summer, they had the same kind of idea. They had four lanes open for swimming 1 slow, two medium and one fast. I go to the slow lane. The Y totally needs to implement something like this. Because at the Y, I'd be in a medium lane.

What I like about running is that all it takes is a pair of tennis shoes, and if I'm feeling very spoiled about necessities -- my iphone with headphones. You give me those two things and I can go forever. I can go outside my house and just move my body and listen to the music. Sure, from time to time, I have to look out for cars, but the path near our house requires me to cross three streets. I can do that without losing too much momentum.

When I'm done running, I'm sweaty and spent. I'm also high as a kite. I get home, suck back some water and hit the shower.

When I'm done swimming, I'm wet and tired, but I'm also hungry. Starving. But I don't need to eat, otherwise what I burned off will have meant nothing. Because I don't burn as many calories swimming as I do running.

But when I swim, my foot doesn't hurt. The minute I stand on the concrete pool floor and walk up the steps using the bar assists, I know it's going to be a while before I run. It makes me sad. I like to swim. But I like to choose to swim. I hate being forced there. I hate the disorganization of swimming at the Y. I hate that although my heart feels like it could swim forever at my non-Olympic pace, I get bored. I hate that I often lose track in my head of what I'm swimming in my workout because I could care less. It's like I'm just doing my time until I get my feet back.

I'm a runner in water. And I wish I knew how to change things so that I loved it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tis The Season

After a day of nothing much of anything (I cleaned out the store room and X-man and MacTroll played Lego Batman 2), we went downtown to the Parade Of Lights.

We ran into Quigs and her family, and some other folks we we hadn't seen in a while. It was lovely. MacTroll waited in line in Aroma for their "special" of hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies.

The parade was smaller this year. I remember when it used to go out and run by West Side Park. This year it was just a big circle from the Orpheum parking lot around downtown and back. It was also renamed the "Bag" parade. A woman was walking around giving kids plastic bags to put things in. Now at the Candy Parade in September, I understand this. Even at Tolono Fun Day a small bag for all the candy being tossed out is needed. But pretty much the only candy that is tossed at the Parade of Lights are Candy Canes, which hit the ground and break into a million pieces...

Or, if you're unlucky, and not looking, you get beaned in the side of the head by people tossing them from inside their cars pulling their floats. Thank goodness for winter hats.

We saw some odd behaviors this parade season, too. Like the guy driving the car for 92.5 the Chief had had an infant and a toddler in the car with him... in the front seat and not in car seats. I get that the car is going 2 mph, but really?

Then we had a Grinch on a Segway who made the mistake of baking up and almost ran over a 2-3 year old who had scampered away from his parents to try and pick up candy in the road.

The Garcia's Pizza Guys came by. They were in their hot air balloon basket and every once in a while they'd let the flame run. We all kept peering closely wondering if they'd pull the cord and burn down one of the street trees.

Then the Vermillion Airport Authority came by. MacTroll loves their slogan, "Gateway to Danville." They really need to call Disney about paying them to use Phineas and Ferb...

What I found most interesting was how many of the floats were put together by cities from outside of Champaign Urbana. It was Fisher this and Rantoul that. Hoopeston high school band played.  It was curious. Lots of beauty queens having a chance to wear their crowns.

But I guess it's really the Christmas season now... I'm even hanging up stockings.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chilling Out on Black Friday

MacTroll seems to have rebounded from his night-time illness. He's been in bed all day, but is thinking some Flattop might just be the best dinner ever. (I think he just wants to be close to Cocomero -- if it's even open -- and the movie store.)

I've been hanging out writing Christmas cards all day, except for one outing I took with my Mom to the Art Co-op in Urbana. I figured the market would be less busy today on Black Friday than tomorrow during the Holiday Market and "buy local" drive.

I picked up a canvas on sale and some blue tempera paint. The plan was to take the snowflakes he had been cutting out of notepad paper with Aunt Melissa on Wednesday and to glue them on a blue painting. But, of course, once he saw the canvas, he brain had another idea.

So besides three kinds of poster paint, we had fancy tape, glitter glue and oil pastels. About two-thirds of the way through he asked me to work on it with him. So I did. When the paint dries we're going to smear some sealant-like stuff on it to keep it from peeling off of the canvas.

Right now, he has two neighborhood children over playing Lego Batman in the basement. He plays so nicely with both of them. They're 5 and 9, and I love them a lot. There's constant giggles coming out of the basement.

Meanwhile black dog and blonde dog are wrestling on the living room carpet getting covered in dog spit. Maya, the fuzzy cat, is lying in my lap at the computer. And I am 3/4 of the way done with my holiday cards. Woot!

It was lovely until...

Our Chicken New Year (as X-man renamed Thanksgiving) was pretty low key. It consisted of my sister, my parents and my cousin coming to dinner. My dad brought X-man a deck of Star Wars Villains playing cards, and he managed to wipe the floor with Papa, Mom and Dad at War and Go Fish (that is after we all sat down and discussed what movies each of the villains came from). He also played a little wii Batman 2 with MacTroll and some sports with me. But I liked being just around the corner listening to him from time to time talk to other adults. He was in a good mood the whole time.

He ate the bison MacTroll grilled, and the salad I made. He liked the owl ice cream cake I picked up for him at Marble Slab, just in case he considered the dessert my stepmom brought to be too adult (it was delicious chocolate cheesecake!).

I turned on Pixar's Brave a bit later after everyone who wasn't at our house left, and my sister and mom had gone to bed (before 8 p.m.). It was a bit of a wrong move, because X-man was very upset by it. The whole movie is wrought with tension between mother and daughter and there's a time crunch crisis. It did help that I could fast forward through the "bad stuff" which made it a very short movie.

However, it's now 3 a.m., I just woke after having a dream where it was nighttime and I was stuck in traffic and I was late to pick up my son from somewhere. I couldn't get to him, and then I didn't know where he'd be after the pick up time.

And now MacTroll is vomiting in the downstairs toilet. I think I'll go sleep in X-man's bed. Poor MacTroll.

Update 3:48 a.m. And now he's sawing logs...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

504 Plan Meeting

Today, Joel and I had a 504 plan meeting at Xander's school. The meeting was initiated by us after Xander's handwriting issues came to light and the fact that he's starting to get socially ostracized at school again and his teachers reported that he falls apart crying repeatedly during the day as a result of his social anxiety.

At the meeting were his two classroom teachers, the school special education director, the school psychologist, a speech therapist, a special education curriculum coordinator, the assistant principal, another first grade teacher and us. The school team had done several observations of Xander looking at different areas of development. Everyone was in agreement that Xander has developmental delay issues that cause social issues, handwriting issues, spatial issues and fidgeting/sensory issues.

