Wednesday, May 29, 2013

1st Grade Ceremony, Zoo & Pool

This morning was Jack's end of 1st grade ceremony. He won a "Citizenship" award for being a good school citizen. When the Principal described the 3 awards (academic, effort and citizenship) I knew immediately which one he would get. He's too young and not enamoured enough with school work to get academic, and if you had to choose between an award for effort and the other, those of you that know Jack would say he would get the other. As if to reiterate the fact, he was the only kid in his class this morning to take food for the feed a friend program. I'm very proud of him, I really am.

Jack gets his Citizenship award from the Principal

With his wonderful 1st grade teacher. We will miss her. 
As a treat afterwards I signed him out (he still officially has classes until tomorrow) and I took both boys to the zoo. We were there for 3 hours in 90 degree heat. It was great but exhausting! We went to the new Dinosaur Land and saw lots of animals. At Dinosaur Land they have a gentle river boat ride that winds through the zoo and you see dinosaurs and some monkeys. Some of the dinosaurs squirt water at you. It's a funny thing. Daniel hated it. When we got off he looked at me earnestly and said "Mommy, promise me you will never take me on that again!" I tried not to laugh and promised him that I wouldn't. Bless him. Jack wanted to see the elephants and go in the gift shop and got both of his wishes granted since it was a special day.

Tiger watching

Happy Boy
After the zoo we met Craig and went to our pool. It was fabulous. The water was a tad cold but the air was so hot that it was nice. Two things marred the visit. First, a child about 6 years old was trying to bully Danny (I gave him the evil eye and he went away). The little brat got warned by the life guard 3 times for picking fights but he was just horrid. His mum was miles away, yacking with her friend and completely ignoring him. Then, Daniel got out the pool, opened his legs and peed on the concrete floor next to where a family was sitting! I was mortified. He couldn't hold it apparently, so we had a little conversation about going to the loo before it gets to the "can't hold it" stage. Thankfully no one saw it so we dodged that bullet.

Tomorrow is Jack's last day at school and then we have dinner and overnight guests ( we have a babysitter, we have a babysitter - hurrah!!!). Why? Well because our friends Char and Jan are in town! Yay! I can't wait to see them. I just hope my liver will survive.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Highly Sensitive Child

*This is a really long post and probably boring as hell for any reader, so feel free to skip and come back later. I wrote it because this will be my reference in the future, since I have to take my book "The Highly Sensitive Child" by Dr. Elaine Aron back to the library next week! I credit all of this to her book*.

I said some time ago that I had figured out Daniel's personality, in that he's a highly sensitive child. For the sake of making it sound more cool for my boy I am going to call them spidey senses.  Basically, his 5 senses are much more attuned.  15-20% of kids are born the same as Danny actually, but this is a relatively new understanding and only now schools and teachers are coming to the realisation that this exists. In it's extreme form it is diagnosed as "Sensory Integration Disorder" or SID. Danny does not have it that extreme, but even if he did I refuse to use the word "disorder" for my child. In the old days we probably used terms like "shy" "quiet" or "reserved" but actually that is not the same.  I found a really nice questionnaire that helped me to understand what sensitivity means. I believe that just 2 or 3 of these traits can mean that a child is sensitive. Daniel has about 16 of these traits (me, Craig and Linda all did the questionnaire, which was interesting).

Anyway, here is the questionnaire:

My child:
startles easily.
complains about scratchy clothing, seams in socks, or labels against his/her skin.
doesn't usually enjoy big surprises.
learns better from a gentle correction than strong punishment.
seems to read my mind.
uses big words for his/her age.
notices the slightest unusual odor.
has a clever sense of humor.
seems very intuitive.
is hard to get to sleep after an exciting day.
doesn't do well with big changes.
wants to change clothes if wet or sandy.
asks lots of questions.
is a perfectionist.
notices the distress of others.
prefers quiet play.
asks deep, thought-provoking questions.
is very sensitive to pain.
is bothered by noisy places.
notices subtleties (something that's been moved, a change in a person's appearance, etc.)
considers if it is safe before climbing high.
performs best when strangers aren't present.
feels things deeply.

