Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Sweetest Sound I've Ever Heard

In recent developments of the incredibly cute kind, the kids have started playing together.  Nala is 19 months old and Kaio 3.5yrs.  They share toys and food with each other, interact during pretend play, and the cutest thing: tickle fights.  This happens mostly at night when i am reading to them, one of them will start laughing about something and then they will both start wrestling, tickling, and giggling hysterically.  Kaio will mimic Nala's funny laugh that sounds like a CD skipping, "Eh,Eh,Eh,Eh,Eh,Eh,Eh."  I stop reading and bask in the most beautiful sound on Earth: the happy giggle of your children.
Kaio is also falling into the big brother role.  A few days ago when we were getting ready to take a bath.  Kaio initiated some drama over the water being too hot or too cold.  Nothing would please him and he was crying and crying while Nala was complaining that I wasn't giving her enough attention.  Mari was sitting on the sofa, watching tv and offering no assistance.  I freaked out and decided that I needed to remove myself from the situation to keep from having a beak down.  I just left and closed the door to the bathroom.  Kaio stopped crying while Nala started wailing.  I could hear him consoling her, "It's ok baby, I'll open the door.  I'll get us out."  He tries to open the knob but it was too slippery, "oh no the door's locked.  It's ok. I'll get the key."
The fact that he stepped up and took the initiative to try to help get them out of the situation and calm her down just melted me.  I walked back in to calmer kids that were ready to take a bath.
Kaio has also been wanting to sleep in her bed but I don't let them because I'm worried they'll kick or suffocate during the night.  But every morning for the past week I find Kaio in he bed in the morning, so he must be getting in there after his midnight pee.
Finally one last thing, they team up on me.  Yesterday at lunch Kaio started talking about wanting to go to "Thomas Land" - a section of Six Flags park with rides from the Thomas show.  "Mom, can we go to Thomas Land on Friday?   Mom, I want to go to Thomas Land. etc"  and right behind him Nala started making giberish, with the same pleading tone, "deh deh to to do, Choo Choo, eh do de do te do."  I was like, ok so they are both begging me to go to Thomas Land now, great.  And so it starts!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Trespassing on Someone's Else's Life

And it happens, AGAIN!  despite such a freggin great new schedule with my work, I'm feeling that itch.  It just isn't right.  This isn't the life for me.  My 30th birthday is creeping up.  So that is driving me for a loop.  Today at work we had a Town Hall Meeting, a quarterly event when the CEO speaks about the direction of the company.  A couple of the executive women in the company gave short presentations as well.  I had a moment looking at them, thinking, that could be me.  Or, that will be me if I stick around here.  They seem powerful and collected.  I admire them but I don't see them as mentors.  I have no desire to stay on this track.  So what am I doing here?!
I got off of work early and drove to my old house from highschool.  My dad sold it in 2004.  I dream about it often.
The driveway that my dad had aways kept so smooth and shiny is ridden with potholes.  I knocked on the door.  No one home.  A container of bubble juice on the front steps, all the lights in the house were left on in total disregard for conservation.  I try not to judge them and trust that they have their own reasons.  So I walked through the backyard - totally trespassing on their property but feeling slightly legit since this used to be my house.  The club house and swings my grandfather built were gone.  Deeper into the woods the treehouse that my brother started to build remains.  I get down to the creek behind the house and everything looks the same.  I'm totally overwhelmed by memories of playing on the banks, wading in the creek, imagining being stranded on an island, smoking pot with my friends; so many good times back there.  And it is beautiful in that unique unkempt and untamed way.  I started questioning my life.  Why don't my kids have this nature to play in?  Why do we have toys and playgrounds when what we really need is a creek in the woods?
I snapped a couple photos with my crappy cell phone.  I took one of the treehouse and sent it to my bro.  As I was walking back up the path I kept hoping the new residents would come home so I could tell them how magical a place that creek is, just in case their kids don't know.
Then crazy me wrote them a letter: Hi, Sorry to bother you.  I used to live in your house... I'm turning 30...I want to take pictures at the creek behind the house in October...  I hope that's ok... Let me know if it is not.
I left my business card attached to the letter and stuck it in the mailbox.
I have no idea what kind of people they are.  I worded the crazy letter very nicely so hopefully if they do call the police, the judge will be understanding!
Then at night, over a bottle of wine, I bring it up with Mari, "I want to quit my job."
"Ok I support you."
"And I want to move to British Columbia and live on an island and you can brew beer and I can find something to do."
Mari: "I just want you to know that I'm happy here and I like the life we have.  Can we wait until we sell the house?"
and so the conversation went.  The same conversation that we have every few months as I decide that I'm still not happy with my job and want to change scenery.  Mari is completely content with his regular job in suburbia for the rest of his life.  I'm constantly searching for something different.  A job in the State Department would be perfect for me because my attention span for location only lasts 2 years.
We are taking a road trip out west in a week.  I'm sure that he will fall in love with the West Coast and we will start making plans to move out there....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hanging in there despite the turbulence

