It’s been a long time since I updated, thanks mostly to my chromebook keyboard suddenly ceasing to work properly. I don’t know what happened, it just stopped working one day. Then a few weeks later, half the keys worked but there was no real pattern to it. So I finally got a wireless USB keyboard and mouse from my dad, and now I can use my chromebook again! YAY!
So anyway, kindergarten started off great. The first day was, in JI’s words, “Absolutely perfect”. I cried for about twenty minutes when he got home. Day two… shit hit the fan. My son JI was sent to the peak aka behaviour room. Day three, okay. Day four, his behaviour was so bad that I had to pick him up early and he was asked to not return. They wrote on the report that he assaulted a teacher. He’s five. He kicked her because she got too close. JI was off for the next week as we tried to find a spot in an ED classroom rather than the general SpEd/Autism room he was in the first week. We got a spot at a different school, and he attended half days at the original school for a week until the transportation was figured out.
He’s been at the new school for a full week, three days, plus Monday and Tuesday. Monday was his first rough day, but he got himself under control. Yesterday after lunch/recess, I guess he started melting down and couldn’t stop. The teacher called me at 2:45pm, and I could hear JI screaming. He said JI was throwing chairs, trying to bite/hit/kick, took off his socks and shoes and threw them, etc. He wouldn’t or couldn’t calm down. It wasn’t until they told him I wouldn’t be coming that he calmed down to get on line for the bus.
The problem is that he doesn’t act like this at home. He doesn’t get violent or aggressive towards me or any other people – and to be clear, he wasn’t at school either, not towards any kids or adults until the adults attempted to get close to him. If he and I have a disagreement, I either remind him of his choices or I tell him the consequences of not doing what he’s told. I’m frustrated because I’m not the special education teacher, I’m not the expert, but they expect me to tell them what to do. I don’t know what to do because he does not do this around me! There was a short period of time when he did, but we suffered through it and moved on. I merely held my ground.
Is JI trying to feel them out? Is there something about school that changes a kid’s personality? Will this eventually pass, or is my high functioning, highly intelligent, super cute, loving autistic child doomed to end up in juvenile detention or some kind of home?! I know it’s the first incident but the way things went at the last school, I’m really nervous. We had a conversation last night and this morning about how he should act when he’s upset or angry, and I hope it sticks.
Back in September we got the provisional diagnosis of Autism for JI. Since that time he went through more evaluations and observations, and earlier this month we received the official diagnosis of ASD level II + Unspecified impulse control & conduct disorder.
School this year was, to put it mildly, horrible. The year started off great, then got really really bad, then it was okay, and then it was just nothing. We agreed to end his school year early because he was basically just sleeping at school every day, and the thing they needed to do with him, socialization, wasn’t being accomplished at all. He only missed nine days, so I don’t care, and the daily fighting was getting to be too much every morning. He’s not even going to participate in the “graduation” because merely mentioning it sends him into a panic. No thank you. I’m so ready for summer and preparing for a new start at a new school.
Because we have the official diagnosis, it was added to his IEP and now we can get the exact services and therapies we need for him. When he starts kindergarten in the fall, he will spend some of the school day in a resource room and some of the day with the NT kids in the regular classroom. He will receive behavioural and speech therapy regularly, and occupational therapy as needed.
The strangest thing about autism is how it is SO different from one child to another. Sure, there are certain signs and symptoms that are shared by all kids on the spectrum, but even those are not always the same. Just because I can parent my autistic child doesn’t mean that I could parent your autistic child. Maybe it would be easier, maybe it would be harder. There are so many differences!
Personally, I have very few problems with JI, likely because I suspect I am on the spectrum myself (a therapist suggested this years ago, and I definitely fit a lot of the traits) and also because I understand what it is like to be a “weirdo”. All my life my mom told me how weird I am, friends and strangers have called me weird, and I always feel weird. I get why he can’t or won’t do certain things, eat certain things, etc. I know how to talk to him to get him to behave and comprehend what is happening. I’m excited for kindergarten and a new school with all new teachers, if only because I feel that his pre-K had their mind made up about him being the bad kid, the troublemaker. I hope that a whole new environment will mean a good fresh start!
