Noah’s B-Day & Trunk-or-Treat

Noah missed the Trunk or Treat last night due to a 104 temp (Lucy’s was 103). He was happy to get the candy Sophie picked up for him and has been sneaking it all day (all of them are master sneakers of candy today), so apparently the candy made up for the missing out on the party.

Ben and Sophie had a ball at the trunk or treat–My Sophie pics will have to come next time, as someone else snapped those. She was Cinderella. She decided last-minute by choosing out of her plethora of costumes in her dress-up box, but looked way cute as usual. Ben was a great looking pirate. You can’t see it well, but he has a way-tough winged sword tattoo on his chest.


This was a night photo, so it looks all crazy–but spooky! We did our trunk for the trunk or treat into a big ghost–the car version of the lazy-parents’ Halloween costume–throw a sheet on it!Lucy is going through the very snotty process of getting her two top front teeth, bringing the teeth total to four. She walks independently a few steps each day but it is not yet her primary mode of getting places, although she is very, very proud of herself when she stands on her own and shuffles a few steps. She has been sick for a week with what appears to be two different illnesses, including coughing and fever (although the fires may have contributed to the coughing. She had to stay home from church today (Thanks to Sis. Wright for bringing home all my kids!)

Noah is officially three! Here is a rare glimpse of all of my children happy and uncomplaining. Noah was particularly excited about his new Hot Wheels, particularly a very exciting semi.

Oh, you wanted a closer look at that amazing cake? Ok! Yes, it is shaped like an 8 and he was 3, but it’s fine because it’s a racetrack, which 3 year olds love. It was just two rounds with Oreo pavement, tic tac lines, and coconut “grass” that I used on on the pan around it as well.
I didn’t realize the kids would actually want to play on the cake, so in the end it was kind of trashed, but its purpose was served.

We celebrated Noah’s birthday at the Noah’s Ark Exhibit at the Skirball museum. It was amazing–the best children’s museum I’ve been to. I can’t recommend it highly enough–we’ll be going back there soon. Just tonight Noah was telling me the story about the Ark–it really made an impression!

Oh, I also met with Ben’s principal, who, after seeming entirely at a loss about what to do, recommended a part-time school, part-time homeschool situation (weird that my husband and the principal came around to the idea of homeschooling again before I did). We’ll give it a shot. I have a great book about discovering a child’s learning style that has been a huge insight into Ben–being free to do the hands-on field trips again will be so helpful. I love them too.

I sometimes worry too much about how I’ll be perceived going back to HSing yet again, but I’m committed to doing the right thing for Ben and following the Lord’s guidance, so I really can’t stress about everyone’s opinions. Anyone who objects is free to come live my life and I’ll come mess up yours–we all think we’d do a better job running others’ lives than we do our own, don’t we? I’m guilty of that sometimes but am determined to cut it out–people do the best they can and are entitled to inspiration for their own kids. We need to just be there for each other regardless of our differences and quit with the judgments. But, until that time, I’ll just ignore the raised eyebrows and try to keep my own under check.

David’s off in Florida for work until Wed or Friday. Wish me luck…

BOO from Noah (and the school honeymoon is over)

Here October is almost over–how did that happen? For that matter, how did Noah already come up to his 3rd birthday? It’s on Wednesday of this week and he’s picked out eating at Souplantation and having a racetrack cake from familyfun.com–wish me luck on that, it looks tricky. We’re going to Deb’s park (an Audobon Society nature park closer to downtown) with our mom’s group and for that I’ll just take cupcakes. He is so sweet. In the car yesterday he went off on a very animated monologue about Halloween:

Noah: (interrupting Sophie talking about her costume for Halloween) Mommy! Mommy! Mine halloween costume! Mine have patch on mine eye. Mine have patch on my eye!”

Mom: You want to be a pirate for Halloween?

Noah: Yes! Mine be pirate and have eye patch. Mine hide in bushes and BOO! Mine scare daddy!

I can’t do it justice–it was so funny.

This week is birthday and trunk or treat Halloween celebration at the church, so we’ll be gearing up for that—Ben wants to be a skeleton pirate, Sophie wants to be a puppy, and we have a great old cow costume for Lucy that all the kids have worn.

The potty training thing is moving a long nicely. We’re about 50% on the #2 and maybe 90% on the #1. It feels good to see that rite of passage almost behind me. Three down, only one to go!

