Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What the Heck. . .

. . .is going on in Mexico that everyone suddenly wants to move there?

Did I ever tell you that my sister, Tara, and her family are spending the school year in Lo de Marcos, Mexico? She left in August. Did I tell you this? Did I? Did I? I have an infamously faulty memory.

So I was sad that they were going. We knew for a long time that they would go. They probably would have gone sooner if we hadn't moved. For years they've been talking about going somewhere for a "foreign living" experience and finally settled on Mexico. I was in denial about it for a long time. I just got used to talking to her multiple times a day and seeing her multiple times a week and now--cold turkey. It's weird.

But they're having a good time and I know they'll be back. It's only ten months total.

Then two weeks ago my BFF, Marci, informed me that her husband's job is taking them to. . .Mexico. . .for THREE YEARS.

What's up with that? Has everyone suddenly gone mad for tacos and churros? Are sombreros becoming the fashion rage and I just don't know it and am about to miss out on something?

I don't know, but I feel annoyed at Mexico.

Erin has a lot of slack to pick up. I think she's already tired of me calling every 10 minutes. It's going to be a long 10 months/3 years for her.

We can all keep track of Marci on her blog though: www.wearemakingarunfortheborder.blogspot.com.

Adios, mi amiga! No beba el agua!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Successful Day

"Finn had a good day," were his teacher's exact words.

Now when I asked Finn about his day, he happened to mention, "I hit some kid." Nice. Why? "He was making a lot of noise and wouldn't be quiet." So we had a discussion that we don't hit people (as if we'd apparently never had conversations before that we don't hit people). He did get a "time out" as a result: he had to clean up the toy area. Much more to my liking than sitting facing the wall.

And then we had a further discussion about repercussions at home if he is hitting people at school. Don't want you to think I'm lax on discipline or anything.

A Good Start

Given that it's only 10:13am on Monday morning, I don't really have anything to report except that dropping Finn off at school this morning was uneventful. Did you hear that? UNEVENTFUL! Never have I been so excited to write that word before.

Normally, Sunday would be a day of dread for Finn. A day filled with, "I don't want to go to school tomorrow." Bedtime would be a drag--prolonged with angst, anxiety and inability to sleep. Not so this weekend. Never once did he say he didn't want to go to school. A small step, but an important one.

I feel anxious because I feel like we're "on trial." I still feel like people think Finn's SPD issues are behaviors that just need to be disciplined out of him.

Time will tell.

I did see Finn's former teacher this morning. Slightly awkward.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Still at Home

I'm here to report that there's nothing to report. Finn and Declan both are home from school today. What the?

First, as you know, Finn has been home all week because of The Final Straw with his former teacher. What happened was that on Sunday, Eamonn and Finn both ate some chicken that had been in the refrigerator too long. Only neither of them was sick yet by the time the boys went to school Monday morning. Over the course of the morning at school, Finn began complaining to his teacher that his stomach hurt. Soon he was crying and saying he needed to throw up. Apparently the teacher didn't think that a child who has vomited more times in 3 1/2 years than most people will in a lifetime could actually know that he needed to throw up. So the teacher refused to let Finn go to the bathroom or go to the nurse's office saying, "I don't believe you." Finn kept crying and saying he needed to be sick and eventually he threw up all over his table. I can't imagine--sitting there with that feeling that you're about to throw up and not being allowed to leave the room. This was the first time that I felt totally irrational about Finn's situation and felt like going over to the school and confronting the teacher and just screaming at him. But I didn't.

As I was driving home from Utah, I got a call from the school that someone needed to pick Finn up. Fortunately Eamonn was still close to home and went to get Finn. After I got home I was talking to Finn about getting sick at school and asking why he didn't go to the bathroom and the whole story came out. That was when Eamonn and I agreed that Finn wouldn't go back to school until the situation was resolved.

Finn spent the rest of the day in a great deal of discomfort--a lot of stomach cramping and vomiting. He couldn't even keep small sips of liquid down. And then Eamonn's vomiting kicked in. There is a bug going around school, but we're pretty convinced that it was a mild case of food poisoning because Eamonn and Finn ate the chicken and Declan didn't. And Eamonn is one of those people who never gets sick. The last time he was sick was in 2001 when he had shingles. Seriously. Declan has shown no signs of being sick and now, I haven't either, even after being in very close proximity to the offending bodily fluids.