His constant fidgeting, nose picking, biting on his fingers, picking at his clothes, etc., are getting worse. He no longer uses his purple fidget appropriately in class, so we are looking for other options for him, like putting velcro under his desk so he can touch that, and putting bands on his chair so he can push his feet against them (he has a habit of constantly tipping his chair back). They'll also be creating boundaries (like a square section where he sits on the carpet) and giving him a flexible stool so that he can still move, but will know where all of his body parts will need to be contained. This might also alleviate all of his picking at his socks and shoes if they're on the floor and he's sitting up.

These aren't discipline issues. He appears to lack the executive function ability in his brain to stop these habits or regulate his intensity of emotions. Thinking that you can use discipline to cure him of his issues is pretty much the equivalent of thinking you can cure someone of being gay or beat someone into being developmentally normal. Xander is not neurotypical for his age. The anxiety he feels has begun to manifest itself in some sensory defensiveness according to his occupational therapy evaluation. So, we have been purchasing special seamless socks and cutting tags out of clothing items, when needed. It's not all the time, but usually he's kind of amped up before school, so that's when shoes suddenly feel too tight and underwear tags pain him, etc.

One of the social workers will be going into his classroom to talk about how children are different. The teachers have identified that for the most part, kids are pretty sympathetic, but that doesn't mean any of them want to make X-man their friend. They avoid him. But the teachers do say that there are children in their class that will try to provoke him when the teachers are not looking to get him to react/cry because they know he's different. The teachers have tried to have him work with 22 of the 23 children in the class as a partner in learning (reading activities/math activities) and they have identified only one child that he is able to be consistently successful with. On the playground, he will sometimes play in a small group (if they play tag) and he does follow directions, but he does get easily overwhelmed by group activity or by his emotions when he wants to play something that the group doesn't want to play. His communications and relations with adults, however, are very clear.

He'll be going to the social thinking/Zones of Regulation group twice a week and will continue with the handwriting group once a week, in addition to his behavioral therapy with April and his handwriting with Kim (our Occupational Therapist) out of school. 

We meet again, as a group, on Jan. 22. If things aren't responding to the 504 plan, we'll probably try to develop an IEP, which is tricky because there are specific parameters for a child to fit in to get one and the "educational" consideration to get one with his issues would be under "autism." X-man's difficulties, according to my reading, mirror three different developmental disorder possibilities: autism/asperger's, PPD-NOS and Gifted. The school label does not mean anything in a clinical setting. It's just the best way to get him the services he needs, and right now, it's often difficult to be labeled "Gifted with a learning disability" in a public school setting anywhere. In fact, often children who perform at grade level standards don't get selected for services, because technically, despite whatever learning disability or disorder they have they are seen as functioning within normal perimeters on a cognitive level.

The handbook for doctors that determine these diagnosis and the requirements are changing in May 2013. Asperger's and most of the kids identified as PDD-NOS will no longer be on the spectrum because they usually usually have normal cognitive abilities. Instead, they'll have to be rediagnosed as having a social/communication disorder (which we won't know the specifics of until it is released).

So what's the difference between a 504 plan and an Individual Educational Plan (IEP)? Both plans are supported by the federal government and must be acknowledged in every state. However, a 504 plan is for individuals who have less issues than someone with an IEP. The idea is that with the appropriate minimal accommodations and interventions the child will be able to be successful in the classroom with a 504 plan. With an IEP, it's recognized as a much longer road. If we move to California both plans will move with him, the difference is that with a 504 plan, the new school district will implement Illinois' plan but will immediately initiate a 60-day review and may make changes and revisions as they see fit. With an IEP, they have to follow the goals exactly as in the plan. From what I've read last night, the plan is usually in place for about 3 years.

If in January, we don't think there's been enough beneficial movement forward, we'll be working on an IEP, which means the school district will need another 60 days to complete their reviews/observations. In that regard, we'll be putting the house up for sale more at the end of March than the beginning to make sure we have everything ready and in hand in case we sell early.

But that's how the meeting went. There were no surprises, and everyone was very supportive and on the same page. His teachers are amazing. They're very honest about his needs and open to helping him any way they can. We are very thankful for them. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cold When It's Not

I've been in the pool a few times over the last week. Yesterday, I attended the Deep Water class at the Y. I love the instructor. I find that water classes for the most part tend to be where three groups of people work out: the old, the overweight and the injured. I am a triple threat and meet all three criteria. By the end of the class, I wasn't as tired as I was the week before when I started. I also had more flexibility in my right calf/ankle/foot than I normally do. Now if only I could remember to take my hairbrush with me so that I could successfully shower at the Y.

Anyway, I left the Y yesterday unshowered and ran some errands. I felt cold and knew I needed a new jacket, so I went inside Champaign Surplus.

Now, it's not really cold outside, but swimming lowers your body temperature. Just think 98.6 degree me in 75 degree water for an hour. I'm usually plenty warm during the cardio part, but when we slow it down and use the water dumbbells, that's when I start to shiver and shake to try to stay warm. I will admit that sometimes, I have to get out before the stretching part because I just can't take the chill any more. My lips are sometimes blue, and I'm shaking until I get toweled off and get my clothes off, even if I stand under a hot shower after class for a little while.

I have now learned that shopping when cold is a bit like shopping at the grocery store when hungry. I was trying on every furry, sherpa, fleecy warm jacket, when in reality, what I needed was a decent fall coat. I found a coat, but at the last minute found this sweatshirt and made the mistake of touching it. It was outrageously soft, warm and comforting. So I added it to my coat. Then I decided that MacTroll and X-man needed them, too. So I wandered over and found soft, fuzzy things for them.

On the way home, I tried to justify my purchases as holiday gifts, but by then it might be too cold for them to wear. So instead, I busted them out when I got home and presented them to the boys. MacTroll looked at me like I was weird, as I insisted he took his sweatshirt off that got all raggedy from frequent washings. X-man's fall fleece was looking that way, too.

But now we're all fleeced up -- and totally snuggle worthy.

Apparently, my child isn't the only one with sensory issues. :-)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

X-man's Influential Literature Library

We've been working a lot on self-acceptance and learning through social stories at our house this fall. X-man gets so moved by certain children books that sometimes he cries out of joy, other times he sobs in sadness, and more often than I like, he asks me to shut the book or skip pages because the storyline makes him nervous or scared. "One" by Kathryn Otoshi is one of the books that he always goes back to when he feels insecure. It makes him feel better about the world, and empowered to know that he can make a difference. He also likes that he can talk about how there are less bullies than one might think. In fact, most of the characters in the book are confused, scared and unsure about what to do to solve a community bullying problem. The hope from finding someone who might be afraid of standing up to the bully, but knows it's the right thing is a big deal.

