September 26, 2008

Notes from “the field”

Posted in The musings of Erin at 6:37 pm by Erin

"The Field" being a place I would like to be, as long as it is warm and sunny and there are no tests to write or grade there.  I would also like to request wildflowers and butterflies be present in this field, as long as I'm dreaming and all.

I have just turned on the debates, which I am slightly scared to watch.  I hope my children grow up to wonder "What's the big deal?" about a black man being elected President, because I want it to be something they see as normal.  (And, for the love of Pete, the Republicans need to keep Sarah Palin out of the public eye if she can't say anything more useful than that she has foreign policy experience because Alaska shares a border with Canada and is "next to" Russia.)

P informed me that he wanted to be President when he grew up, until I told him that he had to be 35 years old.  Then he informed me that he didn't want to be President anymore, because he wanted to live at home and not in the "big white house".  I said we could visit him there, but he insisted he wanted to stay home.

Now, I love my sons dearly.  I hope they will always be close.  But if either one of them is still living at home at age 35, there is a serious problem.

P has had 6 very good days and 4 not great/pretty bad days in the last two weeks at school.  This is a vast improvement, which is good because we've fired his psychologist.  We have a very limited amount of mental health coverage under our health insurance.  Since J and I weren't thrilled with her, we decided we couldn't have him keep going and hope that it would get better.  We have a recommendation for another one and she's supposed to be fabulous.  I'll be making him an appointment with her. 

In the meantime, we've been using things from The Explosive Child, which is very helpful, and have figured out several of his triggers.  One of them, surprisingly, is swimming lessons at school.  The previous two weeks, he's been so horrendously out of control on Wednesday mornings that his teachers have had him stay in the office rather than going to swim lessons.  This week on Wednesday, he was all excited to go to school until I mentioned it was swimming day–then he started yelling that he didn't want to go to school and was beginning to explode.  I talked to him and he said he was scared of putting his face in the water because he always gets it in his nose and mouth.  We came up with a compromise that he would wear his bathing suit and go with his class to the pool, but didn't have to go in.  When we got to school, his teacher fully agreed with and supported it.  He did exactly that, and it was the first good Wednesday he's had in weeks.  In fact, it was one of his best days all week.

I am fighting off a cold.  I think I'm fighting it off valiantly.  I am slightly stuffed up and have had a sore throat for three days.  Today, I started coughing a little.  I'm hoping this is as bad as it gets.  Please let this be as bad as it gets.

I've now been back to jogging 2-3 times a week (mostly 3, but sometimes I'm just too tired to get up early) for about 2 months.  My butt has not yet shrunk even slightly, much to my dismay.  However, I am now able to run about a half-mile or so further in 30 minutes than I was when I first started.  I'm trying to remember that being able to do that is a sign that it's helping my cardiovascular health.  My legs do feel stronger, which is good.

I feel decidedly lazy this semester.  The new environmental science class is killing me.  I'm not enjoying it as much as I thought I would, primarily because it covers so much new material for me that I never feel particularly prepared.  I have the lecture written and I know a little more than I present, but the last time I covered anything ecology-related was probably my sophomore year of college.  Plate tectonics?  Eighth grade.  I just don't feel like I have anywhere near enough time to learn enough to teach it well this semester, so each class makes me a bit panicky.  And, frankly, I'm not an ecologist because I just don't find it that interesting.  International environmental policy?  Meh.  Molecular biology…now that's where it's at.

I'm not going to synagogue tomorrow.  Part of it is because Rosh Hashana starts Monday and I will be in synagogue a lot in the coming weeks.  The rest of it is because I currently have almost half a tank of gas in my car and I'd like to keep it there.  One of my students went to 13 gas stations before she found one that had gas.  Another waited an hour and a half to get gas today.  I'm not goin' nowhere.  Gas shortages suck.

And now I will stop babbling and write another test.  Whee.  If anyone finds that field, let me know.

September 14, 2008

Sometimes I hate grading rubrics

Posted in The musings of Erin at 7:05 pm by Erin

Even when I'm the one who's made them.  I had my environmental science students choose a topic about which they felt passionate and find a couple of news sources about it.  They had to summarize them and then provide their own opinion and ways that they can help with that environmental issue.  The sheer number of papers has been killing me, but then I came across one from a student who calls Sarah Palin "as evil as the antichrist" for her desire to drill in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge.

While this is not a political blog, I don't think it is much of a shock to anyone that I couldn't have brought myself to vote Republican for John McCain even if Obama weren't running.  Hell, I'm a scientist.  I'm an educator.  I'm a Jewish woman.  I'm not exactly in their camp.  The choice of Sarah Palin as a VP candidate is the most pandering, pathetic move I have ever seen.  She's an old white Republican man in a woman's body.  I do have to admire her ability to talk out of both sides of her mouth at once, though…it takes delusion skill to do that and believe what you're saying out of both sides.  It's also terribly frightening.

But I digress.  I hate that I'm going to have to ding him points for not following the guidelines of the paper.  I don't know that I would go quite so far in the name-calling, but that's simply because it's not my personality to do so.  He was clearly very passionate but didn't do what I'd asked him to do.