David is gearing up to go to Florida in a week for work. He’ll be gone for Halloween, but that shouldn’t be too big of deal. He just got back from scout weekend where they shot guns in the desert. Excellent pastime for teenage boys, don’t you think? David brought home a picture of a pumpkin he had shot a hole in. It was very impressive.

Sophie is doing well at school, but seems to have been taken down from green to yellow a bit more often this week (using the pervasive stoplight disciplinary system), but I’m not clear on why yet, although she freely explains it, it makes no sense, I really have no idea what she’s saying. She has some good friends and seems to get along very well with people at school. She has been so easy at home, and does homework and chores almost completely without help, and she’s reading so much better–the progress is really clear each week. We work with her at home on the flashcards and super-boring readers (they guarantee they bring fluency, if the kid can stay awake), but I’m excited to see her get closer to being a solid reader when the world can be opened up to her. She is easy going, but I see that down deep she has strong emotional needs, and she thrives on just being hugged and held, so I’m trying to make sure I do that even if she’s not screaming for the attention.

Lucy is under the weather today, I think because she has a top tooth coming in. She is SO runny, but it is all clear, and she just seems tired and grumpy. However, she’s been sleeping through the night for three nights, so I’m a much happier person. She has taken a step or two independently since last week, but still prefers something to steady her. At the park, she will climb up the stairs on the equipment, get to the top of the slide, turn her self around and back down the slide feet first until she slides. Because she looks like a 6 month old, this is very alarming to mothers around who are looking frantically for the neglectful mother of this infant as she climbs up there.

I’ve taken her little walking toy to push at the park and she can go quite a long way with it. Also, she shows remarkable judgment and restraint for a young toddler and has been completely able to go up and down the stairs without falling down them for over a month. In fact, she never even tried the stairs until she was capable of going up and down without doing it safely. Coming down, she is simply crawling backward, but she does it so fast she almost looks like she’s sliding down. She’s still nursing about 5x a day, along with three meals and a few snacks, but her weight is still just over 15.5 lbs.

Benjamin’s school issues have gotten much worse. He is miserable and crying almost every day, he gets in trouble every day, kids ridicule him every day. He isn’t learning and is having trouble absorbing information in a group setting, especially in math, which he actually is pretty skilled in but I’ve seen first hand that it has to be taught him in a very specific way (and he has to be refocused every 30 seconds). Since medication has not proven fruitful, we just need to work out strategies for making him 1) learn and 2) be happy. Probably not in that order.

Although we saw this happen last year, having him in the classroom has really shown that he does have significant differences that kids can pick up on instantly, he seems to be unable to carry on a normal conversation with a child, although he can carry on regular adult conversations with adults all the time. He reacts with strong emotions to regular daily requirements even more so in a group environment. He seems overly stimulated by the large amounts of kids and people, the classroom, and the intensity of the schedule required by daily school life.

He is becoming more negative and irritable and even has new ticks starting to emerge. Problems that I was happily seeing disappear in the summer that I told myself he must be growing out of have started back up, which I assume is due to stress. He is very sad to see everyone playing and having fun, and feels lonely because they do not want to interact with him, he doesn’t know why. He doesn’t know how to interact with them and does so poorly or awkwardly, but he doesn’t see that. He doesn’t respond to negative social feedback by changing his behavior, but feels that it’s others’ problem. Even in the social skills group training class, the other socially unadjusted kids didn’t respond well to him either. If people don’t like how he’s acting, he will think of a million different ways to avoid the problem besides acting differently.

He really has encountered this kind of problem since he was very young. Every now and then he’ll meet a single kid at the park (usually younger, but not always) and they’ll get along famously, but if it’s more than one kid, or just not a very flexible kid, it usually doesn’t go well. We work on social behaviors at home, but we’ve been working on the same things for literally 4 years, and if he doesn’t understand the social rule, even if it gets him bad results to break it, he won’t learn it. His response to the negative feedback is to escalate his behavior to try to force acceptance somehow, or avoid the situation entirely, so, on the school playground for instance, his solution is to just beg his teacher to let him not have to go outside, but to let him do work for her in the classroom.

So, I met with his teacher yesterday and asked for her candor and we had a nice open talk. She does have to juggle the needs of the class and Benjamin’s needs as separate entities, all day. He has outbursts, and once even pushed her. Although she has other kids with behavior problems Ben is in a league unto himself, markedly different. He won’t do his work without constant direction. Does great if she’s with him one on one, completely derails the class environment without that.

