Saturday, June 7, 2008

Respite, Dolphins, Mummies, and Tractors

Buddy Boy's "Memory Extractor"

I haven't been posting a whole lot lately, especially about personal stuff. Things got really hard for awhile, and it became a combination of not being able/wanting to lay out my personal problems to the whole world (I am basically the silent, keep it in, work it out yourself kind of guy) as well as using all of my spare energy to do my best to keep our family from disintegrating. School's been out for two whole weeks here. And we're finally getting back to some semblance of normalcy.

The school year started out really well for Buddy Boy. The majority of his time was spent included in a regular classroom. Buddy Boy had the best darn teacher in the whole school for his regular class, Mrs. J. His special ed class teacher (Miss E.) worked well with Mrs. J., and pushed for him to be included more this year. Buddy Boy (for the most part) rose to the challenge. Miss E. helped support him for the small amount of time when he was scheduled to be pulled out (for OT and speech), as well as for the few unscheduled times when he had problems in the regular class. Mrs. J. is famous amongst the school's special ed families for her ability to bring out the best in all of the kids in her class. I'm really glad that Buddy Boy had her this year, and sad that he won't have her again next year.

Things went so well for the first several months that I hardly wrote anything about it. I was afraid that I would jinx the good fortune we were enjoying. This was it. This was the year that Buddy Boy would turn the corner on his behavior issues and be seen by his teachers and classmates as a full, valuable member of the class.

The last 7-8 weeks of school things got progressively worse (mostly at school, but also at home). I'm not really sure why. Buddy Boy became upset at the drop of a hat. He refused to do things that didn't bother him before. He lashed out and bit a teacher (which required stitches), and hit another. Liz was literally camped out in the school parking lot, forever on call for when things happened. Some days she was called three times. Several days ended early, with Buddy Boy being taken home.

His teachers looked for causes, we looked for causes. Though Buddy Boy is now quite verbal, he could offer no insight into what was causing him distress. Liz became increasingly distraught, and lashed out at a most convenient target, me. We both felt certain that although this school has been very accepting and supporting of Buddy Boy, that the days were numbered until he was kicked out.

School ended, and we never got "the letter". You know, the official one that says that your kid has been expelled. I am still perplexed, but thankful. This leaves us with more options for next year.

Slowly, ever so slowly, we have gotten back to some sort of equilibrium. It's a big relief that we no longer have the school's sword hanging over our heads (for now). Liz has relaxed, and even gotten some more sleep. We are talking again (instead of snapping and snarling, or even worse, saying nothing). I feel like we're on the same side again.

This week I had time off, which we used to go to Chicago. One of my uncles is dying, and we wanted to see him before he did. He has worsening congestive heart failure which has reached the limits of medical management, and it is only a matter of time. How much is hard to say. This aunt and uncle have always been great to our kids. Even though they don't have a lot of money (due to having had a special needs daughter themselves, as well as lots of medical bills), they have always sent cards with a note and $2 bills to the kids on all major holidays (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving) as well as their birthdays. The kids love those cards.

Since we were going up there, we took some time to take the kids to a couple of museums. Chicago has great museums, though they can be a bit expensive when you're going to multiple ones. We went to the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum. If you plan your trip carefully, you can take advantage of several free days at the Field Museum. Unfortunately my time off didn't correlate with any of those days.

The Shedd Aquarium expanded greatly several years ago, and the kids (and us) loved it. Besides exploring several halls of fish and amphibians and watching a diver feed the fish in a huge glass tank, we saw a movie and a dolphin show. The movie was billed as a "4D" movie, as in addition to donning 3D glasses, there were air and water jets that shot out at us at various times, as well as vibrating seats. It was fairly intense from a sensory standpoint, but Buddy Boy hung in there. The dolphins were cool, especially as we got to go up after the show and get much closer to them.

The Field Museum of Natural History is like Indiana Jones' storehouse of everything he ever found on all of his expeditions. Sweet Pea was a little apprehensive about seeing mummies, but did a good job. She really liked the t-rex skeleton they had there, as well as some of the stuffed exotic animals. Sweet Pea also wasn't totally into an exhibit where they simulated you being the size of a small bug underground, but of course Buddy Boy thought it was totally cool. Liz and I enjoyed a special exhibit they had on George Washington Carver, but the kids seemed they could not care less.

We had ice cream and a ferris wheel ride down at Navy Pier, and headed back to the hotel for another night of swimming.

Having spent three days in Chicago, it was time to move on. On our way back home we took a little detour and went to Moline, Illinois. Why would we want to go to a relatively small sleepy river town for? Well, to visit the John Deere world headquarters and pavilion, of course. As astute readers of this little blog may recall, Buddy Boy has a thing for farming equipment, especially stuff made by John Deere.

While I'd love to take the Ferrari factory tour someday, I rather doubt that they'd let my 6 and 8 year old kids crawl all over them, sit in the driver's seat, push pedals and hit the switches. Yet this is just what Deere lets anyone do with their $300,000 combines, as well as their less expensive equipment. There are several pieces of farming equipment as well as construction equipment located both at their world headquarters, as well as their pavilion in town. They also have some antique tractors (which they understandably don't let you crawl all over).

All in all, it's great to be getting back to normal. I don't know what the fall will bring (in terms of school), but for now it's great to kick back a little, relax, and get back into the groove.


kristina said...

