Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Made the Call

I called the school.  It actually happened.  I picked up the phone, navigated my way through a horrifically-designed phone menu (seriously, people, when you say 'Press 0 for the receptionist, press # to hear the menu again,' pressing 0 should not get you the same thing as #), and finally reached a human being who directed me to someone who, while not the actual person/s I needed to reach, was someone who could at least take my info and pass it on to the right folks.

I hated making that call. 

I hated it primarily because I hate making phone calls to people, especially when I don't even know who I need to talk to. 

I hated it because it makes it all very real, that Boo (and probably Doodlebug) will be going to public school this fall.  I know it's what she wants, and I know that it's best for her because she's so dreadfully lonely here and the older she gets, the less her brother will be able to fill the playmate role to her satisfaction.  She's too social to be happy at home in the long run.  I could arrange for her to attend a co-op, but I like the idea of a more diverse population and not having to sign a Statement of Faith just to be in 'the club.'  That ruffles my feathers.  I had friends of all different backgrounds in school, and I don't want her missing that.

I hated it because even though I don't have a problem with her going back logically, it tears at my heartstrings to think that she's taking a little step out of the nest.  Yes, I'll be up at the school(s) often, I'm sure, just like I was when she attended private school, but it's still just not the same.  I'll be helping her with homework someone else assigned and gearing her up for testing in the spring so that someone else can get the credit. 

But it's done.

I talked to them, too, about testing to find out what grades the kids would be placed in, because right now I have absolutely nothing that they can officially use for that, and schools like documentation.  And I asked them to share my number with the school psychologist so we can find out about IEP testing for Doodlebug, because we do not, in fact, have to wait until he's enrolled before getting that ball rolling. 

I have started down the slippery slope.  Thankfully there are several places in the ride where I can step off if I need to, but it's begun.

Yikes.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Spoke Too Soon… and other Friday musings

I bragged about how well the week was going, and just like that, it all went straight down the crapper.

That's how Murphy works, kids.  Never, ever tempt the Fates.

Anyway, the boy lost all interest in doing schoolwork on Wednesday and just recently, at 3:38 p.m. on Friday, finished his work for the week.  He could've been done by 10 this morning, which would've given us time to go to our monthly art club meeting, out to lunch with friends, and possibly even to our weekly homeschool group meeting, but at 9:30 he was playing with the settings on the clothes dryer for no good reason other than to hear the machine ding and at 10 he was firmly ensconced on his beanbag, sulking because he hadn't studied his poem that he chose for memorization.

Suffice it to say this morning was quiet.  I didn't even bother to fight with him.  That takes too much energy.

I sat down with him for a chat sometime around 11:30, after he managed to finally read the science assignment (read a few pages from a book… took him all of 8 minutes once he decided to do it) and work on his poem.

I asked him if, perhaps, leaving the house and changing venues would help him, wondered if perhaps getting out for a little while might give him the opportunity to stop thinking about school so that he'd get a break and be able to re-focus when we came back.

He said he didn't think it would help. (I tend to agree.)

I asked him if he wanted to take his school stuff and work at the library for a while, not really leaving school behind but getting a fresh perspective.

He said that wouldn't work at all. (I totally agree… we went to a friend's house for coffee yesterday and I had the kids take their work, and he accomplished almost nothing outside of his familiar study hole.)

He finally told me that the reason he's been fighting school has been because he's tired and because he just. hates. school.  Especially math.  He hates math.  Why does he have to learn this math?  It's not even the new stuff; it's all the review.  I pointed out that the math he's been learning now will, in fact, be very useful throughout his life and gave him several examples.  He brightened up when he realized there is a method to the madness.  I doubt it will be a long-term fix, but it did help him get through today's math paper with some degree of success.

I have all 20 fingers and toes crossed (it's really hard to type… and do you like all the parentheses today?  I'm parenthetically-inclined this afternoon) that adding a low dose of a stimulant medication might help him.  He likes math when he can focus.  He's really, really good at math when he can focus.  But he hasn't been able to focus at all lately, and so he hates math… and school in general, but math in particular.  This loathing of learning really should've been my first clue that his focus level wasn't up to par, but I'm a little slow on the uptake, despite parenting this child for 11+ years.  We visit his pediatrician on Monday to see about testing the waters with a new prescription to add to his non-stimulant.  I totally hate drugging my kid, but when he can't learn, can't focus, can't become who and what he's capable of being because of neurological hangups, something has to give.  Hopefully we'll just use the new medication for a year or so, get him back on track, and then phase it out like we've done in the past.  Just something to get us over the hump.

