Monthly Archives: September 2008

We are Family

Perhaps it was seeing the boys in their fall clothes for the first time this season, or maybe that I realized we were fairly well color coordinated (!), but something inspired me to take some photos before school today.  Now I wish I’d grabbed a neighbor to capture the four of us together.

Here are a few of my favorites (the full set is here).

And this one sums things up nicely these days:

Okay, but to be fair, there’s also a lot of this:

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From the Random, Mixed-Up Files of Mr. Lyle S. Frankweiler

Me, wishing we were having something other than pasta for dinner tonight:  “Wow, do you smell that, Lyle?  Someone’s grilling meat outside.  It smells really good! I think it’s steak.”

Lyle, looking up from his trains: “Hmm.  I think it smells like an anchorman.”

Me, sure I’d heard wrong:  “A what?”

Lyle: “An anchorman.”

Me, stunned: “Lyle, do you know what an anchorman is?”

Lyle, definitively: “Yes!  It’s someone who sells ink.”

My Son’s Bitchin’ Spelling List

Coming across my third grader’s school backpack today as I was cleaning up the house, I stopped to take a look at the homework he had completed after school yesterday with our babysitter (how awesome is she?).  In his agenda notebook, I found the first spelling list of the year.

Now, let me preface this by saying that Baxter attends a Chicago Public School that is a literature and writing magnet program (and now has technology magnet status as well), and each child has his or her own individual spelling list each week, which I love.  In previous years, the teachers started with the grade level words that are supposed to be mastered that year and then later pulled misspelled words from the kids’ own pieces of writing to create their lists.  I knew from the form that had come home that Baxter had only missed one of the third grade words, different, and so I was not surprised to see that word at the top of his list.  The rest, however, mystified – and then completely stunned – me.  Read on:

1. different

2. gadget

3. barricade

4. bastion

5. batiste

6. baton

7. bayberry

8. bistro

9. bitch

10. blacklist

Yes, bitch is one of my son’s spelling words for this week. [Never mind the randomness of the rest of the list.]

Here is the conversation that ensued:

Me: “Um, Bax, I was just looking at your spelling words.  I’m wondering, where did these words come from?”

Baxter: “Well, I got different wrong on the test, and Ms. B gave me gadget for some reason.  Then, since there weren’t any more words, she told me I should go to the dictionary and find words I didn’t know, and add those to my list, so I started in the B’s and found these words.”

Ah.

Me: “Do you know what all of these mean?”

Baxter: “I looked up four of them to write sentences about on Friday, but I don’t know the others yet.”

Me, after asking a couple other definitions, I asked casually, “How about this one?  Number 9.  Bitch?”

Baxter: “I told you I haven’t looked them all up!  I don’t know.”

Me: “Remember I told you that there are some swear words people say sometimes and you wanted to know what they are?”

Baxter, hazel eyes growing wide behind the blue frames: “Yes?”

Me: “Well, um, bitch is one of those words that has two meanings, sweetie.”

Baxter, brightening: “Yeah!  Like zest!”

[Yes. He did.]

Me: “Right.  Like zest.” [How did I not crack up during this conversation?]

I went on to give him two definitions of bitch, including the not-so-nice one.

He was mortified, and worried, but came back later and said, “But Ms. B won’t think I meant anything bad, because she knows I was just looking up words I don’t know, right?”

Right.  That and I’ll be giving her a heads up over email this weekend.

Why, You!

You know that I love the Google searches that bring people to The Wonderwheel.

In the past few days, I see that there have been a few decent ones:

thunderstorm chicago – august 23rd, 2007  [clearly, living in the past – a very specific date in the past]

all about me story third grade  [8-year old searching for cliff notes?]

jorden stadler [almost there, sweetheart, but not quite]

obama can speak articulately [this is true, but when did i become the expert?]

But this one that I caught from today really cracked me up:

who does jordan sadler like?

I picture a seventh grader, don’t you?  There’s some cute guy with my name out there, and the lovestruck girl who sits behind him in math class is hoping that the answer to the cosmic question of who he likes can be answered on Google.  Because what can’t you find on Google?

I’ve decided to answer it for her.

It’s YOU, honey.  Guaranteed.  How could he not like a funny, smart, sweet kid like you?  And maybe he’ll ask you out, oh, in college, because until then boys are awfully awkward.

Now get serious.  Pay attention to that geometry, because if you don’t learn it now, you never will.

Check Out this Blog

I’ve been meaning for a while to share with you a wonderful blog I have recently discovered (thanks, Stacy!).  It is called Half Full: Science for Raising Happy Kids and is on the Greater Good Science Center website at UC Berkeley.  The blog is written by Christine Carter, who is a mom and the executive director of GGSC.

