Friday, February 10, 2012

The Story of Bear

Warning! Long post ahead... proceed with caution. :)

An afternoon with Bear can go from a fun-loving, joking afternoon to an ugly battle of the wits in less than 60 seconds flat. I really try to have patience with him, but I find the older he gets and the older I get, the less patience I tend to have. It seems that his pessimistic attitude runs all over me. I am a 100% go-getter in virtually everything I do. I try not to quit at anything so that my children don't learn the lesson of giving up. I also pride myself in being a good mommy! Maybe not 100% of the time, but 95% is still an A. But with Bear sometimes, it isn't enough. He gets frustrated easily, doesn't want to try, and is flat out difficult. He believes that if it's above his "skill set" then why bother.

I don't even know how to cope most days and it's a struggle! Now we compound that with him hating school/teacher, not really having friends here in Germany, missing Maryland, missing Dad who is deployed, and what you have is Debbie Downer taking up residence in my home.

But after all that I- I mean we- have been through with Bear, and all that we have worked to achieve, it frustrates me to see him this way. To hear him speak so down about everything. I am not sure what to do for him or how to get through to him.

I really wish I knew.

Here is the story of Bear.

He was probably about 4-6 months here.

Bear's was an normal pregnancy and an easy delivery. I should have known it wouldn't always be that easy! We brought him home and he was a difficult little man. Always hungry. Never enough boob to satiate him. Colicky to boot, and had to drink soy milk. Jacked up sleep patterns, unhappy baby, always fussing or crying.

We get through those first few months, and life got a bit better. He was always a bit cranky, and not always happy but we dealt with it.

Bear walked at 8 months and was progressing like a little boy on roller skates, just breezing past everything. Still a bit cranky, but Bear-able. (Couldn't resist!) We PCSed around his 1st birthday. For all the non-military folks, PCS is a Permanent Change of Station, essentially the Army moved us. We moved to NC. Life was trucking right along.

I wasn't working in those first few months. Bear was doing great and loving the warm weather.  He had a growing vocabulary but nothing like The Princess had at 12-18 months. However they tell you boys can progress slower, and because he was the 3rd child (at the time we had custody of my step son), it was possible that he had older siblings to do the talking for him. Got it! No worries.

Eighteen month well-baby appointment.

Doctor says "He has over 50 -100 words in his vocabulary right?" "Um, not even close?" I respond, completely worried. So we take this questionnaire home and come back for another visit. More testing, more observations. Bear wasn't in day care or anything related because I was still not working. However, the doctor believes it might be Autism, and sends me to the county for more evaluations.

So what was he like? He was becoming a pill at this time. He wouldn't play with toys. He couldn't communicate unless he was pointing and crying or screaming. He couldn't go into restaurants to eat because once he was done eating he wouldn't sit in his high chair or stay seated anywhere. We basically had a normally progressing child at 12 months, and an impossible bear at 18 months.

In the meantime, I got a job. It was chaos trying to find him daycare as the county was labeling him Autistic, and few were able to handle a special needs child. Yes, he was truly displaying signs of perhaps some developmental delay if not exactly Autism. This was when I decided to go into teaching. Partly because of the school schedule, but also to be close to my children and have more time with them. I did what I thought would be best at the time, and got a teaching job. (Which by the way, I absolutely loved- still love- even if I never had considered it my calling before that moment!)

I worked my ass off to get Bear into a pre-school program in the county we lived and I taught in. I pulled a few strings and we got it done. We met for an IEP meeting, and Bear was on his way towards more structure and learning than the average daycare could provide. He had goals and strategies in place to help him progress. That was a huge milestone.

Bear never had imaginative play. Didn't like cars. Never made them go VROOM on the carpet. Never made dinosaurs ROAR. He just wasn't that type of child. You could sit him down with an educational computer game or search and find stuff on the computer, that he could and love to do. Give him a mouse, controller, touch screen computer that was his thing.  It was what he enjoyed and excelled at. So the older kids had a PS2 which soon became Bear's PS2. He could figure out how to make Jak & Daxter jump, play, knock shit over in the game. It was developing his language and his ability to communicate as a result of the games. So we went with it.