Anyway, I asked him if there were any other problems with school other than math, and he admitted that even though he feels like he hates school all the time, it's almost entirely an avoidance of math and the fact that he just wants to get done as quickly as possible but without putting in any effort.  So it's a motivation issue, not the curriculum.  Not much I can do about that.  The problem-solver in me dislikes this fact and wants to 'fix' it, but it's going to have to come from within him.

I did ask if he would stay home next year if he had the chance, and he said he most certainly would.  He still absolutely hates the idea of homework and being stuck behind four walls until 3 or 4 p.m.  But he also hadn't realized that once Boo goes to public school, we'll be following her schedule and he won't have the same overall schedule he has now.  He didn't like that; it gave him serious pause for thought.  I'm still going to call the curriculum specialist and special education coordinator for the local schools next week (meant to do it this week, but I hate making those sorts of phone calls and so procrastinated prodigiously) and find out where both kids stand, but if the boy begs and promises to actually work - and I'll admit that he worked much more effectively and better before his sister was here with him - he might get to stay home.

Maybe.

MAYBE.

Or maybe he really does need to see how other people work together, play together, and interact together.  Maybe he does need a little peer pressure to get his work done and learn how to treat others, especially his long-suffering mother, with respect.

This child tears me up.  I question everything with him.  I'm not sure if it's because he's my first or because he's simply a difficult child to decipher, but the agony is killing me.  I'm ready for a breather.

T.G.I.F!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It Seems Like Magic

And just like that, this week is better.  Compared to last week, it's phenomenal.  I know it's only Tuesday evening, but Doodlebug has completed his work each day (before 2 p.m. yesterday and before 12:30 today!) and hasn't been fighting me.  He told me over the weekend that he was going to try to follow his therapist's advice and "achieve neutrality toward school."  He then told me that those weren't his therapist's exact words - those were "to try to be neutral about school" - but that he liked "achieve neutrality" better.

Bless his little nerd heart. :)

The fact that his math lesson this week is pre-algebraic in origin probably plays no small part in his positive feelings - I've suspected for ages that algebra would be right up his mathematical alley, and it seems I may have been right - but regardless, it's not just about math.  Everything is getting done and done correctly.

This week is going so well that tomorrow I even have plans other than teaching school and getting the bare minimum done - I'm going to make some phone calls/appointments, bake banana bread, and wash my comforter.  On Thursday the kids and I may even crash a friend's house for coffee.  It's a thrilling life, I tell you, but it's nice to have the energy to do these things.  When I'm fighting with someone 24/7, I have nothing left for anything else!

I've no idea if there's anything behind this switch other than a new week and a few potentially helpful phrases from his therapist.  Could be hormones, could be nothing.  Who knows.  Doesn't matter.  I'm just so relieved that last week is in the past, over and done with.  Here's to another solid couple of days so the week can end positively.

Thanks for bearing with me and for all the sympathetic ears and messages.  It's nice to know there are so many lovely, supportive folks out there.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

I Escaped!

My friends and I made it out last night.  I was the DD voluntarily, since they both have January birthdays.  I even made darn sure they did one shot at the bar (I let them pick, and they're suicidal, both of them, because they both picked tequila).  We talked, laughed hysterically, people-watched for a while, talked even more, laughed till we cried, and finally ended the night in the wee sma' hours of the morning.

It was rejuvenating.  I can face another week now.

This week my goal is to call up the school and find out what curricula they're using for 3rd and 5th grades and see where the kids stand in relation to their peers.  If Doodlebug looks to be a grade ahead, he'll stay home this fall.  It would be social suicide to put him in seventh grade when his classmates would have had a year to get to know the school, the teachers, and one another.  It's sixth or nothing, and there's no sense moving forward until I know where that stands.  And I want to make sure Boo is still equal to her peers.  I don't foresee problems there.

I want to use my gift certificate to get my car detailed.

Boo is supposed to start her sewing class.

I'm sure this week won't be perfect.  But if I can get through it with fewer tears and less fighting, it'll be a good week.

