Friday, April 30, 2010

5 Question Friday

 I faithfully read Mama M.'s Five Question Friday every week, but seldom find time to answer these questions myself!

1. If you could, would you go back to high school?
Sure, why not? I loved my high school experience. I had a lot of friends, an awesome best friend that I still keep in touch with, a great boyfriend, I was involved in everything I wanted to be involved in. If I did go back, though, I would have paid much more attention in Biology and Chemistry. That would have really helped me out in college!The great thing about living only 2.5 hours away from my home town is that I get to go back and visit all the time. So, I kinda feel like I go back to high school often!

2. If a genie appeared and granted you two wishes, what would they be? (And, no saying "more wishes".)

I would wish for a fully loaded 2010 Honda Oddessy Minivan. I'd definitely have to wish for one because I know my husband would never agree to just go and buy us one. He hates the gas mileage that is typical with vans. Don't even get him started on SUV's!

Okay, the other wish would be for a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III. Its just a wish, right? I know that would be WAY too much camera for me and I probably wouldn't even know how to turn it on. But if you are gonna wish, wish for the best!

Sorry I'm not wishing for world peace or anything monumental. I'm a bit more materialistic than that.

3. What kids show do you secretly like?

I've always loved watching Arthur on PBS. I remember encouraging the kids I babysat for to watch it with me because I liked it so much. Now that I have kids, they could care less about Arthur. But I find myself watching a bit if I'm flipping through channels and see it on :) 

Oh, and I love Imagination Movers. I can't decide who I like more... Rich or Scott. I think they're both hot :) Luckily, that is one of Jayce's favorite shows, so I don't have to be creepy and watch it on my own :)

4. What is your beverage of choice?

Coke. Hands down. Is there anything else? And no, that is not a generic southern term for "all things soda". When I say "Coke", I mean real Coca-cola, never diet, in a red can or glass bottle. Actually, I prefer it from a fountain dispenser. But only if the restaurant has the balance right. I'm picky!

5. What is something that you would change about yourself (or are working to change in yourself)?

I'm assumming this is introspective and not  physical characteristics? 'Cause if we are talking about outside stuff, I'd really love a new nose. Not enough to actually get a nose job (cause that would hurt!), but I would love to change it magically. 

Okay, back to the "real" stuff. I've been working on yelling and the way I speak to my kids since January. Oh my goodness, this is tough! This is one hard habit to break! I'm doing much better on keeping my voice down,  but still have a long way to go on tone and content. Any time Jaina gives me a sassy comeback, its usually because *I* just used that rude tone with her. I've got to start talking to my kids the way I want them to speak to me. I need to get this down pat before Jaina hits her teen years!

Any way, I hope this was informative and fun for all of you!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Jayce's Birthday Day

We did, in fact, end up dropping everything and going to the park that afternoon. We could only stay for an hour because of Jaina's piano lesson, but it was so worth it. I loved chatting with my MOMS Club mommy friends and the kids loved playing in the gorgeous 70 degree sunny weather.

I guess almost 8 year olds are too cool to be seen using playground equipment the correct way.

 Oh, I guess the newly 5 year old has to copy the almost 8 year old. I should have seen that coming!

After giving mommy heart attacks, we headed home to get ready for Jayce's mini-party that night.

I think I've mentioned before that we weren't doing official big birthday bashes for the kids this year? That was the compromise I made with my husband when discussing wooden playset options. Jayce is totally cool with it. He didn't even ask to go to Monkey Joe's or Chuck E. Cheese's this year.

Instead, we made his day special in other ways.

Carmen, his former EI, brought him a bunch of balloons while he was in school.

You should have seen his face when he walked in the house! He said, "What are those balloons there?"

I answered, "Well, sometimes people like to celebrate  birthdays with balloons."

"Today is my birthday. I'm five, " he said.

And then the light bulb went off.

"MY balloons?? My birthday balloons!!" I tried to get him to talk to Carmen on the phone and tell her thank you, but he was being shy.