She is concerned about the kids’ reaction to him and said that she tries techniques to model kindness, point out good things about him, and ask people to befriend him. She said one little girl said she’d tried to be his friend, but it just didn’t work and he talked crazy. I asked her point blank if he could succeed (ie., be happy and learn) in the current environment (in her opinion and off the record). She didn’t think so, and felt that many of the factors would only get worse over time (as class size increases, the work gets more difficult and kids become even less tolerant).

She said she’d gone to the special ed person and asked for advice (this is the one who accidentally sent me that email meant for the principal which said I needed to cut the apron strings and was overly worried about Ben), and that woman told her that they would try to get a full time aide in the class, just to be with Ben during school. This may help him focus on his work, and hopefully learn a little better, but would likely make worse the social situation (if that is possible), and it would really take Ben into the world of Special Ed, which is a box I really don’t think is the best fit for him. The teacher said that since this school is a full inclusion school with special ed, “kids are used to having kids with full-time aides in their classroom.” Of course, many of those kids are severely disabled, and it seems just weird to have Ben now in that category.

Here is the thing– Ben can be successful, act relatively normal, learn, be happy and accomplish things without being considered freaky, and I see that all the time, but he apparently can’t do that in a school classroom.

So we have the issues of happiness, social integration/training, learning and academics, controlling behavior, managing stress, and overstimulation. Solutions with the school address the learning/academics to some extent with an aide, but the other items are just out there and actually become much bigger problems in that environment.

So David and I have been thinking and praying about the problem, and I’m talking to friends who are teachers and who know Ben, and we’re just trying to know the answer. We will likely meet with the principal this week to see if she has anything helpful to add.

And to think the school people thought I was nuts to ask them to test him a prepare a plan—they all tested him one-on-one, and anyone who knows Ben knows that he THRIVES in working with an adults one-on-one—he is bright, engaged, social, has an amazing vocabulary, and is able to focus pretty well. They said I was over-reacting and chose to not give his teacher any of the testing input or anything that may bias her, and asked me to stay hands off for a while to see how it went. I did that, but I have no real satisfaction in being right.

The question is, must he be forced to learn how to get by in an environment which amplifies his weaknesses on the assumption he’ll figure it out the hard way, or can he be allowed to learn in an environment which builds on his strengths while systematically working on the weaknesses? To me, the answer is obvious, but I do get a lot of feedback from people saying “Make him do it, that’s the only way he’ll learn he’s got to act differently.” And if I was seeing some learning and not just shriveling of the soul, then maybe I’d agree. If this really is PDD and related to Aspergers, the fact is, he maybe can’t learn that, and could likely become gravely depressed very soon if put in a situation where he constantly fails.

So, there’s that. Send prayers this way!

Incapacitating Freedom

So, my computer died, or at least it seems so, and it died in the process of me doing a belated back up. So, since I’ve lost all my emails, my addresses, my documents, my calendar, my bills and financial records, my web favorites, my pictures, and basically I have nothing to do, which is to say, don’t know what I am supposed to be doing, so it’s about the same thing.

So, please send me your email address if you happen to check this blog, along with any interesting files or websites I may have ever sent you. 🙂

The family is fine, just more of the same, Ben’s not loving school, but does love scouts, Sophie is pretty easy going and enjoying her own musical extravaganzas in the bathtub and bedroom venues, and Noah is joyfully destroying everything in his path. Lucy has begun to take an interest in Noah’s exploits and as his apprentice in destruction is beginning to show some promise. Still no more steps, though she can stand and squat and stand again hands-free.

Finally got my emergency kits into relative order, just a few small pieces missing (like the kid’s food for those 72 hours), but closer than ever, and none too soon, since we have been reminded to do this for our entire lifetimes. May we never need to use them.

Love to all.

First Steps!

Last night, which was Saturday the 6th, Lucy took her first step by herself! It was just one, mind you, and only because she thought she was closer to me than she was, or she never would have taken such a crazy risk. She’s a very careful girl. She looked awfully pleased with herself, though.

We had a great conference weekend, I worked on my emergency preparedness stuff and made a long list of mental “conference resolutions” as I always do. One is to journal every day, especially after reading scriptures, and do the family blog every week.

It was a great chance to be fed spiritually and physically, as we have a tradition of treating Conference like a holiday and just today we had bacon, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, etc. Anyway, I can’t wait to get the transcript version online so I can reread the talks.

September!

