Category Archives: school

Squeaky Wheel

I guess late August into early September will just always be my season of squeaking until I get grease.

Today, the bus came…20 minutes late. I called the garage about 10 minutes before school started and they assured me the bus was on its way. I opted to just wait for it since by the time I walked home and got the kids in the car and drove to school, Mikey would be late anyway.

Of course, the later the bus is, the more Mikey chews the crap out of his hands. He’s been nervous about chewing his gum because he has a classroom rule about no gum. Well, if the school would set a meeting to discuss his 504 plan, we’d be able to discuss this with his teacher!

And so, I have to send emails and make calls. His plan hasn’t even been distributed to his teachers, which doesn’t surprise me. I can’t decide whether I should email my photograph of the plan (my only copy of it) or just wait for school to be deeply in non-compliance so I can report them to the state.

Of course, I don’t want to deplete the school of precious resources. But I also want the damn social worker to be a little more competent. Cody and I looked up her salary online. She earns $80,000 a year. I’d like to hope that’s enough compensation for someone to at least distribute paperwork properly.

I’m going to operate under the assumption that the bus will be late this afternoon and just won’t head out to the stop until much later than Monday.

How many years will my stress level be like this in autumn? At least a few more, it seems.

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Back Into the Fray

We moved into the new house, unpacked our stuff, lived around construction workers, and are as settled as we’ll ever be here. So that means it’s time to get back to school. I’ll tell you what, it’s getting harder for me to champion our public schools.

Mikey has been amazing, resilient, and flexible amidst a sea of unacceptable snafus.

The district evidently got a “new system,” and so transportation letters were never sent out. So hundreds of thousands of students were left with no idea which bus stop to go to, which bus might come, or what time they should be there.

So, hundreds of thousands of parents were calling the central transportation office…all at once. I managed to get through and find out some bus information. Ok, fine.

Then, because of the “new system,” our school (and presumably all the others) weren’t able to send out teacher letters. So kids had no idea who their damn teachers are!

Our family is so privileged: we have an adult at home who can dedicate time to hunting down these answers. We have transportation. We are able to get to Open House Night to figure out the teacher situation, at least.

So, enter the first day of school. Of course, Mikey and I waited and waited at the bus stop for a bus that did not come. He bit his nails to the quick, worried he’d get in trouble for being late or not have a chance to locate his new locker. I gave up after a half hour and drove him.

I was able to walk him to his classroom, where his teacher welcomed him warmly and showed him to his locker and just wrapped him right into their activity. He seemed ok when I left, which is a relief.

On top of it all, the “new system” uses e-fax or something so if we fax something, it goes directly to the recipient’s email address. Which is great, except the school nurse doesn’t yet have access to her email, and so she doesn’t have written permission to give Mikey his medication today.

Even though we faxed her all the appropriate paperwork on Friday.

I give up on today and am just eating bowl after bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and watching reruns of Survivor. 

The bus company, who *whoops!* only realized at 10am that the driver for Mikey’s route hadn’t shown up for work, assures me someone will be bringing him home from school. We’ll see. I’ll be standing there in the sun with some mini-lads waiting for him.

Hovering

The weather has turned warm again, and this means outdoor recess at school. I imagine Mikey’s teacher is most appreciative of this! I had to drop off a refill for his medication and I arrived when Mikey’s class was out to recess. I may or may not have planned it this way so I could hide behind a bush and just watch him.

How delicious! To secretly watch my little boy playing with other kids while he didn’t know I was watching. I didn’t stay long, but I saw him acting like a troll on a bridge, moving his body, laughing. That was good for my soul!

Bus Boycott

So we haven’t put Mikey on the bus for a month. Not because of the bully. That seems to have been taken care of. Oh no. We’re boycotting because the bus is so damn unreliable. One morning, it came at 8:37 and we missed it. The next, not until 8:55. This means I had 3 kids (one, an infant) out in the 7-degree winter air for over a half an hour, including walk time, to be down at the stop by 8:35.

Not to mention, Mikey was getting home from school at 4:45 pm. School is over at 3:30 and is 1.73 miles from our house if you go the long way.

It’s insane to me!

Sometimes, if I could get through to a human at the bus garage, we’d learn the bus had broken down and the kids were sitting in the hallway at school waiting. Sometimes, we’d learn it broke down en route and the kids were sitting in a frozen bus on a hill somewhere with no heat.

So, now we carpool with the neighbors.

That’s not entirely true, because we were carpooling. Another kindy kid from down the street would ride with us in the morning and his parents would drive both boys home. Observing that I’m a bit of a trainwreck trying to get my feral sons into the van in the morning, the other boy’s parents called. Apparently, they drive by school anyway. Us giving their son a ride in the morning saved them 15 total minutes. And they offered to drive Mikey both ways if we could just give them a booster seat.

Um? Yes please! It’s probably the nicest thing someone has done for us in a long time. And people do a lot of nice things, because we live in such a wonderful place.

We are hoping to go back to the bus in the spring, but for now, it’s too unreliable.

Re-Sensitized

Ever since getting the all-clear from the allergest, Mikey has been a cautious peanut eater. By this I mean that once every few months, he will agree to eat something that’s been near a peanut.

Yesterday, he sat with Cody on the couch and asked to share his snack–peanut butter pretzels. These, Mikey quickly realized, are delicious. He started scarfing down the peanut butter pretzels, maybe eating a cup? Maybe a cup and a half of them.

And almost immediately, he broke out in a bright red rash all around his mouth and complained of itching. We gave him Benadryl, and he pretty much talked about itching until bedtime 2 hours later.

