Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Teacher of the Year

Where can I nominate someone for Teacher of the Year?

Olivia’s teacher, Mrs. H, has gone above and beyond so far this year. When we last spoke, I suggested that I send a baggie of candies to school with Olivia. These treats were to be hidden in Mrs. H’s desk and at the end of the day, if she’d had more good moments than bad, Olivia would get to pick a piece of candy for the bus ride home.

During our conversation in which the candies came up, I mentioned earlier that last year Olivia was offered the option of a doodle pad on the corner of her desk and when she felt the urge to doodle or scribble on her worksheets, she should do the writing on the pad.

Olivia hated this idea because none of the other kids in her class had a doodle pad and her having one made her different. Olivia knows she’s different but she doesn’t enjoy having it made clear to the rest of the world on a constant basis.

Mrs. H listened to me. She heard me.

Last Friday Olivia came home and asked me if I thought she was the only kid in her class who gets Jolly Ranchers if she’s had a good day.

I said, “Well, since we sent in the Jolly Ranchers, yes, you’re the only kid who gets them.”

She shook her head and told me, “No! Mrs. H brought in a big jar of Jolly Ranchers of her own and EVERYONE gets one if they have a good day. She put them on the counter instead of on her desk and we all get to pick one when we have a good day.”

Oh my heart! This teacher took my idea for reinforcing good behavior in Olivia and made it about the whole class. She took a moment, saw a need and took away the possibility that Olivia would feel singled out by making Jolly Ranchers a reward for EVERYONE who has a good day.

This is Mrs. H’s first year teaching third grade. She was Olivia’s KinderKids teacher (pre-kindergarten) and I wasn’t sure at the beginning of the year how this would go because Olivia never really connected with Mrs. H back in KinderKids. But Mrs. H is going above and beyond this year and I’m so grateful to her for making the effort to not only help Olivia have better days but also to help Olivia feel like she’s no different from anyone else in her class.

What more could I ask from a teacher?

Monday, September 26, 2016


I don’t know where she discovered it, but Olivia has decided that the chevron pattern is her very favorite pattern ever.

In fact, she wishes I’d named Alyssa Chevron so that we could call Alyssa “Chevy” or “Ronni”. This is all much to Alyssa’s annoyance and mild disgust. But then, these days most of what her sister and I laugh about annoys/disgusts Alyssa, which is all the more reason for us to laugh about those very things.

We found Olivia a black and white chevron patterned dress a couple of weeks ago. She discovered she already has a pink/white/pink chevron shirt and she’s on the lookout for anything else that happens to be in any color of what she believes to be the best pattern ever invented.

Have I mentioned lately that Olivia amuses me more than ever these days? She’s funny, exasperating, sweet, infuriating, delightful and incredibly argumentative all at the same time.

We came across a shirt last weekend (it was in the men’s section at Walmart) that described Olivia so perfectly that if it had come in an xx-small, I’d have bought the darned thing and told her I found it in the girls’ department.

It said, “I’m not arguing, I’m explaining how I’m right.”

That’s Olivia right there. This kid argues about arguing. Some days it’s hysterical, some days maddening. All days, I’m lucky she’s mine and that she’s here to drive us crazy with humor one minute and irritation the next.

Friday, September 23, 2016

No-Guilt Zone

I feel guilty about a lot of things. I feel guilty that I don’t give my kids the very best of me all the time. I feel guilty that my house isn’t as clean as I feel like it should be. I feel guilty that I carry to much weight and so I’m not as healthy as I should be. I feel guilty that my house sometimes smells weird (even though we all know that’s because my husband cooks weird foods and THAT’S where the smell comes from.)

But one thing I do not feel guilty about is the fact that my husband is the food preserver of our house. He’s canned salsa, green beans (I think he canned 105 jars of green beans this year alone, yikes!) He’s also canned tomatoes and tomato juice and he’s frozen a bunch of pears.

And I feel no guilt over all the work he’s put into doing this. I feel no guilt over the fact that I have not helped…at all…with this endeavor. Okay, wait. I did help. I snapped the first batch of green beans. But then he did the rest and I don’t feel guilty over that.

See, canning and freezing food is not something I’d choose to do if my husband chose not to do it himself. I don’t see it as a need the way I see cleaning the toilets as a need. No one else is going to come and clean our toilets. But I can go to the grocery store and buy beans and pears and salsa. So, if he didn’t do it, I would buy those things.

And because he WANTS to do those things, I don’t feel guilty that he does them with no help from me.

My mom preserves a lot of food too. She, like my husband, works her butt off from late-July until mid-September, canning, freezing, pickling. And hey, good for her. I enjoy the fruits (and vegetables, ha!) of her labors. But again, I don’t feel bad for not doing it myself.