Not too long after, my mom came over with presents and his cake.

Can we say "spoiled much?" considering my mom and Monica went in together to get Jayce his very own scooter, which he loves. No, she had to buy him three other little presents, too. I think she has a serious shopping problem. I think she passed it down to me, too! So I really can't complain :)

The cake was from a local bakery that I had never used before. Jayce was very specific about his wants this year. It had to be a Robin (not Batman whatsoever) and he had to have a purple "R" suit, not a red/green/yellow one.

The only solution was to go with the bakery that could scan a printed picture and then print the image on edible icing paper. Then they had to go over it in purple icing to make the modification.

Eh, I thought it turned out okay. It was rather pricey for what it was. It did taste very very good, though! I hope he picks something easier to make next year. I'd rather use my friend Dodi :)

He did an excellent job blowing candles out :) This is the very first year he did not need any help at all. Oh, and please excuse the number of candles that the bakery included on the cake. I promise my son is 5 years old, not 20-something!

After cake we opened presents.

Jaina bought the following presents for Jayce with her own money from her allowance.

She originally had $14 to spend, but as we were shopping for Jayce, she found a necklace for $10 that she just had to buy.  She was then able to spend $3 plus tax on her brother. Hence the frisbee, matchbox car, and dinosaur, all from Walmart's $1 section. Jayce absolutely loved them!

When you asked Jayce what he wanted for his birthday, he'd say, "A Robin cake with a purple R and a Green Goblin like Kyler's!"

There ya go, buddy!!

Of course, he had to go and call Miss Brittany immediately to tell her about his Green Goblin. He wanted to talk to Kyler, but he was already in bed due to the time!

The rest of the evening was spent taking pictures and cuddling :) What a great combination!

Oh, and not to leave Jaina out, but she scored an "un-birthday" present from Grandma. My Grandma Cain used to do the same thing for us when it was a sibling's birthday. Do you do that in your family, too?

 And last, but not least, I got a picture of my little man and me on his birthday :) Thanks mom!

(It was after 9 PM, there was no way we'd get a smile outta him!)

All in all, his birthday was a wonderful success! Of course, we could have done without the stomach virus that descended upon Jaina exactly one hour after this photo was taken and would last over 12 hours with vomiting. Hopefully when we remember Jayce's 5th birthday, we won't remember how miserable his sister was!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jayce Through the Years

I cannot believe my baby is FIVE years old today!

It just goes to show you how well my kids obey. I keep telling them to stop growing, but they just won't listen!

Jaina woke up her little brother today by singing "Happy Birthday" to him :) I loved watching him wake up with a smile!

Then he blinked and looked around and said, "Am I five today, mom? Five years old?"

"Was I five yesterday or just today?"

I assured him that he was indeed five years old today.

"No! Wait! I am not five yet. I have to eat my cake first! Then I'll be five. Can I have my cake now?"

He picked out his favorite yellow shirt to wear on his special day. And then proceeded to get tomato sauce all over it during lunch today. Whoops! He brought cookies with him to school that had purple sprinkles. Purple is his favorite color :)

This afternoon we'll be heading to a park with friends and then home to eat dinner with my mom and Monica. Jayce's EI has already brought over a huge bunch of balloons for him. He's having a very special day already!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Puddle Jumper and Playset

The kids could hardly contain their excitement in the car after school today. Our Rainbow Play System was finally getting delivered and installed today! Just in time to celebrate a certain somebody's birthday tomorrow :)

We raced home to see the finished project. Jaina and Jayce couldn't get out of the car fast enough to race to the backyard. Hearing them squeal with delight was worth every penny :)

And then 5 minutes later, it started to rain.

Jayce was crushed. He wanted so badly to go play on their new swing set. Instead, I let him put on his new rain boots and clomp around in puddles in the driveway.

Except that there weren't many puddles in the driveway. He kept saying, "Where are they, mom? I don't see them. What's a puddle? Where's the water? Over here?"

