Friday, January 6, 2017

So That I Have Breakfast

The two mornings (before today) had gone pretty well. The kids weren't arguing, and yesterday they even got ready before I told them to! In fact, we did so well getting out of the house, we were able to handle a last-minute change to our carpooling.

This morning was not as good. Luckily, it was mostly they were just moving slow. Sooooo ssssllllooooowwwww. hehe.

So there I am, dashing around like mad, trying to get them to brush their teeth already, and finally, I look at them and say, "Do you know what gets cut out of the mornings when we are running behind? You know that I make sure you get dressed and brushed and eat breakfast and have a lunch and pack your bags. But do you realize what I don't do on mornings when we are rushed?"

They looked at me with questioning eyes. They honestly couldn't think of what was missing from rushed mornings.

"My breakfast. I don't eat MY breakfast when we are running behind." I told them. "This morning, I am hungry. So please just brush your teeth and let's get downstairs."

As they headed towards different bathrooms to brush, I told them not only that I was hungry but that I was struggling with a headache and eating helps my headaches.

Recently, my son has asked me or Londo to time him brushing his teeth. He doesn't think the timer on his toothbrush is accurate, so he likes us to use our timers (on our phones). He started to ask me to time him, but then quickly, on his own, stopped himself and said, "Never mind, Mommy. I'll use my toothbrush timer. While I brush my teeth, you should go downstairs and get breakfast."

Awwww. How sweet! My daughter quickly backed him up, telling me to go downstairs. Usually, they dislike being upstairs (or on any floor of the house) by themselves and beg me to stay up with them. This morning, their empathy prevailed! (Plus they were both upstairs, so no one was alone on the floor.)

When I went down, I of course started making their breakfasts and getting their lunches set. Because I'm a parent, therefore I put their needs before my own. But when my son came down, he immediately took over preparing his breakfast and asked if he could fix me a breakfast! My daughter came downstairs at that time and said she was about to do the same thing!

I was really touched. I told them that I would rather they get their own breakfasts and eat--their eating breakfast would make me feel better. But then, I made my own instant oatmeal. I was able to eat it while I was fixing their lunches. I made my coffee to go, as usual, because I didn't have enough time to drink that before leaving, but I DID get to eat!

Their empathy for me this morning was really heart warming. They made sure that I had eaten before we left the house. Sure, they were loud as we left because they'd forget I had a headache, but they really do care about me. Even in the mornings.

Monday, December 19, 2016

ADHD Runs in the Family

It has been a tough year for my son. He's in 2nd grade this year, and he is having a rough time. I mean, a really hard time, to the point where his ability to learn is suffering.

We worked with the school addressing his sensory issues during his kindergarten year, and we made it through that year. Then his first grade year went really well! He did great all year long, and his teacher seemed to know just how to handle any issues that came up. And some issues did come up, but the teacher worked with him to resolve them quite successfully.

But this year, a lot of things seem to be coming to a head. His lack of focus, inability to control his impulses and inattentiveness have exacerbated his sensory issues, leading to some serious behavior problems. His teacher is great, really wanting him to succeed and working with him and us to try to get him there. Unfortunately, the things that have worked in the past do not seem to be working now.

In the first week of school, I got two phone calls and an email from the teacher. The second week was about the same. He was not doing the work assigned in class, especially the reading and writing, he was not listening, he was disrupting the class with talking and noises (while the teacher was talking), and he was having meltdowns. We met with the teacher and with the counselor. We talked with the Pookie, we've offered rewards, used behavior charts, we've threatened and punished, we've consoled and supported.

He seems to have the biggest problems adjusting to changes in routines, and neither of my kids have been good with transitions. For example, we've known for years that if there is a substitute teacher in the Pookie's class, he is NOT going to have a good day. We know that he does much better with routines and structure (this is why we did not keep him in a Montessori school), and when there is not a clear routine or when things change, he has a really hard time adjusting.

As the school year progressed, things were getting worse and worse. He was getting upset and leaving the classroom without permission. He'd go in to the bathroom and not come out. For hours. While a staff member sat outside the bathroom to make sure he was okay and to not leave him alone. When they finally got him to talk, he said he wanted some time by himself alone. But the bathroom is no place for that, with other people coming in and out, as they explained to him. One day was extremely bad, and they offered a quiet room that the school has set aside for kids with special needs (small and nothing in it except a mat on the floor), which helped, but the room can't be used as a cool-down place on a regular basis. That day, the second time I was called I said that was it, I was going in to pick him up early. I brought him home and we spent the next few hours doing schoolwork and homework, with him fighting and being contrary the whole time. It was no fun at all for either of us.

