Wednesday, May 12, 2010

So Much Going On

I just got home from meeting with Gillian's teacher and principal today. We've been trying to get her in to a new doctor, and finally had our appointment (which we waited 2 MONTHS for!) yesterday. When I went to the school to pick her up, I talked with her teacher for a bit, and a new phrase got introduced to me. Well, not new, so much as something I've never considered.

See, Gilly has always marched to the beat of her own drum. And then some, really. She's always had quirks, and things that we consider problem points- things that cause melt downs, screaming, and fighting. We try to avoid what we can, but inevitably, in day to day life, things happen that stress Gillian out. Problem points to us are the areas that cause problems for Gillian.

We were told very early on, when she was probably about 3, that she has ADHD. We never went through for a formal diagnosis, nor do we medicate her. We kept holding off until it was a problem at school, because while we are not against medication, we are not for kids being over medicated, either. Even Chris, our 11 year old with ADHD, we only medicate for school. Weekends, school breaks, summer- it's all 100% unmedicated.

At the start of each school year, I talk with the teachers about Gillian, and her idiosyncrasy's. I make sure they know that if they are seeing any problems, that all they have to do is talk to me. This stems back to when my son, Chris, was in Kindergarten.

The teacher Chris had for Kindergarten was unwilling to deal with how Chris was as a kid in her class room. This was before we did any work with getting him diagnosed with ADHD. Her way to deal with the problems Chris presented, was to sit him in the hallway alone, sometimes for as long as an hour or two. Near the end of the school year, after we had already had 2 regular conferences with the teacher, I went in to pick him up and got to talking with her about 1st grade.

She was having a tough time deciding whether or not Chris should be put in 1st grade, whether he was emotionally or educationally ready to handle the stress of a longer day, and less play time. I asked her why she felt that way, because through out the year, we had gotten decent progress reports. He was a bit behind on learning to read and write, but not enough to be considered "behind".

That's when she dropped the bomb that she had regularly been discluding Chris from class almost the entire year for behavior problems, and never once thought to tell us. Not once. So, as you can see, I feel very strongly about talking with the teachers of both Chris & Gillian at the start of the year, and each time, I tell them about that teacher, to explain why I want them to communicate with me.

I have digressed highly, I admit it. I tend to over tell stories, and when I'm trying to tell a story, I want to tell every aspect of it. Let's get back to Gillian, shall we? She's in the 2nd grade this year, for reference sake. So, right from the start last year, her teacher knew we were aware of the problems Gillian has, and that she might be a bit more difficult in class.

Shortly into the school year, as the teacher told me today, she realized that her typical behavior plan of "This is how we do it" wasn't working with Gillian. She said that most kids adapt to a new structure and set of rules within about 2 weeks, but Gillian never did, even though it was plain to see she was trying to. That's when she started coming at  it differently, and finding tricks that did help Gillian tremendously.

All in all, where am I going with this? Gillian's school has an Autism Spectrum Disorder teacher on staff, and an Autism program in place to help with kids who have Autism, including Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the Autism Spectrum, but isn't classified quite the same.

In fact, in Gillian's classroom alone, there are two Autistic kids and 1 AS kid. The school as a whole tries to educate the other children around them on ways that these kids are different, even if they look the same, and that includes watching kid friendly videos from time to time.

A few weeks back, they watched a video called Intricate Minds 2: Understand Elementary School Classmates with Asperger's Syndrome. It's a video that interviews kids with Asperger's Syndrome, ages 8-12, and talks with them about how things make them feel, how they might be different, how they react differently.

At the time, she kept seeing a lot of how Gillian is in 1 little girl specifically, but also in various ways the other kids were as well. She said she kept thinking on it and thinking on it, and finally just went ahead and re-watched the video two more times, keeping Gillian specifically in mind, and more and more, it just kept explaining some of the ways Gillian reacts and things that she does.

She was very careful to stress to me that she doesn't want us thinking she's trying to diagnose her, but that they have implemented several things into Gillian's day that they do for AS kids, and that they have helped her tremendously.

Now, when she was sharing all of it, I thought, from looking it up in the past, that maybe Gilly had some traits similar. In fact, while I did mention it to the doctor yesterday, I wasn't completely on board with it really fitting how Gillian acts. I came home, looked it up online, and was again thinking the same thing.

There's a check list of things- criteria a child has to meet before they could be considered AS. There isn't a blood test, there is no definitive test that stamps a child with YES or NO on their foreheads. Instead, they are observed, and there are lots of questions about health and background- milestones such as learning to walk, talk, etc. There are early indicators we may not have noticed, but that might have shown it early on.

