Teacher Professor

February 28, 2010

Book Tour Update

Filed under: Book- Parent's Guide — Teacher Professor @ 10:30 am

I will be at the Preston Royal Barnes and Noble in Dallas, Texas on Saturday, April 25th from 2:00-4:00pm signing copies of “Children with HFA”.  Would love to see all my Dallas friends there!

February 27, 2010

Faster than a Speeding Mullet

Filed under: Schools — Teacher Professor @ 9:36 pm

My family just participated in the Super Dolphin Race- a race put on by the two elementary schools on the island to raise money for their PTAs- and we had a BALL!

We almost didn’t go.  With the sickness floating around the house, first Ray and then James to a smaller extent, I decided to let everyone sleep and if folks woke up in time for the race, then they were strong enough to run in it.  At 7:30am when two little voices were waking me up, I wanted to reconsider.  I truly wanted to reconsider when it was gray and coooold- in the 40s.  But we were committed and off we went…

My daughter was NOT going to go- did not want to do it, and was not interested.  She is very athletic and enjoys skill sports like swimming and tennis.  Something as “boring” as running does not excite her.  Plus, she has no stamina.  However, all of her friends were, and we were going, so she signed up for the smallest race possible- the 1 mile Fun Run which gives everyone a ribbon and no trophies.  Her race was first, so off she went!  She got her ribbon afterwards and was proud of herself.

Then- the drama when she realized that she was going to be waiting at the library ALL BY HERSELF with some of the other parents because her friends were running… oh the drama!  Tears, sighs.  Finally, even though she didn’t have a number or a computer chip to give her an official time, she joined us in the 5K crowd.

Ray was impatient at the front of the line- 450 people behind him.  He was jiggling, impatient to be off… and started running his heart out when the race started.  He was in front of the Marine Military Police who were running in formation.  It was very exciting because they were singing as they ran in formation, carrying the flag in front of them.  I do love watching gorgeous men exercise…  He left us early, watched over by friends who are much better shape that we are.  We passed him after he had turned around on the course and he was hanging in there, running to the rhythm of the cadence.

And he came in THIRD in his age division!  We had had lots of conversation about how because he was sick, he might not get a medal since he couldn’t give it his all, and since they didn’t give certificates to all of the runners, we were all going to do it just to do it.  For the joy of doing it.  And here he goes and gets a medal!  It’s his first medal that he’s earned, rather than just getting by playing, so he is terribly proud of it- as is his proud mama!

And Elizabeth ran ahead of us when she saw that we were going slowly and finished in 6th for her age bracket- no medal, but she kept going the whole way, which after running the mile means that she ran all morning long.  We fussed over her too for her endurance!  Proud mama again!

And James and me?  I’ll have you know that we BEAT those grandparents who were pushing the twins in a stroller!  In other words, we were almost dead last since we walked the whole way- at a good clip, but still walked.  Ah well- I was in it to finish it and enjoy it.  And bless their hearts, the race people still cheered us when we crossed the finish line, having just passed two teenage girls who were FAR too cool to (ewww) sweat.  But James and I talked and chatted and enjoyed the beauty of the ocean on a gray day and really looked at an area we often drive through.  We oohed over some houses, shook our heads at others (seriously?  a planter shaped like a pelican? That’s just rude to pelicans everywhere), and enjoyed being outside without having to worry about the children.

We met the children at the library, ate at Subway, and napped all afternoon after I took a HOT shower to get rid of the chill that I got.  And Ray fell apart at dinner- completely apart and then cried when he was telling me that he couldn’t help it. But overall, a lovely day!

And I feel like Rocky…

February 26, 2010

Earthquakes

Filed under: College information — Teacher Professor @ 4:39 pm

Just as you’re in one place, going along, the earth shakes and everything moves and rattles and rolls.  And as in the case of earthquakes, it keeps happening.

