Sunday, October 19, 2014

Some General Updates

I really wanted to post tonight, but have so many things on my mind, that I thought it might be nice to have a "snapshot" style post.

  • This previous week was much improved for Eli.  He's starting to adjust to his new teacher and is feeling calmer at school. He had a fantastic week last week, though he informed me on Thursday that "it is SO HARD to be good for Mrs. E...!" His teacher was surprised to see a very differently-behaved (calm!) child, now that he's finally starting to settle down.  Hopefully, we weathered the worst of that storm for now.

  • We had a difficult day last week when one of our horses was sick (colic). Unfortunately, we had to have the emergency vet out to help treat her, and were up quite late that night. We are glad that she is back to normal and seems to be feeling just fine now.  Eli spent most of the time following the vet around and asking TONS of questions (and trying to be a "good helper"). Both our horse vet and our small animal vet are longtime family friends and adore kids. For this, we are very thankful!
  • Our dog, Rocky, who was started back on aspirin, is somewhat improved, but we are considering a medication that will be easier on his stomach. 

  • My long-term project in the garage, to create a large, safe, play area for Eli, is definitely coming along. I am now going through some old books in our storage area (we call it the "little room"). Most of them belonged to my great-grandparents and my great-great-grandparents.  It's painful and difficult to get rid of so many beautiful old books, but they've barely been looked at in the 10 years that they have been boxed up in storage.  It would be nice if they could be a blessing to someone else. It has been lovely to see all of the warm, heart-felt inscriptions in so many of them. I am going to miss having them all...which I know is probably very silly and overly-sentimental to most people.  I am not getting rid of all of them...but I am trying to decrease the collection by 75% or so - so that I have room to store some of Eli's baby stuff. And besides...I really only want to keep the ones that are extra-special to me.  
  •  I am also (finally) thinking about donating the writings of my great-great-grandfather to the Atlanta History Center or to the GA Archives, though I am going to keep digital copies of what he's written. He was a poet who dabbled in writing sermons and short essays...and beautiful, sweet, love letters.  The paper that they are typed on is disintegrating, and I really don't want these to be lost forever.

  • We are getting busier and busier as we move into fall. Eli has decided that he wants to sing in the children's choir at church and to participate in Wednesday night fellowship. We'd gone to the church last Wednesday, so that I could attend a children's ministry meeting. He was so happy to be able to play on the church playground with his church friends during fellowship time. He was a little disappointed today that there was no children's church (because the children's leaders were on vacation). I also think it would be great for him to have friends that aren't leaving him for Kindergarten next year! 

  • Eli's also still begging to start back at gymnastics....and Patrick and I are considering it.  I asked him if he'd like to play t-ball or soccer in the spring...and he replied "Both...but I really would rather do gymnastics."  He's absolutely set his mind on going back to gymnastics. He's not been in the gym for more than a year and a half...but still remembers it and can describe the things they used to do.  We're thinking about letting him for a little while, to see if he still enjoys it or not. He may very well enjoy it for a few months or so, then want to switch to something else. If anything, the strength and agility he'd be exposed to there should serve him well in any activity that he wants to enjoy. He loves to do so many things...and at different times, he's asked for swimming, piano, horse-back riding, ice skating/hockey, and martial arts lessons, too.  I'm hoping to keep him in no more than 1 activity at a time (plus church), so that he can explore different things and figure out what he really enjoys - but without sacrificing our family time.
  • Eli is also really enjoying playing his version of "tennis." As a reward for good behavior this week, I'd tried to take him to a nearby park to play tennis (his choice!), but all of the courts at the 3 parks we checked were full. We were finally able to find a time to play at a local school's court - and it was hilarious. Eli's learning to make contact with the ball, though he can't hit the ball over the net. He can, however, hit it directly BACKWARDS quite well. Eli spent a LOT of time chasing the ball with a huge grin on his face...and we both had a lot of fun.
  • Eli's been riding his bike a great deal, now, too. It's actually getting to be pretty difficult to keep up with him when he rides. He's fast! He loves to ride, and we took him to a new park to ride on a path this weekend.  He's definitely learning how to stop better, and surprised us by not only using the brakes, but putting his feet down when he stops (as opposed to jumping off the back of his bike to stop, which is what he was doing last week).   He also did a surprising maneuver where he coasted up to a bike rack, slowed down, parked his front tire in the rack,  and sat on his bike - waiting for Grandpa and I to catch up. He does still need someone to help him get onto his bike...but once he's on, he's good to go!
  • Eli's currently in a "period of consolidation."  Maria Montessori noted that kids, like adults, go through periods where a lot of learning takes place, then a normal "slow down" time to consolidate knowledge. I noticed that this particular slow-down coincided with the arrival of his new teacher, but I do think that it was coincidental that the two events happened at the same time. Eli's started to pick back up on a learning streak again. I've watched Eli, and have noticed his learning rhythms...a week or two of relaxation and imaginative playing...a  week or two of incessant, unceasing talking and asking every imaginable question...2-3 weeks of intense learning about anything that strikes his fancy, and a week or two of slowing down before repeating the process. Right now, we are definitely in the talking/questioning part of his learning cycle, and about to enter the intense learning phase.  As always, Patrick and I follow Eli's interests, and try to encourage him (but not push him). We are still using (primarily) Montessori methods at home...but I can't bring myself to resist correcting his work sometimes...and I really don't think we do enough science or geography at home.  However, Eli is constantly reminding us whether the sun is rising or setting in Japan (he knows it is the opposite of the US).
  • He started really, really wanting to read today, for the first time in a couple of weeks.   When Eli doesn't appear interested in something (even reading), we respect his wishes and let him be. In other words, we've not really read stories together in a couple weeks - though he has listened to a few books on CD in the car (usually, he likes to listen to an eclectic mix of the Frozen soundtrack, old DC Talk/Toby Mac songs, the VeggieTales, and classical/acapella music). Today, however, we read together while Patrick was completing an errand. When Patrick came home, Eli happened to be reading a story (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) aloud.  Although we have a couple of the author's other books, this one was new to Eli. As Eli read aloud, he didn't miss a beat as Patrick walked through the door....and Patrick was floored to hear him reading so well and fluently.  I knew this day was coming soon...when Eli would begin to read more complex stories by himself...but even I was surprised by how well Eli read.  He only had trouble on two or three pages. At this point, Eli's using phonics, whole-word recognition, and context clues to figure out the words on the page.  There's nothing quite like hearing my 3-year-old explain that "th" is a digraph, and that it means they form a special sound when they are together in a word. He is also able to legibly write the words he knows (though he sometimes asks how to spell words), and can write whole words an sentences.  He is definitely into word games (like word searches and simple "fill-in" crossword puzzles). 
  • Last night, Eli counted to 150+ in the car...and remarked "these numbers just keep going!"  He is definitely recognizing 2 digit numbers and is becoming pretty fluid with addition/subtraction that can be accomplished on his fingers : ).
  • On a final note for tonight, someone wants to simultaneously be Yoda, a Ninja Turtle (Donatello OR Raphael), and Dr. Who for Halloween. Decisions, decisions : ). My feelings about Halloween are pretty ambiguous (I am also fairly ambiguous about Valentine's Day), but Eli has such an imagination and loves to pretend to be various characters, that I certainly don't mind him enjoying that aspect of it. And, while I don't particularly care for messy pumpkin-carving, I do love to roast pumpkin seeds! Hopefully, he'll be able to make a decision before next week!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Week in Review