So Tuesday was spent recuperating. Finn really didn't eat much that day--mostly crackers and a baked potato.

Yesterday Finn's eating was pretty much business as usual. It was his birthday and because he wasn't starting in his new room until Thursday, he was still home. He ate mostly normal food and requested McDonald's for his birthday lunch. I drove through the first snow of the year to take him and all seemed well.

In the late afternoon, we went over to school and met with Finn's new teacher. We briefed her on Finn's background and she went over the schedule with him. He spends time in her room four days a week and he seemed comfortable in there.

We came home and ate Finn's birthday dinner--his favorite tortellini--and "chocolate pie" which he had requested as his birthday cake.

Everything was fine at bedtime. The boys asked to sleep together in Finn's bed, which they usually only do on weekends, but we said it was OK because it was Finn's birthday.

At 2am, Finn woke up screaming and vomiting. I have to confess, I haven't seen vomit like that since the chemo days. I forgot how much that kid can project. It took us two hours to get everyone cleaned up, settled down and back to sleep. The dirty laundry generated is still in progress.

So Finn is home for obvious reasons. Declan is home because he's exhausted and has huge circles under his eyes.

I'm counting down the minutes until we all take naps.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Tonight we got the word: On Thursday Finn will start in a new classroom.


Let the new angst begin. Because I've always got to have a littlst angst going on somewhere apparently.

So we told Finn at bedtime that he would be moving to a new classroom and he was really excited. It isn't Mrs. Angel's classroom, however. Our OT, after spending time in three classrooms on Monday, made a different recommendation based on several factors, one of which is the mix of kids already in each room. Mrs. Angel has some really challenging kids, three of whom the OT suspects are undiagnosed sensory kids, and is very concerned that putting Finn into the mix will be like dropping a match into a powder keg. No good.

The room the OT chose for Finn is a room where he already goes each day for reading so he has a relationship with this teacher already. According to the OT, this teacher, we'll call her Miss P, has a very caring attitude towards the kids, but also has a lot of structure, which Finn seems to crave. She is a mentor teacher at the school and so has a lot of experience under her belt. She was also the school's teacher of the year last year.

And ironically, a few weeks ago, Finn asked out of the blue, "Why can't I be in Miss P's class?" So he already had her on the brain and felt connected with her.

I have already exchanged e-mails with Miss P and we will be going to visit her room tomorrow evening so that Finn can spend some time with her one on one to prepare him for his first day in the class on Thursday.

I'm happy to have him at home another day. Tomorrow is his 6th birthday and I'm surprised he isn't already downstairs asking to open presents. We told him he had to stay in bed until 6:45am!

We feel good about the direction we're heading. Time will tell if this will be a good fit or not, but we felt we wanted to give it a try. If it doesn't work for some reason, it tells us that we probably need to consider something more non-traditional for Finn at this point, but we have high hopes that Miss P and her teaching experience will help us salvage Finn's kindergarten year.

And now it's time to wrap presents.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Home for Now

How many more times can I come here and post totally absurd information about Finn and school and have you keep believing me?

Is this a rhetorical question? I'm not even sure. And I'm the one writing this post.

We had such high hopes that today would bring us the answers we all sought--that Finn's OT would have a cut and dried answer for us about which room would be best for him. And that he would move there right away. Then rainbows would appear in the sky, flowers would bloom (even though I think it might be snowing), and a band of angels would burst into the Halleluah Chorus.

Yada yada yada. (That Seinfeld episode was on tonight so it's on my brain) As if.

While the OT did give an impressive summation of the classrooms and does have a recommendation, unfortunately NONE of the rooms is ideal, which of course, is realistic when you think about it. How could any of the rooms be absolutely perfect? It was silly of me to think it would be an easy thing. Surprisingly, her top recommendation isn't Mrs. Angel's classroom because of the mix of challenging kids she already has. Plus, we don't even know if the OT's top teacher pick even wants to take on the challenges that having Finn moved to her room will present. The principal didn't call me back today. Probably because she's trying to figure all of this out, too.

