A New School for Paul!

After a full semester of school- and all the good, bad and ugly that went along with it- we decided to request a transfer for Paul.  That’s a bit of a risky decision because technically, the district could force transfer him back to his original school since that is the one we are zoned for.  Our city has experienced so much growth- the schools are bursting at the seams, and while the official story is that they would do a lottery if they needed to force transfer a child, I really really don’t think they’d do that to Paul (or any other kid with an IEP.)  In the slight chance that they did, I’m pretty sure I could get Paul out of it, since the Director of Special Ed went through the ups and downs at Paul’s last school with us, has been incredibly supportive and got the transfer request approved within a few hours for us.

Paul started at his new school on Monday and it is like a whole new world! (I may or may not have been singing Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” in the car on my way to pick up today.)  Each day I am concerned I’ll hear something negative when I pick him up, but I haven’t.  It’s not that the other school was all negative all the time, but it sure felt like I heard a lot about what Paul couldn’t do, with an underscore of annoyance that he was in gen ed more than they wanted.  At his new school, they really believe in him.  He is in general ed a lot more, and I didn’t even request it- it’s what they proposed.

The general ed teacher has a very well rounded class.  She has time for kids to play, teaches social skills, and does lots of stations for academic work.  Stations are great for Paul because they are usually hands on and can be easily modified for him.  They are taking the initiative to modify what they need to and are arranging for classroom buddies to rotate in and do that work alongside Paul.  He gets to go to music class twice a week, and they are even having him join another kindergarten class for their library time since his day ends before his own class goes.  I find that I’m the one saying “It’s ok if you need to pull him out of her room during that time” only to be met with, “No, he’s doing great; he can do it.”  It is so refreshing!

Paul seems to enjoy it more too- it’s pretty early on, so I’m not sure if it’s just the novelty of something new, but Paul has been in a great mood all week. It can be easy to dismiss the feelings of a child with a disability, especially when that child is nonverbal, but Paul is smart and pretty perceptive.  I had been wondering if he’d tuned into any negative attitude or annoyance at his presence at the other school, particularly while he was in the general ed room.  He just seemed quick tempered when he’d come home, and easily frustrated.  But he’s very happy now, and I’m hopeful it will continue.

So that’s a Paul update.  He’s doing great.  I was a little nervous making this decision (Ryan was much more confident) but it was absolutely the right one to make!

 

An updated photo of Simeon!

Somehow, some way, someone got an updated photo of Simeon!

Here he is as a baby:

simeon2

Here he is as a little bigger of a baby:

simeon1

And now as a big 9 year old:

simeon

 

I know a lot of people would think that he doesn’t look very good in this photo, but he actually looks much better than I expected.  He’s not in a crib, he’s in actual clothes with no visible sores and doesn’t appear to be in pain, and while he’s leaning on something, perhaps for stability, his legs don’t look tight, though his hands do a bit.  I mean, he’s not in great shape and he needs a family badly, but I’ve seen children look much much worse for living in an institution for 9 years.

He is listed with an older sister.  We really don’t know much about her.  We also don’t know if they can be separated if someone was able to adopt just one of them.  We need a miracle for this boy and his sister.  We have prayed for so long- 6 years.  Multiple families (I think we are up to 3 or 4) have committed to adopting them, but it has always fallen through.  Please remember them in your prayers.

http://reecesrainbow.org/12544/simeon4207

 

Prayers for friends

Friends,

Please pray for college classmates of mine.  They welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world last week.  Little Louisa has spina bifida, and they just learned that she also has a genetic condition that can cause serious issues for her in the future.  Please pray they have strength, comfort, and peace.

 

 

Happy Metcha Day Paul!

Real quick- we haven’t met again about the IEP, but I am in a very good place about it.  Sometimes just the reality of all of this – the things I don’t know, the few things I do know, the conflicting opinions, the forces outside of all our control – they just become overwhelming.  But I’ve got some great stuff put together, and more importantly, I know that the whole team means well.  Truly.  I just have to remember that there can just be other factors at play when it comes to schools.

But on to more important things…

We met Paul four years ago on October 4!  Here’s some photos from that day.

 

They put him in one of the only blue outfits they had and brought him in so meet us.  Ryan held him first, while I took notes on everything they were telling us about him.  I really wanted to hold him, but it’s important to get that information then, because you may never hear it again.  15 months and 15 lbs.  Fairly awake at first, but likely on sleep aids.  He never smiled, but he had the same sapphire blue eyes that sparkle now.