Many ups and downs over these last couple weeks.  It always seems like there is so much going on!  Never a dull moment I guess.  So life has been tough in a sense.  I have a new boss and that means many changes at work.  The new schedule that I had felt settled in to, is now slightly uprooted with important new meetings and projects to cater to New Boss's taste.  Old priorities that made up our normal job, are now on hold.  So this transition has been expectedly stressful.  But at least she is understanding of my flexible work schedule that lets me have two days with the kids as long as I work nights.  She did say a couple key things during our discussion of my schedule: as long as you maintain productivity, and no going part time.  So there is some pressure to stay full time or not-at-all.  It really is hard to work full time and have time with the kids, and do choirs, and try to spend quality time with Mari.  Indeed not-at-all looks more and more pleasing every day, but I'm just not ready to give up that paycheck yet.  So I'll continue to work hard and secretly wish to get laid off so I can collect severance.  he he he  just kiddin.
Last Friday Mari had the day off and we went to Spa World, the nation's best Korean Bath House, and the greatest secret in Northern Virginia.  I got a exfoliating body scrub and massage where a Korean woman in black lingerie rubbed me down with milk and honey.  Imagine ecstasy.   It also costs $90, so I'm sure that would be a no go if I did not have a job!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lost from Clarity

The more time a spend with LittleMan, the less concerned I am with his development and the more I question the advice of experts.  I know it's awful for me to defy the authorities on children.  I am definitely no expert. And I know that I am probably being over protective and practicing favoritism because he is my kid.  But, I see him progress everyday.  He talks with more words and uses his imagination.
I know he has trouble with things.  I mean, I know that he is very different from other kids.  He doesn't speak as well, doesn't have reciprocal conversations, doesn't concentrate on tasks or wipe his butt after pooping.  But he is so well intentioned, loving, cute, and adorable. I just don't think that there is anything 'wrong' with him.
I have seriously spent the last two days thinking about his County services 'evaluation,' practically non stop.  Yesterday, I read the report that the psychologist and social worker wrote.  They did not mention how well he scored on the non-verbal tests.  Which makes me wonder: were they just saying that he did well to give me a 'silver lining,' or are they refraining from mentioning how well he scored because it would make him less eligible for county services?  Either way I would like to know the answer.  I don't like being appeased to make their job less harsh.  And I also don't like lying to the county to qualify for services that he may not need.
I am struggling with accepting that his psychological differences is something that needs to be treated.  Basically that is is comparable to physical manifestations of illness.  Does he need splints/therapy for his brain?
I have friends that have told me depression is the same as any other ailment and therefore warrants medication for life.  I just have a tough time with this because I feel like our brains are more adaptable than our bodies.  This is not confirmed by science, but it is my personal faith.
In Neurological-Physiology class in college I learned there is no evidence that a neuron in the brain will ever grow back after it is severed: like a limb it is gone for life. But..... I just don't believe that.  What else can I say.  I'm like one of those Catholics that thinks we mounted dinosaurs!
When I told his daycare provider about the county evaluation, she said that she felt something was wrong and that is why she pushed me to get him tested early.  I realize that she loves him and wants the best for him.  I mean, I truly believe that she knows more than I do about what is worrisome behavior.  But I am having a very tough time with this process.  I want to help him enjoy life and be successful, but don't want to push him to be 'average.'
My intuition says he is ok some days and says he needs help others.  Without a decoder, I will just continue searching, both at home and with the 'professionals.'

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Einstein Syndrome

Finished up today with an evaluation of LittleMan by the county.  A month ago I posted about some concerns that daycare has with LittleMan's development, which led me to contact the county to get him evaluated for special education services.  Today I had the debrief from a psychologist and social worker.  They decided that he is delayed and should qualify for services.  They scored him in the bottom 3% for auditory comprehension and communication.  His speech is testing at a 2 year 7 mo old level, even though he is 3 years 9 mos.   They also said that he is scoring extreme for social and emotional issues.  He talks more about being sad than other kids his age, and has low self-confidence.  So this was all tough to hear, but also kind of cleansing to know that I wasn't imagining  he is significantly different from other kids.
The psychologist said something though that gave me hope.  He tested off the charts cognitively, "I can't tell you what his IQ is with these tests, but I can tell you he certainly has a lot going on in there.  He answered all the questions in the test book.  No one has ever made it to the end before.  He was answering questions correctly at a 7 year old level."
After work I went to happy hour with some friends and somehow one of them brought up that Einstein didn't start to talk until he was 3 years old. I googled it and there is a whole theory around gifted late talkers called The Einstein Syndrome.  Einstein's parents had him tested for developmental problems because he was so slow to speak.  He turned out fine as we know, a real genius.
This all feeds into my skepticism of this 'special education' process.  I see that LittleMan is different than other kids.  But I'm still  having trouble agreeing that means he needs therapy.  Where do these developmental standards and milestones come from?  Do they know how a kid from a trilingual household will assimilate language?  I'm sure not, because I asked.
During the debrief I asked about the sampling of the 'normal kids'  you know, where do they get the data on how the normal kids score?  The psychologist did not have a the answer.  She said that she thought it was based on thousands of kids from all over the country and social backgrounds.  But I wonder if that is really the case or if she is just assuming...  Having gotten my undergrad in psychology, I know how difficult it is to get good data and a truly representative sample.
She said that it is common for kids with language delays to compensate with excelled development in other areas.  Like how blind people develop superman hearing capabilities.  I'm struggling with accepting that his speech delays are a problem I need to solve.  And If I do interfere, then maybe those changes will be in expense of his spacial intelligence.
So I am proceeding with caution.  I want to take advantage of these free resources, learn from them, and see if they will help LittleMan adjust better and be a super happy kid.  But I also don't want to normalize his spirit, equalize his unique abilities, or succumb to societal pressure out of fear.  It is delicate process.
They said that I shouldn't let him get away with not trying/doing things that are hard for him.  So tonight I patiently instructed him to clean up his toys, change his clothes, and brush his teeth without assistance.  He did manage everything, but his shirt and underwear are on backwards!  That will be next week's lesson.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's ok we can fix it