As you can tell from my last post, that even though we truly love each other, things are not always rosy and fun in our household. However, Eli has been so much better since Friday, and I think he's really settling down a bit overall - though he did have a brand-new record of SEVEN time outs AND two lost privileges (no cartoons and early bedtime ) on Saturday.  This is really unusual for my happy-go-lucky son, but after Friday's massive meltdown, I do believe that he's just struggling with current and upcoming changes in his life. Eli definitely still has difficulty with occasional anxiety.

The rest of the week, however, was fabulous! It was lovely to have a week off from school. I love, love, love having a little fall break in October; I just wish Patrick, Eli and I had our breaks all at the same time!! This year, my break fell last week (the 6th through the 10th) and Patrick's and Eli's breaks are in two weeks. Still, it didn't stop Eli from playing hookey from school this week to hang out with me and to get some time off to better adjust to the changes in his life.

I always claim that I am going to "get so much done" over these school breaks...and I rarely do. However, this week was an exception...I really did get a lot done!  I got caught up on my grades; though I am proud that I was only behind on one class. I was able to clean out a good bit of the garage, making several trips to the transfer/recycling station and to Goodwill. I spent a ton of quality time with Eli, hanging out and running errands. We did miss seeing Eli's great-grandpa and Aunt Jeanette, but we spent several hours visiting with my grandmother (Eli's G-g) while sharing pictures and doing puzzles. We got his school pictures made (too cute - his school hired an amazing photographer), and he was thrilled to get to see heavy machinery in action at the recycling center. On one of the days, Eli and I went to Furkids to drop off some donations, pick up an allergy shot for one of our cats (Woody, our FIV+ cat, gets a shot twice a year for allergies), and to hang out with friends.  It was WONDERFUL to see my friends...I haven't made it to Furkids in quite a while, and I miss the camaraderie (it's about an hour drive each way, so we don't often go anymore).  My sweet friend Carol gave Eli his first (two!) rescue volunteer shirts, which he LOVES. He was able to see and enjoy time with a former foster-cat (Susie), whom I know he misses dearly. I was able to reassess Rocky's arthritis (he's one of our elderly dogs), and he was restarted on aspirin therapy. I was also able to (finally) finish a couple projects that were undone (one of which I started last FEBRUARY), and give my kitchen a nice floor-to-ceiling scrub (okay, I still need to scrub the floor!). I also started making my raisin-applesauce (using GA grown apples!) and my all-time greatest homemade chili, like we do every fall. It was fun to hear Patrick say that our house "smells like fall" because of the cinnamon and cloves in the kitchen : ).  I will start making "pumpkin cookie chunks" soon...another of our favorite fall treats that makes the house smell amazing.  I only have two (okay, three!) projects that are still in the works...but at least they are small, recently begun, and should be finish-able in the next couple of weeks. 