So, when I found Otoshi's second book in the series, "Zero," on the shelf, I bought it immediately. It's about a number that wants to change who he or she is because he or she envies things in other people that he or she doesn't have. This is something else that is rampant in our house. It inspired us to take another look at all the good things we have in our lives, and remember why we rock.

Todd Parr is amazing. I have loved the social constructs in his books forever. I like that his crazy drawings to get to be themselves, that they eat macaroni in the bathtub, that Mommy's work and stay home, that some families have two daddies, or one parent or that children might live with their grandparents. It's Okay to Be Different really focuses in on how diverse humans are and why we should not only be okay with ourselves, but we should be okay with others' differences, too.

X-man is a sleuth. He wants to figure out what he doesn't understand and social situations challenge him. I found this book through the library system before he started with April Keaton. During X-man's second meeting with her, she came out and said, "He said he just read this at home with you." I smiled. This weekend, X-man had a play date with a new friend. The Mom stayed and she and I got to talking. It turns out that one of the elementary schools in town teaches their entire school about social thinking, because it helps everyone with what to do in social situations (bullying, teasing, communicating effectively and respectfully, etc.). For a moment, I was a bit jealous of that school, because maybe, just maybe there'd be more understanding for a child who is different in a more educated environment. CB has a social thinking class this year, but it's limited to just those that have special needs. It's a step in the right direction, but there could be more. Michelle Garcia Winner lives in Northern California. So here's hoping we get to do more with her work when we move.
 My mom read "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" to me when I was a child. It was a story that sometimes I'm allowed to read to X-man and sometimes I'm not. He gets sad for Alexander and gets worked up at how absolutely rotten his day is going. But at the same time, X-man understands that everyone has days like that. Days that suck because of bad luck and bad choices, and that tomorrow is a new day.
 We liked reading "The Art of Miss Chew" and "I Gotta Draw" because they're both books about children who learn differently from the majority of their classmates. They're also books about how teachers who are open-minded and able to adapt for their students can get some awesome results, that not only help children learn but make them happy about going to school.

We have been reading Violet the Pilot since X-man was three. Violet is a mechanical genius and none of her peers in her school want to hang with her. Her parents are amazingly supportive of her endeavors and encourage her (while also trying to set a few safety boundaries), but her only real friend is her dog and her brain. Even though she's ostracized at school, it doesn't affect her ability know what's right and what's wrong, and she self-sacrifices something she wants to save the lives of others in her community when she sees them in a state of distress. 

For a while, X-man was having some trouble following Ms. Frizzle's encouraging words in all the Magic School Bus books about learning through mistakes. He would often not try something because he was petrified of getting it wrong. He thought it made him a bad kid for not being the best at everything. He's chilled a lot between kindergarten and first grade with being anxious about showing vulnerability. He's become more accepting of himself and others. But in the heat of it knowing that there were other kids that were restricting their life experiences out of fear of error was fundamental in him learning to accept that he's human and that no one expects him to be perfect at everything.

X-man's librarian read him Memoirs of a Goldfish last year when he was in kindergarten. It's the story of an only goldfish who relishes his only-fish existence, until his owner decides to make his life a bit more interesting by invading his bowl with other elements and neighbors. Goldfish is very slow to warm to the idea of his quiet life being invaded by others. They make him anxious and unsure, but in the end, he figures out that he understands that his life has become richer with those others in it than when it was just him in a bowl of water. 

Julia Cook is this generation of parents "What do do" lady. We read X-man her "Teeth are Not for Biting" and other books when he was a toddler. And now she's moved on to more advanced social issues for the elementary school-aged. She has a book for almost every social issue your child might face (kicking, hitting, using words, etc.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Teaching an Old Mom New Tricks

I've been working on this post for a while, because I wasn't sure if I was going to actually post it or not. Every person has his or her own learning style. Mine is that I'm a research hound. I find out something that interests me and I dive into it. For example, motherhood. When I decided to become a Mom, I checked out every pregnancy book I could get my hand on at the library before I was even pregnant. I wanted to know what I was getting into before I jumped in. I found out quickly that there were books I had to get rid of because they annoyed me in how they conveyed their information. There are a million books about pregnancy and parenting that feel "judgy" to me. That if you don't follow their recommendations to the T -- you are a failure or you're committing child abuse, etc.

Learning about the realities of kids with social anxiety issues like X-man and talking to his therapists and reviewing notes I've taken on his behavior since he moved from side-by-side play to interactive play led me to looking up texts regarding children's social skills. And by look up, I mean full on all-nighters. I feel more comfortable when I "know" about things. I was this way about my foot surgery, too. I don't like surprises when it comes to this kind of stuff. Surprises for birthdays or holidays or just because it's a Tuesday in January, sure. My child's mental health -- not so much.

This means I have a pile of books both from my library and from the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse thanks to my friend LL who works there. A lot of them were created for general education teachers to help them plan and implement ideas in their classrooms. Some are focused on how to best advocate for your child in an IEP meeting. Most of them are about PDD (Pervasive Development Disorder) which is currently what the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) calls Autism, Asperger's and PDD-NOS (Not Otherwise Specified -- which is a catch-all for -- "You share some symptoms with a lot of diagnoses, but aren't clearly on the spectrum in any particular place). There's a great book called "Teaching Children with High-Functioning Autism" by Claire E. Hughes-Lynch, that addresses up front the difference between HF Autism and children that are Gifted.

When I looked at the chart above, I realized that for the most part, the characteristics on the gifted side resembled my son much more than the HF Autistic side, but I found it made sense to me that there were areas were the two "groups" crossed over, particularly in the Attention and Interest Areas.

Growing up in Rockford, I was in a self-contained gifted class from seventh through twelfth grade. I have to admit that I got into it by the skin of my teeth -- like two points on whatever standardized test they had me take when I was 12.

It never occurred to me that they taught me any differently, particularly when the tests the Chemistry teacher gave the regular juniors were the same we got in gifted education sophomore year. I always assumed that "gifted" in my school district meant that you were intellectually smart and tested well, and well, that was it. The sections on "gifted" kids in Hughes-Lynch's book talks about gifted children needing to be taught differently. It also talks about how their neurological processes maybe advanced cognitively but may be thoroughly underdeveloped socially. There is also a "tremendous overlap in characteristics between children with HFA and children who are gifted."

I also learned that anxiety disorders almost always coincide with children who are diagnosed with being on the spectrum, having ADHD and being gifted.

The big word I learned to represent that there are numerous children who have symptoms that overlap diagnoses is comorbidity. Because we have a 504 meeting on Tuesday, I'm trying to read up on how to best advocate for my child. As far as I can tell, X-man doesn't fit into one particular diagnosis more than the others, and because the DSM-IV is changing in May, the one he might fit into best (the random one) is likely to be changing all together from being part of the spectrum to being a communication disorder. And the books are all pretty repetitive in their frustration about how subjective nailing a diagnosis can be for a child with symptoms that work with multiple diagnoses.