So as I said, it is not something that the child can take or leave. It isn't a learned behaviour. Sensitivity is part of a child's genetic make-up. They can physically sense things more and they are in turn a lot more fearful and cautious and aware of things than the average Joe. This profound awareness will go on to serve Daniel well, but right now it has it's challenges. The analogy in the book is such: Most people process things quickly. We walk from A-B without maybe even noticing anything. Sensitive kids notice everything. If the information were oranges then we would have 3 oranges rolling into our heads and 3 holes for them to plop in to. A sensitive child has 12 oranges rolling into his head and the same 3 holes for them to plop into. So if you present a sensitive child with a new scenario he will take his time processing it and then may or may not cooperate, depending on how afraid or cautious he is.

As an example, when Daniel wouldn't sit on the rug at story time in pre-school he wasn't being awkward, he was cautious. It took him a good 6 months to weight it all up and to feel comfortable doing it. When he had a substitute teacher in his classroom he found it odd and would not interact with that person, but he asked "Where is my regular teacher? when other children might not even notice the switch. Thankfully he had teachers the last 2 years that didn't force him to do things, but let him join in when he was ready.

If you think about it, we typically treat very young children exactly the same way. But really, how different are they from their friends? They are all so different. In middle school and high school and college we are taught and encouraged to be unique - we choose our classes, we choose our friends, we choose our activities.  We are told to find our own path. That is not the case in pre-school and elementary school. Everybody must sit on the carpet at story time, everybody has to do the same craft, everybody has to stand up and sing, everybody has to draw a picture for their parents. If they do not do as they are told they are wrong and punished. It's ridiculous isn't it?  Our children are as unique as toddlers as they are as teenagers and adults, as should be treated as such. Can you imagine being "forced" to stand up and sing, or play soccer, or read aloud to a group at 15 years old? And yet we make pre-school and kindergartners do it. Why do we do that?

They are not a herd of sheep that will comply, there are kids that are, like my son Daniel, afraid of standing up to sing, and afraid sitting on a carpet with a group of kids and a teacher he doesn't know. But we don't see it - we say things like "hurry up" when they need longer to absorb all the things they see around them. We pressure them to make a decision quickly and get annoyed when they take time to make that choice. We say "I don't smell anything" when they do. We tell them to stop being silly when they complain about annoying clothes tags in the back of their t-shirts or scratchy blankets. We get Ohhh so frustrated when they refuse to try a new food, or activity, or sport, or person, or room. In fact anything "new" that completely bothers them. I look back and cringe at all the times I've tried to make Daniel hug or kiss adults he doesn't know. No wonder he was a wreck! Never again.

So it's actually us that has a problem, not them. Daniel knows who he is. It's me (us) that wants him to be more interactive/friendly/brave/athletic/vocal. He just wants to be left alone.  So anyway, I'm learning about ways to help him through  life and I know that well meaning and  persistent people will cross his path and try to make him do things strange, noisy, smelly and frightening. I know because I've tried to make him do things. The four years we have been together I have seen it as a battle of wills: Mummy versus Daniel. What's made it harder is that Jack is so compliant, so ready to jump in and try new things, that it's been hard not to make comparisons.

So, moving forward, the main goal is to build his confidence so that he might try new things. Some of the things we will (try to) do will include -

Build self-esteem by:
(1) Giving him unconditional love and respect
(2) Helping him make friends (lots of playdates!), and
(3) Encourage him to take on and soar in certain physical and intellectual challenges that he enjoys. In other words, not forcing him to do stuff he doesn't want to do, and then belittling him or getting impatient when he's not good at it. But help him find hobbies and sports and academics he enjoys and can can thrive in.

Lead by example (easier said than done hey) . Be respectful. Don't compare, don't tease, don't belittle, don't be mean.

