This Familiar Place

We’re almost two months into this school year. For the past week or so, I’ve noticed some regression in Little Man…..more tears, more outbursts, a couple of full-blown meltdowns. His anxiety level is up.  He’s pushing back more. Then we have that situation I wrote about last week. He’s not really interested in going back to that particular class. Friday and yesterday, he spent significant time in the nurse’s office complaining of a bad headache. Friday, I ended up bringing him home. Yesterday, I took him ibuprofen at 9:30, but then got another call two hours later to come get him.

He’s fine. No other physical complaints, just the headache that only appears at school.

Here’s what I think, having done this school thing with him a few times before. I think he’s maxed out. Does that make sense? He just reaches a certain capacity to tolerate it all, and then hits a wall. We typically see this happen six weeks or so into the school year. It doesn’t even take me a few days or weeks to catch on to what’s happening. I just  know, as soon as we see this regression start it’s because he’s tapped.

I can’t pull him out of school just because he’s reached a wall. I can’t let him skip doing his work just because he has little left in  his tolerance tank.  I can’t let him just escape. I do give him a little space where I can, but we can’t allow him to retreat completely.

It’s so painful to watch him struggle. It hurts my heart. The world isn’t always kind to everyone, much less those with different needs. Every time he goes sideways, I mentally go back to that night he told us this was too hard and he didn’t want to do life anymore. I’m terrified….that is my biggest fear for him, always. Once your child says those words to you, you will never get over it. It’s always there in the back of your mind. But then there’s a fine line between acknowledging that’s there, and pushing him through situations because that’s what he has to do.

We are where we are. We’ve been here before. It’s a familiar place. Even knowing it’s probably coming doesn’t make it any easier once you notice you’re there. But we dig in, we love him through it, we keep fighting. That’s just what we do.

I can’t even think of a good title

Good Lord but this week really sucks, and it’s only mid-day Tuesday. I’m beginning to think I need a good, old-fashioned, therapeutic crying jag. I’ve felt on the verge of tears over a week now, which only grew worse yesterday morning with news of the Vegas mass-shooting. I’m just so freaking sad…..

I caught my ring on something yesterday when I was unloading the car from a Costco run. I didn’t notice anything right away, so I guess I’m lucky there. But last night, I discovered one of the prongs around my center stone had completely pulled away, and the whole setting was tilted sideways. So now I’m without my ring for at least a week while it’s being repaired, and getting the appraisal (only five years since I lost and had the center stone replaced). Anyways, while driving to the jeweler, my phone rang.  I recognized it as one of the school district numbers, so I took the call.

How do you lose track of where you are in the school year?  And how do you forget you normally get *this* call this time of year, and have for the last six years? The special ed district admin was calling to schedule Little Man’s annual IEP meeting. Punch to the gut. I’ve been trying so hard to just enjoy being in the good place he’s in this year, and avoid thinking about IEP’s and transitioning him to high school. Life is having none of my denial. It’s not like we haven’t begun discussing it. It’s been hovering there in the background all year. But the high school team – at least part of it – will be at his IEP meeting next month to start the transition process. I’m so not ready for this. As before he started middle school, I’m terrified and anxious of what next year will bring for him, not to mention just making the decision where he will go to high school. Every time I think about any of the options, I have a panic attack. I’d homeschool in one capacity or another just to ease my own anxiety, but I know that is totally not the best option for any of us. Actually going to school, being in those social situations, and dealing with the classroom is a form of therapy for him. And it would just plain be counter-productive for both of us for him to be home all day every day. But I digress….I wasn’t ready for the call to schedule his meeting. I’m not ready for his meeting. I’m not ready to make a decision for him on high school. And I’m certainly not ready for whatever fresh form of hell we’re going to deal with while he transitions to wherever he goes for high school.

My freaking TimeHop and Facebook memories have both been full of photos of the Princess dancing or posts about her dancing. She isn’t dancing at all right now. I don’t know if she will ever dance again. I miss watching her dance. I miss that part of her. I am excited for the new adventures she’s having, and the girls on her field hockey team are incredibly supportive of each other. It just still makes me a little sad……I ran into a mom from the studio in the store yesterday. Just seeing her made me tear up. P’s dancing was more than just her dancing….so many of the parents (and grandparents) became my friends. I miss that little community too. My FIL asked for a photo the other day of P – one of her dancing. Just looking through her dance photos was an emotional haul. I sent him two of my favorites, and felt a couple tears roll down my face. I hate change.