Let X-man be X-man has always been my philosophy. It usually works out best. But sometimes in a classroom of 24 people X-man can't be X-man, or at least he doesn't feel like it's okay that he's him.

I talked in an earlier post about a friend who said the key to socialization success in school for her child with Aspberger's was to be quirky rather than weird. As it turns out my favorite book in the heap that I have is called, "Quirky Kids: Understanding and Helping Your Child Who Doesn't Fit In -- When to Worry and When Not to Worry" by Perri Klass, M.D. and Eileen Costello, M.D. It pretty much covers everything and gives a lot of consideration to kids with overlapping symptoms. "Note the way that quirky children, in their rich variety, have made it necessary to create certain categories that are defined by NOT fitting into any categories" (i.e. PDD-NOS). It was also interesting to note that "Virtually all these children have trouble making friends, their behavior is just strange enough to make other kids uncomfortable or scared. The inability to see another's point of view, the anxiety, the tendency to have rigid expectations of others, and the lack of flexibility combine to make this child more alone in the important social world of childhood."

It even hits on the difficulties at home and in the parenting community, "For parents of quirky children, these parenthood realities are particularly intense and charged. Life at home can sometimes feel like an hour-by-hour struggle. It doesn't help much to have well-meaning friends assure you that, of course, they understand..."

So, as I waded through all the PDD stuff, I requested a lot more books on different subjects that they didn't cover very thoroughly like the children with intense emotions. And I found an awesome article on dual diagnosis of being gifted with learning disabilities from SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted). The Internal Factors and Dual Diagnosis headings are fascinating because they not only cover gifted children often having high verbal skills but most of them having poor writing skills and about how schools often don't allow children who are classified as learning disabled to be gifted and vice versa, even though it is entirely possible to be both. Gifted children have tremendous emotional frustration from having minds that can create wonderful stories and understand complicated concepts, but brains that can't seem to get them down on paper.

Then there was an "Ah HA!"

"Along with intensity, one typically finds in gifted individuals an extreme sensitivity-to emotions, sounds, touch, taste, etc. These children may burst into tears while watching a sad event on the evening news, keenly hear fluorescent lights, react strongly to smells, insist on having the tags removed from their shirts, must touch everything, or are overly reactive to touch in a tactile-defensive manner."

This is what we have been going through lately. (Table 1 in the article is also pretty informative regarding strengths and weaknesses).

I am not a doctor. I have never played one on TV. I'm not a social worker or a therapist or pathologist. I'm just a Mom who is trying to figure out how to help her son be successful in a mainstream school environment and how to learn to appreciate his strengths and his weaknesses and to recognize self-acceptance. Do I think my child has PDD-NOS? I don't know. Do I think he's gifted? I don't know. Do I think he's got some sort of Asperger's? I don't know. But I do know that the emotional issues he has are symptoms from all three diagnoses.

I also know that he is a kind, smart, sweet kid, who, when he throws a fit isn't try to be a spoiled brat -- he's trying to rid his brain of the overwhelming feelings he has of fear, shame, frustration, anger, neglect, etc. He has not developed enough to have the ability to calm himself, to focus. Or as stated in Quirky Kid, "Quirky children have tantrums that don't go away if you ignore them, that don't lend themselves to limit-setting and time-outs... Parents don't create the rage in their quirky kids. Tantrums, in most quirky kids, are a combination of their developmental differences, their sensory problems, and their peculiar emotional wiring. You can help your child progress developmentally, filter and accommodate the sensory stimuli, and handle the emotional impulses, but you must do it without laying blame, either on him or yourself."

This is what I've learned so far. I'm going to continue researching emotional intensity and see what how much all of this helps when we go in for our 504 meeting on Tuesday.

On a side note, X-man went to the Sloppy Science program tonight at the Phillips Recreation Center in Urbana. As we're walking in, he tells me he's scared. Then he says, quite matter-of-factly, "Not scared, nervous. Nervous because this is new. I've never been here."

I reassured him that the program was just 90 minutes long, and that it looks like it's the first time they'd had it. If he likes it and they do it again, he could sign up. If he didn't like it, well, then he gave something new a try in the name of his love for science. When we walked in they had some slime on the tables. Another boy came in with his Mom, and he was nervous about staying, too. The boys introduced themselves. He was in first grade at Southside. And then they were both okay with the parents leaving because they could bond with each other.

When I came back, X-man was at a table with three other boys. There was a table of five or six girls to the left, and a table with a boy and a girl together in the back. He told me the different experiments that they did. He said he enjoyed his time there, and he totally dug checking out the dancers that were practicing in a different room on our way out. He was a different kid from the flailing crying mess I picked up from school three times this week. The difference being, I think, the couple hours at home where he just got to chill out and decompress and have some time not stimulated in a busy classroom environment. It also helped that tonight there were 12 kids to 3 adults at the Science event. It meant there could be a lot of one-on-one attention, which X-man thrives on.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I have to admit that I am a bit -- sentimental.

I saved my Care Bear record player and records for my child. X-man listened to them until he was 4 and the needle broke. He didn't play too rough with it... It was just -- brittle.

I saved my Cabbage Patch Kids for my child to play with. He did, until he was 4, and only wanted to pretend play with superheroes.

I saved my USA Hot Wheels Car set for my child to play with, until he turned 6, and lost interest in his Hot Wheels and only wanted to build cars out of Legos.

He's watched episodes of the Brady Bunch and Dif'rent Strokes. He's in the middle of a Star Wars craze.

And I have to admit that for one minute today both MacTroll and I wondered if we should run out and buy Twinkies so that X-man could try one before they were no more. I thought better of it...

I do find it a bit funny though that the only way to really extinct a Twinkie is to not make them any more, particularly since one can exist forever without getting moldy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

TGI (will be) F

Tomorrow is going to be a most excellent morning. No matter what happens the rest of the day, I am so excited. Tomorrow, I am splurging and going into a spa and having a very thorough and indulgent pedicure. This should feel especially marvelous on my bum foot which hasn't had the chance to really naturally exfoliate in a long, long time. Plus, the massage portion of it should help reduce the edema.

How fancy is this pedicure? It takes 75 minutes. But I wonder if the woman knows she's going to spend most of her time with that skin exfoliator while I try to see if it will make my freaky foot look more normal.

Maybe I should take a before and after photo?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Day To Celebrate

Today, X-man had a series of awesome.

The first is the math he loved doing after school today with the Mathman. X-man is learning division. Check it out. His handwriting (the top numbers) looks pretty lovely, too. It's funny. There are days where he has bad days, and he just can't get himself together to make it to soccer, but he's always happy to go see Mr. Cohen. And I like that. He's like a little math sponge, and he likes it that way. There's no agenda when he goes, just to learn and enjoy it.