Friday, January 17, 2014

And Then Friday Happened

I am still, as one commenter suggested the other day, keeping my eyes on the prize of going out tomorrow night.  I found some laughter at a friend's house yesterday afternoon.  I was so grateful for that.  I didn't feel like I'd smiled all week, and I know I've cried multiple times.  I do not often cry, but this week has just about done me in.  I had to leave Doodlebug at home while Boo and I went, and he was heartbroken because he didn't get to see his friend, but he still hadn't completed his school work, and so the natural consequence was that he had to stay home and try to get it done.

Today, since Fridays are light days in school, I had been really, really hoping would be better.  It was not.  Boo spent an hour today arguing with me that 8th notes are called 18th notes, that 16th notes don't exist, and that it takes four '18th notes' to make a quarter note.  She's also spent a good part of the day attempting to communicate with me via text from her bedroom.  I'm not responding.  I'm tired of her thinking that she's too privileged to walk the 50 feet from her room to the living room to talk to me face-to-face.

Oz and I had planned to let Boo have a sleepover Sunday night, since the public schools are out on Monday.  I was going to see if she and her friend and possibly Doodlebug (and maybe some other friends) wanted to go see a Harry Potter science exhibit that's showing right now.  All she had to do was make sure her room was clean (i.e. no big piles of stuff, clothes put away, and I asked her to mop her floor since it was covered in footprints and animal fur).  I had also asked her to pick up the books we currently keep in the game room.  She assured me the books were picked up.  She assured me her room was clean.

And then I found out she'd lied to me.  I glanced in the game room and saw books strewn everywhere.  I walked into her room and felt grit under my feet.  I walked around to the far side of her bed and saw piles of clothing jutting out from underneath it.  I almost burst into tears - yet again - at the sight.

Her sleepover is cancelled.

I'm so tired of being lied to.

I'm so tired of the kids thinking they can just ignore me whenever it's convenient.

I'm so tired of yelling and repeating myself over and over and over.

I'm just tired.

I threatened to turn in my parenting card to a select few friends on Facebook the other day.  They sympathized, and I did (do) appreciate their thoughts, but I still wonder what sort of karmic hell I'm in and what I did in a past life to deserve this.

Doodlebug is no better.  We cleaned his room out, together, in early December, but it's already a complete shambles (again), so yesterday I pulled everything out (again) so we could put things where they go (again).  He told me he wanted to take care of it.  I asked him if he was sure.  He said he was.  I asked him if he wanted help.  He said he wanted to do everything on his own to prove that he could.  I told him that I wanted his clothes - just the clothes, nothing else - put away by this evening at dinnertime and reminded him that his lizard cage had to be cleaned since there was poop in the food dish and shed skin everywhere.  At 12:30, he was in his room and told me he was working.  At 4 he told me he'd gotten half his clothes folded and yelled at me and his sister because we were 'distracting' him and 'keeping him from working.'  Never mind that he'd spent half the afternoon hooting and barking at his sister and ignoring my repeated attempts to get him to focus.  At 6, which is dinnertime, he'd finished... nothing.  At 6:30, he put the container of diluted bleach water on his bed, where he's been repeatedly asked NOT to set it, and then sat down next to it.  His weighted blanket, bedspread, pants, shirt, and underwear promptly got soaked.  His weighted blanket is in the washer, but I made him throw the outfit out.  He was mad because it was his good pair of Polo jeans, but what else do you do with jeans that are now sporting a bleached butt?

It's 7:30 now.  Oz and I ate bratwurst, spaetzle, and roasted butternut squash for dinner.  The kids are having flax cereal and bananas.  Boo has eaten and is getting ready for bed.  She has to get up early for a group violin lesson in the morning.

This is assuming I have the motivation to get out of bed.  It may not happen.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Keep Calm? You've GOT to be Kidding.

I'm trying to focus on the positive today.  Find my inner Qi/Zen/peace.

Breathe in, breathe out.

This week has not improved with age.

The boy-o finished up yesterday's work at noon and still, at 4:25 p.m., has three more subjects of today's work to complete.  This is actually an improvement over yesterday, when he didn't get Monday's work finished until noon-ish and we were home all morning.  At least today he has the excuse that we were at the therapist's office for an hour.

(Note to self:  This is not how you walk away from the negative.  Breathe in, breathe out...)