A few minutes after we first laid eyes on him they asked us what we were going to name him, wrote it down on some forms and our facilitator went off to file papers for court.

(It happens that fast.)

A lot has happened in 4 years- lots of medical care, therapies, preschool and now kindergarten.  He instantly gained, not only a mom and dad, but a brother about his age, and then a baby brother later on.

He helps me vacuum and is the only one in the family who puts his shoes where they belong.  He’s often requesting me to sing songs, shaking his head no until I get the one he wants (right now the hits are Panis Angelicus and O Beautiful for Spacious Skies.)  And he’s usually up for cuddles.  He’s just getting to be such a big boy; losing his baby face and acting more mature.  He’s a delight.

Paul has made me such a different mother than I thought I would ever be.  He makes me crazy one second, but melts my heart the next.  He’s taught me about what’s important in life.  About how to work hard, like he does.  He’s made me think and rethink all my parenting and discipline instincts.  I know more about medicine and special education that I ever thought I would.  I just think I approach the world differently now, and it’s a really good thing.  And I owe it all to Paul.

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IEP- am I unreasonable?

I am far behind over here.  I still haven’t written about our summer birthdays or updated you on the house which was painted about a month ago.  And, well, this post isn’t going to move me forward with either of those things.

This post is more just…me just needing some support.

You may remember last year, during IEP season, we worked to get Paul in General Ed for some additional time.  It was set to be the first hour of the day, from 8:30-9:30, and then recess, snack, and the lunchtime recess.

Great.

Except for the first two weeks of school-there was some confusion and he was in general ed all morning except for 1/2 hour.   They even did push in services like OT, PT, ST.  It wasn’t really what we were going for.  I picked up on this and then chatted with the special ed teacher.  I only have a glimpse of how this got confused.  The minutes were messed up, but not the Gen Ed minutes, only the Special Ed minutes, so they must not have looked at all of it.  And they certainly didn’t read the notes where it clearly laid out when Paul would be where.  Twice.

 

But ok.  So we scheduled an IEP to amend the minutes.  I observed Paul a couple of times so I could see how he was doing, particularly in the Gen Ed room.  After observing, I wrote out a few behavioral suggestions, along with a list of probably 20 sensory or fine motor activities his aide could do with him to “break up” the desk work.  The half hour of more intensive work from 9-9:30, mostly at the desk, was behaviorally problematic.  Paul was clearly bored and frustrated- becoming vocal, not wanting to sit at the desk, not wanting to do writing (hand over hand, or otherwise).

Then we had the IEP.  It was supposed to just be about amending the minutes, but when I was told how everyone was going to be invited, I knew something was up!  Lo and behold, the Gen Ed teacher recommended moving him out of the room from 9-9:30 and instead have him back in later (around 11, maybe?) for a snack and read aloud time.

So his Gen Ed minutes would stay the same, just at different times.

And I’m not trying to be a pain in the ass.  Really.

But I’m having some problems, and I never sign anything at an IEP meeting, so nothing is set yet.

First- yeah, Paul will be an angel during snack and read aloud time, because there’s food.  I haven’t really gotten an answer, despite an e-mail and a phone conversation, about how much of that time is munching on crackers and how much is work.  But I don’t want him to only behave when there’s food.  I want him to behave, period.  And he has to be taught how to do that.  We lose our opportunity to modify his behavior if we only allow him in Gen Ed when he poses no challenges.

But even more than that, I really want to believe that we’ve worked reasonably hard for Paul to be successful before we change up his schedule.  And I’m just not convinced.  They’ve been providing him with alternate sensory/fine motor activities for 2 weeks.  And the only things they’ve actually tried were things provided by me, along with Paul’s private OT, and their OT (her ideas were along the same lines as what we gave.)

I’m not the educational professional here.  Where are all their ideas?  When a child with DS and/or ASD is bored and frustrated doing desk work, what do you do?  SHOW me that you’re doing your job.  If you haven’t tried anything else, then tell me what you’ve at least thought about trying and why you didn’t do it.

I’ve got more ideas.  A whole page of ideas, and in 4 different categories- support ideas, new sensory/motor ideas, ways to modify the work, and behavioral support for the staff.  So what are they thinking of?

And just 2 weeks.  To me, that is not long enough.  It takes 6-8 weeks to modify behavior.  I think that’s how long we should work at it, and if he hasn’t improved in that time, then we can explore our options.

