Car Conversations

GC took the Roc to his weekly social skills class yesterday under the agreement that I would take the Roc to his hippotherapy session in the afternoon.  I savored the empty house while they were gone.  With GC working from home, I am rarely alone anymore and when I get the chance to be alone in our house, I realize how much I enjoy being by myself…and not talking about plants vs. zombies.

When they got home GC mentioned to me that the Roc got hit at class again this week.  It was news to me that another child hit him last week, but I didn’t ask the Roc any questions about the incident(s) right away.  I knew he wouldn’t want to talk about it.  He already had it in his mind that he would be having a smoothie and then playing plants vs. zombies on his iPad during the forty five minutes he would be home before he had to get back into the car to drive to the barn.  I knew I could ask him about it in the car.

Time and growth have changed so much for the Roc.  I can clearly remember driving down Rt. 13 in Delaware and pointing out the farm equipment and big trucks to a silent Roc.  The fluttery panic I felt when I glanced in the rear view mirror and couldn’t catch his eye.  Now he is rarely silent, but many of our conversations are monologues from the Roc about plants vs. zombies, a place we have been, or a movie the Roc has watched.  Or a series of questions of which he already knows the answers.  But that too is slowly changing and I know that he will sometimes talk to me on the many car rides we take.

So while I drove out into the country I asked him about his social skills class:

“Buddy, I heard that you got hit at social skills today.  What happened?” I asked.

“Not hit, pushed.  L pushed me.”

“Oh, that’s too bad.  What happened right before she pushed you?”

“She yelled, ‘This isn’t going fast enough!’ on the obstacle course and she pushed me!  That was so rude!”  His voice rising in indignation.

“She was behind you on the obstacle course and you weren’t going fast enough for her?”

“Yeah, I guess I wasn’t going fast enough for her and she pushed me.  I got so mad I had to go around the corner to calm down.”

“Well, it sounds like you made the right choice.  I’m so glad you didn’t freak out and scream or push her back,” I told him, knowing that he probably wouldn’t have touched her since he doesn’t like to touch people or be touched.

“I don’t like that she pushed me!  Why did she have to do that?”

“I know buddy, she shouldn’t have done that.  No one should push.  But you did the right thing by walking away.  I’m so proud of you for making the right choice.”

“Ok…but I’m still kinda mad about it.”

“You know that you can tell someone not to touch you right?  You can stand up for yourself.  No one has the right to put their hands on you.”

“Well!  I did!  After she pushed me I got mad and told her not to push me!  And!  She got even madder and she threw her stuffed animal down really hard and screeched at me!  That was when I went around the corner.  Why did she have to get more mad at me!  SHE screamed at ME!  SHE pushed ME!” he yelled from the backseat.

“Roc, I’m so glad you stood up for yourself and we are talking about this now.  You made the right choices.  You are growing up and learning how to handle yourself.  I think L will learn the things you are learning too.  It might take her awhile.  But you showed her the right way to react today.”

“I thought that would be my best choice.  I didn’t want to get in trouble.”

“Well, it was.  It sounds like L was having some problems making the right choices today.”

“Yeah!  You know what?  M showed us the smiley face he drew and L just said, Nobody cares, and that was rude.  She has a problem being rude.  And then M grabbed a couple pictures off the schedule and ripped them into pieces and said, There!  That will make it go faster!  And I thought, Man! What is up with these two today?'”

“Wow.  It sounds like social skills was pretty interesting today.”

“Yeah, I didn’t say that last part.  I didn’t let it out of my head.  I didn’t know if I could say it out loud.  So I didn’t say anything…”

We pulled into the parking lot right at that moment.  I put the car in park and turned back to the Roc.

“I am so proud of you Roc.  You are growing up into a very nice young man.”

“I’m proud of me too.  If we gave gold stars I would definitely have gotten one for that!  I would have gotten TWO purple sticks if that had happened at school!”