Always with all of you. (And with Liz camped out in the parking lot.)

In the past the end of the year has been hard for Charlie. He knows school is about to tend and his routine disrupted and the fact that every other kid in the building knows this and is getting more noisy and unruly (well, some of them)...... that used to bug Charlie a lot. He has a lot of summer school now and I have scheduled a trip during his brief break, to keep things rolling----not at all sure that that had anything to with those tough 6-8 weeks.

This is very lame to say---but sometimes I've been finding, growing up isn't easy to do and there's nothing else to say than that.

Wishing you many a great bike ride----

Niksmom said...

I'm so glad that things are settling a bit more for you and your family. Sounds like the trip to Chicago was more than "good." too.

The way you described yourself sounds much like my husband! Which is why you'll probably never find him blogging! It's also why I love getting your feedback and perspective on things!

Sending you, Liz, Buddy Boy, and Peaches tons of good wishes for a peaceful summer!

Ange said...

So glad you guys got some time to enjoy yourselves together as a family. Spring was not a good time for us either, but it was enough to remind me (again) about what's important and how to deal with things. When Bubba was younger, we were always in crisis mode, so we were used to living in dysfunction. Nowadays, it happens less often, but boy is the intensity bad. Add the fact that we forget what the heck we're doing and how to react, and it ain't pretty. Our whole family was indysfunction, but it forced us to step back and regroup.

I hope you guys enjoy your summer and one another.

Club 166 said...


...Wishing you many a great bike ride----


Immediately after writing this the kids and I went out on a bike ride to the local park.


When we got home we went out to work a little in the garden (read your post today).


I think the worst thing is when things are going well, and then you get blindsided. But that's the nature of things, I guess.


Anonymous said...

Oh my. You have a lot on your plate. I am sorry to hear about your Uncle.

I remember my days of camping out in the school parking lot. I read a lot of books that way but the stress is unbelievable. I hope your summer is a relaxing one.

Sometimes M will go into long bouts of behavioral issues. Not so much anymore but when she was younger it was so hard to know what was upsetting her. She never bit anyone but hitting was a problem for a time. It sounds like your school was quite patient which is good.

I will be praying that the summer goes well and the next school year is a good match.


We so want to take M to that aquarium. It sounds fantastic.

J said...

I'm so happy that the Chicago trip went well and that fun was had by all. "The family that plays together, stays together". You are all deserving of a break, and it sounds like this could be the beginning of a much brighter chapter.

Daisy said...

Wishing you a relaxing summer and many happy days together.
And a thought, as teacher and parent: Many kids who are otherwise verbal can not express the emotions that upset them. Know that you're doing all the right things, and even though you may not get immediate results, Buddy Boy will respond in his own time.
Or he'll make his own success (love the "mint"!)

Anonymous said...

Like Niksmom, I love hearing your perspective on things too. I'm sorry to hear about your uncle, and yet, happy to hear you were able to turn the trip into a nice little vacation for everyone.

I hope things stay relaxed through the summer. Lots of bike rides and gardening and ice cream...

Club 166 said...




I surely don't think I'm doing "all the right things". I just keep trying, and hoping that I'm doing more right than wrong.


Funny you should mention ice cream. On our way home from church services just now, Sweet Pea was campaigning for ice cream today, as she had behaved in church.

It's beastly hot outside, but the kids want to go, so away we go.


farmwifetwo said...

Could it have been as simple as the end of year "out of routines"?? My eldest gets crabby - fast. My little one has gone into sensory processing overload. All of a sudden we're brushing and putting in a sensory diet. School doesn't end for another 2.5wks.

Next week there's 3 days of extra-curricular activities. Toss in 70F early last week, 90F (never even hit 80) now over the weekend and back into the 70's mid next week.

Q is?? Who's going to go batty first... Mom or the kids??


Club 166 said...


Saw all the rain on the news. Hope you're dry. :)


Buddy Boy loves all the extracurricular stuff (end of year parties, field trips, etc.).

But what I think it might have been was anticipation of the end of the year, and the knowledge that he would be leaving his teacher, Mrs. J, who was GREAT with him. Buddy Boy has a hard time anyone "leaves", and preparing him for it ahead of time helps some, but also adds to his anxiety whenever you mention change.

2.5 more weeks of school? That's really long. I thought we were short to end 2 weeks ago, but couldn't imagine going that late into the year (though when I was growing up we did go to mid-June, as I recall).


farmwifetwo said...

Mine too are flexible.. always have been. But when he actually attempted to bite me a couple of weeks ago (NEVER bites) and bite his arms... we had a problem. The sensory diet is helping, a lot.

We go to Jun 25th and start the Tues after Labour day in Sept.

We're keeping the same teacher for my eldest next year... and same EA (para??) for the little one.. see the happy skippy dancing going on :)


EJ Willingham said...

At TH's school, the entire school went crazy the last couple of weeks of school. The energy level was through the roof, and TH reverted to some behaviors that required extra interventions in the last couple of weeks. I think there's just something about those final weeks in the spring that make everyone crazy.

I'm glad you and your family have gotten out, done something related to "summer fun," although I am sorry about your uncle. My uncle also has congestive heart failure.

Here's hoping that you have a nice, laidback, underscheduled summer.


kristi said...

Those tractors look awesome!! Glad to hear things are a bit better for you.