The second excitement today was that X-man reached 50 "Terrific Notes." He missed five days of school when we went to Maine in August, so he didn't get those, and he got too many tally marks (you have to have less than five to have a terrific note) on three other days. I was very proud of his work, so I made him a big yellow star to post with it. X-man does his chores around the house with the idea of getting allowance. But I did tell him at the beginning of the year when he brought his first note home, that if he got to 50 notes, he could pick out something special from the Toy Store. So tomorrow after seeing the behavioral therapist, we'll head up to north. I suspect it will take a while for him to pick something out (so many toys under a limited dollar constraint is hard work when you're 6 -- especially if you divide it up between two or three items and your Mother makes you work the money math!), so we're going to eat dinner up there, too. Then I'll take the notes down, and we'll start all over. 

The "oooh aaah" Wednesday item is that X-man's teachers gave him a new anxiety chart today. The theory is that he feels from a 0 to 3. A 0 means he's pretty happy and something good is happening. A 1 is that he got a tally or someone bumped him or did something that was annoying or bothersome. A 2 is when someone makes fun of him or he gets privileges revoked for making poor choices. This is when he starts to escalate. And a 3 is when he's really hurt, bleeding or being bullied. The chart gives him a sense of how his day is really going. It also requires him to tally what is happening emotionally and when so that he knows when he's escalating and can use some of the calming techniques we've taught him from April. (We sent his spinner and breathing card to school in case the teachers wanted to use it.) The idea being that by being responsible for his chart, he'll be able to communicate better what he's feeling before his feelings get the best of him.

This is what the chart looks like. You'll see that he wasn't hurt or bullied today (hooray) but that even though MANY good things happened, the number of annoying or frustrating feelings he had through the day was pretty much double the good things. I asked about some of the things that happened in the 2 level. Three of them were people making fun of him. I asked him if he missed activities. He said no,  but he said other problems that made him feel really sad and frustrated (everyone talking in class out of turn, someone purposely stepping on his foot, not feeling listened to, etc.). It helped him though because he came home today with one of those special pencils that he missed out on yesterday and had no tallies. Hooray!

The last item has nothing to do with X-man, but it had to do with my mail today. I would like to issue an apology to the trees of the world. I know it's Christmas time, but it took two hands to carry my mail into the house today, and many catalogs (Zingerman's I mean you!) are going straight into the recycling pile. 

A New Straw Hole and Tooth Fairy Politics

X-man lost his third tooth last night right before bedtime. He was very excited because he'd been working on that tooth pretty much since he lost his last one in May. That's six months of wiggling and waiting, not so easy for a six year old.

In addition, his friend lost his first tooth the day before. The friend received $10. We've had other friends give that much, but we don't. We give $1 or $2. This morning, X-man asked why the tooth fairy didn't like him as much. And honestly, I made up that there were socio-economically different tooth fairies. Maybe his tooth fairy was just starting out and didn't have much to give. Maybe he had 10 kids at home and had different expenses. Maybe his friend's tooth fairy was old and had made oodles from the teeth he'd collected for the last 700 years. X-man accepted this, because he knows it's true among families, and he decided not to take his $2 rather than $10 as a personal affront.

But he's not ready to give up the myth of fairies. And that's fine. I didn't know how to say that some parents are really excited about teeth and give more money for them.  Sometimes when you're not expecting the tooth falling out, you leave under the pillow what was in your wallet. :-)

What do you give your children for lost teeth, if anything?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

And so it begins

Last Friday, I went to my first deep water aerobics class at the Y. Then on Monday, I returned, but was running late, so I ended up swimming laps for 30 minutes. The first 10 minutes I just dragged my legs, but then I got daring and I tried the breaststroke. It was strange and there were a few stinging sensations in my foot as the water ran over it. Once I got 4 laps done of that, I switched to backstroke and tried a little flutter kick. It was fine!

Then I rolled over and tried front crawl. It was a bit stingy at first, and certainly not fast. I wasn't trying to really motor at all.

After 30 minutes, I was bored and ready to get out. As I gimped back to the locker room, someone else with a foot issue was gimping over to my lane.

But still, hooray for the pool. Tomorrow, I'm hoping to get to the Rec Center and to do some core/back and strengthening exercises, and then back to the pool on Thursday morning. Four 30-minute workouts per week to start, and then we'll gently add -- physical therapy -- after Thanksgiving.

Hopefully by February, I'll be back to my usual 90 minutes five times a week. The really nice part was that even after two months away, my lungs were fine in the pool. Usually after I haven't swam in a while, it takes me a while to get my breathing down. Maybe it's because of the slow pace I was going, but I actually was quite comfortable. My muscle memory kicked in, thankfully.

We'll see if that happens when I get to go back to Body Attack later in the winter! I've missed Melissa at the Y something fierce.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thankful for Things that Work

At MMO, we talk about giving thanks every November. Sometimes it's just teaching the words thank you, sometimes it's about taking note and recognizing what you have. The trick is that this isn't just a unit that gets taught for three weeks and then goes away. It's something that we try to thread into our classrooms through good modeling. The children learn by watching us mind our manners and recognize what is good in our lives.

Life's been kind of messy lately, but I've been finding that people are happy to help when you ask for it. Sometimes they just show up and help when you don't expect it. It's been nice. I've spent more time with my mother and father than I have in 20 years. I was able to count on people I met through the library, through Rotary and in our neighborhood to help with X-man or with driving. It's meant a lot to me, and I don't know if I could say thank you enough for their support when I needed them.

But the things I'm most thankful for are the positive interactions I have with people about my son. I get that a lot of kids don't understand my child. They think he's weird. He has trouble reading social cues. He goes back and forth between being very extroverted and excitable to introverted and nervous. It's one or the other. And I understand that his social issues are the reasons why a children don't really like to play with him. How do you play with someone who freaks out and cries a lot over what seems to be -- nothing but a transition or a change in plans? It also doesn't help when he's sad and people are casting disapproving looks in the hallway. Yeah, I see them. So does my kid. Please keep your "What's wrong with your kid, now?" attitude to yourself.

The other day we were playing at the playground after school and X-man was trying to figure out how to play with a bigger boy. The kid clearly didn't want X-man around, and he understood that. So, he asked point blank, "What can I do so you'll want to play with me?" The older boy looked at him like he was diseased. Then he walked away without answering. I saw X-man furrow his brow in a panic. Then he sucked his panic back down and did what every adult had ever told him to do -- rather than tattle, he tried to take care of it on his own. And so he ignored the social cue the boy was giving by walking away and followed him trying to reason with him. "Why are you walking away? Why don't you talk to me so we can figure out how to play together?" He followed that kid for around 40 seconds before the kid ran away to get away from him. And X-man thought he was initiating a game of tag. Sigh.