Sophie & Ella: The Girl Band to Watch in ’07

[This was really written on September 30: I’ll be writing something, even if it is just a few sentences, each Sunday, so Mondays should be a good day to check in. ]
So, in September, school started and Sophie turned six! That’s the short version.
Ben’s teacher, Ms. Ribero (Portugese, pronounced Hi-bay-doo) is a first-year teacher. She seems reserved with parents, but confident with the kids. Ben likes her and is very attached—he gets upset when there is a substitute, which he has already had twice. He stays on green most days (on their behavior code of green, yellow and red), some yellow days. We didn’t give her any information up front, but gave them a chance to get to know each other. Unfortunately, other kids don’t enjoy his company and make it very clear to him, and each day he has to listen to the kickball team captains fight over how he’s NOT on their team. It breaks my heart.
That said, Ben’s behavior in general has been really quite good, and as a result, family life has improved quite a bit. He seems to have grown up a bit and understands more clearly the results of his actions and how they effect others. It is interesting to have a front row seat to watching this little boy grow up—and it’s an education. Sophie also likes school a lot and has two friends from our ward in her class, and many others from last year. She seems happy and is having fun, although her teacher, Ms. Tschopp, comes across as a total crab to me, Sophie says she’s not as nice as Ms. White, but she is still a nice teacher. She is given daily, rather than weekly homework, which is a pain. I feel good about the class in general, though.
Sophie turned 6 on Thursday, and we had a big fun Rock-n-roll party at the church park with dad’s mix tape, blow-up guitars and microphones, sunglasses, balloons and crafts. We went to dinner at Souplantation afterward. She had a great day, we all did. I really feel lucky to be her mom, she is really a sweet beautiful girl, and I love watching her grow up.

Sophie and Autumn getting ready to rock!

Noah’s too cool for you.

Ben with rock-n-roll hair due to rock-n-roll hyperness

Noah started at the preschool at Sierra Madre Elementary also, but has since dropped out because he wasn’t fully potty trained. They were willing to be flexible and work with us, but we felt like he was having more problems there because he is just a little guy, probably too little to being starting 5-day preschool. I realized I never would have wanted Ben gone from me every morning at that age, and that I really was doing it out of being tired, but I really enjoy being with Noah and having special activities I do with him and Lucy during the mornings, like I used to with Ben and Sophie. So we’ve started a music class and a PCC Mommy & Me preschool-type class for families with more than one child on Thursday.

It is a drastic difference between all I was able to accomplish in the week Noah was in school and after he came back home—he is definitely at a very time-consuming age, that is, if I want to keep him and Lucy alive and keep my house from being trashed. He’s lucky he has that sweet face or I would have to lock him up all day. He is excited about turning three this month.

Noah looks square, but he’s trouble.

Lucy is doing great, although she now has the virus we’ve all been passing around, and stayed home from church today with a fever. She’s still wearing 3-6 month clothes, but has these long legs poking out. She is starting to use a push-toy extensively, proudly giggling as she toddles behind it. At 16 months (on the 10th) she still nurses 5x a day, although she eats table food pretty well. I’m just doing all I can to try to get her to grow. I sense she still may have a belly problem, I’m just trying to work with it. She is very sweet and cuddly, I’ve really enjoyed this extended babyhood, although sometimes she still gets up in the night, which is not so much fun.

David and I are fine, just working on callings and trying to determine a good long-term plan for our lives. We do feel like the LA area is home and are trying to navigate how we can have a normal future in this town. We’re just trusting the Lord will provide a way if he wants us here.

I did take a short mental-health break with to Utah two weekends ago, which was totally great. My mom had me stay with her and she pampered me with a quiet house, a cozy bed, wonderful healthy food, a foot rub from my aunt and mom gave me a great salt rub mixture for the bath. We had a really nice time together. I also got to spend a day with the Christensens and see my new nephew Cooper, Karen’s son. Their church meetings were so great and I just came back so relaxed and spiritually fed. That lasted until about the time the kids came home, but it was great while it lasted.

Also, I have been doing tons of genealogy and the family history bug has really bitten me. I submitted 40 names to the temple yesterday for youth baptisms, including two third-great grandmas (one mine, one David’s) and an 8th great grand uncle from 1698. For my readers who don’t know why I’m doing proxy baptisms for my ancestors, check out Paul’s words on the subject: 1 Cor 15:29 and http://www.lds.org/temples/purpose/0,11298,1897-1,00.html

Wish me luck as I try to blog weekly for real!