I would like to figure out how to transfer this sense of non-guilt into other aspects of my life. Eh, maybe after the nap I won’t feel guilty about taking.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Halloween Preview

Because she’s awesome, my mom finished Olivia’s Halloween costume (Draculaura) yesterday and brought it over for Liv to try on last night.

Olivia loves it. She’s so happy with it, she’s planning to wear it on Saturday as a ‘going to town’ costume.

I reminded her that we need to try and keep it clean and stain-free until Halloween and she assured me that she’d be very careful. Ha! We’ll see.

She’s very happy with the wig I bought her for her costume. I’ve let her wear it a few times but only around the house and when she’s done wearing it, I put it back in the plastic bag came in. I’ve told her we need to keep it in decent shape until Halloween, just like the costume.

The costume is ‘just’ a white skirt, a pink vest and a white turtle neck shirt. I say ‘just’ because those things were simple for my mom to sew. If I’d tried, I’d have gone through ten yards of fabric and nothing to show for it except a broken sewing machine and traumatized children after they’d heard my swearing at the machine.

It feels good to have her costume ready. She’s so excited already. She asked me last night what I thought her classmates would wear and I told her that was part of the fun, not knowing and being surprised on the day of the Halloween party.

She nodded her agreement and then twirled away, enjoying the swirliness of the skirt her awesome Gram made her.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Not Helpful At All

This weekend, I came across a question from one of my Facebook friends (I actually know this person, have met her, worked with her for two years in my mid-twenties so yeah…friend.) She’s married with two kids in elementary school.

This wife/mom/woman was asking for advice from her fellow Facebookers for how to do it all. By all she meant, work, take care of her children, spend time with her husband, take care of their home, buy groceries, and still find time to actually take care of herself.

She ended her post with, “And please, not snarky comments.”

Because I’m sure she’s heard them. Haven’t we all?

She got quite a few really nice, helpful comments. There were suggestions for cooking hacks, ways to schedule workouts, how to talk to her husband about the guilt she feels when working out because he doesn’t get it (does any man? I mean, seriously?)

But one comment, while not snarky or even mean, was NOT HELPFUL.

One woman wrote: Kids grow up fast so know that it won’t last forever.

Duh, right? She knows this. We all know this. The days are long but the years are short and blah, blah, freaking blah.

It’s right up there with telling the mother of three screaming children under the age of five to, “Enjoy it, someday you’ll miss this.”

Um, no. I will never miss the middle of the night screaming, the waking up every twenty minutes every night for YEARS.

It doesn’t help someone in the middle of the drudgery of day to day life, someone who is trying to schedule time to work out in order to keep herself healthy in order to care for those children who are ‘growing up so fast’ to tell her to ‘enjoy it’ or ‘it doesn’t really matter because it won’t last forever.’

Somedays feel like forever when you’re covered in vomit and haven’t slept more than an hour at a time in three days.

I didn’t reply to the unhelpful comment because, well, it wasn’t my wall and it wasn’t my question. But I wanted to.

I’m a little farther in this game than my Facebook friend and yet I still have days when I wonder how I’m going to make it until bedtime. How I’m going to survive making one more dinner or washing one more dish. I wonder who’s going to sweep the kitchen floor this time because it’s NOT GOING TO BE ME, DAMNIT!

What I wanted to say to the originator of the post and every mom out there on the front lines was, “We all have days when we wonder how we’re going to muddle through just one more activity, make one more meal and kiss one more booboo. We wonder when we’re going to connect with our husband again because it feels like forever since we had two minutes alone with him to remind ourselves of why we’re even a couple at all. We all wonder where we’re going to find the energy to get up ten minutes earlier tomorrow morning just so we can have those few minutes to ourselves to do whatever we need to take care of the caregiver but we do it. We get up every single day and we try. We love our kids. We love our husbands and if we’re really lucky, some days we get to love ourselves just a little too. But the fact that you’re asking this question means you’re trying. And believe me, you’re succeeding way more than you’re giving yourself credit.”

Monday, September 19, 2016

The First Phone Call

Friday afternoon I got the first phone call of the year from Olivia’s teacher.


Her teacher, just like all the ones before, is so kind, so loving. She wanted to let me know that Olivia had had a tough week. She’d been defiant, stubborn, refused to do some of the things requested of her. She refused to participate in gym class. She refused to work with the speech therapist. One a science test, there was an ‘essay’ question. She was required to write two or three sentences to answer this question. She wrote a few words and then ended it with, “…like, I don’t know.”

Mrs. H wanted to know if I had an advice for her and the rest of Olivia’s team on how to work with Olivia when she’s in that kind of mood.

I told her that sometimes, I just don’t know what motivates Olivia. Some days she’s just…Olivia. We have learned to roll with it at home but I realize that at school she often needs to be redirected and she needs motivation to behave appropriately.