I guess I’m just feeling drained and emotionally overwhelmed at the moment. I know it will get better, but for now, those tears are pretty close to the surface. And that just is what it is……

Wait, he wants to do what now?

First off, I have to acknowledge Three’s a Herd just hit 725 followers!!! I have to thank each one of you for reading, and clicking that follow button. I know I haven’t been as consistent in writing posts this year, but y’all have stuck with me. When you put your life, your thoughts, your words out there into the world, you wonder if one person will care enough to read, much less continue to want to read what I have to say. It’s humbling to say the least. I know I’m not some amazing blogger with a gajillion followers, but it makes me smile, makes me feel our experiences are making a difference (or making you laugh at our hot-messedness) every time I see someone new has clicked that button. So THANK YOU!

So, my carpool partner texted me Monday to let me know her oldest son would be trying out for the running team on Wednesday, so Little Man would be a little late getting home as she wouldn’t pick up til tryouts were done. No problem, and I thought, “Wow, cool, a running team at the middle school! Awesome!” and then I put it out of my mind….until Little Man was frantically digging in his backpack, looking for a form I needed to sign THAT NIGHT so he could tryout for the running team on Wednesday. Uh, what? He wants to what?

Even before we knew of his autism, we knew Little Man was not really an athlete. Oh, he’s perfectly physically capable (three evaluations with the adapted PE teacher reinforced this idea), his other stuff holds him back. And he just doesn’t really care about sports. He played Little League for three years. He played soccer for five seasons. Then we were done. Peace out. Not for him. He was fine with it. We were tired of fighting the battle, and, as I’ve mentioned before, it became something of a safety issue.

Now, he will run in PE at school. He’d rather do that than participate in any group activities. He’s not fast, but  he will do it. I just never thought he’d do it willingly, outside of the PE requirements for school. We’ve fought over PE with him since kindergarten basically. If I recall correctly, at least one of his IEP goals is strictly regarding PE participation. So when he said he wanted to try out for the running team, I was stunned. Maybe I shouldn’t have been…he had already surprised me recently when  he agreed to play soccer this fall. But still….running….on a running team….with running practices…and races against other students….Soooooo out of his normal realm.

Maybe this is just more evidence of how far he’s come over the last couple of years. Maybe I should stop being surprised when he says he wants to do something he’s pushed away for years. He’s changing. He’s maturing.

He did text me early yesterday afternoon, saying he didn’t think he wanted to do the tryout.  I asked him why. He said he didn’t think he would own up to it. I told him he had to stay anyways to wait for his friend to finish the tryout, and the carpool pickup. I also told him I thought he would surprise himself. He reluctantly agreed to do the tryout.

Who knows if he will make the team. He isn’t fast, unless he really wants to be fast. On one  hand, I don’t care if he makes the team….he tried out. That’s a huge win right there. If he does make it…..oh lordy…..it will be so good for him, such a learning experience. And it will prep  him for high school in so many ways. For that, I do want him to make the team. It would boost his confidence so much. It would give him another outlet. It would take him away from his screens for that much longer, expose him to another social world, push his envelope.

You  know the best part? His behavior….his changing who I thought he was is normal teenage behavior, whether he realizes it or not. Regardless, it’s a win. We’re kickin some autism ass this year.  Amen.

The Year of the Choice

I remember this point three years ago, when Little Man had just started his last year of elementary school. I remember the anxiety I was beginning to feel, knowing we would have to make the decision during that year where he was going to go to middle school. He was in a pretty good place that year, but I was terrified of what was coming, terrified of messing up and making the wrong decision, terrified of the new big bad world he would be facing and its potential for total disaster.

Sixth grade was BRUTAL. We knew it would be, no matter where he ended up. The magnitude of change moving to middle school guaranteed stress, anxiety, meltdown, regression.  I don’t doubt the decision we made as far as where he goes to middle school – it is the perfect place for him. We’ve watched him thrive in the last year, and feel confident he will continue on that path this year. That’s not to say he’s without issues.  He’s been pushing back on doing his work, and on doing his work to his full ability (he’s a brilliant boy).  He’s gotten a little lax, a little lazy.  And, I’m not gonna lie, he sometimes uses his ability to manipulate to get out of things, or delay. So we’ve brought the hammer, because we know we have to prepare him for high school and the expectations that come with that level of education.

