Monthly Archives: March 2014

Grow Pittsburgh

A local nonprofit called Grow Pittsburgh runs a “gardens in schools” program and my kids’ school is one of the sites. Every week for a certain number of weeks, Farmer Courtney comes and meets with each class one period per week to help them get the garden going. Then, the kids and parents keep it up and Farmer Courtney swings back through in June/July to talk about harvesting, etc.

Well, Mikey is in love with Farmer Courtney. He basically thinks the sun shines out of her earrings (which I hear about almost as much as her rubber boots). She comes on Thursdays and “interrupts work time in the afternoon” as the kids plant herbs and start seeds in the sunny windowsills of the classroom.

This morning, Mikey skipped up the steps to school. “Today Farmer Courtney comes! It’s Thursday!!!”

He came home with a piece of crusty paper. He clutched it to his bosom, explaining that Farmer Courtney put some live worms on the paper so he could see how the wiggle and move. Then he drew a picture of the worm and drew some examples of things worms eat. Then, they tossed the worms into the raised beds outside.

Today also happened to be Farmer Courtney’s last visit of the spring. My poor little dude is going to be pretty sad not to see her next Thursday. I’m going to try to lift his spirits by starting some seeds inside. Maybe outside if the weather stops spewing snow.

We had a pretty awesome garden for a few years, but the year I was pregnant with Alex, Mikey helped me “weed” and there went that crop. Then, the year Alex was born, well…we did manage to grow a potted cherry tomato plant on the porch! I can’t even remember why we didn’t have a garden last year, though I have the skeleton of a pea teepee all set up back there.

Perhaps Farmer Courtney’s energy can live on in our backyard and we’ll have some veggies. Or, I might just sign us up to tend the school garden for one week in late July so we can harvest some of the tomatoes and basil with less effort.

Either way, it’s exciting to hear my son get so excited about a program at school.

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On the Road

I took the kids to my hometown to see my parents last weekend. Cody is swamped with work and taxes, so he stayed behind to get caught up. Of course, we never get caught up, but he theoretically banged out some nice productivity while I took the boys someplace they could roam more freely.

photo 3On the trip to my parents’ house, we didn’t have to stop! Alex napped for the middle swath of the trip, where we pass most of the rest stops. For the first time since having kids, I didn’t have to stop on the Turnpike to nurse, and I didn’t have to pee, so we pushed on and made it to 1-8-1-8 (as Mikey calls my childhood home) in 3.5 hours.

Of course, I hadn’t given Mikey his medication in hopes that he’d snag a nap in the car. No such luck! He was a lightning bolt. So much stored up energy! Thankfully, my parents live on a huge lot surrounded by neighbors with no fences, so there are a few acres worth of back yards just asking to be roamed by two city kids like mine.

photo 1The kids rode the neighbors’ Power Wheels gator. Mikey held Alex back from chasing geese into the lake. Oh, how Alex loves birdies and chasing birdies. Mikey is afraid of geese, but knew he needed to keep his brother safe and braved getting near them in order to grab a toddler arm.

We also visited my grandmother, who is suffering from late-stage dementia. Mikey was extremely cooperative, giving her as many kisses as she forgot she’d already asked for. But he did stop to mimic a man in the hallway who was begging for someone to help him use the bathroom, his speech addled by, most likely, strokes and facial paralysis.

I was stunned to see my son mimicking his speech in a teasing, mean way. Sure, it’s off-putting to hear a grownup speak that way, asking for help doing something he expects grownups to do on their own. We had a long talk about how all the people who live with Gommy are very sick and need a lot of help, and we must respect their situation.

My kids never sleep at all, and while traveling they sleep even less than that, so I again didn’t give Mikey his medication on Sunday, certain he’d sleep in the car. Both the kids slept about 45 minutes, but woke up when I came to a stop in between highways. Not nearly enough! In addition to Mikey’s regular Mikey-ness, he had the added mania of sleep deprivation.

I didn’t stop on the way home for fear I’d leave them at the rest stop. Between the two of them, they trashed the back seat, dumped out several quarts of water, and smeared cracker and bologna grease on all surfaces within their reach. photo 2

By tomorrow, I’ll forget the frustrations over sleep and the messy back seat. I’ll just remember the sunshine on their faces and the way they worked together driving that gator around, Mikey playing “garbage truck driver” and instructing Alex to hop out every few feet to pick up sticks for the back of the vehicle. It’s good to get away sometimes.

“When I’m a grownup…

I’m going to sit on the couch and watch anything I want on the computer. And I’m going to eat whatever snacks I want, and I’m going to drive a Chrysler.”

I’m going to be a dad and then I can tell Alex to do whatever I want him to do and he’ll have to listen and I can give him consequences. Like I’ll take away his snowy owl.”

I’ll only wear professional clothes, like shirts and ties with jeans and sneakers.”

I don’t have to wear underpants to school if I don’t feel like it.”

I can eat three Samoas for berzert.”

First Week with Less Wrap, More School

Mikey had way less (fewer?) services this past week and stayed four full days at school. He was a tired dude by the time I picked him up Thursday, but I could tell he was much happier. He even seems to like his hard-earned weariness. He agreed to “close his eyes and lie down” with me during Alex’s nap on Friday. We didn’t dare refer to our actions as napping or sleeping, mind you. But I got to fall asleep in a quiet room mid-day, so I wasn’t complaining about nomenclature.

