Monday, December 5, 2011

Hello and Goodbye but Not Really


As I see that folks are still continuing to drop by despite the last post in November 2011.  I'd like to say, "Hey, drop on by the new site!"

www.toysaretools.com

I hope you'll love reading it at least half as much as I enjoy writing it.   Thanks for dropping by Can Mom Be Calm?

-Jenn

p.s. I may be absorbing my old one into the new one so my followers can get my latest updates.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Final Post: Can Mom Be Calm?

No one wants this kind of attention but thank goodness the media is here for us
I hate to be one of those people who leaves a blog hanging. But that is exactly what I've done. I know there is no great damage. I have no contracts, no stakeholders, no ads, and yet it pained me whenever I saw it or was asked about it.

I decided a few months ago to close Can Mom Be Calm? but I think I was just waiting for the right moment to close it and that time is now.

Sheesh, I was in the newspaper again. The last time I wrote about being in the newspaper, it was to defend myself about how I pay my teen babysitter after a wonderful New York Times article talked about the special needs babysitting program that my kids' babysitter had completed. But this time, the issue was very different. This time, I was in the paper because I was in the middle of a shame-on-you article where I shared the story of my eight-month-long battle to get safe school bus transportation for my preschooler receiving special education.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Seeing Socially Through Their Eyes First





















So this is not the last post. I am actually done with the last post. I am just not done with the next blog. Yes, there is a next blog. That announcement will come soon.

However, I needed to post this because I had an explosive learning experience at recent a YAI conference here in New York and for me the best way to keep this memory alive is by recording it and sharing it.

You may have heard me discuss this in previous posts but after having listened to the Michelle Garcia Winner in person, I can appreciate even more now why her curriculum, Social Thinking is being used all over the world.

I first heard about her after an auction win for a 2-day session for a sibling dyad (relationship/play therapy) at Emerge and See an NYC-based educational center for special needs children. One of the owners, Alison Berkley spent a lot of time on the phone with me trying to explain how she uses the principles taught by Michelle Garcia Winner in her approach to helping siblings play with each other.

"Michelle Who?" is all I thought and then moved on. I wasn't interested in the curriculum. I honestly didn't even know there were different social skills curricula out there. All I thought was, "Could you just make my kids play with each other without it erupting into a fight, three seconds after I walk away?"

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Final Post is Coming Soon














I know there have not been any recent posts in a long long time but I have been working on a big bang final post. I hope you can come back next week for it. It will be posted after Labor Day.

I hope you'll enjoy it. I am writing this announcement of my final post because I still see Twitter followers coming in and I thought I should write something about the future of this blog.

Truth be told, I have been thinking, writing, deleting, writing something else, not finishing, writing, thinking, rewriting, and thinking some more about this. It's tough to wrap this up as I've enjoyed writing in it for the past two and a half years. So much good has come from this blog including making personal and professional connections as well as my favorite part, writing stories to share with others. The final post will be this blog's last attempt to answer the question, "Can Mom be calm, really calm, not just sedated by medicine, happy via cabernet, but rather, just really truly calm?"

The post will include a story about a huge fight that pretty much ate me alive until the very end. It was so vicious that it even caught they eye of the news media here in New York City. There was a big picture of me and my son in the paper that final day. Someone said to me, "You're always in the newspaper," and I thought, "but it's not on purpose...." I can't wait to share it with everyone. I hope you can come back very soon as I say goodbye. I promise to include a list of favorite blogs to share with you that you may not yet spotted on the blogosphere.

Jenn

Caption: Somewhere on this path of motherhood, my two boys have grown to be two kids who have sometimes been able to go to playground with each other and not need me at all. The little one still needs my help if he comes without his big brother but when the two of them are together, they are best friends. Here they are trying to do tricks on the Yobaby Kick Flipper which is usually under ten dollars for both the board and the DVD. I love this product. I wish they could practice their tricks at home by watching the DVD but we have neighbors downstairs. I could solve the problem by downloading the video to my iPod and letting them practice there but I never get around to doing that.

Still, I do like the culture of skateboarding for special needs kids. I see the older boys in the park doing stunts and while it looks a little dangerous, it looks exciting as well. I don't see them doing anything else (smoking cigarettes or worse..) The boys I've seen are respectful to the people around them. The culture also seems to be friendly to folks who may not be so chatty and just very into watching and doing. Thus is looks like the practice of being a "fan" of this sport is not as fanatical as some other sports. I can't say this for sure but that is impression I have. I still remember Travis from the movie Clueless who was one of my favorite characters. Yes, he did smoke pot but then gave it up to soar new heights as an athlete. I wish skateboarding could be a school sport like football and wrestling. I don't see how the latter two are less dangerous or less expensive than skateboarding might be.