My university just announced that due to state budget shortfalls, they are going to have to cut up to 30% of the college’s budget, which means that my Department of Education will “probably” be ok, but it is on the list if the legislature plays hard ball- and even if it lasts this go-round, it might not last another one.  That would mean that I’m out of a job.  And we just moved here.  We moved here so that my husband and I could work together.  We moved here to have a new start.  We moved here to find some roots.  We moved here on the promise of stability.

My husband was out of a job for 6 months last year.  We are buried so far deep in debt and indebtedness to far too many companies and family.  We were enjoying being able to pay bills.  Not going out to dinner, but at least paying bills.  We were enjoying being in a community that, while different from our outlooks, is at least fantastic for our children.

My children, my children with special needs and a deep need for structure and stability, have been moved around the country far too often.  That network of support that so many mommies have?  Mine are 500 miles away.  One in California, one in Colorado, one in Texas, one in Massachusetts, some in Virginia, some in New Mexico, one in…

I am trying not to panic.  Luckily, I can teach in public schools- assuming there are any jobs.  A teacher friend of mine with a master’s in reading was out of a job for 10 months this past year.  I used to think of teaching- and teacher preparation- as a recession-proof job.  No longer.  And isn’t that stupid?  To cut education means to cut the possibility of the future.  If you don’t invest in people being ABLE to get jobs, how on earth is this stupid economy supposed to turn around?

Luckily, we’re not in crisis or panic mode yet.  In my favorite movie, “The Princess Bride”, the Dread Pirate Roberts said to Wesley every night, “Good night, Wesley.  Most likely I’ll kill you in the morning.”  I feel a bit like that- waiting for the cuts to come.Our ground is rattling.  We’re holding on to each other.  And we’re trying to not let our children see how deeply we’re shaken.  Now what?

My horoscope said on Tuesday, “Expect big news by Friday”.   I guess it was right about that.

UPDATE: No lie.  James and I went to a Chinese buffet for lunch today- our once-a-month treat.  His fortune?  “You have a big change today”.  Clearly, the Fates saw it coming.  I sure didn’t….

February 24, 2010

Nicknames

Filed under: Autism,Twice-exceptional — Teacher Professor @ 1:43 pm

My son is going through a nickname phase.  He keeps calling me Mimsy, Tommy and other variations of Mommy- truly playing with the language and the sounds of the words.  I play right back with me, changing up his name.  I’m not as good at the game as he is- he has hundreds of riffs on my name and the names of everyone in the family.  I keep waiting for the “Fe fi fo-fanna” song to emerge from him.  Because you see- I don’t get to sing it to him.

Here’s the interesting thing- If I initiate the name game, he gets mad, but if HE does, we’re off and away.  He’ll walk past me and say “You CAN’T tickle me” as a challenge, and initiating the “I’m going to chase you and tickle you” game.  But if I reach to tickle him, he slaps my hand away and screams at me.  It’s as if the surprise of hearing his name changed or the physical contact disturbs his sense of balance, but if he’s in his funny, quirky place, it’s all right.  Reading Ray’s moods as as changeable as reading a weather map.  Do we play word games today or not? (Do I wear a jacket today?)  Do we sing and laugh today or is my singing kept to a minimum? (Is it shorts weather?)  Do we tickle and love on him or is it hands-off? (What about that hat?).

The other day, Ray said at dinner, “Did you know that the teenagers at the park didn’t know what ‘obstreperous” means?  And they were BEING it!”  BRILLIANT kid- who’s going to get his block knocked off someday.  I can’t imagine your typical 13 year old kindly taking to being called “obstreperous” by a little kid.

Elizabeth rarely plays word games.  She remembers words, she makes connections to antonyms and synonyms, she makes pun jokes, she WRITES jokes, but she doesn’t play with words on the spot.  She was the one who “named” my mother, and the name came from analyzing the relationship- “Mamamum” was her way of understanding “Mama’s mama”.  We sing her name to her and she preens when we do.  When we tickle her, she goes over the top with it in nothing flat, shrieking and flailing and wanting that stimulation.  She DOES have a sense of humor that she and my husband both “get”, but word games aren’t it.  She doesn’t really have a nickname beyond “Little girl/pretty girl/lovey” that I use endearingly. 