I also did send Eli to school for half of a day Monday (I had an important meeting), and an entire day on Wednesday (it was Tumble-bus day). His new teacher is coming up with all kinds of great things to teach him. Here is an example of what he learned on Wednesday:

I know he definitely doesn't know what "indivisible" means (or how to pronounce it!), but he was so proud of what he'd learned. We will, of course, work with him on not saying "Bonk!" at the end!

Eli also spent some time riding his bike this week. The time he spent on the balance bike, though short, was so worth it.  The funny part is that, even though we had a local bike store modify his balance bike, he was too small to really enjoy it until very recently. And then, he went from barely riding his balance bike to riding a two wheeler with no training wheels very quickly. He actually got onto a bicycle at a local consignment sale and took off across the store....this was my first clue that he was ready to really ride!

After a few practices, he became a lot steadier and more confident very quickly on the two-wheeler. He loves to ride it, though he's still using the balance bike for more daring rides (like coasting down the big hill in our neighborhood). We have only one problem. Okay, two problems. The first is that he does need help holding his bike when he wants to get on it. This is not a major issue, and I certainly don't mind helping him : ). The big issue is that he technically doesn't know how to stop.  Right now, he's just slowing waaaayyyy down, aiming for grass, and jumping off the back of his bike when he wants to stop.  NOT a great plan...though it's admittedly kinda funny to watch...especially when he cheers for himself after a great landing. I've been trying to show him what to do, but he's not yet ready to listen!  Today, he was at least putting his feet down and standing up to stop (while still letting go of his bike). At least I don't have to worry as much about crashes when he stands to stop...but he definitely needs to be a little taller to make this stopping strategy work for him!

In the meantime:

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Difficult Day

"Stormy" is the only way I have been able to describe Eli's behavior in the last day and a half or so.  He has been struggling with the transition from his previous teacher, whom he really liked, to his new teacher. I knew that he was definitely having issues with the transition. Eli has been asking whether he is the reason his previous teacher left (she and I have both been reassuring him); he has also asked if he is naughty if he can bring his previous teacher back. In the meantime, Patrick and I had a conference with his new teacher to explain the difficulties he is having, along with some ideas to help him along. Eli loves to have hoodies, and wearing one seems to help him stay calmer; we also often bandage his hands because when he is anxious, he scratches the skin off of his fingers. I also kept him out of school for the majority of the week...making his world a little smaller and calmer, as he processes the changes that are occurring.

Until yesterday, Eli had been calming down. Yesterday, he had a near panic attack when he thought an ant had bitten him (last time he had an ant bite, it resulted in a massive case of hives and a visit to the doctor for a shot). I was able to calm him after a while, but he was exhausted later. This morning, he really slept in, but woke up teary.

The plan was to have a very quiet, restful day, but it didn't last. We went to the store briefly, and on the way, Eli said something about turning 5 on his birthday. I had to remind Eli that he would be turning 4, not 5. He said, "but my friend T is 5 and he is going to Kindergarten next year, and I want to go to Kindergarten with him. So, I will be 5 on my birthday."

I had to gently break the news that he is NOT going to Kindergarten next year, and that he is definitely not turning 5 in time to go to Kindergarten with his friends T and K. I tried to explain that he would not be going to Kindergarten in the same school as T and K anyway (we are in different districts), even if he was five. I tried to explain that T and K would still come to play with him after school, and that they could see each other outside of school.

For TWO HOURS, Eli was inconsolable. He cried because his misses L, a friend from his previous school (whom we STILL SEE on occasion...though not often). He cried because he feels left out. He cried because he's not old enough for Kindergarten. He cried and asked to give them his toys so that they wouldn't forget about him. He cried because he doesn't think they like him since they are leaving his school at the end of the year.

He cried. And cried. And cried. And screamed. And yelled. And sobbed. And cried some more.

Two hours later, he had settled a little bit and was able to eat lunch. He cried intermittently through lunch and for another half hour or so afterward. Patrick called toward the end, and Eli refused to talk to him because he was still too upset (at that point, he had settled into intermittent crying).

Thankfully, mercifully, three hours later, Eli stopped crying and I was able to put him down for a nap. Exhaustion does not begin to cover how I felt. He slept very peacefully for a couple hours...and which was a long, beautiful break for me. After waking, he still had a couple of small crying jags, and he did get into trouble for disobedience several times, but he was a lot calmer.

Hopefully, as he adjusts to a new routine at school, he will return to being his normal, happy, sunny self. Things have never been as emotionally difficult as the first few months Eli came home, when days like this were common - and nights were spent dealing with night mares and might terrors. I am concerned about the level of anxiety he has been showing lately, though, and I am definitely worried about how personally responsible he feels for changes that are way beyond his control.  We may have to go back to using some of the strategies we used to use when he was tiny (well, tinier than now, anyway).

Of course, for today anyway, an early bed time was in order...and I think I need an early bed time, too : )!