In text, I couldn't see much of it fitting Gillian. Hearing her teacher talk yesterday, I felt that she certainly does do the things she brought up, but then when I'd look at descriptions, I couldn't wrap that around Gillian.

Today I went in, though, and watched the video Intricate Minds 2, and was floored by just how much of it IS Gillian. How many mannerisms she shares, how many quirks, and problem points she shares.  Website descriptions of Asperger's really doesn't make it clear. Not at all, actually.

Being that it is part of the Autism spectrum, I had some images in mind of how severe certain 'symptoms' were, and I kept looking at Gillian and thinking, "Ok, she does that to a minor degree, but I don't think it's like THAT!"



Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals

I took that to mean a child who rigidly sticks to a routine, down to changes in the daily schedule causing problems.

What I didn't take it as, but do now, is a child who has a hard time with changes in their schedule, and who do better with a schedule that stays the same. Gillian's teacher said that for the most part, she has done much better now, and the only recent times she has had problems were the first two days after Spring Break, when she was out of the sync of the school schedule.

 And again from

Displaying unusual nonverbal communication, such as lack of eye contact, few facial expressions, or awkward body postures and gestures
Most of the sites talk about the lack of eye contact, and quite often, kids almost have to be asked to make eye contact. To me, I had an image in mind of kids who look anywhere BUT at your face or into your eyes, and who avoid face to face looks.

But, in the video, I saw kids who more so look like they just can't keep their eyes still. Instead of focusing on your face, they will be looking all around- your face, then the window, then the book, then off to the side, then at the ceiling, then back to your face, and then the floor, the chair, the table, the toys, the wall, the window, your face, etc. Just back and forth- seeing your eyes, but not keeping their facial attention on your face.

And that is Gilly, down to a T. Talking to her, she'll look at you. But she won't stay on your face. It doesn't mean she isn't focusing on what you are saying, but she just isn't looking directly at you.

With all of this? It opened my eyes, not just to what might be going on with Gillian, but also with Chris. Because, while just about every thing on the video that reminded me of Gillian, reminded me even more so of Chris.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wow... it's been a month!

So, I may have gotten a bit behind, and haven't posted here since before Spring Break.

Let's see, what all has happened.... well, Spring Break, obviously! This year, I decided that since Chris will be gone for part or most of the summer, I wanted to do something with the kids. We had limited options both money wise, and distance. Because funds were limited, I opted to do something close to home, so that travel time wouldn't take up a big chunk of what we did.

We ended up renting a hotel room in Grand Rapids for the night. I chose a hotel with an indoor pool, which fit into our budget. The day we arrived was gorgeous, so we went to the zoo. It was packed! It was a gorgeous day, and it was Spring Break just about everywhere. I was not the only parent with the idea to have some outdoor fun!

After the zoo, we went back to the hotel to swim- the room the pool was in is surrounded by windows, and was nice and warm- steamy from the sun, with warm water. The kids swam, but I hadn't thought I would want to just then, so I didn't wear my suit down- wish I would have, though!

Later that evening, we went to the public museum- one of my favorite places in Grand Rapids. I'm a total museum buff. I love looking at old things! Well, once more, thanks to Spring Break, plus a special night time event, the place was packed. I decided at the time to buy a membership, since it was only $20 more than we were already paying for admission, and I'm glad I did. It means we can go back anytime we want for a full year for free. And, I've already taken advantage of that twice since then!

Because the place was SO packed, we didn't get to see everything that night before closing time. We wound up heading back to the hotel, where the kids could swim again. Because of how nice it had been, I decided to swim- only now, it was dark, and the room was almost cold, and the water was freezing. I dipped a toe in, and opted to not swim at all.

We rented a movie to watch in the room, but the laptop I brought wouldn't play the movie, so we watched TV instead. I also couldn't get connected to the free wifi the hotel offered at all, which was kind of a bummer as well.

The next morning dawned cold, dark, and wet- just as I knew it would. We enjoyed a free breakfast at the hotel, then packed up, and headed out. We didn't get far- a huge hail storm hit, and forced me to pull off the road at Denny's. We tried to leave once when it quit, only to have it start up again, even worse. We finally decided to wait it out inside. We had all just eaten, but I let the kids pick out something to eat and get a fun soccer ball cup of soda to drink. The cups are neat- it has a divided middle, and is shaped like a soccer ball. You fill it with 2 drinks, and it has 2 bent straws that can be turned so they rest together, or turned away so each side can be drank apart.