Then, after dinner, the sun finally came out. I took a towel outside and dried off the swings and slides. I hope they'll be able to enjoy it more tomorrow!

I Heart Faces: Smiles

Who can resist a huge grin from a happy 8-month-old?

Certainly not me!

Go check out all the other SMILES over at I Heart Faces!

(and thanks, Becca, for letting me borrow your baby!)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ruffled Feathers

It looks like I'll be taking a quick break from chronicling our daily adventures tonight and digging a little into an issue that has been on my mind all afternoon. I promise I won't get *too* deep or sentimental because frankly, that's just not me. I'm an "at face value" kind of person and I like me just fine :)

It appears that I may have ruffled a few feathers in one of my previous posts (the one about how Jayce's IEP went). One one hand, I'm not surprised. No one likes to be disagreed with. I'd say a lot of humans don't take criticism, constructive or not, very well. On the other hand, I'm kind of amused that someone from the school district actually reads my blog :)

There was a time that I deeply cared about what others thought of me. Growing up, I'd say its safe to say that I was a "People Pleaser". I liked it when people were happy and I tried my best to keep it so. I would be very hurt to hear that someone didn't care for me, or my ideas, or didn't want to be my friend.

I'm not sure when all of that changed. Was it when I was in college and explored my self-worth? Was it when I met Brian and saw how being nice all the time is really pretty fake? Or was it when I was full into my term as MOMS Club president and had one of the members call me up and say, "You are the worst president our MOMS Club chapter ever had!"

(By the way, I told her not to let the door hit her on the way out of the club, since she had threatened to leave and all. Definitely not how I would have handled that situation in High School!)

Over the years, I've learned an important lesson. You can't please everyone. And the person you really need to please (sans your religious beliefs) is yourself. Family and friends come closely after that, but not at the expense of your own happiness.

I never knew how much I'd have to defend my beliefs until I became a mom. It came apparent pretty quickly that my parenting beliefs were not the most popular around. I had three choices... 1. question my own beliefs and listen to theirs with an open mind 2. keep my mouth shut  or 3. be upfront and stand up for what I believe to be right for my family.

To this day, I do a little of all 3. I try to have an open mind when listening to other's  beliefs, whether or not they are religious, political, or parenting. Sometimes I find it wise just to not say anything at all (no use beating a dead horse now, is there?). Yet, more often than not, I feel very comfortable saying what's on my mind.

Even if its not what people want to hear.

I feel very secure in the choices I have made for myself and my family. Of course I have regrets... who doesn't? I hope that I learn from them.

In this situation, I have been accused of acting in an unprofessional manner. I'm sorry, but even typing it out makes me giggle just a bit. :) I've never once claimed I am a professional. I am lucky enough to not have to work outside the home in the professional workforce. I can voice my opinions freely without worrying about office politics or angering a boss. In my "work" as a stay-at-home mom, I am the boss. At least until Brian gets home from his day job and we share that title equally in the evenings and on the weekend :)

I don't claim to be an expert on children. But I am an expert on my children. I'm not an expert in Attachment Parenting nor am I a Board Certified lactation consultant. All I can tell you is how AP has worked for my family and the struggles I went through when I was nursing my kids.

And if you don't agree with me? Oh well, you have that right. That's your opinion. Just like I'm entitled to mine.


Now, because I think my blog posts without pictures are very boring, here are some from a few weeks ago:

(my own personal gardener. He likes to dig weeds out by hand)

The umbrella Jaina made at school :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Heart Faces 2010 Photowalk in Columbia!!!

Goodness, I am so excited. Just beyond excited!!


I just signed up for my favorite photography blog's 2010 Photowalk!!

Originally, I had thought they had lined up leaders in Greenville, SC, which is a lot closer to my house than Columbia. But Cola isn't too terribly far at all :) (Although it will take me longer to drive there round trip than the actual photo walk, but who cares?)

And get this... guess who the leader is? None other than Keli Hoskins who writes for Kidnapped by Suburbia which is an awesome blog to read. AUGH! You mean I get to meet her?? She's like a celebrity in the Blogosphere :) I'm so incredibly excited!