He would also bang things, throw things and shove and even hit people when he was upset. He was disrespectful to teachers. But most of all, he was mad at himself!

It was as if he didn't even know what was going on when he'd get so upset. When he was calmed down, he usually wouldn't even remember what happened! I mean, for real, not just trying to get out of trouble. We'd walk him through what lead up to it and then ask about the actual thing that happened, and he would say, "Here's the thing, that's the part I can't remember!" and then he'd say that he was dumb and he hated himself and things like that.

We used to have the added frustration that the Pookie didn't know how to find the words to describe things. At least now, he can do that. But he still has issues finding the words in moments of intense frustration or when he is simply overwhelmed by sensations or emotions. The even bigger issue, though, is that he can't seem to control his actions.

For example, we had my close friend and her two girls stay with us for a weekend. All four kids played well together mostly. (It was really cute, in fact, because they came up with their own play and practiced and made sets and costumes and the performed it for us at the end of the weekend.) At one point, there was some kerfuffle and the Pookie pushed the older girl and then got upset. I sent him to his room to cool down/have a time out, and he asked me to come in after he calmed down. He told me that he was sorry and that he really didn't mean to do it. He said he didn't even realize she was so close to him or that he was using his hands (pushing her) when he was doing it. He said it was like he couldn't even control his own body. It was the best explanation I'd ever heard from him!

So even though he was getting better with using his words to describe what was wrong, he was still having lots of trouble at school, where it's easier to be overwhelmed and there is no place to go to be by himself to calm down.

The absolute worst was how upset he would get with himself. He would say he hated himself and wished he wasn't alive. It's so heartbreaking to hear your child say and think those things about themselves.

He was (and we were) in crisis.

During this time, I bought a lot of books for kids about how to understand and control your emotions, how to recognize sensations in your body, how to calm yourself down, how to meditate (which I've done with the kids on and off for a few years) and about ADHD. I bought him fidgets to help with his anxiety and getting overwhelmed, and to help him stay focused (research shows kids/people with ADHD focus way better when they are able to fidget). I bought him a sensory-input squishy cushion for his desk chair. We talked about techniques for calming down, and I even made him little cards with the three techniques we decided on to keep in his pocket (Flexible Thinking, Meditation, Distraction).

But this was not enough. All the band-aids that Londo and I worked on with him were not enough. There was something more going on, and we needed to address the underlying root cause. At this point, it was very clear to Londo and I that until his inability to focus and control his impulses were addressed, he wasn't going to be successful at school or at home or in his activities.

So while we were doing all the cognitive-behavioral work, we had set up an evaluation for him. We went to the same people that evaluated and diagnosed my daughter. This group is amazing, and the doctor who does the evaluation is really thorough. Like with my daughter, they tested the Pookie for ADHD, learning disabilities and IQ, and I requested that they evaluate him for Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

As side note about why I requested he be evaluated for ODD: My son is often contrary just to be contrary, says the opposite of what you say just to say the opposite. Like that time when he was literally standing in the rain and said that it wasn't raining--with an angry face, not like he was joking. When I looked at the list of symptoms, the Pookie had many of them. He is very moody, is touchy, argues with anyone if that's his mood, defies his teacher and staff at school, deliberately annoys classmates and his sister. But he is never spiteful or vindictive. And he does not blame others for his mistakes. It seems more like his instinct is just to be contrary, and because he is so impulsive, he can't help himself and then feels bad afterwards. And on the flip side, he is so sweet, cuddly, friendly, supportive, helpful and creative! But just to be sure he did not have ODD, I wanted a professional to evaluate him.

The thorough evaluation came back with no surprises. He definitely had ADHD (it run in my family and Londo's family, and boy does it run in ours!), he is smart, and he has anxiety. They did not evaluate for sensory processing disorder, but we had submitted his previous evaluation for that (by a different group), so that was accounted for in the report we received. The evaluator did not think he has ODD, mainly because he is never spiteful. She provided a thick report that included two pages of recommendations for school and home. This evaluation was well worth the money (and it was expensive)!