Boo is doing well!  She's done with today's work and has practiced her violin in her newly-rearranged room (the girl has her grandmother's room-rearranging tendencies and isn't happy unless everything is moved and redecorated regularly) with a checklist that her teacher has started giving out each week.

Doodlebug's therapist is still working out beautifully.  We stumbled on an excellent one, and I couldn't be happier.  He pulled me in first today, and we chatted about plans.  We're still trying to manage Doodlebug's anger and energy into more productive, positive channels - not burying the anger, just handling it in a healthy fashion.  Yesterday I couldn't open my mouth without ugliness coming out of his, and that's not helping anyone.

I mentioned today that we'll put him into public school this fall, and he wants to get Doodlebug's assessment/diagnoses updated, either through the school or through private channels, since the only one we have is from when he was 5 and which was done through an office that has since dissolved.  Then he wants to see if we can get the IEP ball rolling before summer even gets here so that there's a firm plan in place before Doodlebug walks through the door in August.

I like this idea.  A lot.

He also recognized, even before I said anything, that there's only a 50/50 shot of public school working out for Doodlebug.  It made me happy that we were on the same page and recognized the same stumbling blocks and had the same thoughts about solutions for them.  When a parent and a doctor are on the same page, good things happen.

I called Doodlebug's pediatrician yesterday and made an appointment to discuss adding a low-dose stimulant to his current Intuniv.  Anything that can help him focus is, at this point, a positive step.

I'm making progress on my reading, my cross-stitch, and a couple other projects I wanted to tackle this month.  Now if I can only get my car in for its detailing...

Several of my friends are having birthdays this week, and we're going out this weekend to celebrate.  We're all very ready to escape, I think.  I've promised to drive, since my birthday is NOT this month, so that the birthday girls can have a little extra fun.  They need it, too (one of them had her house flood this week, for example, and while that should be covered under her home warranty, they're trying to say it isn't).  So obviously I'm excited about getting together, but in the meantime, my life is a little more like this:


than like this:


Hang in there, y'all.  I know I'm not the only one having a rough week.

Monday, January 13, 2014

And We're Back to That Already

Long before Christmas, Doodlebug and I had gone 'round and 'round about his schoolwork, and I'd finally settled - reluctantly, but because I had little other choice - into the routine of giving him due dates and letting him complete/turn in his work when he wanted.  Which means I'm on call 24/7 and he's spending more and more time not completing work when it needs to be done and more and more time doing it on the 5th of Never.


I had been hopeful that after several weeks off - one at Thanksgiving, two at Christmas - we would be able to get back into a more productive routine and he'd actually start giving a flying flip about his school work.


I couldn't have been more wrong if I tried.  Any doubts about sending him to public school this fall are gone.  G. O. N. E.  Because if I keep him here, I'll kill him.


Not actually.


But I'll want to do the Homer Simpson neck-squeezing thing a lot.  ("WHY, YOU LITTLE....!!!")


It's 11:10 a.m.  He woke up late, because he refuses to set an alarm.  He refuses to set an alarm because he assumes that it's someone else's job to wake him and/or he'll hear Boo getting ready and be able to wake up and get his chores done before school 'starts' at 8:30.  Anyway, he woke up late.  He threw a giant fit when I told him that chores needed to be done before breakfast because this fall he'll be able to get on the bus holding a piece of toast, but he can't feed the cats while riding to school.  Plus, it does take him that long to accept a new routine.  He stomped around, hollering at me because clearly this is all my fault.  He fed the cats while stomping.  He fed his lizard while stomping.  And just about the time I was going to threaten to get the hacksaw and dare him to stomp around on bloody stumps, he quit stomping so he could clean out the litter boxes (which, by the way, is a chore he chose so he would no longer have to help hand-wash dishes.  The logic of this choice escapes me, since I know which I'd rather do, but never mind, he chose it and there it is). 


Meanwhile, Boo and I went upstairs to start school. 


The boy came up a few minutes later.  "I need to refill the litter boxes, and we're out of litter."


Now, I knew - knew - that when I'd been in the garage, I'd seen plenty of containers of litter sitting where they always sit, right beside the deep freeze.  So I thought I'd call his bluff.


"There's more in the garage.  Do you need help bringing it in?"


"No, those are empty.  I've been putting the empty ones back out there."


Silence.  Cue sound of head hitting desk. 


"So you're telling me we have five cats, three litter boxes, and no litter."