Things have been going very smoothly the past few weeks. We put JI on Clonidine, a blood pressure reducer, and it has GREATLY improved his disposition. He no longer functions at 11, has had all green days at school (well, a couple yellow days, but no reds!), and is generally a happy kid. JI used to be so intense, so full of angry energy, so constantly irritated that he was almost impossible to control. It got to the point where I didn’t know if I would have to take him to the ER one day, because I could not get
him to calm down. He was physically and emotionally out of control. Luckily, an exam by his pediatrician combined with my oral reports and the reports from the autism center warranted the doctor to give us the medication for a trial basis. I cannot believe what a difference it made, and how quickly. For the first time in years, JI is truly himself again. It makes me happy.
On the Squeaks front, he’s growing like a weed, per usual. He’s already got six teeth, and two more are about to pop out in the next week. The last two came in between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning! He got an excellent review at his 9 month check up: 21#, 12 oz, 34″ long. He’s in the 90th percentile, much like JI always was. I think Squeaks is going to be a football player (JI wants to play the tuba LOL). He crawls around like a crazy man, super fast, and is standing and cruising along the furniture. JI walked at 11 months, and I’m sure Squeaks will meet or exceed that timeline. If he didn’t have such a big head, he could probably balance better right now! He’s eating real food, doesn’t care for baby food much anymore, and his favorite foods are jalapenos, multi-grain cheerios, and MEAT. ALL THE MEAT.
Poke has seen the boys a few times since his mother pulled her witchy bullshit back in September. He has an actual job now, so he’s back to paying child support (per our agreement, not “legally”), but I wish he would see the kids more often. He says his only day off is Sunday… I don’t know whether to believe him or not. I’m glad that his mom isn’t getting to spend time with them, but I want the boys to know their father, even if he is an asshole to me. Just because he couldn’t handle marriage and family life doesn’t mean he was or is a terrible father. He was always a good dad until his mental health and substance abuse issues got in the way. It’s sad. What’s even more sad is that JI still asks about Seanatello, but rarely asks about his dad or his grandmother. Of course Honey & Poppy, my parents, are always #1 in JI’s mind! My bio mom and the rest of my bio family have been getting more involved in our lives as well, which will be wonderful for the boys as they get older
I was trying to get into the dating scene, as it is quite lonely and barren out here for a single mother. I am surrounded by at least two children 24/7. My only real life adult contact is when the parents drop off their kids in the morning and pick them up at night, when I see adults at the preschool, and when I go to the grocery store. I am desperate for adult human contact. The problem is, either the market is tapped out or my standards have gotten WAY more stringent than they were in the past. There’s nothing here for me, there’s nobody here that I’m remotely interested in, and actually, that’s fine. I’ve been talking with good friend of mine who lives out east, we’ll call him Doc, and things are going in a pleasing direction. We’re not going to commit, or rush, or whatever. Just take it nice and slow, and I like that. We’ve been friends for about 10 years, with some rough spots in between thanks to my relationship with Poke, but I’ve always had feelings for him in my heart. I always thought about him, but pushed it aside because I was married and that was supposed to be forever. Well, we all see how that worked out! So now I’m free to pursue what could be, and I’m excited. He seems to be genuinely interested in the boys, and JI talks about him at least a few times a day, even though they’ve never met. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
The past two and a half months have been a whirlwind of emotions for myself, my family, and my bio family. Mostly they have been positive emotions, except on the side of my (adoptive) family. I have continued to build a relationship with my bio family, and I have never been happier in my whole life. I finally feel like I am somewhere I belong naturally, rather than somewhere I am forcing myself to try to fit in.
Back in May, the weekend after Memorial Day, with the help of my siblings, I drove to Akron on a very stormy Sunday afternoon and surprised my bio mom. I met BD, his wife, and Texas at the restaurant around 3pm, and Sissy brought mom once they texted her to say I’d arrived. I could see out the window into the parking lot, and when I saw them walking in, I thought I would faint. Sissy walked over to our table, with bio mom in tow. She stopped, and bio mom kinda looked around like “Why did you stop?” Then she looked over at the table, it took a second for her to realize who I was, and then she put her hand over her mouth and just said “Oh my god oh my god oh my god” over and over. I got up and gave her a hug, and it felt so comfortable, and in the back of my mind I was thinking that the last time she gave me a hug was 33 years ago. I wondered what it felt like for her, and I imagine she must have been thinking the same thing.