I feel disheartened.

To make matters worse, there was an incident between Finn and his teacher today, and I don't even have the heart to write about it tonight, that has prompted us to make the decision that Finn will not return to school until this situation is resolved. As far as we are concerned, Finn will never return to the classroom he has been in so far this year.

For now, I'm going to try to get some sleep. I drove back from a great weekend at Erin's to discover that Eamonn and Finn have a horrible stomach virus. It could be a long night.

Did I mention I feel disheartened?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Maybe I Missed My Calling

Yep, it's a Thursday night Two-Fer. There's another new post below this, so read on. . .

My first job out of college was for Quest International. Quest is a "skills for living" curriulum for kids that teaches, among other things, life skills, service to others, and drug and alcohol education. My job was in media relations. With my degree in Journalism, this was right up my alley. As an aside, when I was in high school, I was the worst Quest student ever. It was spring semester of senior year. Need I go on?

But I loved my job at Quest. First, I worked in a mansion (not kidding--you can check it out at: http://www.bryndu.com/Home.html). It was in the amazing little town of Granville, which was quite a drive each day, but I loved being in a rural setting. Anyway, something else I loved was that the Quest executive team was made up almost entirely of educators. Coming from a family of educators, I felt very at home there, especially with the vice president of my division. He was the nicest man--you could tell he'd been a great teacher.

So I recall one late afternoon going into his office and having to deliver some bad news. I don't even remember what it was now, but I remember sitting down with kind of a frustrated harummph, waving my arms and explaining everything. Apparently I did so with great drama. Dave, the VP, studied me for a minute and then said, "Did you ever consider a career in theater? Because really, I think you would be quite good." It made me laugh and then we discussed whatever the situation was more rationally.

I'm thinking now that I must always walk around in some state of melodrama. I think I'm mostly joking, but apparently no one else does.

I got a phone call from my dentist's office today. They asked me to stop by. When I got there, they presented me with a gift certificate for a massage! I was so taken aback. I thanked them profusely, but then asked why? Why did I deserve a massage? They said I'm always talking about how I need to go for a massage. My melodrama must be way over the top. Maybe I need to rein it in a little. But heck, if it got me a massage, perhaps not? Heck, I'm trying for a new car next time.

And, I'm thinking that I should get an agent--just in case.

I'm off to visit Erin this weekend for a little sister time!

Breathing a Little Easier

More likely than not. That was the phrase we heard tonight when we met with the principal again. We went over to school for conferences, both boys are super geniuses, of course, and stopped in for an update and to hear what the principal had observed in Finn's classroom this week. Apparently she saw a lot of the same things we did and now is saying that unless something major occurs and Finn's teacher radically changes his teaching style over the weekend, the move is "more likely than not" to happen.


So now we wait to see what Finn's OT recommends on Monday. My heart is a little lighter tonight. Except now I'm dreading the turmoil he'll feel when the change takes place. I know in the long run it will be better though.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Because I Know You Hate It When I Leave You Hanging. . .

. . .but we're kind of hanging here ourselves.

We met with the principal yesterday. It was a good, rational meeting where all parties made their concerns known. The principal is hoping that our goals aren't mutually exclusive, but we're not so sure. She wants to help bring the teacher along in his experience. We say great--send him to training, but move Finn because there's no way that the teacher is going to be able to develop the experience he needs in a short enough time to help Finn this year. And will his heart grow three sizes in one day? I think not.

So next steps: the principal is going to observe in the classroom and talk to the teacher. We are to meet again on Thursday to see what her thoughts are. Meanwhile, Finn's OT is going to observe the three female teachers (we eliminated the other male kindergarten teacher just because the deeper voice and louder tones seem to aggravate Finn's SPD) on Monday. So we'll then see which classroom the OT feels is most suitable for Finn.

I'm not sure what to think. I came away with the thought that this is something the pricipal is willing to consider, but it's not a done deal. She made the comment, "Let's see what's salvagable." But then again, she also asked for the OT to observe and pick a classroom. Eamonn, on the other hand, came away from the meeting feeling that the change would take place; it's just a matter of time.