What a peculiar morning last Monday was.  LittleMan went to bed late after constructing a very detailed Lego police helicopter, with the help of his dad.  He wanted to sleep with it.  I started explaining to him way before bed time that he couldn't sleep with the copter because it would break.  He kept nodding in agreement.  But then when bed time came he just marched to bed with the copter in hand.  He insisted on taking it with him.  I knew it would break, and not five minutes after I kissed him good night did I hear his plea, "mom, help my helicopter is broken."  
Ugh, why doesn't he just listen to me?
So I helped him fix it and convinced him to put it on a landing pad in the upper corner of the bed where it would be safer.  Then he wanted to cover it with the blanket, so that it could be 'in the dark' with him.  no!  you are going to break the blades.  ugh.  I finally convinced him not to do that.
See, natural consequences never work with LittleMan.  He'll keep making the same bad choice over and over and over again - he is very persistent.  If I let him 'learn' through trial and error, he will freak out and start crying when the copter breaks all day long. Like last weekend, we went to a birthday party at park with a playground.  There was a metal jungle gym in the shape of a space ship.  He would climb to the very top and then slip his feet through the bars and hang.  He'd swing himself back and forth trying to get a foothold to lower himself down.  A couple times he even tried swinging one-handed.  I saw him fall more than once.  Ouch, right on his butt or side and hip.  He would just get right up, brush himself off, and run back up to try again.  Totally insane little monkey.  Natural consequences have no effect on him.
I went back into his room after he had fallen asleep to check on the helicopter and put it somewhere safe.  If he were to wake up to a broken helicopter, well that would be a bad way to wake up.  Of course I lift the blanket to see it underneath, laying on top of his chest.
In the morning came the astounding LittleMan.  He woke up ecstatic about his helicopter.  He played with it as I made breakfast.  Then he said, "here baby do you want to see my helicopter?"  "Here, here, take it"
She took it.  "Look, look mom, I'm sharing!"
I said, "That's good but she might break it, I don't know if you want her to hold it."
I was imagining LittleMan wailing when she broke it.
Sure enough a minute label there is a crash.  "Oh no baby, you broke it."
and here is the amazing part.  No screams.  but instead he says, "It's ok we can fix it."
That floored me to hear those words coming so calmly and matter-a-factly from the boy with no tolerance for disharmony.  Where did my kid go?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

An Escape to Paradise

We spent the last five days retreating from life in an antique cabin off a small lake in northern New Jersey.  I perceived the silence instantly.  No A/C, no electronics, no motors, no email.  The first night I could barely sleep as issues at work bombarded my thoughts.  But by the next day I was meditating by the water.  What a luxury to have a friend who has a house on a lake.  What an escape!

I worried about how the kids would keep occupied for 5 days in those primitive conditions.  I worried about LittleMan trampling the antiques.  But the kids did rather well playing with wooden blocks, dolls, flowers, and swimming in the cold lake. This exhausted them and the slept so early every night.

I found one deer tick on the baby that had bitten and one crawling on me.  Those were my biggest fear because I know so many people who have contracted Lyme Disease.

Mari loved sailing on the lake and went out for hours each day.  He now spends his free time window-shopping for sail boats on craigslist.  We managed to take off together during nap time and make love in the wilderness across the lake.  The lush forest romanticized me.  But the next day I was struck with bug bites that are still itching!

I'm waiting for another family vacation.  We're planning on a road trip in September, but everything feels uncertain now that I learned I"m getting a new boss.  She starts next week and I'm super nervous that she will not approve of my flexible work schedule.  I'm thinking about buying nice new clothes this weekend to try to impress her.  I know thats kind of silly but I think it is just me trying to gain some control over a situation that is totally out of my control.  It has been forever since buying new clothes - you know its impossible to shop with kids!
Back in the suburbs and LittleMan is ecstatic to be home in the familiar environment.  The kids must have been TV deprived because they are soooo happy with it on!  They jump up and down, pointing to the images on the tube and explaining what they see.  How good to have a long break from the tube so they can really appreciate it.


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