Okay, just had to share. Go head to I Heart Faces right now and figure out if there's a Photowalk for you to join in your neck of the woods!

(Melissa, I am so bummed there is no one signed up for Southern Florida!! I think next year they'll expand it)

And so it ends

I'm so sorry!!

I honestly didn't mean to leave any of you guys hanging.

After the IEP meeting at 10:30 on Thursday (which lasted an hour past the time slot they gave me), I headed to lunch with Jayce's former EI (early intervention coordinator) and his current private SLP. Since neither one could attend the meeting with me, we had to rehash it over some poppyseed rolls at FATZ Cafe.

Then, I raced home to get Jayce off the bus. Then raced over to Jaina's school to pick her up. Then raced home to get back in time for our afternoon ABA session. Then had to hurry and feed the kids an early dinner so we could get to a photo shoot I had planned for a friend's 2 year old at 7.

Then Jayce had a bit of a scene at the park where he was caught throwing mulch in a little girl's face. I removed him immediately from the situation (after apologizing for Jayce to the little girl) and went to go talk to Jayce about why its not a good idea to throw mulch. Jayce always has to understand the reasoning behind a rule or he just doesn't follow it just because someone told him to.

He refused to stay in time out for the first 2 minutes and then refused to leave the bench for 30 more. And then insisted that we leave the park right away. This is a perfect example of how some consequences that work with Jayce sometimes do not work every time. But, at least he did stop throwing mulch!

After giving the kids a quick dinner and putting PJ's on, it then took them until 9:45 to fall asleep. Jayce was beside himself, completely inconsolable. Just because Jaina told him he couldn't spend the night with Gray on Friday night. She had partially listened to a conversation I had had with my mom and got her facts messed up. I even called my mom on the phone so she could reassure Jayce, but by then he was so over tired he couldn't stop crying. It was a LONG night! And therefore, I did not have time to even think about that day's IEP meeting, much less blog about it.

But here it is!

The meeting started out fine. Each of the 6 people that the school brought in (OT, ST, SN 4K Teacher, Regular 4K Teacher, School Psych., and SN Coordinator) sang Jayce's praises. What mom doesn't like to hear that?

Yet, they didn't really show any evidence on his progress except for testing scores. This really bothered me. The OT was supposedly doing a handwriting curriculum called "Handwriting Without Tears" all year long with him. When I asked her to show me his book she said, "Oh! Well, we weren't expecting Jayce to write or anything at this age. We just worked on putting sticks together to form letters."

Um.... yeah. I don't know where the OT has been, but its pretty standard around here for kids to learn how to write their letters in 4K and then practice them in 5K. Even the Kindy teacher at Jaina's school told me they expect kids to already have a knowledge of letter formation before entering 5K. They don't do a handwriting curriculum in 5K because its not needed. So, basically, we're on our own for teaching Jayce handwriting skills this summer. Thank goodness for our ABA team! And total fail on the school's part, in my opinion.

Then we moved on to Speech. Jayce's testing still shows a slight receptive speech delay. However, it wasn't 1.5 standard deviations below the mean, so he was discharged. Her pragmatics checklist did not show a delay at all in pragmatics. Since that is the only thing all his private STs are working with Jayce, I seriously doubt the validity of that test as it applies to Jayce. But... oh well. We are lucky to have speech services every single day of the week. They can do so much more privately with him than at school.

Then the Psychologist went over her report. Yes, she saw some stimming when she observed him, but nothing that would "affect him educationally". Okay, if I had a dime for every time the school said that to me, I'd be able to put Jayce in private school!

It was what the Regular/typical 4K teacher had to say that I was most interested in. First of all, the teacher across the hall from Jayce's SN is wonderful. She is probably the best teacher in that entire school. She's not only good with the kids, she's excellent with communicating to the parents. Her classroom is always open, and she was going to let Jayce's ABA supervisior observe (until someone from SN got in the way!). Instead, she's going to meet with her afterschool one day and go over concerns she has.