We submitted the report to the school, and worked quickly to set up another meeting. This meeting was going to be an IEP screening, because the Pookie was having so many problems we needed to figure out with the school just how much support he would need. We made the meeting for the Wednesday after Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, we met with our pediatrician(s), submitted the report to them, and discussed medication for ADHD. The Pumpkin was on medication for ADHD again this year, but this year she tried a different kind and it seemed to be helping SO MUCH--but that is a story for another post. The pediatrician suggested we put the Pookie on the same kind, since it worked so well for his sister.
This was right before Thanksgiving. We went to my in-laws' house for Thanksgiving, but we were able to get the prescription filled right before we left town. We didn't want to try new medicine on Thanksgiving itself (we didn't want to even consider an emergency trip to a hospital on Thanksgiving!), so we gave it to him the next day.

Holy. Crap.

The difference between the two days was amazing. He was calm and focused. It was like he was on his best behavior without even trying! From my outside perspective, it appeared to me as if all the noise and buzzing and constant chatter that must go on in his head was quiet. He looked like he could think, instead of just react which was what he had been doing. We had a great day, and he was so proud of himself.

I notified the school on Monday that he had started medication, and he had an amazing day. Tuesday was also a great day. When Londo and I went in for the IEP screening meeting on Wednesday afternoon, we were all a little discombobulated... We were seeing a different kid from just the week before. I mean, it's not like he is not himself. It's more like he was able to show the best sides of himself without all the struggle and contrariness that can come between his best sides.

At a bit of a loss, we all agreed to close the IEP assessment (which can always be reopened) and reconvene in January to discuss a 504 Plan for him. He will still need accommodations, and that is what the 504 provides kids with ADHD.

It's been about a month since he started medication, and he is doing great! Not perfect--he is still a 7-year-old kid, after all. He still has some problematic moments, but overall he is able to control his impulses enough to think before acting and he is able to focus on his tasks at school. His reading has just taken off because he can sit and focus on the words enough to enjoy it!

Most importantly, the Pookie is so proud of himself! With him, the bad will build on the bad and start snowballing into worse and worse (as we saw in the first few months of school)--BUT the good builds on the good! He is feeling better about himself, and he is very happy to be taking the medication. He is able to show everyone (without struggling to do so) how smart and funny and creative and sweet he is!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Why I Cry Every Morning

The other day, my husband was giving the kids a pep talk about mornings. You see, he is awake, ready and out the door before the rest of us wake up. I handle the mornings with the kids (and I still hate my mornings). They are never easy mornings. Londo does everything he can to help without being there, including trying to get the kids to listen to me when I tell them to get ready. During this particular pep talk, he said something that included "so mommy doesn't..." And I piped in "...cry every morning!"

The kids looked a little startled at that, and Londo quickly said, "Mommy is just joking." But later in the day, I let Londo, then the Pumpkin and then the Pookie know that I WAS NOT JOKING! Their behavior has made me get angry and yell and/or (usually and) get upset and cry every. single. school. morning. for the last 3 or 4 weeks. Not. Joking.

Over the years, I've tried so many different ways of dealing with the mornings. I used to try to be fun and race the kids! (They always won, after all I have a lot more to do to get ready.) I have tried charts listed what they have to do. I have tried cajoling, threatening, being sweet, being mean, calmly talking through what is needed, getting everything ready for them, being logical, being methodical, being firm, being easy, being silly, letting my frustration show, yelling, letting them do it on their own, praising their efforts... OMG, everything I could think of!

I even had a whole discussion about how I wasn't the enemy, but rather I was their ally in getting ready in the morning. They HAD to get ready and go to school, and I was the one helping them not forcing them to get ready! That one worked for a little while, but eventually, they became difficult again.

Look, I remember how hard it was to get up in the mornings and go to school. It's STILL hard for me, especially in winters with my SAD. But I have to go to work, so I get up and get ready for the day. The kids have to go to school, so they need to get up and get ready for the day. It just has to be done.

So why do they fight me every step of the way?

My daughter gives me saucy attitude, if she even responds to me. My son is contrary about everything and then says mean things. I start off so nice! I really do! I sit on their beds and speak gently about getting up and what the weather is going to be like. Then I insist a little more firmly that they get up, at least start by sitting up. I remind them that we want to have a good morning, right? So they need to get up and get ready nicely. I give them a little time, while I go back to my room to get dressed or put on makeup. I come back and speak even more firmly about how they need to get up. That I don't want to have another bad morning. So don't wait until I'm yelling, but just start moving now.

At this point, I'm usually getting to the end of my patience. And at this point, they are still sassing me. The Pookie is saying that I'm so mean or something like that. Recently, the Pumpkin has started to just shriek in response to me. No words, just a shriek.