I mean, honestly, am I unreasonable?  It pains me to call another IEP meeting.  I’m a considerate human being.  I understand how busy they are.  I don’t like taking up more of their time.  But really,  have we made a solid effort to help Paul be successful?  I don’t think so.

And this negative behavior?  It needs to be dealt with now.  Not later.  Now. Because the kid is strong, and it will get harder.  And he is clever and could just become more challenging.  And above all, he’s smart, and we should all get to see that.

So tell me your thoughts.  And if anyone could shed some light on the expectations of each of the teachers when Paul is in Gen ed, I would appreciate that.  I am just not clear on what the general ed teacher is supposed to be doing with Paul.  Does she modify work, or is it solely the special ed teacher?  I know you can write in the IEP consult between the teachers every week.  I think because Paul has an aide with him, he is just sort of floating along in there, with the aide taking care of everything, and the teacher just letting that happen.

 

 

Ben-isms

Ben likes to talk.  Like, a lot.  Most would think he is my easiest child, and that is true in some ways.  But let me tell you, when Grandma and Grandpa take Ben for a special day out, I enjoy so much silence.  Even though there is a 1 year old and a child with special needs still in need of my care, there is so much peace.  I mean, I do want Paul to talk someday.  But in the meantime, ahhh, sweet silence.

Though, I must say, when my currently nonverbal children do learn to talk, life will get much more interesting, assuming they come out with similar stuff as Ben.

So, as documentation of some of the funny things he says, here we go.

Ben: Mom, I want more kids.
Meg: Do you mean siblings or at school?
Ben: Both.  I have brothers, but no sister.  The next baby we have needs to be a girl, so I can have a sister.  And if not that baby, then the next one after that.

Ben: You know who puts all his underwear on at the same time?  Aiden.

PS. Aiden is Ben’s friend that he made while we were on our getaway earlier this year.  He is also the person who does every weird thing Ben can think of.

Ben: Mom, where were you born?
Meg: Connecticut.
Ben: That’s where Riley and Livy live!  Where was Dad born?
Meg: Indiana.
Ben: That’s where Grandpa just went!  Xander and I were born in Montana.
Meg: Yup.
Ben: And Paul was born in Ukraine.  And there’s a crane there.  Because it’s called Ukraine.

Ben: Did you see how quick that was??
Meg: How quick what was?
Ben: My poop.
Meg: No, I didn’t get to see that.

 

Raising Chaste Catholic Men! Chatting with Leila.

Today is an exciting day, my dear readers!  Have you heard me talk about my friend of several years, Leila?  Here she is:

leila

 

Well today, Leila is publishing her first book, entitled Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom.

chaste

 

As a general rule, I would say you should buy any book Leila writes, or even just recommends.  She is a gifted defender of the Catholic faith. She is intelligent, courageous, and humble.  I could go on with many accolades, but what you really need to know is that she is the mother of 8 children 6 of them boys!  She is familiar with all the challenges our boys are up against these days, especially in the realm of sexuality and virtue, yet she is managing to raise faithful and chaste young men.

As a mother of 3 sons, I was so excited that Leila was writing this book!  To look around at today’s culture and then to turn and look at your little boys and wonder how that culture will shape them – well, it is hard to be hopeful sometimes.  But Leila’s book gives me hope, as well as practical advice that will help me be a better mother.

Since I got an early copy of Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom, I was able to put together some questions so you could get to know a little bit about Leila and this book, so here we go…

 