Ignoring those social cues and not being able to see others' points of view is part of X-man's anxiety issues. He gets that he's missing something. That he's different. He'd rather play by himself or with one other child than negotiate small group interaction, and I'm not the only one who has noticed. It's what he works on with his behavioral therapist, April Keaton.  But social skill ability takes a lot of time and practice to sink in.

The difference between this year and last year is that this year, instead of falling apart when he's ostracized, he's self-banishing himself to the security of individual play. Playing by himself is easier. Apparently, it happens at recess from time to time. He avoids small group interaction like the plague because he doesn't know how to navigate it. He requests one-on-one play dates. His assistant principal thinks he's so exhausted by the end of the day just trying to negotiate himself in a classroom with 24 other kids and that's why from time to time on the walk home, he just has to sit -- and stare or cry.

So, we've been working with this issue for a year. Then we added X-man's challenges with writing and handwriting and some sensory issues (hooray for seamless socks!), so MacTroll and I scheduled a meeting with the administrators at his school last week. We met with them and talked about what we'd been working on, what they'd seen in school, what the teachers told us and the administration, and we all agreed to start X-man on a 504 plan. Next Tuesday, we'll all be sitting down together to make sure he gets services at school as well as out of school. A 504 plan also means that we can take it with us when we move, and his new school in California will honor it while they perform their own evaluation to see if anything needs to be updated or changed when he's there. In other words, he won't just start from scratch. Everyone seems to be in agreement that they think he just needs some intervention and some accommodation and instruction. And I trust his teachers and his principals, a lot.

This weekend, we read the book "The Art of Ms. Chew" by Patricia Polacco from the library. It's about a girl who has trouble reading, but is wonderful at art. Between her school teacher and her art teacher they figure out that when she sees letters, she focuses on the negative space around the letter before she sees the letter and can figure out the sound. It takes her longer to write and read and think about language. Together, they make the accommodation for her to have more time on tests and assignments and her grades start to respond. But then her teacher has to go away for few weeks, and a substitute comes in who will not accommodate her special needs. She even threatens to have her art classes taken away so she can focus more on her reading issues. She meets with a reading specialist, her principal and her parents, and the sub and the art teacher get in an argument. It's at this point that X-man starts to tear up. "They need to fire that sub!" When the teacher returns from his trip, everything is put back together for the child. But it was a good way to introduce what his parents would be working on with his teachers and administrators and that extra help is a normal thing and that he has teachers that are AMAZING.

He gets that he's different. And as a parent, I understand that if your child says he or she doesn't want to play with a child, you're not about to make him or her do something he or she doesn't want to. But it also makes me sad, and a bit angry, to be honest, that more parents aren't willingly to talk about how sometimes differences aren't just a matter of opinion or bad parenting. That if you look carefully, everyone is a little weird and everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and if you want others to accept yours, than you need to work on accepting theirs. There are other options besides avoidance. There's empathy and compassion and being truthful. In early education, children are much more forgiving than in elementary school. I wish that that would continue to big kid grades.

I have a friend who has a son with Aspergers. She told me the goal in regards to social integration success in elementary school is to somehow move from "weird" to "quirky." "Quirky is kind of cool."

So that's what we're working on. "Quirky."

But I do have to say that it melted my heart the other day when I offered to do something small for Mr. Scott and as he's about to walk away he turns and says to me, "You guys can't move. We'll miss you."

And he said it in that soft toned, sad kind of way, like he didn't want to think about it too hard. Because you know how I wrote earlier in the post that the best kind of help is the kind from people who love your kid? It's also nice when it's directed at your family. In a million years, I didn't expect him to ever say that to me, and I guess I needed to hear that someone will miss us. I didn't think I did. But I do. Recognition that we were here for 10 years, and that we did some kind things that people appreciated, and that we shared part of our lives with people and helped improve the community.

Mr. Scott understands my kid, and he knows X-man's got an ambitious educational future ahead of him and wants to help him succeed.

And for all of this, I have been very grateful lately. I just wanted to share.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Showing Our Age

MacTroll and I went to go see the new James Bond movie, "Skyfall." This is Daniel Craig's third go around at Bond in the last six years, and I have to admit, I never saw "Quantum Solace." MacTroll told me I wouldn't be missing much. So off I went. My father loves Bond. I remember when I was little, there would be Bond movie marathons on TBS, and I'd sit in the basement with my Dad watching Sean Connery and Roger Moore. I never liked Timothy Dalton, but I was happy when they made Pierce Brosnan Bond. Bond going blond was a little strange for me, too.

You can tell that Daniel, although ferociously fit, is starting to show his years. And the theme behind this Bond was all about appreciating the wealth of experience time gives us all. In comparison to Bond, his associate, Eve, and the new Q look like babies.

But I guess when you're giving Judi Dench (who I adore) a LOT of screen time and then introducing Albert Finney and a nearly 50-year-old Ralph Fiennes a 36-year-old actress playing Eve and a 32-year-old actor playing Q do look ferociously young.

And I'm pretty sure this is the last time in my life I'll ever think of myself as young (other than when watching movies starring Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman, etc.) It's odd to see them aging. Because when I was in my prime they were "grown ups." Now I'm looking at footage of a 50-year-old Axel Rose and a 50-year-old Demi Moore and going, "Holy crap! How did that happen?" When did they get old enough to have their children have children?

Bond was a good time. It wasn't stellar. But it was fun, which is the way it should be.

Speaking of things showing their age. One of the handles apparently broke on our vegetable/fruit drawer when I was not cooking. MacTroll tried to snap it back on, but it wouldn't go because it was -- broken. It was time to change the water filter and order a replacement "dairy door" anyway. The dairy door broke when we moved in. It wasn't attached right on the inside and when I tried to put the butter away, it fell off and hit the tile floor cracking a corner.

But if we're going to sell the house, and the folks want the fridge, we should probably make it look like somewhere you'd like to put food. While I was doing all that work, I scrubbed it out today before hitting Meijer and grocery shopping.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fascination with Veterans

X-man came home yesterday from school with this star.

He said he made it after his class talked about Veteran's Day. (Carrie Buesy is having a Veteran's Day program on Monday at 10 a.m.) If you are good at reading backwards, you see that it says "Uncle B."

Two years ago, my great uncle passed away. X-man went to his funeral. It was the first time he had been to a funeral (not as an infant). It was his first "open casket" from across the room experience. But he was fascinated with how we say goodbye to the ones we love. He was also very interested in the ceremony that was held at the cemetery with the Navy there to recognize my uncle's years of service.

Shortly after X-man and I adopted a soldier for a year, until he came home from Afghanistan.

But it was really sweet how when he was asked if he knew of anyone in his family he'd like to remember for his service, X-man thought of Uncle Buddy.

