Writer/illustrator

Chipmunk’s new goal in life is to be a famous writer/illustrator. He’s very inspired by the Diary of  Wimpy Kid, Timmy Failure and Big Nate book series. His interest in writing is pretty great considering a year ago we were concerned about his struggles with writing. It turns out he only struggles when he’s not interested. So that should make the next zillion years of school a lot of fun.

Tonight he said he wrote a bedtime story for his brother. He brought it over to me to preview it.

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It reminded me of a Shinzi Katoh print. Aww! I immediately thought about how I want a tattoo of one of his doodles, and I grinned. Would it be this optimistic, surprisingly sweet seal?

“Flip it over,” he said.

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“That’s a meteor.”

Sorry for this morning

My 8-year-old has rough days. Many times, his rough days are related to some kind of blip in his routine. Late night? Rough day? Fighting a cold? Rough day. Other times, it seems like the stars have aligned to make him act like the biggest butthole known to parentkind. Fortunately, the good days get me through the days when I literally hunch over and see actual red. Or the one recent time I yelled in the car, “Stop being such a little shit.”

His eyes widened. “Why are you calling me a bad word??”

“BECAUSE YOU ARE BEING A LITTLE SHIT!”

He’s going to behavioral therapy which is mostly behavioral therapy for me, since it’s all about appropriate time outs and consequences and all kinds of other routines that make me feel inadequate and hugely overwhelmed. It’s helpful though. For both of us. The child has an uncanny ability to push my buttons. I know he does it for attention, and that he craves my attention like he needs it to breathe — but holy cow, kiddo. His therapist wants me to try to give him 5-7 good moments of positive attention for every time I have to point out a negative behavior, and it’s more difficult than you’d think. “Uh, great job eating.” “Good job putting your seat belt on!” “Wow you wore underwear today!” (We’re having a free balling it all the time issue.) “I really like how you’re not tormenting your brother right this second!”

I’m trying, though.

This morning he had a really rough time and ended up in time out after bellowing “I need to go to Dumb School” in baby talk over and over while I took a work phone call. I had a sick, cold feeling in my stomach as he walked onto the bus a few minutes later. I kissed him on the cheek twice. I don’t like saying goodbye to him for the long school day after we’ve been at each other’s throats. I hate fighting.

Later this evening, I was on the phone with Verizon trying to get my cable scheduled to shut down when we move out at the end of the month. I hissed at him and waved him off when he came to ask me for Halloween candy.

He came up to me with this note.

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tunnel vision

My son is seven and a half. Which means I’ve spent six years being aware that he’s different. His different-ness has had many labels. He’s one of those alphabet soup kids, and at seven, I still don’t really know exactly which letters make up his anything-but-typical little brain. And that’s okay.

I’ve been going to ABA therapy with the boys for a couple of months now. I love it and I hate it. I love that what I’m learning really can and will help him. I hate that I’m the one in charge and that it’s so damn hard. I hate that what a lot of this boils down to is that I have to structure our lives more. I hate wondering how many of his behavior issues are the result of poor parenting choices. (What if we’d set different ground rules, what if we’d been more consistent, what if?

*

Last Friday I took the boys to the Magic Kingdom. You see, Disney World has always been our escape. It’s rarely stressful. The kids go bananas. I feel like a little kid myself. It’s freaking Disney World, dude. How can you drive under the entrance and not feel like you’re on a one way street to paradise? The place makes me so damn happy.

Until I’m hissing at my kids to just smile for one second just both of you — no seriously you need to both LOOK AT THE CAMERA, LOOK AT MY FINGER HERE, JUST LOOK AT THE HOLE IN THE PHONE — I SWEAR TO GOD WE ARE TAKING THE MONORAIL BACK TO THE CAR AND DRIVING HOME AND GOING TO SCHOOL IF YOU BOTH DON’T LOOK AT THE CAMERA.

After six hours of pushing a nearly five-year-old in a stroller and enduring the defiant and teenager-y behavior of my seven-year-old I was totally that lady ruining the magic and probably causing Tinkerbell to hemorrhage in one of those cool tunnels under the park. I do believe in fairies, I do, I do, but my patience only goes so far and it grinds to a halt right about when you tell me I’m the meanest mom ever. AT WALT EFFING DISNEY WORLD.