Mars and Venus in action.

But really, I'm going to adopt Eamonn's perspective. First, it's what I want to hear anyway, and second, he's usually a better at reading people than I am. I'm terrible at it and am almost always wrong.

So that's it. The Waiting Game is on. Meanwhile, Finn had two good days at school on Monday and Tuesday (figures), but then was back to "hating" it last night and this morning. I'm so desperate just to yell, "It's OK! We're going to move you and get you a great new teacher who will hug you and love you!" But of course, I don't know that for sure yet, nor do we know who the teacher will be or when this will happen. I just want him to have some mental relief.

In fact, I want some mental relief myself.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Little Pitchers Have Big Eyes

I've been trying to update all evening, but Declan has been sitting next to me on the couch and peering over my shoulder at every Web site I've surfed tonight. Eamonn is away riding the 24 Hours of Moab (24 hour mountain bike race--yes, he is mad) and the boys and I are hunkered down watching a movie and listening to sleet on the windows. Tonight is supposed to be our first snow at this elevation and we're under a winter storm advisory. The Denver news channels were calling for 4 - 8", but Weather.com, which is frankly way more accurate, is only estimating an inch or so. No big deal. Although I'm ready for some snow, it's probably good that it's not a major storm because I don't have my snow tires on yet.

We're sitting here watching Return to Witch Mountain, the very lame sequel to Escape to Witch Mountain. In this movie, Tony and Tia return to earth and Tony is captured by evil-doers who are trying to steal plutonium. The only improvement I see over the original is that Tony and Tia are no longer wearing those burgundy colored nylon windbreakers snapped all the way to their chins. I lobbyed for the original Escape to Witch Mountain, but was voted down.

So, I couldn't update with Declan peeping over my shoulder because I don't really want him to see my ranting about Finn and school. We had our meeting on Wednesday and it really confirmed our feelings and we are scheduled to meet with the principal on Tuesday about moving Finn. Finn's anxiety issues continue and this just can't go on. He's going to have a nervous breakdown before he turns 6 in 11 days. Nice.

As Eamonn and I were getting our ducks in a row for meeting with Finn's teacher, we talked about what our objectives would be. As Eamonn described it, we decided to "gather data." We didn't go to confront the teacher or get in his face, but we did want to hear from his mouth what was going on in the classroom. By his own admission, he is a 22-year-old man (even younger than I thought) who doesn't have a "warm fuzzy" personality. His words. He's not going to hug the kids or work to console them. They're pretty much left to their own devices.

Sadly, I had Finn's preschool friends here for our once-a-month playdate on Friday. One of the little girls from preschool is also in Finn's class and her mom told me she has been crying at school, too. So it's not just Finn, and it makes me sad that many of them in there are struggling.

Other comments by the teacher: he's struggling to have patience and not get angry, he's actually getting more cold (how can THAT be possible???) as time goes on because he feels like they should be "getting it" by now. Oh yes, heaven forbid we should give a 5-year old more time to "get it."

The teacher also spoke about how it drives him crazy because Finn and another girl keep coming up to him and talking to him constantly and don't seem to have the patience to wait to talk to him. It's always so nice to hear how your child is driving someone crazy. Sometimes he needs "space" from Finn. Or how about when your child was crying last week, instead of consoling him, the teacher told him to "dry it up." Nice.

We were unamused to hear about how the discipline methods have changed in the classroom. Originally there was some sticky note method where when they got a warning, they had to put a note on their number at the front of the class. Finn had said that he had to sit cross-legged facing the wall. We wondered if that was true. It was. And a little more. Not only do they sit like that facing the wall, they have to keep their backs straight--no slouching. If they slouch, they get in more trouble. Unfortunately, a symptom of many kids with sensory disorder is that they don't have much core strength. We're working on it so that he'll have the necessary muscles to sit at a desk and hold a pencil as required, but that will be slow to develop. Basically, sitting like the teacher was requiring was impossible for Finn which led to more discipline problems. I just love a good viscious circle.