“Yup, you would have,” I told him as we walked into the building.  He immediately changed the subject to what makes him nervous about riding and we went through our familiar pep talk about the noises horses make and how it is important to learn all the steps of taking care of a horse, not just how to ride one.

A few minutes later, after he had gone off to brush and help saddle his horse, I started scribbling down our conversation, knowing that I would want to record it here.  When the young therapist came over and sat down I relayed the conversation to her and she said,

“He is growing up into such an awesome person.”

I wholeheartedly agree.

Awesome indeed.

 

Grasshoppers + Death + Life

The Roc and I went on a walk a couple days ago, and as soon as we came back inside he settled in with his iPad and I came up to my computer and started to record our conversation.  I’ve come back to this page over the last few days and written the rest.  He’s come so far and I’m so proud of the connections he is making and the emotional growth he is able to express.  I wanted to capture this time.

***

I have been pushing the Roc to converse with me instead of delivering monologues at me.  It’s really hard to talk about Halloween (since the beginning of August,) Plants vs. Zombies (since last Christmas!) and what we are going to bake next – over and over and over again.  Every.single.day.  It is extremely one-sided and the Roc has been expressing anger when I don’t listen and answer him with a distracted, “Umm-hmmm.”  I want the Roc to be able to converse with peers and adults (and me!)  So I’ve been pushing the boundaries of his language skills.  I prod him to give me more details about school by asking if something fun happened that day, and he is no longer allowed to say recess and/or lunch.  I tell him that I will only talk about Plants vs. Zombies for the first two minutes of our walks and then I try to steer him in a different direction.  I prompt him to ask me a question, any question he can think of, about me or my day.  He usually asks me if I had a good day and what I did.  Even though it’s forced and he told me he doesn’t actually care what I did that day, it’s a start, and a skill needed to get along in this world.

We’ve been going on a lot of walks lately, both to enjoy the weather, and also to get out of the house while GC is ripping out and installing new flooring.  It is so loud and the Roc has a hard time with the noise, even while wearing his noise-canceling headphones.  The grasshoppers are everywhere on the trails during our walks and the Roc tends to get frustrated when they jump right in front of him.  One day last week he got so mad that he stomped on a grasshopper and when I turned to look we both saw the grasshopper half smooshed, pulling itself by centimeters across the blacktop.  I gasped and said that looked like a horrible way to die and the Roc immediately crouched down and tears came to his eyes.  He told me he wished he hadn’t stomped on the bug, that it was living before he did that, and now it couldn’t go on with it’s life.  He asked me if I could fix it and hung his head when I told him I couldn’t.  We watched the grasshopper eventually stop moving and the Roc asked if he could mark the grave by piling up some grass.  After he did that he wanted to celebrate the grasshoppers life, which we did by saying a few words about the weather and how nice a life the little bug must have had in the park.  After some time the Roc said he was ready to walk on, but he didn’t think he would feel better for awhile.

Seeing how open he was I tried to make the connection of how the Roc felt about the grasshopper and how much worse it would be if we were to see a pet get hurt.  I mentioned how much harder it would be to see Guinness get injured and how devastated we would feel if we couldn’t save him.  Our conversation moved on to hunting (which he was talking about lately with GC ) and he made the connection that if it was hard for him to watch a grasshopper die, then it would be near impossible to watch a deer die.  (I breathed a sigh of relief as I didn’t really want him to want to hunt.)  He wanted to know why people hunted instead of just letting the animals live and I tried to explain population control to him, but he got stuck on wanting people to leave animals alone.

Talking about animals seemed to brighten the Roc up considerably and he launched into telling me about how more animals are made…and then people…I was fully enjoying the fact that we were not talking about one of his three main subjects of late.

“Mommy, did you know that one animal makes another animal and then that animal makes two more and then those two animals make more and more and it just keeps going?  Did you know that animals make animals?”

“Yes, Roc.  I did know that.”

“Did you know that people make people?” he asked me.  “Yup.”

“Did you make me?”

