Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Camden lost his first tooth!

Ok, it actually happened a few weeks ago, but I am just now getting around to blogging it. It's been loose for awhile, but because of his SPD, I knew I would never be able to pull it, no matter how wiggly it got, because it would just freak him out. I figured I would have months of waiting until that sucker finally got loose enough to fall out on its own. A few weeks ago, we were helping clean the church while he ran around with a friend. In the middle of cleaning, he came up to me holding his tooth. I am not sure if he bumped it running around, but it was out and with no trauma - thank goodness! The tooth fairy left him a dollar bill, a new toothbrush, and a pack of sugar free gum. I love his toothless glory!

What I am reading now

This book was sitting on the desk of one of my student's desk yesterday morning. I am always looking for new reading material and love to read YA literature because I love to share new readings with my students. I picked it up off her desk, read the back, and starting flipping through the book. I was fascinated and asked her if I could borrow it. This isn't the sort of book I normally read, but I love the way it is written. It is written completely in verse. Since we are studying poetry right now, I found it a perfect example to show my students about how poetry can be written and can be used to tell a complete story.

The main character, Kristina, uses poetry to convey her descent from normal, suburban teenager to drug addicted teen mom. Kristina pays a visit to her father, who she hasn't seen in eight years, one summer. During that visit, she tries drugs for the first time and is hooked. The story follows her from that first experience through some hard life lessons. The poetry tells her story, changing format, style, and content based on what is happening in her life at the time.

It's a gritty book because of its subject matter. It does have some swearing and some sexual content. This book is not a book for everybody, but for an older teen audience, I think it has a lesson to teach. The author loosely based the story on the real life story of her own daughter who had similar experiences. I would rate this book pg-13. It is a worthwhile read, even if just to study the unique writing style.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A great couponing day!

Today was a great day of couponing! I love pairing a good sale with a good coupon. I stocked up on whole wheat pasta (free after coupon!), cereal, yogurt, nuts, and salad dressing. I love watching my food storage grow and knowing I could feed my family for a time if something bad happened. I get a bit of a natural high every time I can save 60% or more on my total grocery bill.

It was a year ago that I started using coupons. At first I thought coupons were stupid because most of the ones I saw were for things my family rarely ate - mainly processed food. When Mark's hours and wages at his old job were cut (a prelude to being let go), it became a necessity to make our budget work each month. I discovered that although I might not be able to use coupons on everything, there were plenty out there for the healthy things I like to have in my house, as well as for all the toiletries my family uses on a daily basis. I soon learned that I would never have to pay for toothpaste, pasta, or dental floss again if I used the right coupons paired with the right sale.

When Mark lost his job, having shelf fulls of things my family eats and uses regularly was a tremendous blessing. Although I am not as avid as some people I know, I can find good sales almost every week, even in my small town. I now love the hunt of a good sale to use with my coupons. I get four Sunday newspapers so I can have more coupons on hand for whenever a great sale rolls around. Couponing is fun!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Cast of Characters - Me and the hats I wear

Like so many of us, throughout the day I wear many hats. I change from one hat to another in mere seconds. Those hats define who I am in so many ways. Today I am going to highlight the hats I wear the most often.

Mother - Being a mother is the most important hat I wear. I am truly blessed to be a mother. Both of my children came to me after years of infertility. Because of that, I try to never take for granted the privilege of being a mother. If I fail in this job, then I fail in life. I can do no greater work that in my home. Even though I am not a stay at home mom, being a mom defines me more than almost anything else. I love the time I have with my boys. I am working very hard on savoring every minute I get to spend with these remarkable creatures.

Teacher - I am in my 13th year of teaching 8th grade English. I absolutely love what I do. Junior high kids, with all their challenges and frustrations, are fascinatingly brilliant, beautiful people. I enjoy being with them and teaching them on a daily basis. In addition to wearing the hat of teacher, I also wear the hat of mentor as I mentor teachers new to the profession, as well as the hat of being the head of the English department at my school. This means I am usually very busy at school with all the responsibilities, but I like wearing those hats.