I got online with my cell while we were there, and posted an update on the weather to the local news channel down there- which I found out later was featured on their noon news that day! How fun! They only post first names, but several family members noticed it and realized it was me because of where we were stranded.

When we finally got back on the road, we went back to the museum. I had hopped that due to the special night time events they were holding that week, that it would be less busy- I was wrong. It was MORE busy! We enjoyed visiting, though, and got to go through the entire museum again. The kids saw everything we missed, and they each got to revisit their favorite exhibits.

Later on, we stopped by my sister's apartment to see my niece, who turned 3 that day! Gillian and Raegan wound up staying in Grand Rapids for the rest of the week with family, so it was just me and Chris on the way home. We had a fun time for Spring break.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Tonight, I sat down and planned a small, over night get away for the kids and I during Spring Break. I had a few places in mind, but cost, and distance, and in some cases, area, put me off of them.

In the end, I opted for safe & simple- we're going to be going back to my hometown area over night. We do that a lot, actually, several times a year. However, we rarely partake in the fun, tourist type things to do. Often, we're rushed from point A to point B to point C, and leave feeling unrested, tired, and frazzled. Well, me at least.

Instead of focusing on doing things with my family, I decided on two places we'll go see, each taking a good portion of the day on two separate days. The in between will be filled with us staying at a hotel with an indoor pool- that was important to me, because if there wasn't a pool, we might as well have just stayed with family for free. This way, though, it's something fun for the kids to do.

It also has free breakfast, and, get this- under $60/night after taxes. Score!

For things to do, we are going to the local museum one night for a big celebration- they will have admission to the museum, admission to the special exhibit, a planetarium show, unlimited rides on the carousel, and a kid friendly meal, all for $10/person (or $5/person for members- which we'll be). Members normally get in to the museum, special exhibits, and planetarium free. Carousel rides are $1/each time, and meals cost whatever in the little cafe they have (which is horribly over priced).

The other thing we'll do is go to the zoo over there. We almost never go to that one. The year we moved to the Lansing area, we lived near the zoo and had a membership. The kids and I went probably 6 times through out the summer, once at Halloween, once at Christmas, and 2-3 times that following Spring before it expired. I can buy a membership to the zoo over there, and use it at the local zoo, and half price at another, larger semi-local zoo, so I may do that.

After settling that, I asked the kids all if they knew where their bathing suits were, and if they still fit in them after last year. Chris has been using his for swim class at school, and Gilly found hers right away. Raegan couldn't locate hers, but said that it was really tight last summer.

Last year, we went frugal, and bought in the girls department, even though she fit in a woman's XS or S (but, have you SEEN how LITTLE fabric covers those? For DOUBLE the cost?!?!). Some people didn't understand why I laid down "the law" last year, and told her NO BIKINI. They said, "She's only young once!"

Well, I have little interest in 15 & 16 year old boys oogling my 13 year old daughter, so... I went with what I was comfortable with. It was a tankini with boy short bottoms- as covering as you can get shy of a skirted 1 piece.

This year? OMG. I was looking online and cringing at each suit I saw. CRINGING. I jokingly said, "Hey, Rae- you don't mind just going with  a pair of boys swim trunks and a tankini top, do you?"

....She totally loved the idea- except wants a bikini top. I may concede- besides, you can wear T-shirts over top. ;) My favorite part, though, is that boy trunks will cover hips, thighs, legs, and rear ends. She's almost 14, but on a good day? She could pass for 16. I have no desire to bring boys knocking at my door just yet. None at all.

This weekend, I'll take her shopping and see what we can decide on mutually. Maybe I can talk her into one of those wet-suit type t-shirt tops in lieu of a bikini top? Hmm.... Nick said she'd better like what I come up with, or she can spend the summer in a turtleneck. The idea has some merit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When did she grow up?

Today, I went to Goodwill, as I tend to do. I love finding good deals. Today, I found a steal. Two semi-formal, satin dresses good for a certain-almost-a-freshman-girl's first homecoming next fall.  Brand new, with tags from Target. Sure, they were only $24.99 to start off with (I have never seen such cute, satin dresses there!) but I snagged them for just $4.99 each.

And really, have you seen the prices of dresses for teen dances lately? Certainly no better in quality, sometimes cheaper quality, but slap some sequins and glitter on a dress, and the price triples. I've been saying for 2 years now that the summer before Freshman year, I would take Raegan to DEB's and let her find a post-Prom clearance dress for her freshman homecoming. Because, I'm too frugal to pay $80 for a dress.