“Yup.  I did.”  I wondered whether this was going to lead to the question I don’t want to answer:  How did he get inside me?  Luckily, he didn’t ask that particular question.  Instead he brought up the miscarriage I had a few years ago.

“Mommy, remember that baby that was in your belly and it died?”

“Yes.”

“I still feel sad about that and I wish we could have had another kid.  I really wish I had someone to play with.  I don’t have anyone to play with and I really wish I did.”

“Well, I know you wish that and sometimes Mommy feels sad about that baby too.  But you know what?  I am so happy that I got to have you.  Did I ever tell you that when you were in my belly the doctors told me that there was a chance that I might lose you?  I didn’t know for a long time while I was pregnant with you if you were going to live.  It was hard and I am so thankful and grateful that I got to have you.  And there are some benefits to being an only child you know?  You get all my attention.  I can take you places and travel with you, like when we go to Arizona in the winter.  It’s lucky in some ways, that you are an only.”

The Roc pondered that for a moment and then said,

“Well, I still wish there was someone in the house to play with, but you know what?  I’m really glad that I was born a boy.”

“Really?  Why?”

“Because then I don’t have to grow a baby.  I don’t want to have to do that and so I’m glad that I don’t have to.”

“Yup, you are right.  You won’t ever have to grow a baby in your belly.”

Then he asked if he could talk about Halloween and so I told him yes..and I tried to muster some enthusiasm and attention for this repetitive topic.  My mind wandered back over what had just happened and the connections the Roc has been making lately while he chattered on about the desserts I already agreed to bake, the costume he was going to wear, the new decorations I already agreed to buy, the kinds of pumpkins he wanted to carve, and the decorations he was going to make.

I smiled as I walked on, half listening, and thought about how grateful I am to have the chance to slow down and savor life.  Everything is hard won with this boy and he works so hard every day.

***

Yesterday the Roc was inside the house while I mowed the lawn and GC worked on the floor.  I knew he wasn’t happy as I could hear him through the open windows telling his father to be quiet.  I loaded up the van with some stuff to bring to the town composting site and poked my head inside to ask the Roc if he wanted to come along for the ride.  He did and he told me loudly how unhappy he was that it was so noisy in the house.  He was agitated  in the car and screamed loudly about a butterfly flying near him in the van as I drove out of the neighborhood.  I could see his face screwed up in anger and his arms waving around in the rear view mirror and then I saw that it was moth.

“Don’t kill it Roc!  Remember how you felt when you squashed the grasshopper last week?!”

“I already killed it,” he told me.

“Oh no, are you ok?”

“Yeah, I don’t feel bad this time.”

“You don’t?” I asked him.

“No, it is different today.  My emotions didn’t come out.”

Huh.  I didn’t see that coming.

I hid my smile and turned up the music.

 

***

I love his word choices and how he is learning to express himself.  The growth is inside as much as it is on the outside.

I feel so lucky to be witnessing his transformation.

 

Quiet

I feel a little guilty but swallow it down as I pull on my big winter boots.  I shouldn’t feel guilty for leaving the house, for wanting an evening to myself.  I know that GC doesn’t feel guilty when he leaves the house multiple times a week to pursue his hobby.

I am just pursuing quiet.  Space.  Time for myself.

Can the pursuit of quiet be a hobby?

I have been craving quiet.  After spending eight days in Arizona with the Roc and then coming home to two days off of school because of wind chills that would literally freeze the skin off your face…I am in need of some quiet.

I stuff my laptop and kindle in my backpack, pour some coffee into my travel thermos, say goodbye and leave.

The sky is grey, the pale yellow sun drops into view at the end of a line of clouds, hanging onto the edge, then suddenly it is below the horizon.  The street lights come on, illuminating the dirty snow thrown into huge piles along our street.  The Roc waves to me behind the wood blinds.  I wave back, extra big, as I start down the street, not knowing if he can see me.  I turn the corner and my mind is still full of him.

