Saturday, May 01, 2010

On the Emerald Walk

Some time ago, I mentioned one of the haunts of my childhood, a place we called the Emerald Walk. It is a stretch of bank along the river covered in moss, where I grew up. The entrance to the Emerald Walk was an outcrop of rock we scrambled over, and it ended just before the island in the river began, walking upstream. I spent many hours along this little stretch of bank when I was young, and the world moved more slowly, and life was a lot more lonely.

This was the world before widespread computers, before internet stretched into homes, before cell phones were attached to many ears. None of those thing, by the way, make the world less lonely. Just more noisy.

The world of the Emerald Walk was one where summers lasted forever, and you could spend whole afternoons stretched out on the cool moss and watch the leaves turn in the eddies, minnows flash through the current, river grass bob and sway as if in the wind, and if you strolled a little way down to the stream, there were frogs and tadpoles and fool's gold, and nice fine sand for making mountains that looked like melted sugar. The sun sparkled on the water and danced on the moss, filtering down through a shifting coolness of thick green canopy. Places like this are disappearing fast in a world that prefers Walmarts, cell towers, and asphalt.

I took the boys to the Emerald Walk today. I wish I could say it was a glorious introduction to a world of peace, or at least boyish adventure, to my little guys. At least it was something new for them to think about, a place that, to me, still spoke of dragons and fairies and all manner of wonder.

Joey did discover the joys of throwing things into the river, including a few clumps of moss. He howled at having to deal with the saplings and brush and steep slope down and up, though. I need to recut the old deerpath down to our old starting point, so that the descent to the river is a little easier. They could then enter as we used to, by way of the rocks. I'm not sure how well Joey will rock-scramble, though, even at this rudimentary level. I also couldn't convince them to actually step into the water.

They did do some playing, too. Andy brought his box of plastic frogs with him, in anticipation of finding real ones, and real tadpoles. And Joey threw things into the water. Perhaps they did recognize a little of the magic of the greenworld, after all. At least so long as we weren't scaling the steep slope or having to press through brush and trees and slippery leaves. Or walk through spider webs.

It might have helped if we had actually found some pollywogs. Although there were many, many changes to the river- there always are- there was still a nice spot in the stream for a tadpole nursery, though we appear to be between clutches, or at the very start (where the eggs would still be small and hidden in the algae and stream vegetation). The boys did get into the spirit later, when I pulled out their wading pool on the deck, and they played "I'm an egg! Now I'm a tadpole! Now I'm a froglet! I'm a frog now!"* However, it also did not help for me to look down on this end of the bank, beyond the Emerald Walk, and realize all that green around our feet is actually poison ivy.

And I can't deny that seeing your children play in places you loved does hold some kind of magic, a look back to echoes of a past that now is lost. Or perhaps found.

*Yes, we thought of you, Team Stimey.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Baseball Adventures

Another weekend is upon us, so it must be time for baseball! Joey's Challenger's league teams up with the local high schools, and a high school player "buddies up" with a Challenger player to support them through the game. We get helpers from both Courtland and Spotsy, but mostly Courtland. All of Joey's helpers so far have been Courtland players.

Courtland played Spotsy at Courtland this evening, so Joey and I went to cheer on our friends. Now, this was a kind of odd situation. See, Joey's team is obviously Courtland, since all his helpers have been from there (and really, they have been fabulous!). But I went to high school at Spotsy. So it was very, very, very strange to be sitting in the Courtland stands, cheering for the boys in blue instead of big red. Very odd indeed.

We did get to see one of our friends make a home run, and another get on base. Joey was very excited about the home run. The game started after Joey's usual bedtime, so we only got to see a couple innings, but he insisted on getting a Courtland cap. It's always a good thing to support your friends.

Thank you, Courtland High School baseball. Go Cougars!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Big Questions

Well, it happened. That day we tried hard to prepare ourselves for, watch for, warn others to try to avoid. But it was, unfortunately, inevitable. I wish it wasn't, but it is. A sad statement, that.