Use Wise Discipline. In particular:

Calm yourself and then the child (Yeah, this will be hard for me. I'm an ogre)
Never threaten to withdraw love
Never make global threats: "no one will like you if you do that"
Never be mean or physically violent
Be very specific about expectations. Don't say "be good when you go to this house"
Do not bring up temperament during conflict, like "why do you have to be so afraid?"
Don't let a HSC manipulate the situation (usually through fear)

Be my Child's Advocate. I know that I will have to talk about this with Daniel, and his teachers and others who cross his path along the way. Until he is old enough to do this himself I might have to say politely "no, he doesn't want to do that right now", if someone insist he play a game, or eat something or try something new. People can be so friendly and so helpful but also so pushy. I have actually had a few encounters the last month though and it has been great.  I take Jack to a sports thing at a local gym and Daniel plays on the other side of the gym, alone. After 3-4 attempts by an instructor to get him to join in I just told him that he's only 4, and perfectly fine just on his own and the  instructor said "yeah, I was like that when I was younger" and he was great with Daniel thereafter and gave him his space but always waved at him and said Hi every week. Bless him. I think most people will be the same.

So there you are. As usual I have investigated it and analysed it to death, because I'm actually Daniel's opposite. Walking into a room full of strangers brings me out in smiles. I've bungee jumped, skydived and emigrated to another country. I'm noisy and friendly and totally oblivious to my surroundings. In fact I'm probably only about 5 points away from having turrets!

But I am full of respect for my Daniel. He's taught me so much already and he's an amazing child. He's really funny, very clever, kind and more aware than I will ever be. He's also a happy kid and very social with those he knows. I have a feeling he'll be helping me later in life with the specifics! And according to the book (and I believe it), he will go on to be a brilliant young man.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Weekend 2013

How can 3 days go by so quick? It's just ridiculous!

We hosted a cook-out and went to two others, we had a play date at the swimming pool which was bloody freezing, we did lots of yard work and housework, Jack had Tang soo do, and we got tadpoles!  I also did something else but don't want to address it right now.  Craig got 50 miles on his Harley and I insulted a neighbour. I asked if it was his mum helping him do yard work and he said no, that was my girlfriend. Kill me now people.

So anyway here's a few pictures from our weekend:

Taken by my neighbour Erika at her cook-out last night. I love this picture. 
Tadpole gazing. We will try to raise and then release them. Wonky picture again, sorry. 
His favourite part of the busy weekend? Swimming with his dad. LOVE this boy.
Jack sparring at Tang Soo Do (he's the small one). He goes for his orange belt next week. 

Jack and his school friend read a poem in class called "Contentment" last Friday. 
You probably can't make it out, but you get the gist. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Tragedy in Oklahoma

It was so hot today!  Close to 90 I think and so humid that my hair has been a frizzy disaster all day. Storms are forecast for the next few days as that system comes up from Oklahoma. Tonight the boys just played and played in the sprinkler and with the hose. I keep trying to tell myself not to think about the water bill and concentrate on the fun. I'm so lucky to have these lads.

I'm also so thankful that we are all healthy and happy (bar Craig's cold) and that we are not going through what those poor people in Oklahoma are going through. The news keep mentioning a man who is sat on a stool outside the elementary school, weeping and waiting to see if they find his 3rd grade son. I can't get that out of my head, the image of him, and I have this aching heart for him. A friend of mine described this feeling perfectly today on her blog. She said:

"A note to pregnant women: After that baby is born, when something tragic happens to other people's children, you're heart will break 1000 times harder than it has ever broken. You think you feel bad now for tragedy, but you have no clue how your heart will ache. Sorry."

That's so true isn't it. I hope they find his son I really do. And it's another wake up call for us all to say "I love you" and treat each other with kindness a little bit more.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Weekly Wrap-up in May

I can't believe it's been 9 days since my last post. Every day I've thought "That will make a great post", or "I must post about this" and I just never got the chance. Anyway, I'm going to try and play catch-up by just giving a quick line about each event this week. Each thing that I can remember that is. 50% flies though the cracks these days!

First off, my cervical biopsy results are negative (phew) but she wants me to go in for an ultrasound in a weeks time, just to get the whole picture. The boys are doing great & healthy (no illness since Thanksgiving last year!)  but Craig has a really bad cold and I feel something coming on. Ugh!