Full of his words and the look on his face as he came through the door this afternoon, “Mommy…I have some bad news.”  Of the conversation I had with the school social worker about the incident at school, the “bad news.”  I imagine the scene, the snowball hitting his face, his anger, and all the comes after.  Him getting to close too the other kid.  “In his face,” I was told and then getting pushed.  “Pushed over,” the Roc told me.  I imagine the shove, the Roc falling through the air, his anger and embarrassment, and all that followed.  The screaming, the rest of the third grade filing into the cafeteria to witness his undoing, how it felt to be so out of control…

My mind is full of him.  It always is.

I need some quiet.

Some space.

Some time for myself.

The library is blissfully quiet as I enter.  I make my way to the back, to the tables with outlets, and set up.

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I go through my photos from Arizona and smile.

My mind is still full of him.

But I’ve found the quiet.

The last resort

September saw the start of school and the continuation of all of the Roc’s after school stuff: swimming lessons, music therapy, OT, skills training.

First day of 3rd grade.

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Holy cow.  Only one more year after this one and then he will be on to middle school.  That fact boggles my mind and makes me want to dig in my heels and slow the earth down.  I’m not ready.

The adjustment into 3rd grade has resulted in more pull outs for academics, a few notes about “tricky” and “hard” mornings and/or afternoons, and once I got email letting me know that the day was “up and down all day.”  These notes and emails make me worry and think that he’s having multiple long and loud outbursts.  I spend a lot of time worrying and trying to ask the Roc details about his day, of which I get few.

While talking to a good friend who has a son with ADHD, who isn’t on anything, I realize that we are at a certain point when she says,

“I have to feel like we’ve done everything.  EVERYTHING else, and drugs would be a last resort.”

The Roc is understanding that things are harder for him than other children, that his volcano (his term for his big feelings) is bigger than most, and he has said things in the last few months that break my heart.  So when she says her last resort comment my mind flashes through all that we have done and lands on the image of the Roc grabbing his head recently and shouting,

“Why am I this way?  Why does my brain do this? I don’t want to be this way!”

and

“I don’t like the way I AM!!  What is WRONG with me?!!”

I realize we may be at that point, that last resort.  Because it’s more than academics, his self worth is at stake.

So in mid-September the Roc and I take a ride downtown to visit the developmental ped to talk about what big pharma can do to help him.  A road we haven’t taken.  A place we have been avoiding.  I spent a good chunk of time researching what I think the good doctor may recommend before our appointment and end up leaving without a prescription, but an offer to call it in if we want it.  I do more research and spend time talking to the Roc about how he feels about his volcano and medicine to help control it.  I call in the prescription and then go away for a weekend without picking it up.

I come back from my weekend away to GC telling me how well his weekend with the Roc was.  How they went bowling one morning and the Roc sat himself down and took a few deep breaths when he got upset about not knocking down enough pins.  How he said, “I’m thinking cool thoughts, like J taught me.”  (J is his skills trainer, and they have been working on the Roc’s explosions for months.)

GC and I attend the Roc’s IEP at the end of September and I walk into the building with a familiar sense of dread.  I’m not looking forward to hearing all the ways the Roc is behind and details about his outbursts.

When did I become a pessimist?

I am taken aback when the team tells me that although the Roc is still exploding, sometimes multiple times a day, the outbursts are shorter and he is calming himself down quicker.  GC and I make eye contact.  I didn’t expect to hear this.  I tell the team I am surprised, I had thought he was being more disruptive than he was the year before?

Maybe all that we are doing is working?  Maybe we do not need to fill the prescription?  After the meeting is over GC and I talk about all the little things that have slowly been changing with the Roc and also all the outbursts that still wreck havoc on our day to day lives.  GC tells me I cannot see the forest through the trees.  That I am holding onto what is hard and not seeing the things that are changing.  I wonder if he is right?  Did I become a pessimist?

I pick up the prescription, just in case.