But I also remember her “peekaboo” language of “I can say it.. Now I can’t”.   I am deeply grateful for her ability now to learn language through analysis.  I still feel the pain when I remember the day, at age 3, when she was running down the hallway, stuck her head in my bedroom door and sang out “I love you, Mommy!”.  It was the first time I had heard her say it.  I snapped my head up and said “What, honey?”  trying to get her to say it again- but it was gone.  Just a flash of language and lost the next moment; lost in the mist of autism.  Joymama calls these language flashes “Elvis Sightings“.  One of its traces still remain- my name is “Mommy”.  Always has been.  Always will be.  Constant.

And for Ray, my name is as changable as he is. 

Signing off- Nommy/Amam/Tommy/Mimsy… and always, Mommy.

February 23, 2010

Sick of winter

Filed under: Uncategorized — Teacher Professor @ 6:47 pm

For so many of my family and friends, they are sick and tired of winter.  My mother has been house-bound for about 4 days recently, getting out in time to get milk and bread and to show up at work for a day, until the next storm hits and she’s unable to get out of her drive way.  It is the worst winter she can remember in 30+ years.

We live in the “sunny South”.  Winter is generally an abstraction for us.  When snow blanketed 49 states recently, and there was snow over most of GA, we were the little corner that didn’t get it.  Even Charleston, SC got snow!  Not us… Winter is a mere shiver here.  An opportunity  to wear a jacket.  A reason to have two sweaters.  An excuse for hot chocolate when it hits 50 degrees.

Summer?  Summer is another beast altogether.  But for now, summer is months away and is but a warm memory.

We’re new here, and our instincts are based in more northerly climes.  My husband bundles up in layers to go outside, just like he did in Boston.  I reach for the velvet pants and the turtlenecks when it gets dark early.  I have an ice scraper in my car.  I sympathetize as I read on Facebook about friends skidding down hills.  I check on my mother daily.  I watch the Weather Channel and gasp along with the rest of the television viewing audience- “Oh how terrible”.  And inside, I luxuriate.  Their troubles are not my troubles this year.

But I have found that the “sunny South” carries its own set of adrenaline-causing issues.  Winter here carries germs.  My poor son is sick again- for the third time this month, the fifth time since Christmas.  I was down for two weeks in January.  My daughter and I had H1N1 earlier.  My husband hasn’t had a solid week where he’s felt well since October.  My students are in the middle of mid-term stress and we are regularly out 20% of the class.

“Oh, there’s a stomach bug going around… I hear everyone’s got that cold… it’s the strangest thing, you sleep for two days straight… Strep again”.  Misery does have company when you’re sick.

I will be having my son sit in my office AGAIN while I teach a class.  We’ll be going to the doctor AGAIN tomorrow.  I can feel my own glands swelling in germy empathy AGAIN.  James and I can play the “Well, I can stay with him for a few hours and then can you take him” game AGAIN.  We’ll buy more Motrin AGAIN.  And I’ll watch more “Suite Life on Deck” AGAIN.

In Santa Fe, snow storms are coming every three days.  In Georgia, germ storms are coming every week.  I can hardly wait for Springtime….

February 22, 2010

In Defense of Teachers

Filed under: Schools — Teacher Professor @ 1:12 pm

I recently read a wonderful post on Mom-Not Otherwise Specified’s blog where she described the wonderful strategy her son’s inclusion classroom teacher used by inviting her in to speak to the class about Bud’s autism.  She had previously described this amazing classroom before, and how accepting it is.  What particularly struck me, beyond the inspiring description of the classroom her son is in, were the comments made by other parents. 

Whereas most of the commentors celebrated with her, a number of others were bitter.  “How I wish my son had this… how my heart breaks when I see my child playing alone…. I’m fighting for the inclusion of my child and the school district refuses to help…This only happens when a teacher helps it happen”.