Just after his 2nd birthday. See what's in his hands?

Two years later, I could see a HUGE improvement! Between structured preschool and the outlet provided by the computer and PS2 games, he was no longer throwing as many horrible shit fits. He could "use his words" to communicate. He could follow directions. We could take him places for short spurts of time and not have a meltdown. We could even understand him now and we could talk to each other, for the most part. He graduated pre-school and I was so happy I cried! He was so happy too! It was a HUGE DEAL! I remember him saying "I did good, Mommy!" You did AMAZING Bear!

My Bear on graduation day! June 2006

Don't get me wrong there were still social issues and speech issues, as well as behavioral issues. We didn't take him to a it-down restaurant until he was almost 5! Even Golden Corral was an ordeal and the food is already prepared (buffet) so you don't have to wait! At any rate....Army said Go North, Clan of the Macs. So North we headed to MD.

Bear started kindergarten in MD with a brand new IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Speech therapy, occupational therapist, psychologist and a whole host of other team members to try to facilitate his learning. He made it through kindergarten, but not without effort. And LOTS of it! But HOLY shit did we make progress! By November of Bear's kindergarten year he was actually able to sit in a restaurant, and get his hair cut at a salon without having to hold him down and buzz cut him! I was so proud! Milestones. Every last one of them.

At the start of first grade we opted for a one-on-one, which is essentially an aide designated just for Bear's help. This woman was fabulous! His one-on-one coupled with all the other people helping at school and us working at home, and Bear no longer needed speech or occupational therapy by the end of first grade. PROGRESS! Oh did I forget to mention that I was "in his business" the whole time?(insert sarcastic snort)

Matt and Ms. G.

For first grade and the bulk of second grade, Mrs. G helped Bear in the classroom by keeping him on task, helping him when he would start to meltdown, keeping him organized and at times just letting him rub her hand. Bear went through a phase where to soothe himself he would rub you, and Mrs. G helped him through all of this. Bear made REAL progress! He was excelling in school and loving every minute of it. And yes there I was behind the scenes and in front of the curtain making decisions and pushing him along. Doing homework and going to IEP meetings to make sure his goals were being met and he was where he should be. 

Bear graduated from Special Education and an IEP in May of second grade. He no longer needed a one-on-one, and his speech and social skills were incredible. They no longer even sought to label him Autistic. WOW! My son went from not being about to speak at 18 months to being able to get through an entire day of school and not meltdown. All through the combined efforts of people who cared.

He is now 10 years old soon to be 11 in March. I don't know that I would ever categorize my children as normal. I think they are too exceptional to be normal children. Bear functions in a classroom like every other child. He does his work, hates homework and sometimes forgets to turn in his completed assignments. Socially he is a bit more sensitive than the average fifth grader. He is intuitive and kind, and we often say he is an 'old soul' trapped in a boys body. Because sometimes the things he says, I am convinced he was already 70 years old in a former life. He is smart, has an awesome and quite diverse vocabulary and was recently in his school's Spelling Bee. He is still a gamer and that is ok. Because at times he talks about being a graphic designer or gamer designer.... so I will take it. He is finishing up his Webelos Scouts and receiving his Arrow of Light. All things that when he was 2, I never thought possible. All things that I cried and mourned the possibility of losing.

No matter what though, I am proud of all his accomplishments. I am proud to be raising a resilient, sensitive young man who is kind hearted and loving.

He worries that I don't have a high opinion of him. He thinks I blog about him because maybe I don't have a positive opinion about him. You are so wrong young Padawan!

So Bear, when you read my posts and want to know what I think of you.... I love you with all my heart. I am so proud of you in ways that only words can begin to express. You are a masterpiece in the making. Whatever you do, just don't give up. Always keep trying. Because what you have accomplished is already one for the blogs. :)

On the train back from Nuremberg Dec 2011

Here's to...