A nod was all I got.


The rule in this house is that Mama (or Dad) needs three days' notice to get anything like this, so we don't have to make emergency store runs for things like cat food, lizard food, milk, etc.  Usually I get 24-48 hours' notice, which is good enough most of the time.  But this was 8:45 a.m. (15 minutes late for school already), Sam's Club doesn't open till 10, and I've got stuff to get done today that can't be put off.  And I hate, hate, HATE the smell of cat pee.  Right up there with roaches on the list of things I don't want in my house.


I told him to figure out how to get at least two functioning litter boxes and sent him back downstairs.


Scream stomp stomp stomp muttermutter hoot squawk stomp.


He found a solution and made it to 'school' half an hour late.  Whatever.  Then it took him 1.5 hours to complete his first assignment, one that I've seen him finish in 20 minutes when the mood takes him.  He's been working on his second assignment for 45 minutes.  Again, this is one that could be done in 20.  I know, because his sister did it in 25. 


I'm going to go to lunch with a friend now.  I know that nothing will be completed in my absence.  I've tailored this curriculum till it can't be tailored any more, and he claims to like it all, but he just. doesn't. care.


Have I mentioned I can't wait for August to get here?  I love my son, but I can't love him as well when I feel like I'm fighting with him 24/7. 


Hello, Monday!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What Are You Reading?

One of my goals for this 2014 journey is to read at least 3 books a month.  Last year I was gunning for a book a week - and made it - but sometimes I felt like I wasn't getting to absorb the words because there was a stack of books on my requested library list and I 'had' to get to them.  So I'm going easier on myself.

I'm currently reading this book, which has been on my to-read list since I heard it was coming out back in early fall:

Fingal O'Reilly, Irish Doctor
and sort of meandering my way through this one:

The IEP from A to Z
My third book for this month, which I've already finished because it sucked me in and was excellent, is this one:

Day After Night
Do you have a reading goal for 2014?  Even if you don't, if you're reading a good book (or have read a good one that you want to share), what is it?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

When the Little Sibling… Isn't

This week has been… ugh.  I'm hoping it's just some sort of allergic reaction to being back in school on a daily basis.

Doodlebug has been/caused 90% of the problems… I hate to say it, but I will - AS USUAL.  I don't get him in trouble for every little thing, but I still have to deal with all the shenanigans, big or little.

I have to do things like reminding him that he cannot unplug the headphones his sister is using because her talking while using Rosetta Stone is 'annoying.'

Things like making him 'stop, empathize, and apologize' when he dumps his sister out of a chair so he can use it.

And telling him to flush the #%&@!# toilet for the umpteenth time this week.

And making him pick up the toenail clippings that he'd saved and placed on his sister's desk.

And asking him not to scream at me when I'm trying to help him.

And begging him to stop placing his pufferfish skeleton in random places to scare his sister.

And bloody asking him to bloody well do what I bloody well asked him to do half a dozen bloody times already.

Y'know.  Things like that.

----

Yesterday about 3:30, I reached my wits' end.  The children had been screaming and crying and carrying on for hours (seriously, hours), and so I sat down and very calmly wrote out a meal plan and grocery list for the next 10 days.

And then I went to the grocery store.

Alone.

Before I left, I wrote the kids some very specific instructions about what remained to be done during the duration of the evening.  I've done this before, and I'm perfectly aware that the minute I leave the house, all progress halts.  Normally I just tell them to become electronics zombies while I'm gone, but yesterday stuff actually needed to be completed.  I figured I'd come back to maybe 50% of the work done… maybe.

What actually happened was that nothing got done.  Unless you count Boo pulling a giant metal staple out of a box to use as a paper hanger for her drawings as progress.  And, of course, they lied to me about their lack of work because they realized in a sheer panic that they'd done nothing.  Meh.  Fine.  After the day I'd already been having, it was a little thing.  I didn't like it, but it was a little thing.

So I came home and unpacked the groceries and they worked on their lists and eventually we made it to the end of the day and they went to bed.  Doodlebug went straight to sleep, as he always does.  Boo, on the other hand, was in bed for an hour or so and then came downstairs.  She wanted to talk.  We cuddled in my bedroom chair for a minute and chatted about how awful the day had been before she got to the point - she's exhausted with Doodlebug's unpredictability.