Moreover, the learning that happens when they get together is best done outdoors and not in front of a screen with video game controls (although I do still like that if it is social, at least for now.) The sport seems to promote mutual support and invite constructive criticism and praise from peers in a non-anxiety provoking way. It also looks like it promotes turn-taking but waiting for turns involves watching your friend do a stunt so it is not so boring to wait. It is also independent like swimming, golf, and track which many professionals say is what are the preferred team sports for special needs kids. Last but not least, it uses my kid's favorite styles of learning: visual and video instruction and trial-and-error. When I ask the older boys in the park how they got so good, they usually tell me that they watched other kids or watched YouTube. Sports education via YouTube. What's next? I've even found someone who gives actual skateboarding lessons. I haven't done it yet but maybe someday....

I like the fashion too... just not all the skulls... nope, not into the skulls....why skulls? How do skulls connect with skateboarding? Is skateboarding connected to pirates somehow? I wonder if has anything to do with rejecting society or maybe just feeling like an outsider. I think my sons will likely struggle with finding their place in society once they reach junior and high school. They will need to be with kids who accept them and help them feel good about themselves. I wonder if they'll fit in with the skateboarder kids in the neighborhood. Oh well.. I don't know everything about this sport but for now, skateboarding culture is okay with me.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught From When-I-Was-A-Kid Stories?

















How can I get my son to grow up faster? I don't mean grow as in physical growth (he needs that too). I mean maturity.....

I looked at a couple of books about "emotional intelligence" and I have to say that I lost interest so quickly. It was overwhelming and I still have such little patience for reading, even at this age (perhaps it is just plain worse at this age). And with all that goes on in this house, I barely have time to read any parenting books or even peek at the parenting magazines for which I have paid subscriptions. The magazines are still sitting in the plastic wrappings they came in through the mail.

I really do not know how to teach emotional intelligence. It is a new term for me and all I know how to do is talk so that is what I've been doing - just talking to my son. I have noticed that he seems interested in the stories of my youth which is something my mom did not do much of when I was little. But these stories of what I did and how I overcame or didn't overcome things seem to interest Logan very much.

As I get to know Logan more, I see myself in him quite often. I recognize his irrational fears even before he says anything about them. I recognize his difficulty with reading comprehension even though he can read (decode) words quite well. I recognize his low self-esteem and his preoccupation with what people are thinking about him. I actually still feel like this today. Sometimes when I am talking to someone, I don't hear them because I am wondering what they are thinking about me. It really is ridiculous but it is what I do and I am imagining that Logan does the same. Thus, I am just teaching him about emotional intelligence through examples of my own life. This is my shoddy plan because I can not get through a book that tells me how to teach it to my kid.

Logan and I really do have so much in common. For example, I used to complain about how Logan is so young and yet has managed to get stitches and break his arm before the age of six. Thinking about this now, I don't know why I complained. I broke my leg on two occasions before the age of six and I would have also had stitches but I fought off the doctors so hard at the hospital that they finally gave up on me, my mother told me. (This was in Korea when I was about 3 or 4 years old.)

On one occasion when I broke my leg at the age of 4. It was because I could not voice my concern over a broken slide but felt like I needed to go down it and so I did. I broke my leg but hid my pain for the longest time. I was taking piano lessons at the time and was visiting family that day. My parents asked me to play piano for everyone and put a portable keyboard on top of my broken leg. After playing a few notes, I broke down crying because of the pain. My parents took me to the hospital and there they were told that their daughter's leg was broken. I have a vague memory of my exasperated father telling me that next time, I should tell him what is going on. Ohmigosh, I say the same things to Logan so often now!

So as I recognize myself in him more and more, I am trying to open his horizons about fears, living life, and possibly even spirituality.

I haven't come out and said, you have this disorder and that disability. He already knows that he has some issues but I don't know how he sees himself in the context of the world. All I am doing right now is just telling him about him and myself without the labels. I feel like I can really start talking about the world outside his window. I am telling him that the school across the street has a 1st grade class of 24 kids and one teacher. (He gasped when I told him that.) I am telling him that I went to such a class.

This is such a great time to talk to him about my own life because he is now in 1st grade and 1st grade was so memorable (traumatic) for me. That year was not only my first school experience but it was also my first year in the United States. In Korea, kids start school 6 months after American children do. So basically my parents didn't bother to put me in kindergarten. I learned everything from my big brother anyway who taught me how to read and do math.

But starting life as a student without being able to speak English, having no parents at home until 7 PM, and not having much money was tough on me, to say the least.

When I say no to Logan about buying something and he whines, I remind him about how my mother didn't have enough money to buy me a sufficient supply of socks and so if the laundry wasn't done, I would go to school without socks. I tell him how the other kids made fun of me (true story).

I know that eventually he may tune me out like the When-I-was-little-I-walked-five-miles-to-school-story but for now, the look on his face tells me that he believes me and is imagining what that must have been like. Thankfully, Logan is one of those kids that can walk out of a toy store empty-handed. He may ask and he may even whine but tantrums are rare.

I also let him know that I consider it a gift for him to have me at home. I kind of see it this way because my mother had absolutely no choice but to work. That first year in the United States was probably horrendous for her. She literally worked all day in a garment factory and then brought work home so she could be paid piecemeal.