Both dresses were her size. So darling, so cute, so perfect! The tricky part? I honestly didn't know if she would even like either of them, but I didn't want to risk waiting, and have them be scooped up out from under me. I did what I had to- I asked for the return policy, and bought em.

Upon further inspection when Rae got home, we found that the one I really loved, a grey satin tank dress with a twirly skirt and a bold, burgundy and green floral pattern, had a broken zipper. A doubly broken zipper. Once it was down, both on and off, the zipper refused to zip past the waist going up. And, the hang tag was missing from the zipper. So, it's going back.

The second dress, though, was perfect. It looks great on her- the color is good. The dress is short, but Raegan is only 5'0", so the dress is almost knee length. Much longer, I'm sure, than intended. The only real down side to me, is that it IS strapless. However, I intend to fix that. I'll try and find some matching or coordinating fabric and add straps to it. Raegan requested halter straps. If I have to go with a different color fabric, then I'll use black, and add some around the waist to "tie it in", so to speak.

Either way, that dress has aged Raegan, myself, and my husband, Nick. She looks beautiful in it, but so darn old!

Grey hair, here I come, party of 1 please.

Sarah's Deals Giveaways!

My friend Sarah over at Sarah's Deals hit 2000 fans on Facebook today! Can you believe it? That's a LOT of friends!

To celebrate, she's doing give aways through out the day. So far, she has posted 2- one is for 5 people to each win a $5 gift card. The other is for 1 person to win a $10 Subway card.

I can also tell you that 1 lucky person will win a customized banner & up to 5 buttons for their website or blog, courtesy of lil ole me. I've been dabbling in it lately, and while I did not do the banner for My Frugal Family, I have done the banner for the following sites: (yep, the blog I'm blogging about!) (yes, all right, that one is mine) (this is more of a square, not a banner, but only because the site uses squares instead of banner sizes)

So, if you are in the market for some web graphics, check out the give away first! The giveaway value is $20! Also, check out her other awesome deals and giveaways!

Monday, March 22, 2010

What I Know...

As a mom, there are a lot of things I know. I know that if you change your little boys diaper, and lean down to smile and laugh at him, you are going to get peed on. I know that some little girls just hate dresses and pig tails, no matter how much you like them. I know that sometimes, it's all right to have ice cream for dinner.

I also know that no matter what, no two kids are going to be exactly the same. I know that what works for one child won't work for the other child. I know that just like kids, no two parents are the same.

That's some of what I know.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ode to the Day Off

Due to conferences, there is no school today. There was no school last Friday. Next Friday, there's school. But, the next two after that? No school. I often wonder if my parents felt like school was closed at the drop of a hat like I do. I don't remember having quite so many days off.

The kids get a fall break, winter break (which was Christmas break when I was a kid), mid-winter break, and spring break. All on top of at least 1 Friday or Monday per month off, sometimes more. The kids start later in the school year, as well, since the state changed the opening date, making it required that school does not start before Labor Day anymore. The theory is that it helps tourism. School still lets out in the same week in June, though.

The one thing I love about no school days? Waking up late. I love sleep. I love to sleep in. I love naps. I hate mornings. Hate, hate, hate mornings.

What I dislike about no school days? Waking up to kids screaming at each other. It happens all too often. Actually, come to think of it, it happens on school days as well. Raegan gets up at 5:30am. Why? No clue, she doesn't leave for school until 7:20, and she does not use the time to shower, or go through an hour long makeup ritual.

She wakes Chris up at 6:15. Nick gets up for work at 6:30, and to make sure the kids are up, or to wake them if they aren't. They are all out of the house by 7:20. My alarm goes off at 7:15, and I turn it off and lay there willing myself not to fall back asleep. Then there are those mornings. The ones where Raegan's in a mood, and Chris won't get up, so she stands on the stairs screaming at him, and threatening to tell Mom & Dad, and to dump water on him.

The ones where Chris pitches a fit, and starts stomping on the floor screaming at the top of his lungs at Raegan. The ones where they scream at each other over breakfast. The ones where Raegan is constantly saying, "Just get your stuff, Chris, it's time to GO!" a good 10 minutes before it's time to go.

On the weekends, Nick and I sleep in. We are not "up with the crows". We sleep till 10, or sometimes later. We are night owls, and take advantage of the weekends. The kids, too, except they always beat us up in the mornings, and then? Then we wake up to fighting of a different nature.