I’m trying desperately to stay in this moment, to just relax and enjoy the good place he’s in. But I can’t help the thought from hovering…..we will have to make a choice at some point this year where he will be going for high school. Thinking about any of the options brings a rise in anxiety level for me.  The school the older two go to is huge, and it is traditional….moving classes, big campus, PE for Freshmen, homework loads, etc. I fear the potential for bullying is too big. I get palpitations thinking about him going from class to class, much less making it through every class every day (they block, so Tuesday – Friday, classes are 90-ish minutes long). I panic when I think about him even knowing what his homework is, much less getting it done. And don’t get me started on PE – that’s been the bane of his existence since first grade.

The PBL/math and science high school would be a good fit, but it’s different. He wouldn’t be with his siblings.  And its location requires navigating morning rush-hour traffic in addition to the usual drop-off/pick-up mess. Yes, that one is on me – it’s SUPER inconvenient. Then there are the other options – Classical, Charter, home school (which, quite honestly, isn’t really on the table at all). So. Many. Choices. So much pressure and anxiety.

He goes back and forth between wanting to go to the math & science school, and going to the school down the street with his brother and sister. His class will do high school visits around town in October or November. We have his IEP in November, and a representative from his “home school” will be there.

I feel like I need to meet the special ed teams at each school on the table. I need to know we can work together, that they will have his best interests at heart, that they will protect him, that they will help us get him to the goal of a full diploma with as few disasters along the way as possible.  We  need a school he will keep receiving the services he needs, and that will accommodate him in his particular form of special.

See, this is where I spiral. I’m really trying to focus on the fact he’s in a good place right now, and not stress about what’s coming next year. At the same time, I know how quickly time passes, and that we will need to start these discussions with his teams sooner than later. We basically have about two months to live in the now. Then, we will have to face the year of the choice head-on.

Last Days

Oh lordy, but we are struggling through these last days. It seems an insult to have to carry on with regular school activities for one kid when two have been on their summer break for eleven days. My brain is totally not on reports, Open House, report cards, morning routines, nor on signing field trip/dance permission slips. This momma has checked out, and I do apologize to Little Man’s teachers and team.

He is having a rough go. They had a field trip yesterday. He wouldn’t say what happened, just that it was “horrible.” That may mean one small thing went awry, or it may mean he had a full-blown meltdown. Who knows, and I’m afraid to ask. There’s a dance at school Friday  night for the 5th-7th graders. We haven’t even discussed it. I have to keep reminding myself his Open House is Thursday night (can I send a surrogate, or would that be frowned upon?). I got an email from his SAI earlier today he has completely pushed back on being in the classroom for the 7th grade health class. While I feel the curriculum is important, appropriate, and not beyond his abilities/understanding, I don’t have it in me to fight him right now, nor deal with the fallout of pushing his boundaries. We’re both toast. My response to her was I was fine with him sitting this one out.

His anxiety is elevated. He’s done. He wants nothing to do with getting out the door in the morning. He has asked daily to take his plushy  to school (I’m still saying no to that one). He’s forgetting necessary items. He’s basically pushing back on almost everything. While I know he will have another adjustment period once summer does start for him, we are both so ready to be through this process of the end of the school year.

I looked back through my end-of-year posts through Timehop on my phone. So many of them reiterate this feeling – he’s over it, he’s stressed, he’s anxious, he’s ready to be done but he’s also afraid of the change of routine/lack of routine that comes with summer. No matter how much he matures and grows, change in routine and structure is an achilles heel for him, and it likely always will be. His tool box is forgotten by this point, and we all just hang on for the ride. It’s a bit brutal, and these are the days I would do anything to make this all right and better for him. This is when I raise a certain finger to autism, because it makes days that should be full of fun and excitement stressful and anxiety-ridden. Add to that fact his siblings are swimming, hanging out with friends, sleeping in and enjoying summer while he sits in a classroom, and you have a boy (and a momma) who is just over it. #bringonsummer

Limping toward the finish line

We are, literally and figuratively, limping toward the finish line of this school year. God, it’s been a rough one. I thought last year was bad. Apparently this year saw last year and said, “Here, hold my beer.” This Herd is DONE. Toast. Finis. Exhausted. Drained. And oh yeah, I am limping.

You see, two days after the Bigs finish school, Big Man and I will run the Rock n Roll Half in San Diego again. My training was a bit derailed last week. I headed out for a four-mile easy run Thursday. I immediately felt pain in the left side of my left knee, and my left Achilles tightened up too. I tried to work through it, slowed down, and then stopped to stretch, but it just hurt. I made it all of .88 miles before I caved. At just over four weeks til race day, I wasn’t going to risk injury. And it really freaking hurt.