Student - Last spring, after receiving an email about online master's programs, I decided to go back to school to get my master's degree. This is something that I have always wanted to pursue, but the cost and time have held me back. When I discovered I could get my master's degree completely online, for much less than the local college, and be done in 18 months, I jumped at the chance to do it. I am now three classes away from being done and will have a master's degree in Educational Theory and Practice by the end of July. What does this degree mean? Not much really except that I get a nice pay raise as a result of having it. I have loved wearing the hat of student. The classes I have taken have revolutionized my teaching. I have learned so many new things in the past year and my students benefit from that. I feel I am a better teacher than I have ever been, trying new ideas and techniques in my classroom on a regular basis. I recently applied to start an online gifted endorsement once I finish this degree. I really want to learn more about helping the gifted learners in my classroom.

Reader- I still love to read voraciously. I love sharing what I read with others. I am hoping in the near future to start a blog about the books I read, but we'll see when/if that happens. This is one of my more enjoyable hats to wear.

Couponer/Saver - In the past year I have discovered the joy and fun in using coupons and saving money. I have always tried to look for a deal, but couponing has opened my eyes to a whole new way to do so. I have had a ton of fun seeking out the best deals and finding the coupons to go with it. My food storage has grown by leaps and bounds by wearing this hat.

Survivor - I have learned I am tough. The past 18 months have shown me that I can survive hard times. Not only can I survive, I can grow and thrive. I am more confident in who I am as a result.

Sister, wife, friend, daughter, chef, maid, chauffeur, cheerleader, coach, comforter - those are just some of the many hats I wear. It's sometimes a crazy life juggling all these hats, but it's my life and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Cast of Characters - The hubster

My husband is the wonderful man I have been married to for the past 10.75 years. We have certainly had our ups and downs, but I am definitely blessed in the husband department. With all that happened in the 18 months, I don't think anybody was harder hit that Mark. He took a major beating and was knocked down completely, but he has grown tremendously in so many ways.

The biggest change for Mark is a change in jobs. Last April, he lost the job he had been working for the past ten years. This was a huge blow to his self esteem. Although he found a new job right away, it was not something he loved and it definitely would not work with his schooling, my job, or child care. We knew it would work temporarily, but needed something new before school started for me again. It was a long search, but in August he found a job he just loves. Mark now works at the local youth detention center. It has been the best move and change for him. He is so happy and fulfilled in his work there. I have never seen him so happy at a job as he is at this one. His hours can be wild (lots of evenings and some over nights), but I don't care as long as he is happy with what he does. This job has been a tremendous blessing to our family. I love that my husband finally has a job he loves as much as I love mine.
Mark is still going to school. It has been a long, hard struggle for him. When he lost his job, he went to visit with the local vocational rehab office. They did some tests and diagnosed him with ADHD. Because of this diagnosis, he qualifies for grants that pay for all his schooling. This has been another huge blessing for our family. The program requires that he maintain a certain GPA in order to keep getting the funds. Because of that, he is working his tail off in all his classes and should be done in another year. I am so proud of how hard he is working to get that degree.

Mark continues to be the main stay at home parent during the days. His mother fills in for us on the days we both have to work. I am so glad my children get that time with him. I know it is not traditional, but it works for us and our family. Mark is a GREAT father and my kids are blessed to be able to get that extra time with him. He has a relationship with his children that few fathers get to have as a result.

Mark is a wonderful husband. He supports me in everything that I do. He is there for me and the kids. He helps around the house and helps with the boys. We love to laugh together and he gets me in ways that almost nobody else does. I am truly blessed to have him in my life!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cast of Characters - Easton