----

Most families I know who have one ASD child have all their children somewhere on the spectrum.  In some ways, this makes it easier because while all ASD kids have their own quirks and foibles just like every other kid, you can at least expect some consistency in some areas.  None of them socialize well.  They're all slow to mature emotionally.  There are usually some motor skills issues at play.  Things like that.

Doodlebug and Boo aren't like that.  He's ASD; she isn't.  She very much isn't.  She delights in being around people, reacts well to them, is emotionally very mature, and is as coordinated as any 8-year-old (except when she's walking up and down stairs… I've only ever known one other person who will consistently fall while going up stairs.  I need to get her and Boo back together, partly for that reason and partly because I think that woman's older brother is on the spectrum as well and it might be good for Boo to have someone to relate to).  And, of course, since Boo and Doodlebug are together for the majority of each day, they have to deal with each other.

So Boo is exhausted.  It's hard for her when Doodlebug acts like a 6- or 7-year-old, because 10 minutes later he'll turn around and act like the 11-year-old he is.  And then five minutes after that, he's acting like a 6-year-old again.  For example, he might decide that he wants to make pancakes for the family breakfast.  That's an 11-year-old thought.  He'll get out the recipe and all the ingredients.  Again, that's 11.  His sister will want to help, and he'll say okay.  And then he'll decide to throw flour at her or steal candy or ban her from touching some cooking utensil or other… and that's 6.

Apparently while I was gone yesterday, he decided that rather than let his sister take care of her responsibilities - which she probably would have done if she'd been on her own, and in a year or two he can come with me while I go places and she can do that but right now she's 8 and it's not happening - he was going to pretend he was a dog and she was supposed to take care of him.  And when she tried to walk away, he followed her around.  Well, of course that gets tiring, and eventually it's just easier to give in to him than to fight with him or do chores.  I get that.  What I don't know is how to help her deal with these social and emotional see-saws that seem to blindside her every single time.

Anyone have any ideas?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dear Children,

Dear Children,

This is your mother speaking.  You know, that insane person who runs around thinking she gets to tell you what to do because she pushed you out of her nether region?  And yes, I just said Nether Region.  I could have said Lady Garden.  Or worse.

Quit covering your face, Doodlebug.  It's not that bad.

Anyway, this letter is from that woman.

You are 11 going on Hellspawn and 8 going on Obnoxious.  I can see the signs written in your blank stares and shrieks of agony when I speak to you, and I know that within the next year or two, everything I say is going to go in one ear and out the… excuse me.  EXCUSE ME.  HEY!!  I'm talking to you!!

Dammit, let's start again.

----

ATTENTION, CHILDREN, THIS IS YOUR FOOD-GIVER SPEAKING.

Ahh, yes, that did the trick.  Now, eyes on me and at least pretend to listen for the next 45 seconds, and then you can return to whatever electronic device you were staring at.  Otherwise there will be no snack/FaceTime later, whichever consequence annoys you the most.

Got it?

Good.

OK.  In the next few years, and this will probably start in the next few months, you will no longer wish to acknowledge my presence in public.  In fact, you probably won't want to acknowledge my presence at home, either, but you certainly will never, ever want to go out in public with me, and you won't want anyone to know who it is in the SUV that's dropping you off at or picking you up from school, and quite frankly you'll probably prefer that I just drop you off at a friend's house each morning so you can pretend I don't exist at all.

Sadly, that is not how this is going to go down.

Here is what will happen as you get older:

I will expect things of you.  This might - gasp! - include you doing chores.  Do them, or there will be consequences.  Everyone in this house does chores, including you.  You are not special enough to escape the gravitational pull of chores.  You are also NOT the only person in this world who has to do chores.  Drama Girl, I'm looking at you.

If you eat it and finish it, throw away the empty container and add it to the grocery list.  If you eat someone else's food that they bought for themselves or were given, they get to be mad at you.  Hobbit Boy, this time I'm looking at you.

If you finish a toilet paper roll, replace it.  Kleenex is not an acceptable substitute.  Not wiping is not an acceptable substitute.  Yes, you must flush the toilet.  It is not a brain-eating monster.  Believe me, at some point in your college years, it will probably be your best friend for an evening or two.  However, if you flush something down the toilet - or sink - that shouldn't ever, ever be flushed or drained and clog my septic, you will explain to me, Daddy, and the plumbing company what it was and why you flushed it or you will pay the bill.  Take your pick.  This time you're both getting The Eye.