We had a lovely meal, Mexican of course, and a good time catching up. We were at the restaurant for about three hours! Afterwards we went and visited my bio grandma (Gigi). She was very surprised to see bio mom, and even more surprised to see me. It was an interesting visit, to say the least. Finally we went back to bio mom’s place. We sat and talked with her housemate, talked about everything under the sun, and I finally left around 10:30pm. It was the craziest twelve hours in my recent history! Ranked right up there with Squeaks being born ahead of schedule!
Because they weren’t able to come to the baptism, bio mom arranged for the boys and me to go up to Akron for the 4th of July weekend. She came down and picked us up on Friday afternoon, Poke came up on Sunday afternoon, and we headed home on Monday.
Friday we got delicious authentic pizza, and Sissy brought her girlfriend to the hotel to meet us. JI acted like a maniac after the car ride, and bounced all over the place. After a couple of hours they left, and somehow I got the boys to sleep! Saturday was the big day – meeting ALL the family. Bio mom picked us up in the afternoon, and we headed to my aunt’s house.
Have I told you guys yet how big my bio family is?! It is HUGE. My family always consisted of me, Scrod, and my parents. My dad has two brothers, one who was never married, and one who passed away, but his wife still comes to family holidays. I have no cousins. My grandfathers died in 1977 and 1981, and my grandmothers passed in 2001 and 2007. So for the past few years, it’s only been the four of us plus Poke and the kid(s), and occasionally my uncle and aunt. That’s it. My bio family? Completely different! My bio mom has three sisters and a brother, and I have nine cousins. There’s also four spouses/fiances with the cousins, three of bio mom’s siblings are married, and bio mom’s mom is still alive as well. Not everyone was at the 4th of July party, but it was very much a culture shock.
Despite being in a totally new situation with a whole crowd of people I’d never met (except my sibs, bio mom, and Gigi), it was awesome. From the very first minute, I was completely at ease. My bio aunt was worried about JI, the first wee little kid to be around in a while, getting into trouble or in a dangerous situation. They live on a big plot of land with lots of holes and trees and rocks and dog piles, so I got it. JI had a blast though, playing with my youngest cousin, who is twelve. They chased each other around, they chased the dogs, and thankfully they stayed out of trouble! Everyone wanted to hold Squeaks, but he was mostly comfortable in bio mom’s arms. He didn’t even want me! While JI ran around like a crazy man and Squeaks charmed everyone with his flirty faces, us older kids played cornhole, drank beers, and ate tons of delicious picnic food (which just happens to be my favorite food to eat in the summer!). It was the perfect day, culminating in a huge bonfire at the end of the night. So happy!
Sunday Poke came up around 1pm, and we met up with bio mom for some different authentic Italian food…. unfortunately the restaurant was closed due to the holiday, so we ended up at a Chinese buffet. Holy cow, it was great! Poke and I used to take JI to all these different Chinese buffets around Columbus, but most of them have closed or the quality has gone way down. The one at Chapel Hill was so so so good – quality food and lots of variety. I could have stayed another hour! Afterwards bio mom drove us around North Hill, the section of Akron where she and my siblings grew up. I got to see the house where I lived for a month after I was born, the houses where my siblings lived/live currently, and a few other landmarks, including the hospital where I was born. It was really special, knowing that all these spots had a real meaning in my life.
When we got back to the hotel, JI and I went in the pool for a little bit, and then we all headed out to watch BD’s volleyball championship games. He is really good! I never thought volleyball was interesting until I watched these amateur (professionals?) play. It was fast paced and really fun. Even JI, who hates sitting still, sat and watched most of it! We went simple and hit up Applebee’s for dinner, which was actually pretty tasty! I don’t think we’ve eaten at Applebee’s for about two years and their menu has changed a lot.