Easton is my feisty, fun, and fabulous three year old. I love this kid! He is like his brother in so many ways, but also so very different.
Eastie is my shy bug. He likes to hang back until he is familiar with the situation before letting his presence be known. He does not like to be the center of attention. When he comes visit me at school, he likes to hide behind my desk until he is ready to go say hi to everybody. If you try to get him to talk or play before he is ready, watch out because he will either give you the dirtiest look imaginable or growl at you. He needs plenty of time to adjust to a new situation before he is comfortable in it.Easton is fiercely independent. One of the most common phrases in our house is , "I do it myself." This pretty much defines him to a T. He really loves to go off and play on his own. Although he loves playing with his brother and other friends, he is perfectly content to play by himself. He can entertain himself for hours with any toy or book. He does not want to be defined by anyone else. He is just Eastie and he defines himself with his independent streak.
He is also stubborn to the core! Right now he flat out refuses to potty train. He can go potty on the big boy potty, but he just won't. He refuses to wear underwear or pull ups. Ask him if he wants to be a big boy by wearing underwear and he'll just say, "I not a big boy. I just Eastie!" If he doesn't want to do something, he will sit with his arms folded and give you a crusty look. He has perfected the silent pout (at the age of three!) and is not afraid to dig in his heels. It his way or the highway much of the time.Easton has a unique sense of style. He does not care what anybody else thinks of his style. He wears what he wants. Since Christmas, it has been his Toy Story slippers. We can get him to wear real shoes to school and church. The rest of the time it is his "sipilers". He cannot sleep without them. He was stuck on his dinosaur costume from two Halloweens ago for several month. Every once in awhile it makes an appearance again and he'll wear it out shopping. I find it adorable to watch him walk around with this huge dinosaur tail behind him in a store, oblivious to the looks (usually chuckles and smiles) others give this adorable boy. I wish more of us had his confidence and unique style where we don't care what others think of us.
Easton loves to torment his older brother. He admires Camden so much and wants to do everything brother does, but he also knows how to push all Camden's buttons. Because he is younger and often looks so innocent, he gets away with a lot more than he should. He knows this and uses it to his complete advantage.

Easton was diagnosed with an expressive speech delay this past fall. I was aware he didn't talk much and so took him to early intervention to be diagnosed. Because of this early diagnosis, Easton was accepted into our district preschool speech therapy classes. He goes one day a week to preschool and loves it! (I find it so ironic that I fought so hard to get Camden services through the preschool, but was never successful, but that Easton, because he had a diagnosis before the age of three, was accepted so easily.) He gets to ride the bus to and from school, so he thinks he is so big. School days are his favorite day of the week!Easton loves to dress up. He regularly gives our costume box a workout. He loves Toy Story and can often be found carrying around something Toy Story related. He likes to carry something small with him wherever he goes. He loves to give hugs and kisses and loves to be tickled. He still loves to be held upside down whenever possible.I love this little boy! I love everything about him. His huge brown eyes can melt me just about every single time. He can be so sweet, but so sour at the same time. I love this about him. I am blessed to be his mother!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Incredible (not edible) Cam

Sometimes being the mother of a child with issues can break your heart. Most of the time, it’s easy to focus on all the ways Camden is normal, rather than notice his differences. I see all the progress that he has made in the past few years and I am proud of how much he has grown and progressed. But sometimes something happens that brings it all back to your forefront, reminding you yet again that your child isn’t “normal” and may never fit in completely. Yesterday was one of those days that hit me over the head like a brick, leaving me weeping for my child.

Yesterday I picked up my boys from Grandma’s house. She takes care of them during the times when both Mark and I are working. She lives about 20 minutes away, so the drive home is a good chance to talk to my boys about their day. I turn off all music on the drive home and just talk to my sons. After the normal questions – What did you do at school today? Who did you play with? What did you learn? – Camden just started to talk. As he talked, he told me about a group of children at school who call him names, who (according to him) always tease him, and, apparently yesterday, told him his mother was going to die.

Now, I have taught long enough to realize this is kid stuff. Kids are mean to each other. Kids call each other names or say mean things all the time. It’s nothing new or unusual. I am also perfectly aware that Camden is probably not innocent. Knowing my son, he said or did something first that provoked this meanness. I wasn’t there and I am sure I don’t know the full story.

I don’t take what the kids said to Camden personally. Normally it would roll just right off my back. I’m not sure why it bothered me so much yesterday. Maybe it was because I am tired and stressed right now. I just finished two days of presentations to other teachers and have a big project due this week. Maybe it’s because I am hormonal right now. Maybe it’s because Camden takes what other kids say so literally and I have to explain to a worried child that his mother is not going to die (nothing is wrong with me that I know). Maybe it’s just another brick in all the things Camden has going against him that toppled the emotional wall. I’m not sure the reason, but I was left again with the many thoughts that race through my mind on so many occasions.

Why is it that we target so easily those who are different than us? Why is it that we can so easily focus on what is wrong with a person rather than what is right with that person? Why is it that we look for reasons to tear each other down rather than lift each other up

I look at my beautiful son with his beautiful soul. He has so much to offer. There is so much that is right with that child, so much that is wonderful. Daily I delight in this precious treasure. Why is it that others cannot see what I see when I look at him?