If you want to have friends over, I need to be able to see the floor in your room and the white in the toilet.  I'm not asking for pristine; I'm asking for my house not to reek of sweat/hairspray/nail polish remover/pee/things I don't want to think about.

If you want to have friends over, take a shower.  Otherwise you won't have any friends to invite.  And by 'shower,' I don't mean squat over the drain like you live in a third-world country... Doodlebug.  I mean stand up and actually wash yourself.  With soap.

If these above things don't seem to be happening, I will be there.  I will remind you.  Things will disappear if they invade my space, and if you don't see them again, it's because they're in the nearby Goodwill store or landfill.  Take your pick.

Just because you don't acknowledge me doesn't mean I don't exist.

Just because you don't acknowledge me doesn't mean I don't love you.

Because I do.

Love you.

And exist.

I will be a HORRIBLE, MEAN MOM.  I will be the Gatekeeper of the Pantry.  I will be the person you loathe with every cell in your being (and I'm pretty sure the air around you will vibrate with the intensity of your hate).  I will be the person you rant about to your friends.  Fine.  We are a passionate family, and it may be a rocky road, but I'll be there with you.  And even when you scream at me, yet again, that I'm a HORRIBLE, MEAN MOM but follow that up with, "Can I have a hug?" I will be there to say yes.

Because no matter what, you're my babies.

That came out of my nether regions.

*smile*

Love,

MOM

Monday, January 6, 2014

First Day Back Blues

It's the first day back in school after two weeks off.  Two weeks in which the children, like all children before them, have forgotten everything I've taught them in the previous six months.  We can no longer write complete sentences, select the right homonym, spell anything, or turn in any work without correcting it half a dozen times.  Right now I'm having an argument with the boy over how to write a conclusion to his science experiment.  We have a poster on the wall that clearly states what needs to be in a conclusion (What does your experiment show?  Did the experiment confirm or disprove your hypothesis and how?  How does the information you found relate to everyday life?), and yet I got an answer to the last question - in fragment form - and nothing else.  The girl is arguing with me that it's good to put her box of colored pencils on a tiny ledge (whoops... she just spilled them everywhere) and whether or not she can spell whether 'wether.' 

I planned a nice, easy week, easing back into the lessons and with a minimum of tough assignments - or so I thought.

Clearly I didn't go easy enough.

I hate first days back.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Shopping With (My) Kids

As the kids get older, they get more gift cards for birthdays and holidays.  I'm okay with that, they're okay with that, and really, it makes everyone's job a lot easier.  I'm a fan of gift cards.

This year they garnered both gift cards and cash for the holidays.  Doodlebug got a GameStop gift card and another one for Sonic; Boo got gift cards to both JoAnn Fabric and Hobby Lobby, and they scored $80 each in cash.

Last week we went out for the first round of purchases.  We stopped at GameStop first.  Boo wanted to purchase her own copy of Minecraft, but they didn't have it for the 360, which actually relieved me.  I really didn't want to hop back on that merry-go-round.  Doodlebug initially wanted a copy of something M-rated, but when I pointed out that he wasn't old enough to purchase it himself, he shrugged and found something having to do with Star Wars - and rated T - to buy instead.  I remember grumping about ratings when they came out when I was a teen, but as a parent, they're an excellent excuse to keep my kid from buying stuff that will scare him half to death (but if I told him that, he'd never believe me).

After GameStop, we hit the mall.  I will say this for my children - when it comes to clothes, they really, truly do not give one iota of a hoot about brand names.  They like cheap.  Boo found a dress on clearance for $9 (and it rang up for $5) and a shirt for $12 (and it rang up for $8… I swear the cashiers give her a discount at the register just for being cute).  That was the sum total of her purchases, and really she only spent $2 since we returned an $11 denim jacket someone had given her that didn't fit.  I want her shopping skills.  The boy poked around looking for T-shirts but could only find one long-sleeved shirt that he liked, and it was also on clearance.  (Mama was the one who went a little nuts when she saw that Express jeans were 40% off.  I don't normally buy mall jeans, but once in a while I feel the need to have a couple of nice pairs, and these are gloriously soft and fit me beautifully [and no, I'm not being paid to say that - or any of this stuff - although if Express wanted me to test out their clothing and report back, I would happily oblige].)