So we decided I’d send a baggie of Jolly Ranchers (Olivia’s current favorite candy) to be stashed in Mrs. H’s desk and doled out one at a time, at the end of each day, after she’s done well for that day and met all expectations.

We’re going with “when…then” situations for Olivia. I told her as I packed the Jolly Ranchers, “When you do everything your teachers ask of you without attitude, then you’ll get a Jolly Rancher at the end of the day.”

I want to her to know what’s expected of her. I don’t want her to think there’s a choice in this. I hope she doesn’t decide, “Well, I don’t want a Jolly Rancher anyway, so I’m not going to do this thing for my teacher.”

I also suggested that Olivia be allowed to take her spelling tests at a keyboard. That would not only stop her from being able to doodle/scribble all over the test paper, it will also allow her to concentrate on the actual words she’s spelling rather than the task of writing out those words. Writing is still hard for Olivia. Those fine motor skills are coming along but they’re still weaker than those of her typical peers.

We’ll see…

That evening, Alyssa and the rest of the junior high band was performing with the high school marching band at halftime of the high school football game.

Olivia’s second grade teacher was at the gate taking money for tickets into the game. We talked a little bit about my phone call with O’s third grade teacher.

I told Mrs. P what behaviors Mrs. H called about and Mrs. P laughed and said, “That’s just Olivia being Olivia.”

Which…I know. But we really want to curtail it. Third grade academics are harder than second grade. O needs to be directed in ways that benefit her academically and socially.

When I got home from the football game (okay, from halftime, we all know I only went to that stupid game so I could watch my daughter play her flute for ten minutes) I pulled Olivia in for a hug. I told her I saw Mrs. P and she told me how great it is that she gets to read with Olivia each week, maintaining that teacher/student relationship.

She also reminded me that even as we try to motivate Olivia and direct her actions and behavior, sometimes, we just have to figure out how to teach to her. Rather than trying to make Olivia fit a mold we all know she’s never going to fit, maybe we should all try and change a little and meet her half way.

If we happen to have Jolly Ranchers in our pockets, well, all the better as far as Liv is concerned.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Third grade…started out so great. I mean, it was fine. We do homework each night, we read, we practice math.

Each week Olivia brings home a list of spelling words and we practice them. I say the words. She writes them out. If she gets any wrong, I write the correct spelling for her and make her write the word three times.

It’s fine. It works.

Except that yesterday she brought home her spelling test. The one we studied for last Thursday only to have Friday cancelled due to fog. The one we studied for on Tuesday night in preparation for Wednesday, the first day back at school since last Thursday.

She was ready for that test. She’d written all twenty words just fine during our practice test. She remembered that occurred has two c’s and two r’s. She remembered that greatest has an e before the a.

The problem was that her teacher couldn’t read some of the words she’d written because she’d scribbled/doodled all over her test. And I mean ALL OVER it. It was a mess.

She’s had doodling problems in the past.

We offered her a doodle pad to have on the corner of her desk for when the urge gets to be too much and she just has to doodle. She hated the doodle pad because none of the other kids have doodle pads.

Yeah, well, guess what, Sister! None of the other kids scribble all over the freaking spelling test to the point that the teacher can’t even read the words!

I’m so frustrated. I don’t know how to fix this for her. She’s so smart. She’s so capable but when these things kick in, she can’t stop herself, it’s an OCD thing, I think.

Hell, I don’t know. I really don’t.

I feel like I’m failing her. I don’t want to yell at her because I don’t know if she can help it.

Last night, Tom and I talked to her. We told her that the rule is she simply cannot doodle/scribble on her tests or homework. She isn’t allowed to do it. If she does it again, we’ll take away a privilege away from her at home until she learns to control the urge or finds a different outlet.

But what if she simply can’t stop herself?

Do I offer her a doodle pad again (with her new teacher’s permission, of course.)? Do I suggest to the teacher that all the kids have doodle pads so that O doesn’t feel singled out?

I had a hard time falling asleep last night, worrying about this issue. I am wondering about ABA therapy. Would it help? Could it hurt? 5p- syndrome symptoms often mirror the symptoms of autism, so yeah a therapy created to help those with autism might very well help Olivia.

I just don’t know.

I told her this morning, calmly and without blame, that I KNOW she can do this task we’ve set in front of her. I KNOW she can do her homework and take tests without doodling on the paper in front of her. I reminded her that her teachers can’t see how smart she is if they can’t read the work she turns in.

She nodded as if she understood me and then giggled as she bounced and farted.

I don’t want to wait much longer to help her if there is help to be had.

Third grade is only going to get harder and fourth grade will be harder still. She CAN do the work, she just has to learn ways around those urges to doodle, or bounce, or twirl.

I have to figure out how to help her. It’s my job and this is one job I simply can’t fail. If I fail her…that just, well, it isn’t an option. I can’t fail her. She needs me to figure this out.