One of Joey's classmates thought it was funny to teach him to say "bitch." Then they thought it was hilarious to take around the room and have him repeat it to his classmates- who all laughed and thought it was funny. So Joey thought he was being funny, and went with it. I'm sure we all know that those kids were laughing at him, not with him.

What tools does Joey have to defend himself against such an attack? What does it say about our society that such an attack, child against child, would even be imaginable? Yet not only was it imaginable, we had already started trying to teach those skills of coping with anti-social behavior of others. Teasing. Bullying. Nastiness.

I am assured that there was discussion and teaching and correction all around, action taken, the substitute who was supposed to be with him spoken to, etc. etc. etc. Certainly Joey understood what had happened at some level by the time he came home and we talked about it, some with Grandma, some with me, some later at bedtime. We have not heard the word repeated here, other than when Grandma asked what had happened, and he explained to Grandma what had happened, including the detail of what the word was. We knew enough about the incident to fill in the blanks he had left in his description of the event.

All of these things are already in his IEP to address, but it leaves ringing in my brain the response to the goals: Our kids aren't like that, the new teacher insisted, backed up by another staff member of the new school. Sorry, folks, but this is a very small system. We have one school per level. Joey will be going to school with the same kids he is going to school with now. If your kids "aren't like that" now, get ready. It only takes one.


Andy and I were engaged in a new routine of bedtime activity, the Watching of the Videos. He loves him some Fuzzy Fuzzy Cute Cute, and Nigel Marven, and Walking with Dinosaurs: Live Edition. He's allowed three before storytime, and we were coming to the end of our third, a clip from Chased By Dinosaurs, when he burst into tears.

I was shocked. I stopped the film. He's seen the show a million bazillion times, its one of his favorites, and this clip is of funny bird-penguiny-things swimming around, and Nigel mentions most them do not live to a ripe old age because there are so many ways to be eaten in the Cretaceous oceans. Eaten? Uh-oh.

"I'm afraid I'm going to die!" he wailed, inconsolable.

Death has been a huge trigger around here since the fish died. Both little guys are having a lot of difficulty processing death and the loss of their fish, made worse by the fiasco of trying to replace them. Joey is constantly getting caught in cycles of talking about this person died, or that toy died, or his fish died. For the last two days, Andy has piped up and asked him to stop talking about dead things.

Then came the terrible blunder of our YouTube moments, one of the videos of silly dinosaurs included the eating of a pig, and Andy loves pigs. To get around this, I showed him the Warm Bath video, which he loves. He made the connection between the two pigs, and we finally settled on that the pig wasn't eaten, that he was just joking with the little dinosaur and drew a picture to fool him, and the big dinosaur carried the pig to the farmer to be put in the nice warm bath, and the big dinosaur burped because he thought burping was funny (see the video to see what I'm babbling about), and that's what happened. No eaten piggies.

Are you with me? Because now I have a child who, about to turn six years old, is suddenly petrified by death.

"I dont want to die! I don't want to go back to God!" How does one cushion the fear of death in a six-year-old? I haven't a clue, honestly. We did the best we could. We assured him that we love him, that he wasn't likely to die anytime soon, the God takes good care of all of us. And we love him, and do our best to keep him safe and help him learn to stay safe. And we love him. And Grandma wasn't going to die right away, and Mommy wasn't going to die right away, and Daddy was still here, and Joey was safe. And we love him.

It's the kind of discussion that makes you wander into his room and check to make sure he's OK every, oh, fifteen minutes. All night long. Just in case. Because we love him.

Connections: Bunnies

Mom just reminded me that I forgot to tell you guys: I have solved the mystery of why the Tooth Fairy is a blue bunny.

The reason is actually very simple. In 2008, when we got our first visit from the Blue Bunny, Joey was into blue. He liked bunnies. And he was into this:

The ice cream truck.

Mystery solved.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Keeping Us Awake

I worry when I get the sheet for gifted and talented screening for Andy and find it fits both boys to a T. Only they have never screened, nor offered to screen, Joey.

I worry when one of the teachers in Andy's room says things like, "He's such a delight!" because it implies that if he was disabled by his ADHD, he wouldn't be (especially in the context in which it is said). And the reason right now that he isn't disabled by his ADHD is because he had a totally rockin' teacher in there- the other teacher.