But damn it, I did it. I took my kids by myself. Our strange triangular family lived through it. We even stayed at a hotel the night before and actually had fun there and probably didn’t wake all of the neighbors up at 7 am.

*

My son’s ABA therapist said, “Honestly, he seems more ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder to me.” We talked for about an hour, tossing around his behaviors and characteristics. Some are spectrum-y, some really aren’t. The kid is a conundrum. What we know for sure?

He’s quirky.
He’s very controlling.
He’s very defiant.
He has a super low frustration tolerance.
He has major sensory issues.
He stims.
He struggles with transitions.
He’s gifted (by the school system’s definition).
His interests are narrow (space, deep sea, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Beyblades at the moment).
He plays reasonably well with kids but doesn’t maintain or develop friendships.
Other kids report that he’s annoying.
He’s uncoordinated.
He’s sensitive but not empathetic.
He has trouble articulating his emotions.
He’s violent toward his little brother.
His temper is OMFG.

I can’t talk about what’s “wrong” with him without talking about what makes him so special.

He loves playing the drums.
Music enthralls him.
He reads voraciously.
His memory is uncanny.
He would run until he passed out if you let him.

He’s fascinating. When asked if he likes space of the sea more, he said, “Well we’re going to know everything about the ocean some day, but we’ll never know everything about space, so I like space more. For instance, in 2016 because of the Horizon we’ll have new pictures of Pluto that I have never seen.”

I feel like a jerkass when I list his struggles. But they’re not faults they’re just struggles — they’re just part of him. And when he’s horrible to me it’s not because he doesn’t love me and it’s not because I’m a bad mom and it’s not because I’m doing everything wrong. (Right?)

*

Oh my little love, you’re are so special.

And I get so mad when you’re mean.

I want you to love me as much as I love you. But you do — I do know that — and it’s not your job to show me that, it’s your job to be a little boy.

It’s my job to love you and love you and love you and I do, buddy.

*

It’s so much sometimes, and then it’s nothing at all and we’re on Space Mountain and you’re laughing and later you ask, “Did you hear me say AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH-SOME?”

You want me to know the things you know and love the things you love.

I don’t think I can do it and then you climb into bed with me and ask if we can have cuddle time and you start talking in your staccato way, clicking at the end of your sentences and I think for a while that I can understand, just a little, what your typhoon of a mind is like and you’re so tall now, and kind of hairy, and there’s no way you were ever that crying newborn who wouldn’t latch, that curly-haired infant with a big smile, that solemn toddler lining cars up, my baby, my baby.

*

ADHD. ODD. PDD. TS. SPD. OCD. ASD. IEP. SLP. OT. Uh.

*

Your brother loves you, dude.

*

I haven’t cried about all of this in a while, so I do. It doesn’t help that much, but it eases some of the tension in my chest. Pity party of one hiding in the bathroom at the children’s rehab center, recalibrating, processing, psyching myself up for the pitch black touch tunnel that is our future together, me and my boys.

As a little girl, my knees scraping the nylon carpet and my socks slipping off, I always loved the touch tunnel best of all.

we are into some science

Chipmunk will be seven next month, and part of his EXPLOSION OF READING (Captain Underpants) has involved revisiting some older toys that he didn’t really understand when he was littler. Last week I was collecting some toys in my garage to donate. He found his old Giant Evolution Timeline and went wild for it. He hadn’t seen it in a few years so the whole thing was new to him, and his phonics skills are perfect for sounding out giant ridiculous dinosaur names. It’s been stretched across my house since last weekend and his favorite thing to do right now is read me the captions.

I love his sense of humor and the things he gets excited about. For a short while his reading was very rote, but once he got comfortable he started “acting” the words and really emoting. It’s rare to catch him this unfettered in his nerd-ery and I adore it. I see so much of my own awkwardness and passion in him and I want him to own it more proudly than I ever did.