There are so many parenting topics I am always wanting to sit down and write about, but I think Christine has already covered a great many of them on her blog, so please head over and read it…you might like “7 Ways to Foster Creativity in Your Kids” and “How to Stop Being a Perfectionist“, which are two recent entries, but I encourage you to go back and read as much as you can.  I find myself nodding vigorously and wanting to thank Christine for each and every post at this site, so it really deserves an official shout out.

Enjoy!

Do All the Good You Can

As I helped my last client of the day recreate the blanket fort he built in therapy last week, it dawned on me that I mentioned this the last time I posted here, which can only mean it’s been a full week since I wrote.

There are so many post fragments floating in and out of my consciousness, with no time to sit and write any of them down.  I find myself both working intensively on things that need to be done right now and simultaneously trying to play a massive game of catch-up.  On Saturday night I stayed up late and finally responded to emails that I had flagged as “important” back in late July/early August.  I have reports that I meant to write in July that remain unfinished, and because no one is asking for them (they aren’t initial reports, just testing done on kids I still see) they have not moved up in the queue.  Yesterday I spent five straight hours calculating my income and expenses from May through the present and estimating income for me and my new full-time employee, in order to meet with my accountant today.  The to do list is long and self-perpetuating, and everything on it is rather critical.

And so the posts just continue to gather dust in my mind as I tend to these other things right now, but as you know I am still trying to read and comment on what you all have to say.  Tonight I read a very nice post by Mari, a great writer on my blogroll from Australia.  I enjoyed the whole post, but my favorite part was this quote by John Wesley, which serves to remind me of exactly why I am so busy right now and makes me feel a little bit better about it:

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

Lovely, no?

Hope.

I drove home this evening in the cloudy, blue-grey twilight.  As I approached my own neighborhood, I caught sight of two flocks of Canada Geese high above the tree line, making their V-shaped way to warmer climes.

Although I was taken aback, it fit.  I was aware of the early darkening sky as I finished up with my last client at 4:30 pm today; the light in our therapy room felt noticeably different.   It wasn’t just because I had dimmed the lights for a boy who came in anxious and unable to concentrate.  I had helped him make a blanket fort and then turned out the lights, allowing him to calm down on his own until he emerged from under the heavy blanket five minutes later, ready to work.  No, it was the outside sky that was darkening early.

These are dark days in most every way, it seems.  American bank failures and bail outs, hurricane after hurricane slamming us, wars around the world, a treasured writer committing suicide over the weekend, a train crash in Los Angeles, rain flooding my own city that left damp spots on our ceiling, and this damnable Presidential campaign in which far too many people are taking a ridiculous pair of candidates seriously.

I have also become aware of one challenge inherent in adding “cyber friends” to the lively and beloved group of friends I’ve made over the years, and this is that, like anyone else, they have their ups and downs.  This is as it should be – they are real people, after all – and yet it means that I am also tuned in to the fact that Mrs. Chicken’s newborn baby has been in the hospital for the past few days, that Slouching Mom is suddenly dealing with yet another major family emergency, that Niksmom is really struggling to get a decent night’s sleep, and that multiple friends are suffering from debilitating migraines these days.  Riding these waves with our friends is simply something that goes with the territory of a strong friendship, and making connections online has brought more wonderful friends into my life than I’d have ever expected.  Somehow it seems as if many of my friends are struggling at the moment, in sync with the rest of the world.  It’s a lot to carry.

But as the night comes early and the geese are on their way out, I do what I can to bring light, laughter, and stability to my family for a couple hours and I think about these friends I have – from coast to coast, overseas, right next door, with some accessible to me instantaneously in seemingly futuristic ways – and my sadness is gradually replaced with gratitude.  Yes, gratitude: because I know that just as I watch over our world from where I stand here in the middle of America, keeping company with fears at once both enormous and minute, so do they.

So do they.

This fills me with hope.

Enjoy, Wonderfriends.

It’s time to make it as clear as possible that this election matters and the choice of Gov. Palin as Republican VP candidate is S.C.A.R.Y

This little ditty from Micheal Seitzman at The Huffington Post helps.

Dontcha think?

Intro: New Preschool Class

Some of you have requested more information about the new SCERTS-based preschool class that my colleague and I just launched this week.  I will be happy to provide that, with ongoing updates.  Tonight I’ll give you the basic overview.

We have developed a small, highly individualized class called L.E.E.P. into Communication, and it is designed for a group of children ages 4-6 with social communication and emotional regulation challenges.  We meet five mornings a week for three hours a day.  My colleague is there all five mornings, I am there three days a week, and we have three Assistant Teachers who are there all five days.  In addition, we currently have a psychology intern from Loyola University and may get an intern from Erikson Institute and a speech/language intern from Northwestern University.  Our ratio rarely drops below 1:1.