I worry when teachers at Joey's new school react to suggestions for Joey's program with "Oh, we've never had our teacher do that before." I especially worry when the suggestion is about providing him with social skills and language training- two fairly common needs for educating autistic kids.

I worry when the school SLP praises Andy's speech skills, when I have now seen and heard in him the company of whole rooms of peers, and can still hear how very different he sounds. Heaven forbid he get excited or upset, because then you can't understand him at all. (Did I mention the child has ADHD? Excited or upset happens a lot).

I worry when the discussion of ESY includes a program that had field trips every week, when every time he has a field trip at school, Joey gets off-kilter... often for days. Oh, and one of the weeks without an aide, in a room of 40 kids. I worry a lot.

I worry when the reaction to having IEP goals about coping with teasing are scoffed at ("we don't have that problem with our kids!"), only have a serious teasing incident not a week later. The kind you have to really mull and process before blogging about.

These are the days when I get little sleep.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Joey Hits the Ball

As The Mind Turns

Did you guess that it has been a long week?

I sit now, in a break from reading essays, curled in the bedroom chair, the cats asleep. One is sprawled over the bed, taking up the whole thing as only a cat (or small boy) can. The other has languidly spread herself over the top of the chair. With the boys downstairs, stillness reigns. It is an odd, rare moment here. The IEP is mostly done, and we take a breath before working on the ESY piece and putting together the material for fighting the OT piece. The job interview has come and gone, and I now find myself worrying about what I said or did or what I might need to do, for a job it is highly likely I will not get. The mind races, the wheels spin, and I begin to wonder what things I ought to be doing but haven't done yet, what should be done first in the long list of things that are needful.

The mind spins.

It is supposed to storm today. I can see the deepening grey of the clouds, the stark green of spring leaves against the gathering storm. The greying sky makes the new leaves seem almost neon, almost glowing in brilliance. You don't get that effect in summer. The light doesn't play through the older, darker greenery of summer in the same way. It's a spring thing.

I'm gearing up for summer. I know I have at least one week of both boys together, and one week of Joey alone. I wish I could get my embroidery machine up and running- the toy I asked for two Christmases ago now, and still haven't gotten far enough in life to even get out of the box- I could make merit patches for the boys to earn. If I knew how to get my own designs into the computer of the machine, of course. That first week we could do some traveling, I am putting some money away for it. Down to Williamsburg. Up to the zoo. The usual, familiar haunts to greet the coming of summer. We could put our feet into the water at Colonial Beach, maybe find some shark's teeth in Westmoreland Park. Or maybe we could find something new. That second week, it is time to send Andy off to camp, and find something for Joey. He did weather camp last year, and space camp, and vehicles. It is a little too soon to really ask him- we're almost two months out- but I need to start thinking about materials and projects and what we can do.

I've signed Andy up for t-ball and camps, and Joey looks like he'll have four weeks in a big school program, and I've requested at least two more weeks of programming of some kind for him. A five-week school hiatus in August would be a disaster. On the other hand, where they plunk those two weeks could be important for us; when will we go to the beach? Joey so loves the beach. Which school will I be working for? One semester starts sooner than the other.

Whirr, whirr, whirr.

What materials should I put together for Joey's new teachers? I wish they had several inclusion rooms, instead of just one for each level. Is there such a sharp drop-off in kids in special ed? I wonder if he's being "stuck" into an inclusion room instead of sent out into the "regular" rooms because he needs an aide, and they don't want to hire one. What happens if they find they need to send him out, for academic and/or social reasons? Should I have pressed for an aide? Should I have asked more questions? Who will be Joey's case manager in his new school? Why wasn't it made clear at the meeting?

I need to find something fun for Andy to be doing while we are at Joey's games. He's feeling left aside, the game is boring to him since he can't play in it. There are a few other siblings hanging around, maybe something can be organized for them. Some way they can participate and join in. There must at least be a way to let them know they are not forgotten. What do siblings normally do at the games of their brothers or sisters?

I need to go to the grocery store tonight. We're out of yogurt and cat food.

When does the spin cycle end?