I learned today that if you let what seems like an average cold go too long, it turns into pneumonia.

Yup. I got pneumonia.

The ironic part is that we planned a girls night out tomorrow, and this girl is forced to stay in. Are the gods conspiring against me? Uggh... 

Here's to 875mg of a horse pill to knock out this infection.

Here's to shortness of breath and feeling like every step is a chore.

Here's to a clogged ear that is collecting fluid and will not Valsalva.

Here's to lung lobe with fluid in it.

Here's to a hacking cough that sounds deadly.

Here's to a hubby far far away and no one to pamper Mom when I'm sick.

Here's to the shitty business of being sick...alone.

Bah Humbug and it ain't Christmas!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thank You Very Much

Kmama over at The Daily Dribbles has a section titled Thank You Very Much where she sarcastically thanks the things that have pissed her off. Since I am having a craptabulous week (yea, I know its only Tuesday) I thought I would share in her thanksgiving spirit. So here it goes...

To the Proctologist Drivers (you know who you are) I appreciate the fact that your schedule is always more important than everyone else's, but riding my ass down a two lane highway isn't going to encourage me to go faster. I will go as fast or as slow as I want regardless of your proximity to my rear, Thank You Very Much!

To my wonderful, loving body. We have been working hard at exercising, eating great healthy foods, drinking plenty of water and making sure to get at least 6 hrs of sleep a night. How do you repay me? You pick up one of the worst head & chest colds ever. Thank You Very Much!

To the Internal Revenue Service and the ghosts of Congresses past, a hearty Thank You Very Much for making the tax code so g-damned difficult it requires a PhD (Piled higher and Deeper) to file your taxes. I have received a piece of tax information in the mail everyday since January 25 and I am afraid I am still not done. And you wonder why people wait until the very last minute to file? It takes MONTHS to get all the damned paperwork! The tax code is so difficult in order to keep more assholes in a job! Thanks again!

To Intellectual Property and Broadcasting laws/lawyers all around the globe, Thank You Very Much! I truly get and understand the ideals and principals behind intellectual property, and I support it. However, as an American living abroad, I am missing out on shows, news and other media information simply because I don't have a stateside IP. I wasn't feeling isolated enough, now throw in some copyright laws, and GEMA (whoever the hell that is), and I can't see a damned thing online. Watched the SuperBowl online through NBC, but they cut out the commercials and half-time show. Really? A double thanks for that!

I am sure there is plenty more to be grateful about, but its only Tuesday. I should save some venom for the rest of the week! ;)

Banning the word "sure"

In my house we don't use the word whatever. It's rude, dismissive, and shows complete indifference towards the person and the matter being discussed. It is basically the nicest way to tell someone to f*ck off without that foulness of using the F-word. For the obvious reasons, I don't let my kids use whatever  when speaking. (They can't use the F-word either, in case you were wondering.)

I have smart kids though.

In the game of words they have found the perfect pinch hitter that subs in quite nicely for whatever. 


Now you might be thinking its a stretch. But the manner in which my 10 year and 16 year employ sure make it a half-sister to whatever.

For example:
(Notice that whatever could be interchanged in these examples.)
 Mom: "Do you want meat loaf for dinner?"
 Bear:  "Sure."
 Mom: "Would you rather have chicken?"
 Bear:  "Sure."
 Mom: "What about shit-kabobs?"
 Bear: "Sure. Wait, what?"
 Mom: "That's what I thought."

 Mom: "Princess, you have laundry to get done. Are you going to do it?"
 Princess: "Sure, Mom."
 Mom" "Gonna clean your room and your bathroom, too?
 Princess: "Sure, Mom."

Seems like I am nit picking? Maybe a little bit. However, when every time I want to get their opinion on something I have to think about the question and phrase it properly so that there is no way to elicit a sure response, word-smithing can be exhausting.

The word doesn't get to me as much as the dismissive attitude behind it.

But that's just kids being kids, right?

Don't say sure.