I love that you described the book as two Catholic moms sitting down over a cup of tea to have a conversation.  It made it very honest and down to earth to me.  And as a person who has only been mothering boys for 5 years, I so appreciated the stories you told about when you caved to some of your sons’ demands or that you had a difficult relationship with one of your sons for a few years.  It’s comforting to know that we can mess up, but we can also change course, and our kids can still turn out ok.
Yes, that is part of the “hope” that I wanted to give the moms out there who are struggling, wondering what will become of their son(s). I had great fear about one or two sons in particular, and today they are just good, solid young men! For a while, I just had no idea how we were going to get out of this behavior problem we had with our third son, and it went on for years, with lots of attempts to fix things, in various ways. That’s probably a whole other story in itself, too long for a blog post! But it has a very happy ending. Keep praying, never give up. 
Early on in the book, you talk about how important it is to be both a parent and a friend. How do you create the right balance in the relationship?
This is probably not a great thing, ha ha, but there is part of me that is still very much “young” (should I say “immature”?). Meaning, I like hearing about the kids at school and who my girls (at the time) thought was cute, etc. I like teasing my boys about stuff — in a non-mocking way, of course. I guess there is a playfulness that needs to be there? That is friendship. But at the same time, I am very strict about things of the faith (barring sickness or legitimate excuse, we will never miss Mass, not a day in my life while they live under my roof, for example), and moral formation. I don’t know that I always strike the right balance, as sometimes I’ve been too much a “friend” and sometimes that can lead to unconscious disrespect especially from boys. So, I reorient and try again. Sometimes it’s hit and miss, but that’s probably true for all parents and their kids. None of us knows exactly what we are doing all the time, and sometimes we look foolish. But, if the kids know we love them, and if they know we mean business on virtue training and our faith, then things tend to work out. 
You discussed how each of your children is different, and so you approached the sensitive topics of sex and chastity in different ways and at different times. It seems to me that doing so, goes against a lot of what I see and hear in the parenting world- that parents find *their way* of doing things, and if we do things differently for different kids, we are somehow being unfair.  Almost like it is more about the parents finding their method than the kids and their unique needs.  Do you feel like you see that in this particular area of parenting, as well as in others?
 
You know, that’s a really interesting question. Here’s one thing that comes to my mind: In general, with a big family especially, you have to do things differently because there is no way at all that you can make things “fair” for many kids. Sort of like, if I take one child to get ice cream on the way home from somewhere, the others might complain that it’s not fair, so that is when I say, “If I have to be fair and treat all of you the same all of the time, then that means you will all end up getting nothing. Because it cannot be done. So, if that’s what you want….” And usually that stops them, ha ha. But that is not really what you asked. You asked about the topic of sex and chastity. I think anyone who has more than a bare bones outline of what they will do or say for each child might be making a misstep, since each child is SO different in temperament, intellectual understanding, fears, needing to know, etc. Yes, we have a *general* plan, but that is as far as it goes. We go with what the child needs, and we use the Church as a guide. I stress in the book how much the Church stresses the parents’ DUTY and OBLIGATION to teach children about sexuality. But that will look different for each child. 
You have a chapter of the book entitled “Fear Has A Place.”  I think most of us parents don’t realize that this is already a page in our playbook, like in your example of teaching a toddler not to touch a stove for fear they could get burned.  But I still think the idea of using fear will rub people the wrong way, so for those parents who haven’t read your book yet, what would you like to say to them to ease their minds about this chapter?
I remember my dad teaching me how to drive and telling me that basically the car was a killing machine if it was not in the right hands. It made me really understand the power that a 16-year-old could have! That is the type of “fear” that we want to warn our kids about. The idea that there really ARE negative consequences to misuse of sexuality, and it’s stuff from which one cannot be easily extricated. It can really harm others, and even kill their soul, if not their body. Now, just like my dad, when he was teaching me to drive, did not dwell on the “killing machine” narrative, we shouldn’t be about negativity when it comes to sex. Sex is a great thing, sent straight from God for us! But just like a car, it has to be used as designed and intended. When that doesn’t happen, bad things result. We must tell our sons about the bad things that can result, simply because their education is not complete if they don’t get that part of the message. Not to mention that, just like telling a child not to touch a hot stove lest they get burned, there is a deterrent factor in letting them see the consequences of misuse. It sure helped my boys. 
Several times in the book, you mentioned a child’s character, and that when you see your child’s character change, it means that you might need to make a change. Can you discuss this principle a bit, what it could look like or maybe give us an example?
Sure! In our family, that “making a change” might mean a change of schooling. For example, we might pull a child in the middle of the year and homeschool. Maybe later, the child would go back to the school. We had and have a great deal of flexibility in our schools here, which some folks may not have, but for us it is a godsend and we use the opportunities we have to make sure that we are doing what each child needs at that time (or what the family needs). One son did not thrive at the charter school that the rest of his siblings attended for high school, so we allowed him to go to the huge public high school nearby, with the caveat that if his character changes, he’s outta there. So far so good, because he knows we mean it. 
 
It might mean cutting off video games completely (for several months at a time), or taking away means of communication if they are not communicating respectfully (so, the phone goes). We always say, “If anything causes evil in our home, the thing goes.” And so it does. Things like that. It goes back to one of the first principles of parenting that I outline in my book: Moral formation is the number one priority. The kids know how serious I am about that. 

 

Thank you Leila!  I encourage you to go buy Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom!  It is being released today and is available on Amazon, paperback or kindle version!