She said she has absolutely loved having Jayce in her class a few times a week since January. She said that he understands the rules and follows them better than some of her regular students! The only concern she had was attention span, but reminded me that we are talking about a 4 year old little boy, who are famous for having short attention spans even without autism or ADHD. She said if Jayce were her child (and she actually has a 4 year old named Jace, how cool is that?) she thinks his time spent in regular 4K did help him prepare for next year and she would want to see how he does in regular 5K before getting worried.

This is where I said my piece.

"Yes, I agree that Jayce has come a long way. Yes, I agree that Jayce needs to be in regular 5K. Yes, I agree that Jayce doesn't qualify for Speech services anymore. However.... one of the reasons he has done so well this year was because of all the support he was given through his IEP. I am afraid that if we take that support away next year, he will not continue to do well."

I then asked for interinent IEP for the first 30 days of Kindergarten. They said no. They said that right this minute Jayce does not qualify for an IEP through a developmental delay diagnosis and there is no way we can keep one just in case. It would not be legal, according to the school.

This is where it gets tricky. Okay, legally, Jayce does not qualify for a DD diagnosis anymore because he has to have test scores that are 1.5-2 standard deviations below the mean. Jayce has always tested well and no longer has those documented delays on standardized tests.

HOWEVER.... I have the right to get him tested for educational autism and he would therefore qualify for a disability under the autism label. If the school disagrees to do this, they would be filing a due process complaint which is a legal action against us.

But, I didn't want to do this yet. Because Jayce's autism "does not affect him educationally" in a SN preschool class with supports, I do not have documentation to show that he is in need of this educational autism evaluation. It would make much more sense to wait until he's in 5K in the Fall with documented struggles to then request this evaluation.

So, my advocate said, "Let's get him a 504 plan." This is one step away from an IEP, but gives suggestions (not legally binding, though ) to the teacher on how to deal with Jayce's issues.

The school said no.

I was kind of in shock.... my friend ME had told me to qualify for a 504 plan, you just have to have a medical diagnosis under Other Health Impairment, which Autism is classified under. Yet, when I did my research last week, I could never find the exact State Department of Education criteria for a 504 plan.

The school says that to have a 504 plan, you not only have to have a medical diagnosis, but your child has to have that "medical diagnosis adversly affect him educationally in the classroom" See, I'd be rich I tell ya!

Here's the other phrase I was sick of hearing by the time I left: "Mrs. Walker, we don't have a crystal ball that lets us see into the future and predict what kind of help Jayce will need next year". No shit! That's exactly my point! We don't know how Jayce will do in a classroom with 24 kids for 6 hours a day with no support!

It ended up being a stand-off for a while. I couldn't prove Jayce still needed an IEP for next year because its not next year and they couldn't prove he didn't need one next year because its not next year.

My advocate finally said, "Then we'll take this up next year. Go ahead and sign releasing him from his IEP. We'll document every action with his teacher in the Fall and request another meeting after the first 9 weeks of school."

So it ends.

My son is no longer in Special Education.

On one hand, we should celebrate. Hasn't this been our goal all along?

Playing advocate, though, I wish I felt better about it. Its hard to ignore your Mommy Instinct. How many times have you been wrong about your own kids when your gut is telling you something is up?

But, there is no room for Mommy Instinct in IEP meetings. We'll just have to see what happens next year.

Thank you for all the prayers, hugs, vibes, comments, etc. They meant a lot and I could feel you all supporting me. Thank YOU!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Spring Season

I love the Spring Season. Not quite as much as Summer, which will always first and foremost be my favorite  season ever. But I still love it. The warmer temps, the beautiful blooming flowers.

Both the kids have birthdays in the Spring. Jayce will be turning 5 next week and Jaina will be turning 8 next month.

But there is one thing I dislike about the Spring. April and May are not just months in the Spring season. They are also months in the IEP season.


Bleh. There is nothing that makes my stomach tie up in knots as much as those three little letters.