Last year, I actually cried when I went to Logan's Thanksgiving Lunch Event at his school. It was only when I walked into his classroom that day did a flood of emotions come over me because at that moment it occurred to me that my mother was never able to do this. Logan gets so anxious about me coming to school. Perhaps if he understood how it is not a choice for some kids and how he is fortunate that his own mom could attend an event.... maybe he can open his mind a little more and not be so stuck on what should be and what shouldn't be.

I know that he is immature and yet his intelligence and ability to grasp large ideas seems to allow him to understand some of these things. I suppose you can call it something akin to building upon his strengths. I sometimes wonder what the real meaning of strengths-based programming is. I have to be careful to make sure it is not lip-service and that institutions really walk the walk when they say that.

Back to emotional intelligence: My friend once told me that when she talks to Logan, she feels like she is talking to a grown-up. This struck a chord with me because now I know why Logan is always making me laugh. The things he says is funny because it usually does not come from a child's mouth.

When Logan was four, I told him that Daddy will stay home for a week because he is taking off work and then Logan asked how we will have money to live. I think I laughed for about 15 minutes straight that day.

When Logan was six, he told me that he would buy me a car and I asked when and he said.... "After I go to college and get a job." I didn't realize that he thought of such things so far ahead. I think the future worries him a bit even though he's only 7 years old. But the cute part of that story is that when I joked to Logan saying that I don't want to share a car with his father and that I would want my own car, he said, "Okay, but then Spencer is going to have to help me."

Is that weird? When he says things like this. I never think, "He's so smart." Rather, I think, "do you seriously think like that?" It is hysterical. I wish I had more examples to share but I have a really bad memory now. So bad that I am now starting to do more brain exercises like Scrabble Flash or puzzles. And now, as I write this, I am thinking that I should write his funny-sayings all down and make a book out of it and call it, "Sh*t Logan Says." Really, he makes me laugh like this almost everyday now and strangely he is not telling me a joke to make me laugh.

But I think he is really starting to like the feeling of making people laugh. (ohmigosh, another Jim Carrey?) I think he has been attempting to do this for a long time now but he had been failing miserably. I finally taught him how to tell a joke and he felt really empowered. I also told him how to do a Ha-Fooled-Ya-type joke but it is backfiring a bit. He is starting to make up stories for fun and then admit later that it was a joke but these jokes are not funny. I think in his mind, he is doing some sort of what-would-happen-if-I-said-this-test not really to make someone upset but rather he is experimenting people's reactions.

He is so inquisitive and it is so hard to explain to a kid who sees the world a little differently, "Uh, Logan, people are not toys. Get that through your head buddy." I think he is starting to get the picture but his impulsivity is strong and when he gets an idea to do something...... ugh... trouble..

The bottom line is that I remind myself that this child of mine who can infuriate me in 60 seconds is the same child who when given a choice, will always pick the less expensive toy to lessen his parent's financial hardship and will always share his chocolate and candies with his little brother without being told. It really just dawned on me these days, why he doesn't ask for more Wii games. I thought he was oblivious but I think he doesn't want to burden me.

Maybe, I don't have to worry. On my most sane days, I think he is going to be just fine. Like I said before in another post, I just have to survive his childhood.


Photo: Probably even just a year ago, I would have never thought this picture was possible. But now I have a boy who likes books such as the Berenstain Bears and Olivia. He wanted to buy that book that he's holding here in this picture and of course, I said "Seventeen dollars! No way!" We found a great book on sale though. He clutched it with anxious hands until we took it to the register. I was so happy that finally we could both be at Barnes and Nobles in peace and he was no longer that toddler taking all the books out of the shelves.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Learning to Accept Gifts Makes Me a Better Mom






















When he was 2 years old, Spencer's therapists used to tell me, Spencer is Spencer and Logan is Logan. I did not listen. Since Spencer exhibited traits of inattention and feeding difficulty, I just assumed that Spencer would come to have an ADHD diagnosis as well. That PDD-NOS diagnosis that he received when he was 2 was taken seriously but at the same time, I always felt that he'd grow out of it with therapy.

But as my kids get older, the acronyms have changed. We are now looking at ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) as an acronym for Spencer. Many people don't believe it. I am not even sure I do myself but irregardless, one test does say that and he was very much himself the day he was tested.

For Logan, we are looking at adding more acronyms. Obsessive Difficult Temperament could be one and thus ODT. Anyone ever heard of ODT? And no, it is not ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). I have never heard of it until I met Logan's new doctor in the fall.

And there are more labels. The term "gifted," is another. I always knew he was smart but "gifted" seemed like a stretch to me. I asked Logan's doctor about this last week. Kai was with me. And the doctor said that he thought Logan was gifted but not a genius. There are very few geniuses in the world, he told us. Since the category "genius" was ruled out, "gifted" was a bit more easy to accept and my husband is starting to accept it too.

You would think that we would be embracing the notion of having a gifted child but right now, the "gifted" part of Logan is likely causing him a lot of trouble. It is like ADHD X 3.