That's when I start yelling. Why oh why must they wait until I'm yelling to do what they are supposed to do?!? I try so hard to get them moving and doing the right thing before I start yelling. But inevitably I end up yelling. Usually, this is when the Pookie at least starts doing what he's supposed to, but depending on what kind of mood he's in, he may throw a little tantrum while doing it. The Pumpkin, however, continues to give me attitude and shrieks. Shrieks! What is up with that?

I get so frustrated, so sick of having to push them, remind them, stay on top of them, fight with them, yell at them. After all, what do they need to every morning that is worth this hassle? Get up, get dressed, use the potty and brush their teeth. That is all. I do EVERYTHING else for them, or at least help them with everything else. And yet, they bitch and moan about the very little that they have to do!

And it's this point, 10 to 20 minutes since first waking them up, that I start to cry.

Once I start crying, the Pumpkin feels bad and tries to do the right thing, usually even apologizing. The Pookie definitely turns his behavior around. But I don't want to be in tears for them to realize that they are behaving badly and treating me poorly. I don't want to go through this every morning!

They treat me like crap in the mornings. They are rude, mean and disrespectful. And I keep coming back for more. If they were anyone but my own children, I would have left them! I'm not one to stick around for any abuse! But it's my own children, and I can't leave them. I understand that it's hard for them--they don't do well with transitions nor do they do well at focusing or getting tasks completed without a gazillion reminders. But the emotional upheavals every morning aren't good for anyone!

So I let them know that they are treating me poorly every morning, and that I will keep helping them, but that they really are treating me poorly. Something has got to change, and soon. Since they are still going to have to go to school on time, something else is going to have to change. Hopefully I'll figure out what soon. At least I know I'm not alone in this frustration that is parenthood.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mommy: The Dream Crusher

This summer, the kids watched the Olympics with me, something I've been waiting for them to be old enough to enjoy! Well actually, they were at my inlaws without me during the week that had the gymnastics competitions, so I recorded hours and hours and HOURS of Olympics and saved the gymnastics to watch with the kids.

You see, growing up my sports were gymnastics and swimming. I LOVE the summer Olympics, especially the gymnastics and swimming. And I want to share my love of those things (especially especially gymnastics) with the kids. Londo has a vague interest in those sports, in the way that he is vaguely interested in all sports but NOT in the way that he loves football and keeps up with basketball and has this fascination with curling in the Winter Olympics (huh?). But I need to get the kids into gymnastics so I can share the LOVE I have for it with others and watch it and be amazed together!

So when the kids were back home, we'd watch my recorded Olympic gymnastics right before bed. Londo had warned me that the Pookie was not that into it down at my inlaws, but I believe that watching it with me made a difference. I'm able to point out things to look for, I give context to the scoring, I explain why the moves are difficult, I provide the backstory for the gymnasts. They really enjoyed it, and we were amazed together!

But things did not go smoothly one night. I think it was the second night we were watching, and the Pookie pointed out how short the Chinese gymnast was. "She might be shorter than Mommy!" he said surprised.

Yes, I'm short. I'm 5'2", which is short but not really THAT short. But isn't it funny how short Mommy is? Haha! It's sooooo funny! Mommy is soooo short! And Daddy? Daddy is a GIANT! He's crazy tall! He is, in fact, 6'4", which is really rather tall.

Guess which side the kids inherited? Their father's height. They have both always been in the 75-95% or greater for height. Which, of course, means that they will be taller than me in a few years. Or next year! They will all be taller than Mommy next year! Haha! Mommy is so short. Ha. Ha. :-/

So there we were, watching gymnastics, with the Pookie only half joking that the gymnast might be shorter than Mommy, cause Mommy is SO short. And I explained to them that actually, all those gymnasts were shorter than me. They were SHOCKED! I explained that it's true, except one or two who might be the same height as me (I looked up Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, who are both also 5'2"). All the other female gymnasts are shorter than I am.

I explained how being so short was helpful to the female gymnasts and how being short helped the gymnasts get to the Olympic level of gymnastics. And then the Pookie commented, "The Pumpkin will never be a gymnast in the Olympics then." And I, like a FOOL, basically agreed. I basically said that she'd be too tall to be an Olympic gymnast.

We continued watching the gymnastics until a few minutes later, when I looked over at the Pumpkin, and saw she was crestfallen. She was even starting to cry! Oh crap! Why was she suddenly upset? I asked her what was wrong.