A call to the on-call allergist fellow (how awesome is it that we live in a place that has pediatric allergists on call??) revealed that apparently, kids can get re-sensitized to peanuts even after passing a scratch test. Even after getting bloodwork that showed no allergy to peanuts.

The current thinking is that kids need tiny, frequent exposure to peanuts (she said something like one peanut a week) to maintain…I can’t remember her word. Immunity doesn’t feel right, but I’m in a dither.

Anyway, we ran in for an emergency epi pen prescription and I’m back on red alert. I’m to maintain “strict avoidance” until we can get in with Dr. G. This means school is a minefield again. We have nothing in place anymore!

Our cupboards are filled with peanuts. I freaking subscribed to peanut butter on Amazon. Most days, the only food Alex will agree to eat is peanut butter sandwich. I’m not ready to go back to scrutinizing labels, keeping an epi injector on me at all times, harping on school to get kids to wash hands after lunch and before touching communal materials.

And, of course, Mikey has gotten used to eating school lunch, which I can never guarantee is peanut-free. So I’m anticipating meltdowns over packed lunch. Which, of course! I have to PACK.

Lesson learned: There’s always another shoe and it’s always going to drop.

Bus Bully

The worst thing in my world happened last week. Mikey came up to me after breakfast and said he doesn’t want to ride the bus anymore. This seemed jarring, because my kids love vehicles and public transportation. Mikey was way into the bus prior to this. I began to question him. Did someone say something? Did something happen? Was there a MEAN PERSON????

Eventually, he said that yes, a girl was saying unkind things. He refused to elaborate, but when I asked him if he felt embarrassed to talk about it, he asked me what “embarrassing” meant.

“Well, embarrassing is…if you think about it, you get hot and there’s a lump in your throat and you feel uncomfortable.”

“Yes. Then I’m embarrassed about it.”

Killed me! Just killed me dead. Of course, this happened on a Saturday, so I couldn’t really do much but simmer about it over the weekend.

I did, however, call up the parents of another kid from the bus. I asked these parents to ask their son E if he saw anything. Well! E was relieved to be given permission to talk about it. He offered up right away that some big girl was saying mean things to Mikey.

E couldn’t elaborate entirely, except he did say she teases him for picking his nose. But he was very worked up telling his parents how uncomfortable it was to have this older girl saying mean things to Mikey.

We spent all weekend assuring Mikey that telling a grownup was just the right thing, that he has every right to be on that bus and to ride safely. We also talked about how bullies often feel bad inside (their love lights are dim, to use Montessori lingo) and they think being mean to other people will make their love light burn brighter, except it doesn’t work that way. But we should feel sad for this bully.

Monday morning, when the bus arrived, I marched right on board and looked pointedly at the row of faces and told the driver, “an older girl on this bus is saying mean things to my son. Please keep your ears tuned!”

Then I started a series of fruitless phone calls…people at the bus garage just were NOT listening to me (kept assuring me my daughter was in good hands), the social worker at Mikey’s school wasn’t returning emails or calls. Distraught, I got Cody involved.

He contracts with the bus garage for some of his really, really big events for work and he has a “guy” high up. Cody’s guy took our concerns very seriously, and said he’d drive Mikey’s return route that day personally and find out what was going on.

Meanwhile, Mikey got called to the office to tell what happened. We’d prepared him that this might happen. He thought maybe the bully was named Lucia, so Lucia was hauled in to the office. Mikey said, “she’s not the bully!” but Lucia corroborated Mikey’s tale and told them the name of the actual bully, who was then off the bus for a few days.

So far there haven’t been more incidents, but it still rattled my kid. My five year old kid. He won’t wear certain hats because “the bully doesn’t like those,” like he doesn’t want to provoke her.

I’m just so, so angry that some asshole kid took some of the sparkle out of my son’s eyes. Mikey is a nerdy, smart kid. He’s going to be teased mercilessly, I’m sure. You should see him running in gym class wearing a necktie. I just didn’t think it would all start so soon. He still sometimes sleeps on his belly with his butt up in the air. But I know he’s no baby, not anymore.

Tumultuous

November! November! I shake my fist at you and bite my thumb at you, sir.

November, where it’s 72 degrees on Friday and 19 degrees on Monday, 30 all week, and then slated for 60 degrees again next Monday. Who wouldn’t have tumultuous behavior with changes like that afoot?

Mikey has had a hard month. Some timeouts in specials. Some over-energetic behaviors and rough bodies at school. The kid I think Mikey is maybe bullying? He beat him up a little at recess.

But it’s all sort of ok still. Our BSC says all the kindergarten boys are acting antsy this month. The calm and peace she noticed in the classroom has given way to buzzing energy, barely contained by anyone. So it’s not just Mikey! That makes it all so much better to me.

Mikey had a bolting incident, which left my blood frozen in my veins. Unlike the previous incidents where he just made way for the street, he tells me this time he was just trying to be in the front of the line. You see, Mikey was able to verbalize that he gets anxious at the back of the line, walking behind all those slow walkers.

But he doesn’t want to be first in line, because the first kid in line has to hold open the next door and go in last, which gives him the same anxiety. His teacher told me she was letting Mikey walk second in line, but felt like that was special treatment. I asked our BSC to remind the teacher that Mikey is entitled to accommodations like this.

It’s not really special treatment. It’s an accommodation for a kid with autism to enable him to function in his learning environment.

I hung the kids’ adventure garland (cards with winter-themed activities for each day of December) and have been talking about how winter will bring some stability–some freezing cold homogeny of grey, grey days, but stable nonetheless.

Also, we bought a trampoline. So that’s helped a lot of things on the home front! Hibernation will be a little less intense this winter, which is good because I anticipate another boatload of snow days.