Chris: "Gillian, knock it off! I want to listen to this!"
Gillian: "You're not the boss of me! I don't have to!"
Chris: "Gillian, turn that down, it's too loud!" (never mind that it is never actually loud, and never any louder than whatever Chris is playing/watching/listening to/doing)
Gillian: "I'm telling Mom and Dad!"
Chris: "No, Gillian! You're going to wake them up, and they'll be MAD!" (never mind that we're already laying there awake, groaning, and hoping they won't discover that tidbit)

Mornings are always... difficult. Chris has severe bossy issues. He -has- to be the boss. Example? Gilly comes down and I ask her to do something, such as take a toy up to her room. Before she's even all the way to said toy, Chris is saying, "Gilly, pick it up, mom said!" Before she gets 2 more steps, he's yelling at her to do it. Before she's got it in her hands, he's yelling again. Before she gets to the stairs to take it to her room, he's yelling again.

Meanwhile, I'm telling him, repeatedly, that it isn't any of his concern, and that he is not her boss, and that he needs to stop.

It's a compulsion with him, almost, because even AS we're telling him to stop, and he's telling us he'll stop, he's doing it again. I honestly don't think he realizes he does it. But it still drives us up a wall.

Our kids are loud. They fight- a lot. Hourly, in fact. And I wish I could tell you I was kidding, but I'm SO not kidding.

But, then they do something completely awesome that just makes us giggle. Like breaking out into full weirdo dancing at the circus.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Life... or something like it

I'm not new to this whole blogging thing. I run another little blog called My Frugal Family. It was started out as a blog to show what we are doing in life to the family and friends we don't regularly see.

It turned into a whole lot of something else, which I love, but I felt we still needed something for those family members and friends we don't see much.

So, here it is, my corner on the web- Minions x 3. Those of you who know me well, know that we often call the kids our minions. Or brats, or kiddos, or kidlets, or "Hey, you!". They even respond to numbers, which is both kind of funny, and kind of scary.

I have 3 children, which are both a blessing, and at their worst, penance for past sins, I'm sure.

Raegan is our oldest. She's 13 going on way too young to be acting so old. She'll be 14 soon, and starts her high school career this upcoming fall. It scares me to no end to realize how old she's getting. She loves to read, and (to our relief), would prefer an old t-shirt and ratty jeans to a mini skirt, hairspray, and makeup.

She's a great kid, but she is a teenager. You'll hear me venting about that at times, because it has reared it's ugly head more times than not. All in all, though, we often get compared to Lorelei and Rory Gilmore from The Gilmore Girls. We laugh, we hang out, and we have fun. You know, when that teenageryness (that's a technical term I just coined) is hiding, and she's being her sweet lovable self.

Next up is our only son, and biggest challenge, Christian, or Chris for short. Chris has sever ADHD. We've had him on 8 different types of medication for ADHD, plus 3 others not specifically for ADHD. We've tried no meds, we've tried vitamins, we've tried stimulant drinks (coffee first, but he wouldn't drink it, then small doses of no sugar or low sugar energy drinks). We struggle with him.

I'm not looking for judgement or advice- I have tried just about every "trick" out there, and the only thing that keeps him in a classroom all day is medication. He's in the 5th grade this year, and slowly but surely, it's getting easier every year.

He is an amazing kid, though. In 1st grade, before he was diagnosed, he wasn't reading at all. He was unable to focus on anything long enough to learn. Within a month of starting his first type of medication, he was reading at a 3rd grade level. The kid is a sponge, he picks it all up!

Last we have Gillian, our little Silly Gilly, the lil Gilly Bean. We were calling her Gilly Bean before she was even born. Well, kind of. We decided that since we had a girl and a boy, we would be surprised in the delivery room. We had names picked for both a boy or a girl, but I was really hoping for another girl.

Gilly (never Jill. It's why I went with a G instead of a J) is a bit of a challenge herself. She's 8 right now, and acts rather young for her age. We still have issues with her doing what she's asked to do, and she has some struggles socially with other children. She's also very similar to what Chris is like, though she has never been diagnosed with ADHD. She functions in the classroom right now without resorting to medications, so at this time, we're content to let Gilly be Gilly.

She has the most amazing natural sense of humor, though. Sometimes, she reverts back to that "it sounds funny to a child, but really isn't funny at all" kind of humor when she's trying to be funny. Other times, things just come out of her mouth that make everyone stop and have a good laugh. Or, make us pull over to a gas station on Christmas Eve because Mommy just spewed soda all over her clothing, the windshield, and the review mirror. Just sayin'.

All in all, my kids are not perfect. They fight, bicker, boss each other around, and tattle. They are real kids. I won't gloss them over- sometimes, I just go in my bedroom, close the door, and hide under the covers.