I get regular emails from Camden’s school, telling me about another behavior problem. I appreciate those emails because I always follow up with consequences at home (I do not let the fact that my son has PDD-NOS and SPD excuse his behavior), but I know there are other parents don’t get those emails because their child doesn’t have problems at school. I have coworkers who chuckle when I say I got yet another email from his school, smug in the fact that they never received such communication about their child. At church I get questions asking about how Camden is behaving that day because they don’t want him to act up yet again. It seems like everywhere we go, somebody is judging my son because he has some issues and because, as a result of those issues, he doesn’t always act like all the other kids his age.

I hate the fact that Camden’s only safe haven, the only place he is loved unconditionally, is his home. I hate the fact that the only people to focus on the positives of Camden, rather than the negative, are a few family members and close friends. I hate the fact that each day my son walks into a world where judgment and criticism face him at every turn and I can do nothing to stop it.

Instead of noticing that my child sometimes scratches his butt in public or sometimes picks his nose, why not notice how he can define the word nocturnal? Instead of noticing how my SPD child hums to himself to block out noise, why not notice how his sensitive hearing allows him to memorize and repeat funny lines from TV and movies? Instead of noticing his obsession with video games, why not notice the creative games he creates to play with friends or the detailed pictures he draws as a result of these video games? Instead of asking if Camden is going to behave during the Primary program (after you sat a kid with SPD right by the organ during the opening exercises), why not notice he is probably the only kid his age with his speaking part memorized, needing no help or prompting at the podium? Instead of noticing how quirky he is or that he sometimes says socially awkward things, why not notice how he loves to talk to anybody at any time and has never met a stranger?

My son, with all his uniqueness, has so much to offer this world. Yesterday, as we drove home and after the conversation about the kids being mean, Camden said, “Look at those beautiful lines” as he pointed at the power lines running alongside the road. He proceeded to tell me how awesome power lines were with their dips between poles creating waves. Then he said, “It’s amazing how those lines attach to houses.” What a profound observation! Here I was, focusing on the gray road ahead of me and silently worrying about my son, while he was noticing the beauty of something so simple – power lines. When was the last time you stopped to noticed power lines, let alone the way they look and work?

I would not change my son for the world. Camden, with all his quirkiness and issues, with all the things that make him challenging, is so uniquely beautiful. His issues make him who he is. He is charming and endearing. He is funny and smart. He is perfect, just the way he is. I have no doubt that God made him this way. Wishing away his issues would be wishing away the essence of my son, my first born, the child who made me a mother and I would never wish that away. I only wish others could look for and focus on all that makes my son completely incredible.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cast of Characters - Camden

Since this is a new blog, I first want to reintroduce the important people in my life (namely my family) and give an update on their lives.Camden is my sensitive, smart, super five year old son. Camden does not have it easy, having a diagnosis of both PDD-NOS and Sensory Processing Disorder. Camden was diagnosed with these issues in the summer of 2009 after a long, arduous process that began with being expelled from a private preschool school and culminated with seeing a multitude of specialists to finally get a diagnosis (which is documented here, here, here, here, and here). Even with a diagnosis, my district preschool refused to provide any services to Camden, saying his issues did not affect his academics. Camden continued at that preschool as a paying student, where he made great progress in many of his issues, in spite of not receiving services.Camden is now in kindergarten and doing very well. He still struggles a bit, although the PDD-NOS is not a concern as much as the sensory issues are, but overall, he has made so much progress. He loves school and learning. He has an awesome teacher who handles him so well. He is beginning to read fluently and is academically advanced in many areas. I love sitting down with him at night, with a stack of books, and taking turns reading to each other. It is so much fun to watch him blossom into a little reader and into a good student.Camden loves his little brother and his family. He loves to tease and tell knock knock jokes. He says the funniest things and often keeps his dad and I in stitches with what he says. His favorite activity is playing on the Wii (I have a game addict on my hand already), but he also enjoys drawing, building, and creating. He is also turning into a great little helper around the house. Camden is an animal lover. He likes any sort of animal and has a special affinity for dogs, cats, and horses. He loves to be outside and wants to learn to ride a bike without training wheels this summer.Each day I learn more layers to his beautiful soul. He is a truly incredible child and I feel so lucky and blessed to be his mother. He teaches me more than I could possibly ever teach him. He is one of the greatest blessings I have ever received. I am grateful each day for this precious soul in my life.