Monday was checkout day, and I was up by 9:30am to get everything ready to go. Poke loaded up the van while I got the kids ready. Bio mom came by around 10:30am to check us out, and then we went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. Poke had never been to a Cracker Barrel before! I love it; one of my favorite breakfast places. JI was a bit salty for some reason, and actually broke a plate when he pushed it off the table. I had to draw on all my woo-sah and calmly implement the 1-2-3 Magic system that we’ve been using. After a four minute time out, JI was back in business and ended up being a lot better after that. Kids are so weird sometimes.
I was sad to leave, but I had such an amazing time that I know I will be able to get through the next few weeks until I see my bio family again. JI’s birthday is coming up in mid July, so we will probably head up there to celebrate. I can’t wait!
So, I didn’t just make up that 72 item list, I’m actually going to try and check off all those summer fun ideas! I’ve already made ice cream, popsicles, drawn a road on the driveway, had a yard sale, gone to the zoo three times (we go about once a week!), and hit up the Ohio Historical Society. It’s been super hot here lately, therefore I’ve also had JI in the pool just about every day. In fact, we’ve been using the pool way more than last year, and in order to save a little money on water, I went and bought chlorine and a test kit. This way we don’t have to dump out 500+ gallons every single day!
JI likes to have the slide in the pool, and it’s always very hot to the touch, so I rigged up the hose and sprayer to shower water down on the slide and cool it off, as well as make it nice and slippery to fly into the pool. When he’s not in the pool, JI is flying off the slide and down the slip’n’slide. The only downside to all this outdoor waterplay is that I can’t leave him alone. It would be great if I could safely leave him out there to play while I did chores or tended to Squeaks! I’ve heard way too many tragic stories about kids drowning in backyard pools, and even though the water isn’t deep and I know CPR, I don’t want to take that chance.
Backyard Waterpark– Set up a slide into the kiddie pool and turn on the sprinkler, hang a sprinkler from a tree and drive cars through it, your imagination is the limit!
Driveway water darts – Draw a bullseye on your driveway with chalk and use wet sponges as the darts
Waterballoon or water gun fight– Once you get hit, you’re out! Team with the last man standing wins!
Ice block – Fill a container (I use a plastic shoebox sized one from the dollar store) with water, food coloring, and trinkets like dinosaurs or cars or whatever tiny things you have lying around. Freeze and let the kids go at it until all the tiny things are free!
Amp up the slip’n’slide – Dish soap, shaving cream, no oil!
Car wash – Do a real car wash with your neighborhood, or set up a kids’ car wash with sprinklers/hoses and dish soap.
Plant seeds – You can get a packet of seeds for less than $1 in some places; plant in a clear cup to see how the roots grow!
Play ice cream – Empty a can of shaving cream into a container and freeze until hard. It melts quickly and has a weird texture. You can add colored rice to be the sprinkles! Give the kids scoops, bowls, etc. Not for consumption!
Salt sculptures– Combine 3c salt + 3T water, mix until every grain of salt has gotten damp (add more water if necessary), dry for at least 18 hours. Use sand castle molds, deep bowls, etc. to build shapes.
Find a new playground – Pick a random park from the map, or stop at one that you always drive by but have never visited.
Picnic – Pack sandwiches, tea, and cookies. Find a cozy spot away from the ants.
Bonfire – Roast hot dogs, make s’mores, tell stories, and enjoy the evening.
Yard sale – Gather up all the stuff you haven’t touched in the past year (or longer!) and sell it at low-low prices. Buy something for the family with the proceeds! Donate everything that doesn’t sell – once it’s outta the house, don’t let it back in!
Lemonade stand– Make homemade lemonade and give the proceeds to a children’s charity.
Feed the ducks – But don’t feed them bread! Get some duck food from your local pet store, or opt for veggie trimmings, cracked corn, rice, oats, or thawed frozen peas.
Go camping in the backyard – Build a tent from branches and a sheet, or just rough it under the stars.
Backyard obstacle course– Jump over the rock! Go through the sprinkler! Hop on one foot down the path! The possibilities are endless.
Draw roads on the driveway with chalk– Make a huge street for bikes and trikes, or make tiny streets for toy cars.