In addition to having a Developmental Therapist and an SLP (me!) running the program, we have hired an excellent Occupational Therapist and a Clinical Psychologist to consult to the program once a month.  This means that they will visit, observe, and provide us with any additional suggestions and observations that would benefit the kids.  The OT and psychologist are both DIR/Floortime experts, with one of them being an ICDL Faculty member.  Beginning next month, we will also have a specialist coming to do music/art therapy with the kids once a week.

This being what I refer to as our SCERTS-based, DIR/Floortime-informed program, it is highly focused on both communication and each child’s social-emotional development.  It is also very family-centered.  Our goals incorporate the parents’ priorities and areas of greatest concern.  We present proposed initial goals to the parents and adjust them if necessary.  We spent 6-8 hours completing a full SCERTS Assessment Plan on each of the children, which included a great deal of video review from the clinic and the home (we went to all homes and videotaped the child for an hour in natural routines).  The parents are asked to meet with us every 6-7 weeks to review progress and discuss how things are going at school and at home, so we have a rotating schedule which allows us to meet with one family each week throughout the year.

The program is truly cutting edge in terms of its philosophy and guiding principles.  It is aligned with the most current and appropriate best practices guidelines out there for kids with Autism Spectrum and Related Disorders, and it shows.

From the minute the kids arrived on Monday morning, they were happy and relaxed.  We had the environment set up in a way that enticed each of the children into a regulating activity, whether it was a favorite swing, play doh, or animal puzzles.  We have visual aides everywhere you look, and use music and singing to help with transitions throughout the school day.  Kids take movement breaks in a ball pit, a resistance tunnel, on their choice of swings (e.g., boat swing, bungee swing, huge lycra) when they need to, and then re-engage with the group.  We also spent four days providing intensive training to our staff, which meant that everyone knew the kids’ needs, favorite activities, motivators, and how they expressed dysregulation as individuals (e.g., one child’s toe-walking is another child’s recitation of the alphabet) before they arrived.

Although we worked incredibly hard to prepare an envirnonment and staff perfectly suited to this group of children, we were still shocked at the ease with which the kids moved through these five days.  From Floortime play to Morning Circle to TEACCH stations to lunch or art or cooking projects, the kids transitioned well and without any meltdowns.  Seriously.  No meltdowns.  I didn’t see or hear of one all week.  We took a lot of videos and photos!

Speaking of videos and photos, I’ve created an online group for the parents and staff of the program as one of our lines of communication (in addition to the daily notes we type up and hand them on their way out).  It’s been a great way to make announcements and share information with everyone this week, and tonight I put up a lot of photos for the parents.

I could go on and on (some would argue that I already have!), but these are the basics of what we are offering.  I’ll update you through the year about how it’s all going, but I will say that – judging by the progress we’ve observed just from Monday to Friday this week – we are going to see some kids whose development looks very different in June than it does today.

And remember the best part: without tantrums.

The Unraveling of September 11

I was aware that Baxter didn’t know about September 11th, 2001.  It had occurred to me that at some point he would find out, or I’d need to tell him, but that day hadn’t arrived quite yet.

What I realized today is that the telling of what happened on that day is not only exceedingly difficult to speak aloud without crying, but is a process that needs to unfold slowly with our children, the ones who weren’t around yet on that date or who were just 10-month old babies nursing in our arms when we switched on the news that morning.

Baxter heard about the Twin Towers for the first time at school today and learned that they are gone because a plane crashed into them.  Just hearing those words coming from him left me choked up.  But then I discovered that he didn’t know it wasn’t an accident.

Because how could something like that not be an accident, you know?  In the eyes of a child?  How can we apply the words “on purpose” to an event such as that?  Does that not shift the balance of good and evil in that child’s mind for good?

I did that today as we drove from school to an appointment together.  I had to say “it was done on purpose” and when he asked why, I needed to tell him it was done by people who were very, very angry with our country and felt that killing others – and themselves – was the only way to get what they wanted.  I explained in general terms that this is why someone has deemed it necessary that we take off our shoes and put our chap stick and asthma inhalers in quart-size baggies at the airport, shuffling his Webkinz and Harry Potter books through an x-ray machine when we want to visit his grandparents.

I pulled out the horrifying word terrorist and handed it to him, fingers dangling it far as far from my body as possible so as not to see it or smell it.

I don’t want that word to be in his mind, because, well, I guess maybe if I’m honest I feel that if it’s part of my young child’s world view then it really exists. Once our young innocents know about Osama bin Laden and the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and the other flights?  Well, it’s a whole hell of a lot more real.

Nothing even close to the full story came out today, but I answered his questions as honestly as I could without scaring him more than I had to.  I can see this is a topic that we’ll be coming back to many times over the years as our children try to wrap their minds around the horror of it and what it meant.

As will the rest of us.