So that was last week.  We had to go back to the mall area today to pick up Boo's charm bracelet, which was having a new charm soldered on, so Boo grabbed her crafting gift cards and off we went.  She spent her JoAnn gift card on material to make herself a new apron ($10 gift card and her total was $9.98 or something scarily close to the balance… seriously, I want her shopping skills) and part of her Hobby Lobby card on a sign for her bedroom door that says, "Girls Only.  No Boys Allowed."  She had been looking for a small stand mirror for her vanity, but she didn't find one she liked.  She still has another $6 on that card, so I'm sure we'll be back, probably for fabric and sewing purposes.

The cash?  Well, the girl hasn't spent hers yet.  The boy, on the other hand, decided he wanted a pair of rollerblades.  So he took his remaining money, and we went to Academy, where he found himself a pair in his size (men's 11, by the way… Sasquatch is alive and well and living at my house) and had enough cash left over to purchase a small Nerf gun.  He spent a little extra on a brightly-colored metal lizard from Hobby Lobby that he's named Eddie.  Eddie will grace Doodlebug's bedroom wall as soon as the boy can get up the stairs with a hammer and a nail.  He's taking down his Minecraft poster for Eddie's sake, which shocked me but made me happy at the same time.  I'm not a big fan of posters.

My kids continually surprise me with the things they choose to buy.  I'm very proud that they prioritize their spending and are learning that extra cash can be saved or at least spent on things they really want rather than feeling the need to blow it all at once.  It's a small step on the road to independence, but it's something I've been trying to teach them for their entire lives.  I'm glad it's finally kicking in.  More or less.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

And So It Begins

I've had a feeling for a while that 2014 would be rocky, that 2013 was the 'calm before the storm,' so to speak.  I whined the other day about it being stagnant - and it was - but at the same time I think it was what I needed.

I'm sure there will be good, bad and ugly this year just like there is in any other.  I just have a feeling that the good will be great, the bad will be very bad, and the ugly will be downright nasty.  This year feels like it will be exaggerated.

It's already gotten off to a bang.  Oz is up in Kansas today, helping my grandmother sort through some of her stuff so that my mom (and various other people) can clean out the room at the retirement home and move my grandmother into an actual nursing home.  Her health has been in steep decline for several months, and she can no longer go without full-time care.  My sister, mother and I are all grateful that she got to make it through one last Christmas, but we all are in doubt as to whether she'll see her 90th birthday in March.  We've all made our peace with that.  It is what it is.

Doodlebug has also been difficult the past few days.  Last week I typed up, with great hopes, an electronics usage contract.  It basically asked him to be responsible with his electronics usage - don't steal/hack other's devices, don't visit sites you know you shouldn't, and only use the devices for a reasonable amount of time each day - and to follow basic Internet rules like not sharing personal information, not meeting people, etc.  It outlined specific consequences for breaking the rules plus offered ways out if he broke the rules and was honest about his behavior as well as a long-term reward (a cell phone, which he desperately wants and will more than likely need when he attends school in August) for keeping the terms of the contract.  He read it.  We discussed it.  He signed it.  And then he broke it twice in the first 48 hours… which wouldn't have been as horrid if he hadn't broken the rules in the exact same way each time and lied about it the second time.  Then yesterday he had friends over, and the friends 'accidentally' (it may have been an accident, it may not… his friends are his friends and are just as likely to have been in cahoots with the boy as anything else) left their Xbox Minecraft disk behind.  So Doodlebug was up at 6 this morning - after ringing in the New Year at midnight last night - playing Minecraft.  Ugh.

All in all, none of that would be a big deal.  The real problem is that when caught (my friend texted me to let me know the Minecraft case was empty, at which point in time Oz went upstairs and retrieved the disk and found out about the early-morning gaming), Doodlebug imploded.  "I hate myself."  "I'm just a monster."  "I wish you'd never had me."  I've seen hints at this vague self-loathing now and then, and every time I hear it we sit down and talk about his feelings and depression, but this was particularly vile, and the boy started punishing himself to boot - it was just offering to make himself do chores all day, but it was self-imposed punishment nonetheless.  So we had another chat about those ugly feelings, and I'm going to ask him to share them with his counselor next time we visit.  I don't want him to be a suicidal preteen like I was.

So there's 2014 so far.  How's yours going?