Still, I will start my comments with "While I appreciate your sentiments…"  And I will appreciate that, after reading and grading 25 papers (each of which had 2 supporting articles), he could renew my spirit.

September 11, 2008

Thursday tidings

Posted in The musings of Erin at 12:53 pm by Erin

Managed to wrangle an appointment with a psychiatrist for P tonight.  Will update after that.  It was horrible to make the appointment since they had to ask questions like "Does he express suicidal thoughts?"  I know they have to ask them, but just having to hear questions like that asked about my baby brought me to tears.

The developmental pediatrician that our regular pediatrician recommended is not covered by our insurance and doesn't have any openings until November.  We're starting with the psychiatrist and hoping to go from there.

P is apparently having a great day at school today, according to an e-mail from his teacher.  He's been happy and participating, and is highly motivated by the promise of a popsicle after school and that we're going to get him his very own library card this afternoon.  He's mentioned it to them several times.  Both J and I spent a bit extra one-on-one time with his last night and this morning, so maybe that's helping him feel a little better.  I don't know.


I wrote that I was worried about filling up my time with activities simply to fill my time (as if working full time and having two young children wasn't enough).  But I've been thinking a lot about it and decided that's simply not true–I really enjoy the things I'm doing.  I went to my first choir rehearsal of the semester on Monday night and felt renewed afterwards.  It just felt so good to be able to breathe and sing and make beautiful music with a wonderful choir and fantastic director.  I've really missed it.

The cooking club is fun.  Contrary to what I used to believe, kids won't eat simply anything if that's all you make them.  Mine have both been known to refuse to eat what's on the plate in front of them, and I refuse to put it out for them at every meal until they do (though I won't make them something else if they refuse).  Since I'm not an ogre, I don't deliberately make things that I know they don't like.  But I do like to cook and try new things.  The cooking club gives me a chance to do that and I really enjoy it.

And book club–I heart book club.  I…oops, I just realized that I'm hosting book club this month.  Must go and figure out exactly when that will be!


Thank you all for your encouragement.  Worry about P has been keeping me up at night.  It helps to be reminded that I'm not a horrible mom just because my child is acting out–it would be horrible to ignore it, and neither J nor I are doing that. 

I'm off for some special P and Mama time that involves popsicles (P's favorite is lime) and the library, where a copy of The Explosive Child(thanks Karen) is waiting for me.  Tonight, I will start it amidst grading the 46 tests and 76 papers that I have received since yesterday morning.  Eeps.

September 9, 2008

What is going on with P

Posted in Ramblings o' P at 9:23 pm by Erin

I have no idea.  We've been trying to come up with ideas, and none of them seem to pan out.  He's just so angry at school and neither his teachers nor J nor I have any idea what's going on.  P won't tell us.  He will randomly go over to another child and start pinching or hitting them, clearly furious; when his teachers ask why he did such a thing, he either refuses to talk to them or says "I don't know".

At first, we thought that maybe he wasn't getting enough sleep.  He was staying up at night reading in bed and was always tired and grumpy when we woke him up in the mornings.  So we made sure he was getting to bed on time and won't let him read there anymore.  In one way it has helped–he doesn't come into our room in the middle of the night as often as he used to and he doesn't say he's having bad dreams nearly so often.  But he's still sometimes tough to wake up in the mornings.  I don't know how we could even manage an earlier bedtime, but I'm not convinced it would help much anyway.

Then we thought that maybe he wasn't eating properly in the mornings–I have blood sugar issues, so maybe he does as well.  We've been sure for the last two weeks that he's not just having cereal and milk anymore; instead, his breakfast is much higher in protein.  It doesn't seem to have made any difference at a but we'll keep doing it.

I took him to his pediatrician today because he's been complaining of a stomach ache.  Coupled with his lethargy and aggressiveness, I've been concerned.  Unfortunately, it was the condescending doctor instead of the one we like (those of you who use the same practice know who I mean) and he basically brushed it off.  Said that it's probably a mild virus, kind of like the flu without the fever and vomiting.  They did test P's urine for sugar and it was negative, which is good but doesn't tell us anything. 

I asked for a recommendation to a developmental pediatrician, and he gave me the name of one.  I'll call them in the morning to make an appointment.  We need to do something soon.  He had a particularly bad day today at school.  J and I are getting supremely concerned that his behavior has become so bad that he's going to get kicked out of his school.  Since we have no idea what's going on, we're feeling at a loss as to how to help him.

On the one hand, I'm furious with P because he knows perfectly well how to behave and that hitting and hurting other people is completely inappropriate.  On the other hand, I'm really worried about him because he knows this, is doing it anyway, and doesn't seem to have a reason.  We don't see that kind of behavior at home, not at that level.  Occasionally he'll get very angry but there's always a preceding incident.  He doesn't ever hurt K, even if K deliberately pulls his hair or anything like that.  He has made moves to hurt J or I, which I will not try to justify (after writing two sentences trying to do so and then deleting them).  But he doesn't get that angry at home.  He doesn't try to hurt us every time he gets angry–in fact, he almost never does.  At school, he does it every time he gets angry and there doesn't often seem to be some sort of preceding incident.  Punishments don't seem to work at school, and it's hard to punish him at home for something that he did in school 6 hours earlier.  Not that we haven't tried, but it doesn't seem to work.