I myself have fought the inclusion battle.  When Elizabeth was first diagnosed through First Steps and covered through the Individual Family Services Plan (IFSP), the services partially came to her- she was in a private Montessori preschool and the speech therapist and the occupational therapist went to her school- and I took her to the therapies myself.  It was a balanced approach- learn new skills in therapy, apply them at her school.  It was FABULOUS!  When she turned three and her status changed to being covered under an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), we were offered two options: full-time self-contained room for autism, or a part-time self-contained room for autism.  I didn’t want to fight the legal battle to insist on least restrictive envionment (LRE), so I took her out altogether and we (and my mother) paid for therapy privately for a while (until we went broke- but that’s a while “nother story…).  When we moved, she had improved to the degree that she no longer qualified for an IEP.  I didn’t want to fight the legal battle because I knew that the window of opportunity was so tight and she was making significant progress.  I was focused on keeping that momentum of progress going and I wasn’t going to stop for some stupid legal fight. 

Am I bitter?  A little… but because I am a professor of special education, I have a little insight. 

Districts are financially strapped.  They have way too many kids and not enough money and serious, serious pressure to do well on tests.  They provide the minimum of programming possible and can only change with legal or other significant pressure.  Even if they WANTED to change programs, the pressures to keep things as stable as possible are beyond a single administrator’s control.  It’s like a giant financial game of Jenga.  If you change one program, the entire structure shifts and sways, and administrators have to run to fix those problems. 

District-level policies and programs are set up to be adversarial.  The parent wants what’s best for their child- the district has to look at too many kids, too many needs, not enough money.  The only way to change things is to exert pressure- to sue, to go to the Board, to collect a petition, to organize a bunch of parents.  With school districts, the sueaky wheel does indeed, get the grease, but the grease is taken from somewhere else. 

I want to emphasize that there are very caring administrators.  Most administrators got into education as a teacher and are now in positions where they can make choices- and they do.  But they have to consider the entire structure of the education program- with the needs of children from poverty, children from abuse, safe schools, special needs students, gifted children, science/math/language arts standards that are changing, health programs, art and music, local politics, scheduling, and always, test scores, test scores, test scores.  A single administrator can make some incremental changes, but large changes have to come from outside- from a focused parent who has to take an adversarial role to make real change.

That’s the situation at the district level.  Things are VERY different at the school and classroom level.  At the school and classroom level, individual parents and schools truly CAN work together to improve things. 

At the school level, one principal can make a world of difference.  A principal who understands the needs of children, who supports inclusion, who works on building a collaborative environment in which learning is the outcome, not the only measure can hire teachers with similar vision, can encourage collaboration and can support school-level policies of grouping and scheduling that can mean a world of difference to a child and a parent.

And the right teacher… oh that teacher can be such a difference to a child.

In defense of individual teachers, the ones that so many parents bash, the ones that make families cry… so many of those teachers simply don’t know HOW.  They have a principal who is on their back about test scores; they have a fellow group of teachers who do not trust each other to say “Help me”; they have parents who never show up and send their child to school underfed, underdressed and exhausted.  They don’t have the skill base to know how to handle situations, and they don’t know enough to even begin to ask questions.  They don’t know how to do anything for children with special needs, other than a) send them to a special educator, and b) ignore them. 

Most teachers truly do want children to succeed.  Yes, you will find the teacher who has been teaching for 25 years and hates children, or only likes the one child who follows directions, is well-dressed and turns in immaculate work.  Do you know the number one factor that determines teachers’ saying that a child is a “good child”?  The attractiveness of the child.  Pretty children are ones that teachers like.  And so many of our children are not “pretty”, are not well-dressed and are certainly not well-behaved.

BUT, with training, with ideas, with strategies that show a teacher how the hard work of including ALL children can pay off in increased test scores, good behavior and less exhaustion, teachers can and do improve. 

And then there are good intentions.  In a class discussion last week, before I had gone over the content, I asked my college class of pre-service teachers if they would invite parents of children with special needs into the classroom to discuss those needs.  I overwhelming got a response of “No”, since they perceived that to do so would a) make the child even more uncomfortable to be talked about openly, b) highlight differences when the teachers were trying so hard to promote acceptance and commonality and c) make things worse by having the other children look for differences. 