And she said, "Mommy, you told me I can't be an Olympic gymnast, and I've always wanted to be one! You crushed my dreams!"

I immediately starting saying things like, she could be the first tall Olympic gymnast! If she worked hard, who's to say she can't do it? She just needs to work hard and figure it out and she could be one if she really wanted! Etc. etc. etc.

In my mind, I was going: Wait... what? Since when does she have an interest in being a gymnast? She's "always" wanted to be an Olympic gymnast? Um, she hasn't taken any sort of tumbling class since she was, like, 3? I think 3. She only mentioned maybe taking gymnastics classes once during the Olympics. This is BRAND NEW! How can I be expected to know this BRAND NEW thing and not CRUSH her DREAMS when she's never even talked about it before?

Luckily for me, it blew over pretty quickly. The next morning, the Pumpkin told me that she decided she would be the first tall female Olympic gymnast! I totally supported her! If that's what she wants to do, she should do it! A day or two after that, she told me she was going to do basketball instead, since being tall would really benefit her in that sport. I encouraged this even more! In fact, I signed her up for the after-school basketball class this year.

I really want to be that supportive mom who is a great cheerleader for her kids, a shoulder to cry on when things don't go well, and voice that encourages them back into the game (or whatever it is) when they want to quit. I truly don't want to be a Dream Crusher! But how am I to know I'm crushing dreams when I am just being realistic and they have NEVER said anything about this supposed dream in their lives? Some days, it's just a crap shoot.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Back to Schools

Here we are again at the start of another school year. Yesterday was the first day of school, and the Pumpkin is starting 4th grade and the Pookie is starting 2nd grade. They are both still in elementary school, but they are going to different schools this year. That is because the Pumpkin got into the gifted and talented program in our area, and therefore she is bused to a nearby school that has the GT program.

Look, I'm a mom and this is my blog... so I am going to brag just for a minute!

My daughter got into the gifted and talented program! I KNEW she was a super genius! She's always amazed us at the things she does and says and how much she learns and remembers! Super Genius!!!

Now, back to the post...

The Pumpkin is very excited to start this brand new school and be in this GT program, which is a two-year program covering 4th and 5th grade. To help make the transition easier and more comfortable, we went to an open house for the program last Spring, another one last week, a picnic for incoming 4th graders (to the program) last week and the musical that they put on last June. In addition, one of her good friends from her "home school" (the elementary school she'd been going to) is going, as well as two other kids from her home school--and that's just the 4th grade class! She also knows a 5th grader in the program who went to her home school (who's sister is friends with my son). And best of all? My niece is in the program in 5th grade! In fact, when we talked with her about applying to the program, I told her that her cousin goes there and that's what made her say she wanted to apply for sure!

I'd been worried all summer about how I would get the Pumpkin to one of the close schools where the bus would pick her up to take her to her new school and then get back home to get the Pookie on his bus, which would come 20-30 minutes later. But the mom of the girl in 5th grade who's sister is the Pookie's friend worked out carpooling with me, so I think we've got a good plan now.

The Pookie is happy to be going back to school and starting 2nd grade. He has some friends in his new class, and he thinks he's going to really like his teacher. I can see him on the edge of a big leap forward, too, so I'm excited to see what 2nd grade bring with him!

This past weekend, they got some new sporty shorts, new shoes and haircuts. They cleaned their rooms, and we packed their backpacks. By Sunday night, they were ready to start school! I saw them off on the buses yesterday morning, and they were both happy and excited! And when my son's bus left the big bus stop in our neighborhood (our one bus stop fills the whole bus! it's the only stop for the bus!), we parents literally cheered! It was so fun and funny!

So now we are getting back into the rhythm of school, and I'm really ready for it. The kids seem to be, too. Summers are fun, with lots of interesting things to do, but each week is a different place and schedule! It's been really hard for me to juggle it all, especially with work--I often ended up leaving the office early and having to finish working from home in the evenings. But now, I'm back to regular schedules, and the kids are back to regular routines, and life keeps moving forward...

Friday, July 29, 2016

Laughing With My Girl

The other week we were on vacation at the beach. We have a timeshare place we stay for one week every summer, although we've had to stay at different units over the last couple of years due to the timing of the vacation and the fact that we now have two dogs and need to bring them with us. So, it was a place that was new to us, but still nice. This one had two bedrooms on the middle floor, one with a queen bed for Londo and me, and the other had two twin beds for the kids. There was a downstairs bedroom where my parents stayed (we own the timeshare with them).