Mother's Day last Sunday was great and very low key. Then I had two events at Jack's school: a music show and then their annual yard sale.  It was Daniel's last day at school on Thursday for the summer but he missed it as his knee was messed up. It popped out of the socket or something because he was in agony with it, then perfectly fine about 5 hours after.

Coco came within a hair's breath of going back to the pound and I may yet find her a new home. I actually did look at the web page at the pound. That's how close I got this week. The daily peeing and pooing in the house is just too much. She pees on our bed weekly. Pees in the house daily. She was outside ALL DAY once this week then came in and pooped in the office. Anyone who tells me that I must persevere and do all I can because she's a cute dog is more than welcome to have her for a week and try to train her. Anyway, There may come a time when I just stop talking about her, at which point you will know she is gone. Like my love seat that's currently sat outside on the curb awaiting bulk pick-up tomorrow because she's peed all over it and ruined it.

Ben (and Coco to a degree) has a bad ear infection. Which means more vet bills. And the dishwasher has died. So I guess I'll be doing vet visits this week and buying a new washer.

My garden is looking fabulous! All the annuals are in, veggies planted, fence up and things are looking good! I am sun burnt to hell and exhausted but it's worth it.

I had two play dates this week for Daniel! His best friend Asher has met us at the park and I really like his mom. She told me tonight that Jack is very mature for his age (she knows as she has a 7 yr old nephew so that's good enough for me!) and very social. Yes he is. And I have to remember that he's extraordinary in that way and stop comparing Danny to him. Because Danny's extraordinary in other ways. For example, he notices things that Jack blows by.

That's all I have right now so I'm off to bed. Here's a few pics from this week (sorry that a couple of them look blurry and weird)

Friday, May 10, 2013

It's a Good Friday

What a great day.
I was productive at work.
I ate good things.
I got a letter and hand-drawn picture from Jack that greeted me when I got home and made me cry.

Jack got a certificate from school that he's reading at level. That's huge.
I got hugs and kisses from Danny who has also been writing like a champion today (thank you Linda!)
Craig is in "Mother's Day" mode and is looking for ways to relieve me from crappy chores.
I had a great hour doing some fun, rude and sometimes downright wrong texting with my Brit friend Maureen and my neighbor friend Erika.
I got to snuggle with Craig and watch Sons of Anarchy (our new favourite).
I got to play with the boys and the dogs on my bed for a while. It was fun but got rambunctious quickly and this old lady called it quits!
I have wine.
I have good company with my husband.
Coco hasn't peed on me today.
It's all good!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Rope Swing

Jack made a rope swing on our big old pine tree. I love this picture my neighbor took...

Monday, May 06, 2013

Knitting Needles Downstairs

Today was  long and emotional. I was running from 7am to 9pm. Here's what happened:

I did the school stuff as usual: Daniel taken to pre-school and Jack to regular school and then I took 80 planted marigolds with "Thanks for helping me grow" stickers on them for the teachers at Jack's school (it's teacher appreciation week and that was my PTA task). Friends (fellow parents) helped, which was ace.

My Brit friend has a son with possible testicular cancer (we'll found out Wednesday) and she has now possibly wrecked the ligament in her knee. So I helped her and we cried a lot.

I had a cervical biopsy (don't panic - just precautionary right now) and it hurt like hell.  My doc said "It might hurt a bit and be crampy but it will be brief"

I will translate that into what it actually felt like ...

"It will hurt a lot and feel like your uterus is being stuck with hot needles and it will be ten long minutes"

Seriously, I have never felt pain like it. I consider myself a "trooper" and have always been that way. But today I nearly passed out with the pain and I shouted out several times.  I was so English it was ridiculous! Instead of shouting "Holy shit Doc this F'ing hurts!" like a confident American might, I shouted "Oh good grief this hurts Dr. A!" and "Is it over yet?" which I asked at least 3 times.

Anyway I shouted very loud at the doctors office and I am very thankful there were no people sat in the waiting room. My family and friends in England will think I'm a wimp (sorry, but it bloody hurt) but it's done and I'll get the results soon.

3 Month Catch-up

I can't believe I haven't posted for over 2 months! So much to say.