I then tried to change their mind by talking about how differences are already noticed, that honest discussion makes things honest, that children are mean because they’re scared or they don’t understand.  And today, I will share Mom-NOS’s posting to help convince them.  But I’m not entirely sure that they are convinced…. to acknowledge a difference is sometimes scary to everyone involved. 

Parents can help with this.  If a parent volunteers to read to all students, to do the newsletter at home, to supply the class with extra pencils, teachers are more willing to learn, to hear of some ideas.  “That’s the teacher’s job,” is what many parents say- and yes, yes it is the teacher’s job.  But the teacher is also nurse, counselor, health monitor, journalist, public relations director, test-giver, test- maker, collector of data, manager of behavior… and can feel completely overwhelmed.  Any way to relieve some of this pressure can make a teacher more able to do her job. 

And if a parent wants to come and talk about her child and tell the other children how they can help, what a great gift that would be to a classroom.  Most teachers want that- but don’t know to ask.

February 20, 2010

The Time of Saudade

Filed under: Uncategorized — Teacher Professor @ 10:01 am

Debo, a friend of mine in Albuquerque, sings in a band called “Saudade”.  I’ve always liked the sound of the word as it rolls around your mouth, and I like it even more now that I know what it means…

From Wikipedia:

Saudade …saw’-da-de… is a Portuguese and Galician word for a feeling of nostalgic longing for something or someone that one was fond of and which is lost. It often carries a fatalist tone and a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might really never return.

Saudade has been described as a “vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist … a turning towards the past or towards the future”. A stronger form of saudade may be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as a lost lover, or a family member who has gone missing. It may also be translated as a deep longing or yearning for something which does not exist or is unattainable.

Saudade was once described as “the love that remains” or “the love that stays” after someone is gone. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. It can be described as an emptiness, like someone ( e.g., one’s children, parents, sibling, grandparents, friends) or something (e.g., places, pets, things one used to do in childhood, or other activities performed in the past) that should be there in a particular moment is missing, and the individual feels this absence.

Isn’t that wonderful?!  It reminds me of graduate school, of dancing next to friends in the band, of lying in the grass watching ants, of my high school boyfriend.  Of that former me and those former places.  Of my dreams of how perfect my children would be, of how perfect my life would be.

Don’t take me wrong- I quite like my life most of the time- but it’s far from perfect and it is tempered with ongoing goals.  Gotta lose 20 pounds, gotta save some more money to replace the car that is on its last legs, gotta work on being consistent with the children, gotta grade, gotta…. do a lot of things.

And I know that those times that I remember so fondly were full of their own stresses- where am I going to college?  What will I do?  Is this who I should be with?  My concerns have shrunk from intense, large, life-changing choices to the maze of the daily decisions.  Perhaps the only time that was isolated in its peace was during my first pregnancy where I floated along in a haze of hormones, feeling life kick within me, “looking for fun and feelin’ groovy”.

I read today, while waiting at the dentist’s office that “mindfulness” was a treatment for ADHD, and it struck me that Saudade is the opposite of mindfulness.  Saudade is past; mindfulness is now.  Saudade is wist; mindfulness is appreciation.  I have friends who are lost in Saudade- lost amidst the “oh, what could have been” and the “if only I had…”.

And so my new goal- to have THIS be the time of Saudade- that I will look back on and say “Oh, we were happy, so happy.”  The only way to do it is to be mindful, to be in the moment, to keep the balance between attention to the truly important little things and attention to the bigger picture.  To be wistful about right now.  To soak up the children, my family, this place, this time- and when things go wrong, to remember my way back.

Right after my jaw stops aching from this crown… Other than that, this is the time of Saudade.  Does it count if I want to change that?

February 19, 2010

Alien Abduction

Filed under: Exceptionality issues — Teacher Professor @ 2:32 pm

This morning when I woke up, my son was dressed and had made himself cereal – and was EATING it when I got up!  All before 7:00am.  After I scraped myself up off the floor, he then got his backpack, his shoes on, and rode his bike to school before 7:30, with a sweet kiss for me.