I'm sure it's hard. I'm not a teacher because I know I couldn't handle being in a small room with 22 little people all vying for my attention or commiting various acts of chaos. And from the description, it is chaotic in there. He's a first year teacher who hasn't hit his stride yet and is still trying to find out what works. I get it. Totally. And your average kid might be OK in there, just sort of rolling along. But it's not working for Finn--nor will it ever work for Finn. Too much water under the bridge at this point. Finn is never (and yes, Mom, I'm going to do exactly what you said I should never do, I'm going to say NEVER!) going to forge the kind of bond he needs with the teacher to make it work. The only option left is to move him and see if that can salvage Finn's relationship with SCHOOL.

Nope, I'm not a teacher. In fact, when I took one of those future employment aptitude tests in high school, it said I should be a forest ranger. Totally serious. I wish I would have done it and then perhaps I would not be a writer who waxes poetic about the latest FASB pronouncements. Kidding. I like what I do, but I do think I would have been a good forest ranger. My point here is that I wonder what the teacher's aptitude test said? Prison warden? Or at the very least, 4th grade teacher.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lame Blogging

I know. I am a lame blogger. Not lame as in limping or wounded, like lame as in weak. What a good 90s word.

At any rate, I just submitted all of my articles to a client for the next edition of their magazine and now I'm free. Sort of. I was just a few (6) days late. Makes you want to hire me doesn't it? But all that aside, I was finally able to upload pictures from our trip to Ohio/Michigan/Niagara Falls in August and then a few more from our activities this fall so far. My goal is to have them up tomorrow. Or, if I feel crazy, tonight. But right now I don't feel too crazy.

As an update on what's happening with Finn. . .same old, same old. We're meeting with the teacher tomorrow to go over some ideas, but the situation remains stressful for everyone. By reading between the lines with Finn, because you know how it is with kids--you're never quite sure what the heck they're saying--he doesn't like school because he's away from me and he's there for so long. On the surface, it's separation anxiety. But why? Why after a successful year last year is this happening? Yes, it's every day, but how did we go from Finn being with me 24/7 during treatment and then to preschool 3 days a week with no problems to where we are now? No, something else is at play here.

Our interpretation is that it's a combination of things. Eamonn and I feel we're seeing the result of spending four of your five years of life in a medical setting instead of with kids your age cropping up (socialization and coping skills), his sensory issues, and a teacher who is struggling to find his own way in the world. I could tell you a few stories that would curl your hair about how Finn receives multiple timeouts a week--where he is removed from the group and has to sit facing the wall. Or when the teacher took away a reward sticker Finn received from the doctor and threw it in the trash. Yep. All true. And out of the mouths of babes. When Declan heard about the sticker incident, he said, "Who does that to a little kid?" Our thoughts exactly. Yes Finn was probably playing with the sticker after being told not to. But wouldn't you take the sticker, put it on a piece of paper and give it back after class? Why would you throw something away that a child received as a reward from SOMEONE ELSE unless you had no common sense or are just a jackass?

From what we can deduce (yes, we moonlight as Nancy Drew and Frank Hardy), Finn doesn't feel successful at school. Who would with what's happening? He feels like nothing he does is right and instead of someone modeling the right behavior, he's just being punished for the "wrong" behavior. I'm not excusing Finn. I'm certain that he does speak out of turn and has trouble keeping his hands to himself. But despite our best efforts here at home, we need to feel like the classroom is a supportive, caring place. And it's not. Finn's anxiety tells us this without a doubt. What 5 year old wakes up at 5am and says he doesn't want to go to school because there's no one to look after him there? A 5 year old who is lacking whose confidence is shot and doesn't feel safe, that's who. If this was high school, I'd tell him to suck it up because we all have to learn to deal with people and teachers we don't see eye-to-eye with. But this is kindergarten--the year that sets the tone for your life in school! I don't know about you, but I remember kindergarten! I remember every year of elementary school and how much I loved it. Middle school? Not so much. But elementary school? It shouldn't be this hard for a kid.

So today I let the principal know that we will be meeting with the teacher tomorrow, but we are discouraged and frustrated. She asked if we felt the teacher wasn't a good fit for Finn. Um. Bloody freaking right. So now it's out there that our intent is to move Finn, sooner rather than later. It's actually is a relief that she knows this.

I'm getting gray hair.