Flashlight tag– My version: Everyone has a flashlight. One person is IT, and has their light on – everyone else has theirs off. IT counts to 50 or 100. Everyone else hides. IT has to find each person and shine the light on them. Once you have been found, you join the IT team and turn your light on, and you find the rest of the people. Last person to be found is the next IT.
ABC treasure hunt – Make an alphabetical list of things to find in nature or in the house or backyard.
Texture/nature rubbings(please, no gravestones) – All you need is paper and a few old crayons!
See the fireworks– Lots of towns have them near the 4th of July, and you could easily see fireworks every day for a week!
See a concert in the park – Many places offer free or very cheap concerts in the evening or on weekend afternoons.
DIY projector for outside movie night – Add popcorn, a blanket, and some wine for the parents!
In the Kitchen
Bake cookies and make ice cream sandwiches – Homemade chocolate chip + vanilla ice cream.
Learn a new recipe– Let the kids go through your cookbooks and pick something fun.
Make popsicles – You can simply put juice in a popsicle mold, or get a little funkier with fresh fruit combos!
Homemade pizza – Buy a premade shell or dough to cook, or make your own. Top with anything you can think of.
Homemade Ice Cream– It’s way easier than you think, and healthier than the store bought stuff (even if you make it with candies and chocolate and all that stuff!)
Visit an ethnic grocery store– Make dinner from the interesting things you find there.
Make smoothies – Take all your fruit, mix it up with milk and yogurt, and bam! Smoothies.
Root beer floats – A classic summer treat! Invite your grandparents over and have them tell you stories about their childhood while you sip on a brown cow.
Places to Go
Summer reading club – Most local libraries have a program for school-age kids and grown-ups too.
Museum – Art, History, Science, etc.
Visit farmer’s market– Usually on weekend mornings, Google “your town name + farmer’s markets”
State Fair– The Ohio State Fair is HUGE and super family friendly! Check out a county fair if the state one is too far away.
Zoo – If you have a large family and no membership, it can be pricey. Try to make it less expensive by packing snacks and drinks for everyone, and make sure you wear good shoes!
Mini golf– Winner gets an ice cream sundae! Losers get ice cream cones! Hehehe 🙂
Amusement park – The cheaper, the better! We have a few tiny parks here in Ohio, and in some places those carnivals in parking lots still show up from time to time.
Waterpark – This can be an investment, just like the zoo. Once again, bring everything you need (towels, snacks, etc.) and try to resist all the souvenirs and extras!
Local pool – Our parks & rec has a system of pools that only costs $1/person admission. Check your local community boards to see if there’s anything similar in your area! Sometimes the local pool is only $3-6/person, which isn’t too bad anyway.
State park– There are so many parks to visit in our country. Try to see all the ones close to you!
200 mile road trip – For us, this would be Columbus to Cleveland or Columbus to Cincinnati, or Columbus to Pittsburgh. Go for a day or overnight, and check out how the other half lives!
Camping in nature – As in real nature, not the backyard 😉 Get a cabin, rent an RV, pitch a tent at a campground.
Do a kids’ workshop or class – Lowe’s, Home Depot, and local rec centers always have interesting things happening for people of all ages.
Go to a baseball game – Minor League, Major League, Little League, Geezer League… tons of baseball in the summer!
Go to the dollar theater – See that movie you wanted to see back in January!
Go bowling– Especially good for a rainy day.
Bring Your Friends
Talent show – Everyone can showcase their special or hidden talents.
Visit residents at a nursing home– Put on a show with karaoke, play the piano or another instrument if you know how, or just sit and visit and let them enjoy your company.
Wii Sports Challenge – Who in the family is best at Wii bowling? Which one of your friends can kick butt at Wii Tennis?
Scary story scare-off (or silly stories for little ones!)– Tell the scariest or silliest story you can think of! Or, one person can start the story and each person adds two lines. Go around the circle until someone says “BOO!”
Ice Cream Social – Invite your friends and have everyone bring one ingredient to make sundaes. Syrups, berries, sprinkles, jimmies, nuts (if you can), cones, waffles, anything you can think that might be good with ice cream!
Volunteer – At an animal shelter, soup kitchen, YMCA/YWCA, food pantry, etc.