Dear Aliens,

Thank you for the child.  We greatly appreciate it.   Please keep the other one.

Sincerely,

Mama

UPDATE: The aliens brought my real son back after school.  He came in grouchy and refusing to eat.  Ah well- at least that neural track has been laid down once.  Now to find it again!

February 18, 2010

Hair Troubles

Filed under: Autism — Teacher Professor @ 2:01 pm

This morning I sent my daughter off to school looking like a ragamuffin.  Her poor hair is all in snarls and tangles and it will take serious brushing to work it out.  And poor baby cannot STAND to have a brush go through her hair.  The Scots call it “tender-haided” and since she was born, she has hated having her hair messed with.  I see cute little girls with the most darling pony tails or ribbons and I think- oh well, not us.  Of course, she has this silky, fine baby hair with a little wave to it that tangles just by blowing on it.  It’s absolutely beautiful- when it’s brushed.  I have this thick, curly hair that falls right back into place, and a scalp made of iron that doesn’t feel pain- so I can sympathize, but I can’t REALLY understand.  And of course, because she’s hitting third grade vanity, she wants to grow her hair long- a goal that I keep explaining is going to cause more tangles and more need for brushing.

So many children with autism have hair issues.  Brushing, cutting, washing… the need to groom oneself is apparently, a sensory overload.  There is no good solution- but there are some fantastic ideas that can help.  There are some hair washing trays at Walmart and other medical supply stores that can help you with washing in the sink, rather than the bath tub.  We found that singing while washing and cutting helped us.  Others have found that pairing the grooming with something positive, such as TV works.  I set up counting times- “How many brushes do you think that this will take?”  I always predict some crazy high number and then am over-the-top happy when it’s less. 

Last night I caught a moment of the show, Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC and was amused that for many, many reasons, my children would not be participating on that show- not the least of the reasons was that the toddlers’ hair was tremendously teased and bouffant and “done”.  My child’s “ragamuffin” look doesn’t look so bad after all.

February 16, 2010

Leaking

Filed under: Exceptionality issues — Teacher Professor @ 10:27 am

There are days that I am just full of rage.  Today, with the hecticness that mornings bring, my son had “the look” and yelled at his sister “Stop looking at me!”  I felt rage sweep over me and then recede, to go back to the hole into which I shove it- along with the “This isn’t fair… why me…what do I do…I just want it to STOP” emotions that I feel but cannot express, because I have to remain calm, remain calm, remain calm in the face of the emotions spilling over from one or both of the children at any given time. 

Ray was up three times last night- not a particularly bad night, but not a good one either.  All three times were “I can’t sleep.  Can I sleep with you?”  I give him a hug, walk him back to his room and tuck him in, where he lies there- eyes wide open.  Finally, at 5:30, he came into our bed.  Our rule is that he cannot sleep with us until after 5:00am.  It’s designed to keep him independent.  He would sleep in our bed every night if we let him.  He prefers to fall asleep cuddled next to someone and takes hours to fall asleep if he’s by himself.  It’s the 7-year old version of the Ferber Cry It Out method.  I worry about him when he discovers sex.  But for now, he’s 7 years old and he WILL learn to sleep on his own and we rock him to bed and we read to him and he takes baths and he reads to himself and almost every night is a challenge.  Except for the ones that aren’t.  There is no rhyme, no reason for nights where he sleeps well and nights he’s up wandering around. 

We look for patterns- are we maintaining structure?  Are we consistent?  Last night, my husband was on edge with a big project at work, so I am pulling more of the weight at home- cooking AND cleaning, doing all of bedtime duty, but nothing particularly challenging.  No tension, no undue stress.  Just tired.  And last night, Ray didn’t sleep.