It's really, really hard to write about this.  I feel like I'm failing as a mom and, while that hurts in terms of worrying about what others think, I can get over that.  I worry that I'm failing P in ways that will never be overcome, and that I can't handle.

J and I are very different people when it comes to our kids.  He likes to kind of stick his head in the sand until something becomes unavoidable, then he will deal with it.  I like to be proactive and deal with things before they get to the unavoidable level.  But on this one, we're united that we can't wait another week to see what happens.  We need to form a plan and figure out how to help our son.

I just don't know where I went wrong.  It's hard to look at what I've written and see P in the descriptions of the behaviors.  He's just never been that child ever before.  Ever.  I don't know what suddenly changed, but part of me is scared to find out even as I know I can't give in to those thoughts.

September 5, 2008

The silence around here is deafening

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:37 pm by Erin

I am really struggling right now.


Struggling with my marriage, for many of the same reasons as previously.  The problem now is that J is really struggling with work himself, and isn’t happy with it.  It’s not working the way he hoped.  It’s not going to be feasible to keep it going the way he wanted.  I haven’t seen him happy with work in months, and I hate to see him so unhappy with something he’s worked so hard to build into a business.  I’ve been trying to deal with more around the house and with the kids, because nagging him just doesn’t seem right when he’s so unhappy at work—why make him miserable when he comes home also?  But when he not only doesn’t appreciate what I’m trying to do to help him, but makes things more difficult in some ways, I get pretty upset. 


Struggling with P.  He’s got behavior issues.  He never used to have them at his old daycare; then last year we switched him to a different one.  While we love the scheduling and activities, his class was kind of a nightmare.  There were twice as many boys as girls, and half of the boys had diagnosed behavioral issues.  The teachers weren’t prepared to deal with that kind of class dynamic.  P learned hitting.  He learned fighting.  And now that he’s in a different class, that seems a bit better on the surface, he isn’t stopping them.  J and I met with his teachers for almost an hour yesterday to discuss it.  We may end up taking him to a behavioral psychologist.  I just feel at a loss for how to help him when he’s angry.  As J put it, he doesn’t get “angry”, he goes from fine to furious.  0 to 60.  Nothing in between.  And P furious is not OK.  We don’t know what’s making him so angry.  He’s not always angry but when he is, watch out.  Aside from the anger, he doesn’t like to participate in class.  I told his teachers that he’s not only shy, but is horrified at the idea of making a mistake.  Rather than take the chance of making a mistake at something, he will flat-out refuse to do it.  They’ve got some ideas to help him.  I hope they work.  There have been several days in the last few weeks that I’ve driven home with him feeling completely, utterly helpless about my sweet boy.


Struggling with K.  For him, it’s not behavior but communication and health issues.  He’s seeing a speech therapist and is making a little bit of progress, but he still has fewer than 10 words—and “words” includes things like “va” for “water”.  The more he realizes that he can start to communicate, the more upset he gets when we don’t understand him.  It’s really tough and he’s having more and more meltdowns because of it.  His health is mostly good, but he caught a little cold over the weekend and by yesterday, he was wheezing badly.  He had nebulizer treatments every 3 – 4 hours for the last two days, but I still almost ended up taking him to the ER two nights ago when he started wheezing again less than 90 minutes after his last treatment.  Fortunately, he was on his way to bed and his breathing loosened up a lot while he slept.  I had to give him two treatments in the middle of the night that night, and only one last night.  He fell asleep while I gave him one at 11:30 p.m., and I thought how sad it is that he’s learned to fall asleep through the noise and with the nebulizer mask over his face.  I worry what’ll happen over the winter during cold and flu season if a little (it wasn’t even bad) summer cold practically lands him back in the hospital.


Struggling with myself.  This is the biggest one.  I feel left out of things.  I worry that I’ve filled up my time with so many activities so that I won’t feel lonely when friends don’t include me—even when there’s a perfectly good reason that I wasn’t included!  I’ve withdrawn from friends in some ways.  Not answering e-mails.  “Forgetting” to return phone calls, when really it just seems like a huge effort.  Only doing things when I have to do them, rather than initiating things because they would be fun.  And then I feel lonely and want to do things, but it feels like such effort to do it.  It feels like everyone manages to do things so much more easily than I do, and I desperately wish I knew the secret.  I know it’s not true.  I put forth a brave face as much as anyone.  I have friends who’ve commented that they wish they could manage things as well as I do—and inside I’m laughing hysterically, because they have no idea that I feel like I’m barely holding it together.


I’ll probably go back to silent for a while, because I get tired of whining.  But I just wanted to let you all know why I haven’t been around.  I’m reading blogs almost always but, like with e-mails, I’m not commenting much.  I just feel like I haven’t got any of the right words lately.