Friends parade– Get everyone together and decorate your bikes, trikes, and other ride-on toys. Go through the neighborhood playing music on your mp3 player (back in my day, I had an FM radio on blast!)
Funny dice – Make two large dice out of styrofoam blocks (get them at a craft or hobby store). On one die write verb phrases such as “play like”, “dance like”, “jump like”, etc. and on the other die write silly nouns like “a dog”, “an alien”, “a purple people eater”, etc.
Streets on the carpet– Use painter’s tape to map out a city on the rug for your toy cars.
Fingerpainting in the tub– Buy soap paint, or make your own with liquid food coloring and white liquid soap (add a few drops of coloring, stir up, enjoy!)
Learn a skill – Bike riding, rollerskating, tying shoes, etc.
Learn sign language – It is easier than you think! There are tons of videos on YouTube, or check out some books from the library.
Build a bird house– Out of scrap wood, or popsicle sticks, or half a 2-litre, or any crazy thing you can find online!
Sock puppets– Make them the kind that eat dust! Use old socks and draw on faces – if you want to get fancy you can add yarn hair and googly eyes.
Write a book (or comic strip!)– Make your family the stars of your book.
Castle/playhouse/fort out of cardboard boxes – The sky is the limit on this one. Give the kids all the art supplies and let their imaginations run wild.
Pirate Day – Talk, dress, eat, and otherwise act just like a pirate all day. Rum for the parents after your little mateys hit the hay.
Make bird feeders– Use pine cones, peanut butter, and birdseed. Hang them near the windows so you can watch your new feathered friends feast!
Establish family game night – Pick a night and time that everyone can come together. Make a special snack, and get those old board games out of the closet!
Yarn lasers – String yarn between four chairs or down the hallway in a laser pattern. Touch the yarn and you have to go back to the starting line!
Giant board game(could also be an outdoor activity!) – Make letter tiles out of cut up boxes and play Scrabble, spray paint Twister on your lawn, make a huge hopscotch with painter’s tape, etc.
Dance party – Kids are sitting are BORED, turn on the music and start busting out those moves!
Life size paper dolls– Have the kids lie on large sheets of newsprint or butcher paper and trace around them. They get to color in their faces, clothing, hair, etc.
Pet rocks – Collect the craziest looking rocks from outside. Paint them and decorate them, then name them!
JI had his last day of school on Thursday, finishing up a great last week of school. This school year has been very difficult for us, from starting out at another school as an NT peer to being recast as disabled by the school system, then switching schools at the same time that Squeaks was being born and record amounts of snow were falling on central Ohio causing several weeks of snow days.
Learning how to behave in a different classroom setting was a challenge as well. At the public schools here, a red-yellow-green system is used, and in the beginning JI was constantly on red (all kids start on green and get moved to yellow and then red depending on their behaviour). I was feeling really poorly as a parent, but over time I realized that he just had to work it out and learn how to do it their way. This was tough because I always want my baby to be his best! I looked at his sticker chart for the month of May, and he only had four red days! Spectacular! JI has ended this school year on such a positive note, and I could not be more proud of him for all the growing and changing he has done.
Also today I received the paperwork that JI’s teacher filled out in regards to his social behaviour and such in the classroom. There were three questionnaires to be completed, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the answers. There were a lot of things that he does that I thought he didn’t do, such as play with other kids and act appropriately in group settings. He wasn’t doing that at the beginning of the year. Now I’m wondering, and hoping almost, that he behaviour problems were just temporary and that he doesn’t have ASD or ODD or related disorders. Of course I’m still going to keep going with the evaluations, because I’d rather test for everything and get a ton of negatives than stop testing and have him fall behind again. He definitely still has sensory issues, so behaviour therapy will definitely help with that.
I’m very excited for this summer. I think JI is going to mature a great deal between now and August, and hopefully next school year won’t be as emotionally demanding as this past school year. I have heaps of ideas in my brain about what to do to help JI in that maturing process, and I cannot wait to share them with you all. The next three months are going to be unique in that JI is becoming an actual boy, not just a toddler or preschooler, and Squeaks is going to be doing a whole lot of growing, and might be sitting up and maybe even crawling by the end of the summer. I am just so eager to see it all happen!