It’s hard to believe things are going so well right now. I’m sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop, because that’s just been how it goes when things go well for me with Mikey. We’re almost two full months into the medication, though, and I’d say things get better each day.

He swallows his pill on the first try most mornings. Within a few minutes of taking it, he agrees to get dressed and then helps Alex get ready: “Let’s sit you down here on the step so I can zipper your coat. There you go. Now which shoes do you like?”

I love when he uses his wee man voice talking to his brother. I love how he still clings to odd objects (like a beer bottle cap he calls his “perfume”) and insists on having them with him at all times–only now, instead of the objects taking over his whole day they’re just something quirky he talks about.

He’s using his new abilities to focus to really delve into things that interest him. Currently, he’s fascinated by mail solicitation. Our neighbor mailed us a fundraising thingy for the American Heart Association. Mikey just doesn’t get it that someone would mail a letter asking for money, doesn’t get what we are supposed to do in response to such a letter, and spends his afternoons making/cutting out money, letters, and envelopes so we can all act out these sorts of mail transactions.

Just this afternoon, Cody was meant to mail one of Mikey’s home-made hundred dollar bills to a car dealership so they would bring us a minivan (with DVD player, obviously). What a thing for a small child to digest, when he only ever witnesses his parents conduct financial transactions via apps on their smart phones. I love that he can take some time and think about it.

But like I said, he’s been tired after so much school. And when he’s tired, he throws temper tantrums. Because he’s four! But that’s really all they are–temper tantrums. I haven’t had to bear hug him, haven’t feared for his or my own safety, haven’t locked Alex in another room for his safety…these things haven’t even occurred to me.

I sometimes can’t help but smile during a late afternoon temper tantrum because it seems so very normal (of course my preschooler would cry when he can only fit 7 plastic bananas in his toy truck bed). Mikey becomes even more enraged because he thinks I’m laughing at him, but really I’m just observing my wonderful ability to parent through these sorts of things. I know it doesn’t feel like it to him, but it’s just a tantrum over some plastic bananas, and I can tell that soon enough, a hug will help it pass and we won’t even remember to tell Cody about it later.

So, things continue to go well here. We meet with our ped in a week to see how Mikey’s weight is holding up. Probably it’s not, and we’ll have to start thinking of some solutions there. I love that I’m not concerned about it!

I See It Now

Lately, Alex has been interested in so many things Mikey struggles to do now, or else never showed interest in. I see now what it looks like to have a typically-developing child in many respects. Like, Alex can put on his own pants. He’s 22 months old. He tries to put on his own socks, too. Mikey showed absolutely zero interest in dressing himself until very recently. Sometimes he still has a hard time with socks–some of the fine and gross motor challenges that accompany his diagnosis only become very clear to me when I see my other kid NOT struggling with certain things.

And then there are social behaviors. When we hang out with people from our play group, Alex is *SO* excited to see friends. He, in fact, runs up to them and says, “Friends!! HI!!!!” and then goes and plays WITH the other kids. Mikey always shies away from groups. He’ll interact with other kids one on one, but any group larger than that and he goes totally internal. Or freaks the eff out. I realize this could be an introvert/extrovert situation, but I really don’t think Mikey is an introvert.

He doesn’t act like an introvert!

I love seeing my kids develop as separate people. They were never going to approach situations the same way, regardless of diagnosis. For me, seeing Alex approach many of these situations in a typical progression helps to slowly chip away at the 3 years’ worth of negative feelings about my parenting.

It’s like all of that anxiety, all of the tension I experienced over public behaviors I was utterly unable to manage or control, all of the work I did to convince myself I just needed to try harder with my kid…all of that was an unnecessary burden of sadness I didn’t need to feel. I know I’d be a totally different person if I’d had a kid before Mikey. I just assumed he was the way all kids are and the problem with (or, rather, the solution to) our many struggles was in ME. Things I was or wasn’t doing.

I know it seems like such a leap to relate my other kid putting on his pants to all of my self-doubt as a parent, but I see Alex put on a pair of pants and my mind flashes back to the thousand times my family came to tears over a pair of pants. It still sometimes takes an hour to get Mikey dressed, depending on the availability of his preferred outfits and the hardness/softness/fluffiness of the garments that day. So then I look over and see Alex just grab some pants from his drawer and tug them on his stumpy little body like it’s NOTHING.

I see it now, is all. I see there was nothing I did or did not do in that or any other situation. My older kid is just wired in a unique way that unfortunately makes stuff like putting on pants and talking to friends at the museum a real struggle. 

Sometimes I’ll watch Alex just DO something, like it’s nothing, and I’ll call someone to vent or brag or just unload all my feelings about it. “Mom,” I’ll say, breathless, “Alex just ATE YOGURT WITH A SPOON!”

And Mom will say, “…Okaaaayyyyyy…”

“Like, he asked for the yogurt, then I handed him the yogurt, and he picked up the spoon and ate it. Right there in his chair!”

“…”

Which also helps to explain why people looked at me like I was a crazy person when I would describe just how impossible it was for me to get Mikey to do all of this other stuff. Like eat yogurt with a spoon, in a chair, when he asked for a dish of yogurt.

Not that parenting Alex is “easy,” but compared to parenting Mikey, it’s easy. I had no idea it could be so freaking predictable. Or logical. I see it now, is all. Every day, I see it all a little more clearly.