I hate when I have to stop a run because of pain. My whole day goes downhill. I was able to get out and finish four miles on Friday morning, but it wasn’t easy. There wasn’t any pain, but there was discomfort. I had to mentally fight to the end. Same happened on this morning’s 5-mile easy run. I was super slow, my muscles didn’t loosen up until mile 3. I will admit, I was tense, afraid the pain from last Thursday would return. I’m so not where I want to be mentally and emotionally with running right now. I’m afraid for this race, afraid I’ve put too much pressure on myself. I’m a little scared.

As for school…we’re usually beat up by this point. That’s nothing new. What is new is the level of being drained we are all at. It’s bad. The Bigs have four more weeks of school – 18 more school days. Big Man just finished the second of two AP exams this morning. The Princess has hers this Friday. In a few weeks, they face final exams. Blessedly they don’t seem to have the level of end-of-school-year projects they’ve had in recent years, thank the  Good Lord. It’s been a brutal year for both of them – academically for Big Man, socially and emotionally for P. We’re all ready to be done, to put this year behind us, chalk it up to life lessons and growing pains, and kiss it goodbye. Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out, 16/17 school year.

Little Man has 6.5 weeks of school. Yep, you read that right. He isn’t out until June 20th. I can’t remember when my kids were in school that late – past my birthday this year. Insanity. That’s 18 days AFTER the older two finish. Utterly ridiculous. I’ve been whining about it since the calendar was released last year. Then, get this, because they are aligning the middle and elementary school calendar with the  high school calendar, he will have just eight weeks of summer, as opposed to ten or eleven. Again, absolutely ridiculous.

He’s struggling right now, again. His SAI sent me an email the other day he’s back to leaving the classroom quite a bit again, spending a significant amount of time in the great room rather than in his class, doing what he’s supposed to be doing. She said he seems more stressed but he can’t express why. We have seen an increase in his anxiety level at home. I have no idea what the source is for his stress. He does tend to go a little sideways the closer we get to the end of the school year, but who knows.

I have no energy. I’m tired. I’m over the morning routine and homework battles. I’m tired of thinking about carpools, 6am cheer, and test scores. The kids are tired too.

You know, some years we come sliding across that finish line with a bang. We’re beat up, but we fight to the end. We might make it by the skin of our teeth, phoning it in on whatever we can. But this year, we’re limping. It’ll be a close thing. I know we’ll get there, but it ain’t gonna be pretty.

I told myself not to get comfortable

If you have any experience with an autistic child, you know it comes with its ups and downs, backwards and forwards, twists and turns. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that we were in, and had been in for awhile, a good place. Well, yeah, I told myself not to get comfortable, and for good reason.

I’ve had two emails from his special ed teacher within the last week. I might be saying some bad words to autism right now. He’s pushing back on work. He doesn’t want to try when it’s hard, or if he thinks he can’t do  it. He’s giving up. Yesterday, he left the classroom for twenty  minutes (we’d had him down to less than five minutes, and usually staying inside the classroom, for months), couldn’t tell the teacher what was wrong nor what he needed. Gah!

Essentially, he’s not using any of the tools he’s been given, and he’s backsliding. It happens, but it’s frustrating and gut-wrenching every single time. I told his spec ed teacher I’m grasping at straws trying to figure out what may be going on. Who knows what’s triggered him this time. It could be he’s had too long without a break from routine (but then we know breaks from routine also set him off). It could be something as simple as his brother getting his driver’s license, thus setting off a change in his “normal”. It could be the cold he’s fighting. It could be the trip we have coming up. Or it could just be a normal autism blip.

I needed him to stay in a groove. I’m dealing with a ton with the other two, and his status quo was helping me stay sane. But such is the way of parenting life. Just when you think you have a handle on one thing, something else comes up. Every week seems to bring something new. difficult, agonizing.

We do have a trip in a few weeks, over Spring Break, and I can’t wait. We need a family huddle break – an insulated, away-from-it-all escape. It will be just the five of us. I’m bummed our friends can’t come with us, but at the same time, I’m looking forward to it just being us, creating new memories, enjoying new experiences, seeing new things, and reconnecting.

We’ll get Little Man back into his happy place. This too shall pass. The sunshine will return, and the rainy day will be a memory again – one more blip, one more hurdle overcome.