We go back and forth.  Should we try the RX?  Should we wait?  What about the side effects?  Oh man, the side effects…

While riding in the car to OT one afternoon I start to ask the Roc questions about his volcano.  He tells me that he has a hard time controlling it.  I ask if he wants to try the medicine we talked to the doctor about.  He pauses and says, “Maybe I will be able to control it myself?…and if I can’t then I can try it?”

I swallow hard and blink back my tears.  I watch him in the rear view mirror as he watches the farm fields slip by.

***

The RX bottle sits unopened on my dresser.

On the hard days I wonder what we are waiting for, and on the smooth(er–because there is always something to scream about in this house,) I think he (and we) can do this.

I guess we haven’t made it to the last resort yet.

A tale of two birthdays

The Roc turned nine while we were in South Carolina and he was lucky enough to have two celebrations.  First we celebrated at my in-laws house on the Roc’s actual birthday.  My MIL, the Roc, and I went out that morning to get some decorations and some cake.  We got to decorating when we got back to the house.  Uncle Chelch and Guinness slept on the couch.  Both had good reason, Chelch because he flew overnight from CO and Guinness…because he’s a dog.

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My cousin, who moved to Charleston last summer, was able to come up and help us celebrate.  It was so fun to see him.

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IMG_0425We had a very nice meal and then the Roc was able to have some cake, which was what he was waiting for all afternoon.

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It was a nice little celebration.

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***

The real party came a few days later when we went down to my SIL’s house.  The Roc wanted an angry birds/pool party so we took all the kids over to the pool,

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IMG_0609before coming back for a meal and some pinata bashing.  We let the Roc go first,

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but it was his cousin Aiden who busted the tiki head open!

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The kids were all very gracious and let the Roc go in and get some candy because he was really worried about all the kids rushing in.  Uncle G helped the Roc pick out some candy.

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When he had picked up a few of each kind, he took a step back and the rest of the kids ran to fill up their bags.

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Then Uncle G had some fun with the tiki head.

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The Roc was so excited to come back inside for cupcakes,

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and presents!

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He was very happy to get angry birds toys and he and his cousin Bella got to playing right away.

IMG_0832 It all proved too much for Uncle G and he just laid down on the floor and went to sleep…

IMG_0826At this point the poor man had been awake for over 30 hours!  Unlike Uncle G, it was hard getting the Roc to go to sleep that night.  He was so wired up and overstimulated from the day, but he had such a great birthday party and lots of fun with his cousins (and his cousin’s cousins who were visiting!)

***

And this has nothing to do with the Roc’s birthday celebration(s) but I stopped and stared at something I saw in my SIL’s neighborhood:  See that dark shape below the bench in the next photo?  You know, a bench you are supposed to sit on and relax?
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Yup, you’re right!  That’s an ALLIGATOR!  o.m.g

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There is no sign like this one in my neighborhood in Minnesota!

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Ahh!

 

Tales from SC: waves conquered!

I wrote this about the time we were in South Carolina in 2010.  The Roc had such a hard time with his fear of the waves on that trip.  There was one day when he did go in a tidal pool and then the tide came in and he had a blast in the incoming waves.  When his cousins arrived a couple hours later he had more motivation to stay in the water and play.  It was towards the end of the trip, and he didn’t want to go in the ocean again, but I took it as progress in conquering his fear of the waves.  If he did it once, he would be able to do it again, even if it took a few years, or longer.

Well, moving across the country meant that it took a few years to get back to the beach.

The Roc kept telling me that he was going to go in the ocean when we got to the beach this year.  Over and over we read the book, “Ladybug Girl At The Beach” in the months leading up to our trip.  It was a book we had read only sporadically before, but repetitively in May and June.  I was hopeful for him, but I wasn’t going to push him and I promised myself I wouldn’t be disappointed if the waves proved too much for him again this year.  Based off his repeated declarations about playing in the waves, I thought that this just might be the year he would go in.

The first day at the beach we walked down to a tidal pool, which I knew the Roc would love because he could still play in the water and build sand castles, which he started right away.

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Then he laid down in the tidal pool.

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Then he laid down in waves!

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Then he RAN into the water!