That might also explain why he wanted to watch a National Geographic video on finding the WWII Nazi ship the Bismarck this morning... or maybe not.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Feels Good to Geek Out

Tonight was Science Night at Carrie Busey, and we had a ball. X-man was excited about showing everyone his project, but then he got there, told his two teachers about it and ran off to see what everyone else did. There were 65 projects made by 80 students from Kindergarten through Fifth Grade.

There were a lot of volcano projects there, but as far as I could tell, ours was the only one about what happen to a volcano pre-eruption. In other words, how the magma got into the volcano. KTDID came along with us and she interacted with some of the kids. She also took photos of some of her favorite projects. There were a lot of people there. Mr. Scott, the principal, estimated that we had over 100 students, which for a 400-student school, is pretty amazing. One of my favorite Carrie Busey and MMO parents put it together, and I think she did fabulous.

In addition to student projects, REACT was there and they put on a performance showing kids different kinds of chemical reactions. They even made ice cream and handed little samples out to all the kids.

X-man was tired when we got home, so he and I played Legos for 10 minutes and then I read for 30 minutes. His brain was too tired to function, and he passed out pretty quickly.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This Boot Is Made for Walking!

I got the blessing today to submerge my foot in water and to WALK in my boot. These are two very good things. I have to work on standing on my barefoot, but as soon as I feel comfortable with it I can transition to a lace up brace and a tennis shoe and drive short distances. So it's looking like I'll be driving by the end of the weekend, if it all goes okay.

But I don't get to start PT until after Thanksgiving. My foot needs to be comfortable walking in a shoe before I can do strength exercises. But I walked to school with MacTroll today to pick up the boys and it felt GREAT. I was 1/2 block behind them watching them play tag down the road with MacTroll, and I felt happy.

I was also happy because I finished the poster board for the science night tomorrow. X-man was really nervous about his handwriting, so he started typing some of the labels for his layers of Earth drawing. It took him 35 minutes to type 9 words. So, you know, I had him paint his volcano for the main part while I typed up the info on the two experiments, the recipes we used, the vocabulary we learned and a chart I found online of the scientific method, which was really the point of the project for us. We had a lot of fun doing science as a family, and X-man can't wait to have another science night. (I don't think he remembers that he's doing a special "Sloppy Science" program next Friday at the Urbana Rec Center from 6-7:30 p.m.)

I attended the Tolono Public Library District Board meeting last night. I came away with two cool things about the library. 1) That our subscription to Zinio, an online magazine database where you read current magazines for free, (which is free to all Tolono Library Card holders) is awesome and I can't wait to have more titles. I've been reading Consumer Reports there, which is a magazine I could never bring myself to pay for, but one that I find uber useful from time to time. There are many other titles to read, so if you live in Savoy, Tolono or Sadorus and have a library card, you should totally check it out (or get thee to Tolono for a card). If you don't, you could totally advocate for your library to subscribe to the service.

And 2) Our library is having a fundraiser at Barnes and Noble on Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. We'll be at the door handing little slips of paper out that indicate you'd like a percentage of your purchase to be donated to the library (you can also download and print your own flyer from the library web site). You DO NOT have to be a library card member to help us out. If you're buying things from Barnes and Noble for the holidays, you just hand them the slip at check out, and they take care of it. It costs you NOTHING. But it can earn the library up to 20 percent on all purchases that day!

I'll be volunteering to hand them out after I help out my Rotary Club. This year we're hosting our first ever Breakfast with Santa at the Savoy United Methodist Church (corner of Old Church Rd. and Duncan) from 9-10:30 a.m. There will be a light breakfast (fruit, yogurt, muffins, juice) and games and activities for children. Tickets are $5 per person, but children under 18 months old are free. If you think you'd like to buy tickets, please leave a comment with how to contact you, and I can get them to you, soon. The money raised will help the Rotary fund community and humanitarian projects locally and around the world.

X-man had his OT evaluation today. He did AWESOME on the Visual Motor Integration part. She thinks he's just devised a "drawing" method of making the letter shapes rather than having actually been taught the appropriate ways to make the letters. This is probably true given the improvement in writing from his first spelling test and the one we got back 4 weeks later after we'd been doing Handwriting Without Tears. So, she'll be coming over once a week to work with him, and he's meeting with her at school for 30 minutes every Monday but with a small group of two or three other students.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Night

I let X-man stay up an extra 30 minutes to gaze at the electoral map on the iPad. He really liked trying to guess which states would vote for which candidate. But he was very sad that he only got to make the map of the states red or blue. He liked that in some areas there was a "green" option for the libertarians. He thinks we should have more political parties, and I totally agree with him.

It was nice, sitting in our living room switching between equally lame iTV political news from WSJ live and Fox News (the B team). I had a mug of hot cocoa with marshmallows. MacTroll rubbed my lame foot. When he makes circles around certain parts of my incision scar it feels like there's some kind of worm or fish swimming around just behind where his finger is touching. It's kind of creepy. I also have lots of tender spots in my foot along the bottom that are more like little knots.

We also kept our iPads in our laps going back and forth between different news sites reading different headlines.

Then at 11:20 p.m. I turned in to bed. I'm tired, but happy. Election night always makes me anxious. It's like waiting for Christmas morning if you win. But it's like the Grinch came if you lose. I think 2000 was the worst election ever. I hate close races. Any time lawyers are involved -- I get nervous.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Back to the kitchen

I have to admit something. I'm cooking. It's not often. Just a few dinners a week. But I'm doing it. Sometimes I can just pile all the ingredients up on the counter and stand in one place to do the prep work. Sometimes I use my scooter to zoom around. Sometimes -- I even walk a few feet in my boot (Shhh, my doc visit isn't until Wednesday).

I don't look entirely like Igor, so you know... I think I'm healing. (But I promise I don't walk on it barefooted -- ouch. This foot needs some structure and support!)

Anyway, not everything that I've been making has been good. But I just made something on Saturday that I love. So I'm sharing it with you. But you have to jump over to my poor food blog that went dormant when I got my surgery done. There will be many, many more entries there now that I'm getting my foot back and because I'm preparing for, not just one, but, two family holiday celebrations at my house this year.

Because it looks like (if we sell our house next spring) that we'll be relocating to San José next summer, I wanted to get the most out of a house that we built for visitors before we move into a much smaller house that probably will not have an extra bedroom. (Hey, a 1,600 square foot 3-bedroom house with two baths in San José will run you approximately $750,000-900,000.) Anyway, my family is coming for Thanksgiving and MacTroll's family is coming at Christmas.