This kid is just so damn cool.
timeline

and then words happened

Over the past three months, Chipmunk has gone from efficient recitation sort of reading to full blown reading all the things, with inflection and punctuation and goofy voices and omfg he’s reading. The key with him seemed to be figuring out that he didn’t need to read chapter books. He could read science books and signs and subtitles and video game instructions and every damn thing ever. Which appeared to get him over that hump of “I don’t waaaaannnnnttttt to.” He’s halfway through first grade and he’s reading at an upper second grade level in a small group with two other kids. I’m so happy the school is able to accelerate him like that. I am giddy.

I started reading early and read books all the time. I read in the swimming pool, in the bath tub, in the car, at the dinner table. I read everything I could get my hands on. My secret heart’s wish has been for Chipmunk to develop a love of reading, but I haven’t pushed him–especially since he seems to skew more toward science and math. But holy cow, he’s into it now. He’s not really into stories that much, but any little thing he reads thrills me. It’s the coolest thing to share with him so far. (Sharing interests with my kids is one of the best perks of parenting. The Aquabats! Riding roller coasters together! Watching The Sound of Music! Frozen yogurt!)

READING.

Tonight, he took things to a level I really didn’t expect. I asked him to stop playing Kinect so he could clean his room for an hour and he flipped out as he always does when I suggest any amount of room cleaning. I started to get angry and dive right into yelling psychomom mode when I glanced at a yellow notepad on the desk. My mom’s always used these yellow notepads. Ever since I was a little girl. They’re symbols of organization and order and reason.

“I have a special job for you,” I said, as I wrote down four tasks. I told him that if he did each of the four things I wrote down, I’d give him 50 cents a task:

  1. pick up Lego minifigures
  2. put books on the bookshelf
  3. put the DVDs in the DVD box
  4. pick up the extra toys

“What’s my mission?” he asked, suddenly excited. SCORE. SCORE A MILLION POINTS FOR WORKING AROUND STUBBORN MCASSHAT’S AVERSION TO CLEANING. He ended up finishing three tasks (running to me with the notebook and pen to check each off) before deciding to take a “break” for an unspecified amount of time, which is still totally a win in my book because after the first three or four times I’ve gotten totally sick of organizing Lego bricks in order to vacuum the small rug in his room.

Anyway, later on, he took the notepad over to me and asked, “Can I keep this?” I asked him why and he said, “I want to write all about my life in it.”

I stared at him trying to keep my shit together and eventually managed to squeak, “I can buy you a diary or notebook or journal if you’d like, that would work better and it wouldn’t rip.” BE COOL. BE COOL.

He said that’d be great (!!!!) and ran off with a pen and the yellow notepad to make a list of characters, enemies and powers as part of the story of his life. Then he gave each one a point score on power/awesomeness. (I scored 20 out of 100.) (His brother scored zero.)

HE IS WRITING. FOR FUN. WRITING THINGS DOWN. IN A NOTEBOOK. I had to make him stop writing and go to bed eventually. I finally caved on playing it cool and squeezed him tight and said, “You know, Mama is a writer so it makes me very very excited that you are enjoying writing things down.” He said goodnight and then whispered to me in the dark, “I can’t wait to write down places tomorrow.”

that whole kindergarten thing

From getting into the school we desperately wanted to landing a teacher who meshed incredibly well with Chipmunk to a class full of the absolute sweetest little kids you could want your child around, Kindergarten went a lot better than I expected.  When your kids start real school for the first time, it’s far more stressful than what you expect during those baby days when everything is so immediate and tiny and poopy.  Getting ready for school nearly drove me over the edge with all the IEP stuff and allergy-fretting and just me fretting in general like its my job.

But dude, my kid.  He loved school from start to finish.  The structured but very busy arts-focused environment was perfect for him.  The drive across town didn’t make us crazy (although he will be taking the bus next year now that I’m confident in his ability to function and follow directions.)  He grew about a million inches and developed a lot of broader interests (particularly in people farting, getting married, marrying toilets, being toilet-heads and saying “what the!”).  He made friends and tolerated me chaperoning a lot of field trips and participated in two whole plays by standing completely still and eyeing the audience suspiciously.

August 2011

June 2012

Kindergarten?  Pwned.

I just can’t believe how great it’s gone and how lucky I am to know this kid.