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And he ran back and forth, into the water and out, flopping onto his belly and swimming, popping up before a wave crashed over his head, all the while with a grin on his face.

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In fact, it seemed that he didn’t stop smiling every day we went to the beach!

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Well…it’s not always true that he was smiling.  He did get annoyed with my constant photography.

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But he got over it quickly.  Usually.IMG_0238

One of the days just him and I were at the beach he worked on building a wall around the tidal pool (I helped some and sat on a beach chair and watched some, a perfect balance.  I was glad we practiced at the lake.)

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He got a lot of compliments on his creation.

I was so happy to see him let go at the beach.  He wasn’t anxious about the waves at all.  He ran and splashed in them!  He alternated between building sand castles and playing in the ocean.  He had fun.  He was carefree.

It was what I wanted for him three years ago when we were there.

I didn’t know I just had to wait.

This child is forever teaching me patience.

Summer blur: July

July 2013

The Roc really, really wanted to try fireworks this year on the 4th of July.  Back in Delaware we were lucky to be able to sit inside, and watch the fireworks behind the glass of our floor to ceiling windows.  He did watch them once outside, but they were far away that year, so it wasn’t as scary.  This year we decided to bring him to a fireworks display, where we would have a harder time escaping if it became too much for the Roc.  He was a bit worried, (as was I) and kept asking when they were going to start as we walked to the ball field at my old high school.  We convinced him to watch a movie on his iPad while he waited.

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He was anxious about being caught unaware when they started, so he stopped his movie when it got darker, and then repetitively asked us when the fireworks would start and if they would be loud.  During the fireworks he wore his noise canceling headphones and sat on GC’s lap, wrapped in a blanket to keep the mosquitoes from biting him.  He LOVED the fireworks.

Loved them.  It was such a joy to see him so excited and hear him say, “Wow!” over and over.  We waited for the right time for him.

***

GC’s friend from New York, Jared, stopped by our house while he was on a skydiving road trip.  It was wonderful to see him and he enjoyed our screened in porch so much that he slept in it!

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***

We surprised the Roc more than once and went to Dairy Queen!

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This kid loves his ice cream!

***

The Roc had ESY for three weeks in July, and he continued with his hippotherapy, music therapy, occupational therapy, and his once a week skills trainer in the afternoons after summer school.  His only free day during the week was on Fridays.

***

The Roc and I went to a nearby lake to swim one Friday afternoon towards the end of July.  I told him before we went that I would swim a little and play in the sand a little, but I would also sit on the blanket and read my book while he played in the sand by himself.  I’ve been really trying to get him to entertain himself a bit, there’s only so much playing I can do.  He agreed to my terms and he did fine while at the lake, actually more than fine.

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The beach was pretty empty and we stayed late into the afternoon.  The Roc had lots of space to himself and I got to swim a little, play a little, and read a little.

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It was an afternoon that reminded me just how far we have come.  A few years ago I couldn’t have imagined that we would get to a place where I could sit back and watch the Roc play.  There were a few factors that helped: the lack of people in our area, so there were no children screaming and splashing near him, and the water and sand, but I’ll take it.  Progress.

***

At the end of July we headed out on a road trip to South Carolina to visit GC’s side of the family.  Months ago we had thought we would fly, but just couldn’t stomach the price of airfare, and we never bought tickets.  Then we bought a hybrid car in May and it was decided – we would drive to SC.  You just cannot beat an average of 58 miles to the gallon, even if you are going to drive over 3,000 miles in two weeks!  We were hoping for an easy drive and were concerned about having the Roc in the car for 21 hours of driving…

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He watched a LOT of movies in the iPad, but we made it!  The Roc was so excited to go to South Carolina, he kept telling us that he was going to swim in the ocean this year.  He hadn’t been to the ocean since 2010, and while he did go in one time during that trip, he was still wracked with anxiety about the waves.  I was hopeful that he would overcome his fear this year and really let go at the beach…

Next up, tales from South Carolina!  (and lots of beach photos!)