So, I wake him up at 7:00 in our bed, with a tickle and a song “Time to get UP… time to get UP… time to GET up” and the change in the rhythm makes him giggle- until “the look” comes over him.  “Go away!” he shrieks, and I shove away my irritation and remind him that it’s 7:00am and we have 30 minutes to dress, eat and leave for school.  It’s a deadline that I know that we won’t make.  It regularly takes us 48 minutes to get out the door, after my making eggs for me and James, cereal for Elizabeth and oatmeal for Ray, since both of the children won’t eat anything else and I’m pre-diabetic, so I’m not  eating carbs and James drifts between eggs and oatmeal, depending on his mood.  Today, it’s eggs, so I’m scrambling two more eggs in my three-ring circus of breakfast.  And I lie about the time- “Come on folks- we’re running late!” when we’re not.  James is a big help here, cycling back and forth between our room where he is dressing, and the two children’s room- reminding them of the time. 

Elizabeth is fairly self-sufficient.  She’s dressed herself after I turned on the light with a few obligatory “Nooooo’s” and she eats her cereal in silence, every now and then organizing her day.  “I have computer today…  Do you have PE, Ray?”  I have to check Ray to make sure he’s put on underwear, since he likes to see if he can go unfettered on a regular basis.  Ray comes to the table, and talks- about the day, about the cat, about the dog, about James’ suit he’s wearing to meet visiting Important People.  He talks until I notice that he’s not eating.  “Eat, Ray,” I remind him. 

“I AM!” he shrieks at me and I ignore the tone because he’s asking for a showdown and I’m not going to give it to him- I’m not.  He moves his vitamin I’ve put near his bowl to the center of the table, and I put it back in front of him.  I find it, later, after he’s gone, under the placemat.  He stirs his oatmeal, that I’ve just cooked by stirring with one hand, while scrambling eggs with the other, while monitoring the micorowave for my tea and calling out “Brush your hair!”, and moves it to the side, making a hole in the middle that looks like he’s eaten.  I worry about his day- tired, and hungry and irritable- and I KNOW that food will help him. I remind him that he needs to eat to feel good.  “How many bites?” he asks.  It is a daily negotiation we go through- 5 bites here, 7 bites there.  Trying to get vitamins and nutrients into him. 

“Where’s my backpack?” he asks and I tamp down the irritation again.  It is now 7:45 and we are in the hustle and bustle of coats and bags and getting the dog to go to the bathroom again before I take her to Doggy Day Care.  “That’s your job to keep track of it,” I remind him and reach down to get my school bag, and lo!  There is his backpack under my bag, right by the front door, where they belong.  “Here it is,” I reply and open the door.  And I look at him.  It is 34 degrees and he is in a t-shirt, ready to walk out the door.  “Need to wear a coat,” I remind him.  “It’s cold.” The look.  He drags himself to his room and comes out wearing a sweatshirt.  “No, a coat,” I say.  He comes back with two sweatshirts on.  “If that’s your choice,” I say.  “They might not let you outside in that”.  A glower for a response.  I justify to myself that at least he’s well-layered and we head out the door, the dog pulling on her leash.

As we sit down in the car, Elizabeth has her head turned, staring out the window on the other side.  “Stop STARING at me!” yells Ray, and Elizabeth starts crying.  “I’m NOT!”  I am tempted, for just one moment, to haul him out of the car and spank him REALLY HARD, but I can’t and I don’t… remain calm, remain calm, remain calm.  “Ray, she’s allowed to look at thing.  Back off!” 

And we make it to school with 2 minutes to spare, which is too close to late for me to feel comfortable, knowing that the margin of error is so tight. 

I’m tired and I’m irritable and I’m full of rage when he pushes my buttons or goes after his sister, and it is very, very, very hard for me to keep finding my calm space when I know that it is so necessary.  That I have to pick my battles.  That he is tired and irritable and not aware of his own need for food.  That positive reinforcement works for him, but this week we’re focusing on homework issues, not breakfast.  That every day is a gauntlet, “What is Ray’s mood today?”  That this day is not an unusual day, nor a particularly hard one…

I also find myself being grateful- that he is not destructive, that he did not have a tantrum today, that he has friends, that we made it on time, that he’s doing fairly well in school, that I have James to help me.  It could be much, oh so much worse.  And I know that this is just part of parenting.  But today… today I’m tired and that place where I shove those emotions is leaking a little.

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