For those who need a definition, an IEP is an acronym for Individualized Education Plan. It is exactly how it sounds. The school creates a plan full of goals for a child with a learning disability or in need of speech services. Sounds straight forward and easy right?

Well, it should be. And in many many school districts across the nation, it is. Unfortunately, its not in mine. IEPs are guarded very closely in this district and only given to children who have obvious developmental delays. Although eligibility requirements are standard across the state of South Carolina, our district is very selective in the testing that they choose to determine eligibility of a child.

Take my son, Jayce, for example. He has a medical diagnosis of autism, as classified by the DSM-IV, given by a developmental psychologist, a developmental pediatrician, and a genetics counselor.

And, in most schools, a medical diagnosis of a lifetime disability of autism would automatically ensure that a child can keep an IEP as long as he needs one. An IEP can include not only speech, motor skill, and academic goals, it can also include aids, supports, or accommodations that the child needs to succeed in a regular (least restrictive) classroom. But not in ours.

This morning at 10:30 AM EST, Jayce's IEP team and his team of private therapists will be sitting down to hash out his school placement for next Fall. The school has proposed to switch Jayce from a Special Needs preschool class into a regular Kindergarten classroom for the 2010-2011 school year.

This, I agree with.

They also propose that Jayce graduate from all speech services, occupational therapy services, and no longer have an IEP at all.

This is where I disagree.

I cannot deny (and would never wish to!) all the tremendous progress Jayce has made over the last two years in the school system. His transformation has been amazing! I'm so proud of him; he's worked so hard.

BUT... as much as it pains me to say this, he is not yet comparable to his typically developing peers. If you put him in a SN classroom full of kids with learning disabilities, Jayce shines above the crowd. You put him in a class full of typical kids and Jayce sticks out like a sore thumb. He's one of those high functioning children that tend to fall through the cracks at school. Sometimes they get labeled as "behavioral problems" and settle into a school year full of discipline conferences. Sometimes these kids succeed above and beyond academically, but are social outcasts and have trouble fitting in with their peers. And sometimes, these "quirky" kids turn out okay.

The thing is, I don't want to take any chances. I feel like if we can give Jayce the support he needs now, he'll need less and less of it year after year. I want him to continue his speech services for pragmatic issues (social speech). I want him to remain in OT for his handwriting difficulties. I want him to have a behavior plan in place so we can ward off any maladaptive behaviors before they start.

Dear readers, if you get a minute today, can you wish us luck? Or send a quick internet hug? Or a small prayer? Or some good vibes? I think we're going to need it. Its not easy to challenge a SN teacher, school psychologist, speech therapist, and district coordinator. But that's exactly what I'm going to do today.

Its not about who "wins", whether it be the school or myself. Its Jayce that needs to come out of this on top. Jayce's success in school next year will help determine his success throughout the rest of his entire school career. If we get off to a good start, I feel like we can do anything :)

I'll keep you updated!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On Sunday

We were able to catch a few hours with Uncle Jeff, despite his busy weekend schedule. I'm so very appreciative any time Jeff clears time for us. It means SO much to my kids. They think their Uncle Jeff is just the coolest person in the world. (They would think the same thing of their uncles Jason and Jeremy as well if they saw them more often!)

Lunch was at Fuddruckers. I won't tell you what Jayce calls this restaurant. I bet you can guess :) I have to keep reminding him to put the "uddr" in the name.

Thanks Jeff!! My kids now think you can supply them with an endless amount of tokens to waste on arcade games. :)

After lunch, the kids and I went to a park just to enjoy the weather and give Dad and Kim a break from the incessant talking both kids do.

It was so nice just to chill with the kids for a few hours. No huge commitments, no schedules to keep, no rushing. It was a beautiful day :)

But all beautiful days and weekends must come to an end. We packed up our stuff, gave hugs and kisses to Grandma Kim and Grandpa Lee, said thank you for the lovely visit, and headed home.

But Jayce said it was time to go, and so it was. I'm sure we'll be back later this summer!