And I'm so excited to be back making new recipes. I know, people who hate to cook or bake think I'm crazy that I don't usually make the same thing twice. But I like the exploration. Dining options are kind of limited in our little cozy town, so it's nice to try out new things.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Weekend of Science

X-man and MacTroll worked very hard finishing up X-man's science project for Thursday's science fair at school. X-man did three experiments to better understand how lava gets into a volcano.

First of all he learned while doing his background research that lava while inside the volcano isn't lava -- it's magma. So he revised his question to how does Magma get into a volcano.

He studied the layers of the earth and then drew a picture of what he learned. Since he has trouble handwriting, he sat down at the computer and typed out the different layers, so we could attach them to his drawing for his poster board. We also worked on his bibliography.

His research said that magma gets into volcanoes because of the heat of the molten rock and gases (it makes it rise quickly) and the pressure from the shift of the Earth's plate tectonics. So we borrowed good old Janice Van Cleave's Volcano experiment book from the library and did two different density experiments.

The first one we poured room temperature water through a makeshift funnel into a beaker and timed it. The second one we poured hot water through a makeshift funnel into a beaker and timed it. Then we did the same with room temperature vegetable oil and hot vegetable oil. The more dense, hot liquid ran into the beaker the fastest.

Then we took salt and dumped it on top of the oil and watched as droplets of oil rose to the top of the beaker just like a lava lamp.

Then on Saturday, we ate breakfast and watched Bill Nye DVD regarding the Earth's Crust. We love Bill. He's fantastic! It was another great library find. MacTroll took to constructing a device that will allow them to practice plate tectonics. This required the use of power tools, wood and plexiglas. The two of them running around in face masks and safety goggles was awesome. Then they both got to use the hot glue gun to put it together.

After it was together, X-man constructed a mini "volcano" at the top of the device. And today, I made homemade playdough (which I didn't have enough red food coloring for because it came out like pink slime), so he can practice squeezing it through his volcano tonight.

But before we get to the end of the experiment tonight, we took time out to drive to Indianapolis today to see a live show of two of X-man's favorite animated scientist/engineers Phineas and Ferb.

I know that Super Muscles' Mom will erupt in laughter as I admit that it never occurred to me that there might be a Colts game at home today. That said, parking, traffic and food availability is much better than going to a Cardinals game in St. Louis or a Bears game in Chicago. When we arrived, we found easy parking near the mall close to the show, so it was easy for me to transport myself. We ended up eating at an Einstein Bagels because the football game also began at 1 p.m., and there were long waits at all the sit down places (we were eyeing PF Chang's).

Anyway, we made our way over to the stadium. Our seats were pretty awesome, and X-man got a t-shirt and a stuffed Perry to take home. The next two hours were full of song and dance. It didn't look like many people were going to be there, but they all filed in at the last minute. X-man said he "loved" the show, but I loved how we spent the entire day together with absolutely no whining -- not even during the 2-hour drive there and the 2-hour drive home.

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Night Long

We were the first family living in our Savoy Subdivision. We moved in 5 years ago and expected we'd have around two years of enjoying the open field of weeds behind our house before the builder started putting in new homes. Each fall and spring someone would be out working on houses on our street and give little hints about them getting started on developing the land behind us. Then in February 2012, I opened the back door to let Lily out and saw a surveying crew. Wow! Movement. It was then quiet all summer long.

This fall they began laying all the pipes and preparing for roads. And then, this week, it was like having some kind of FEMA response team in the backyard -- except Mother Nature didn't get her freak on with us... So why are road crews working 24/7 to put in the streets?

This is the view from my bedroom window at 11:30 p.m. last night as they were cutting seams into the concrete. I remember sitting up thinking, "Why do I hear a saw?"

I guess it's like many things in life. Lie dormant for five years and then rush like hell.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Oooh, he's learning binary!"

MacTroll got home from Anaheim last night at around 9:30 p.m. Papa, X-man and I were all in bed and, boy, were we pooped. It had been an exciting Halloween.

This afternoon after MacTroll picked up JR and X-man and walked them home, JR invited X-man into play. So, MacTroll came home and brought in the mail while the boys had a play date. He dropped off some sobering paperwork. For the last three days, I've been spelling words with X-man for a test on Friday. The first time I created a worksheet where each of his spelling words was missing one or two letters, so he had to really listen for the sounds. He got all of the words right. The next day, I busted out the foam letters. I read the words to him and he found the letters and spelled them in front of him. He only had one upside down letter and forgot the "c" in duck. 

Then yesterday, after school, I asked him to verbally spell the words to me. He got them all right except duck, again. But today, in a spelling "check" he misspelled all the words. He inserted the short "o" rather than the "u" in everything. It was really, really strange. The test was on white paper, which is hard for him to write on. And I got frustrated. Why is what he showing me at home not translating to the writing? When he gets home from his play date, I'll have him write the words again, and see how he does. But it worries me. I've been in constant chatter with his teachers about the spelling issues. And they are very supportive and encouraging and tell me that I'm doing some great work with him, but it's not getting consistent results, especially for him in the classroom. I was changing the ways we did them (rather than just tracing words or verbal/writing tests) to keep things interesting and limit complaining. No one likes to feel stupid. And when he gets things wrong, it deeply affects his self-esteem. And in turn, seeing your child take a nose dive, doesn't do anything good for the Mom's esteem either. My little man is totally working his little butt off, and it sucks to see him have to work so hard for things that come so naturally to other children both in terms of the writing issue and the socialization issues. But he totally has a heart of gold. He keeps on trying and he pours everything he's got into it.

Then I showed MacTroll the math fun that X-man brought home from Mathman yesterday. To me, it was a math game that X-man took from Mr. Cohen's house in NW Champaign all the way back to our driveway to explain how to play to me (remind me that he probably won't grow up to be an instruction manual writer), but in the end, he got it. And we played. 

There are five grids of numbers in boxes labeled A through E. You have to pick a number in your head 1-31 and then tell the "quizzer" what lettered boxes it is in. Then the "quizzer" adds up the first number in the first row in the upper left hand corner of each box and -- surprise -- you get the number in the person's mind. 

I showed it to MacTroll and he sat down on my scooter and seemed impressed that X-man was working in binary. "What? I thought binary was just a bunch of 0s and 1s?" 

MacTroll got excited, because he likes it when he knows more about something than I do, so he sat down and explained binary to me. Now we're all in the know. 

And I guess I need to pay more attention when I do things because Christie Clinic had to send back my check to pay for my surgery because the number in the check box didn't match the one I wrote out.


** Update **
X-man gets home from his play date. I give him his spelling words. He misses the "l" in plum and the "c" in duck. But the other six words are perfect. I show him the sheet that came home.
Loosey: "Did you do this today?"
X-man: "No, that was from a long, long time ago." (Which probably means it was his pre-test on the spelling words on Monday. Now I feel all kinds of silly for being so frustrated.)
Lesson learned -- I just need to calm the heck down.