One late afternoon, we had come back from a day out doing something (beach or boardwalk or shopping) and were relaxing a bit. For some reason, I got the song "Too Bad You're Crazy" stuck in my head--heck, the reason was probably that someone said "you're crazy" and that is enough to get a song with those word in my head. I started signing it (changing the words "crazy as hell" to "crazy as well"), but the Pumpkin was like, "That's a mean song."

There was a lot going on, so I didn't really get to say much about it at the time. But a little while later, the Pumpkin and I were upstairs in my bedroom. I was lying on my back on the bed and was telling her that the song was still stuck in my head. She thinks its funny, how I get song stuck in my head that go on and on like a loop. I started explaining to her that the song was really supposed to be funny, not mean exactly.

Well, she flopped down on the bed on her stomach and wiggled her way up to be next to me in a very funny way. We started laughing.

She said again that the song sounded mean to her. I told her that it was a bit, but it really was supposed to be funny, especially considering where the song was from (a movie). I added, "I mean, it even has a kazoo playing in it!" She gave me a skeptical look, so I started searching for it on my phone. I found it and played it for her, singing along with it. We laughed pretty hard when the kazoo started playing.

She saw the picture from the movie that was put on the YouTube version of the song I linked to above (the movie was April Fool's Day). I explained to her it was from a movie that was a scary movie and that the silly-sounding song at the end helped lighten the mood of the movie. I told her how it came on as the credits were rolling, and how surprised I was at the silliness of the song after being scared by the movie, which had a really crazy person as the bad guy.

I wasn't quite sure she understood what I mean, and then it occurred to me to explain it was kind of like Holly Quinn! The way Holly Quinn is CRAZY but also rather silly. How the song is kind of like something the Joker would sing, especially at the end when the singer says "I'm a little bit crazy myself." She totally understood at that point, and we listened to the song again and laughed.

There was something about that moment, something about me and my 9-year-old daughter laying on top of the bed, laughing every few sentences. Everyone else (Londo, the Pookie and my parents) were all downstairs. I was sharing something silly from my teenage years with my daughter, and we were just giggling together. There was nothing especially hysterical in what we talked about, it was just this and that, generally focused around a song I always thought was amusing.

But I want to remember that moment. The Pumpkin and I hanging out together, laughing over really nothing, just having a good time being together and being silly. It reminds me of hanging out with girlfriends and laughing for long periods of time over things you can't really explain later. Having those kinds of moments with my kids makes all the difficulties worth while.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer Camps

For the last three years, I've signed the kids up for a variety of camps to cover the work days over the summer. We've tried different types of day camps, including art, drama, sports and STEM. I thought we'd try out all different kinds so we could see what the kids like--turns out my kids like ALL types of camps!

The first year, we did a drama camp, a couple of art camps and a general sports/play camp. The Pumpkin tried a soccer camp one week, but it did not really engage her (either because of her age or interest--maybe both). The Pumpkin really enjoyed the drama camp and the art camp, which was no surprise given how much she's always loved drama and arts and crafts. The Pookie struggled a bit with the drama camp, even though his age-group was half art and half drama, and he had a hard time with the all-day art camp (the other art camp was just a half day). I think his issues were due to a combination of his young age (5 years old at the time) and the sensory issues he has. I ended up picking him up early every day from the all-day art camp, and the drama camp let him work by himself on the art parts of the camp even if others had moved on to drama portion. They both LOVED the general sports/play camp, which is just like playing all sorts of games all day long! In fact, when we were coming up to a week I didn't have anything planned and I asked if they want to do one of the camps again, they wanted to go to the all day sports/play camp again. So I signed them up for it again, and they still loved it. They came home happy and exhausted. It was great!

The second year, the kids did the drama camp, an arts camp and the general sports/play camp again. Since the youngest (the Pookie) was now old enough for the STEM camps offered in my area, we added two of those: an invention camp and a science camp. The first week, they did the drama camp, which the Pumpkin LOVED but the Pookie did not. Now that the Pookie was 6, he was grouped with the Pumpkin's age group, and that class was large and did mostly drama. They'd start with art in the morning, which would go fine, but then the whole class transitioned into the big group to work on the play--and this was really hard for the Pookie. He does not do great with transitions, especially ones that involve joining big groups and can seem chaotic. This and similar transitions at that camp were very difficult for him, and by the afternoon he was tired and it was all just too much. He would slip out the door of the big room, not listen to the camp counselors or other people who worked there when they told him to go back, he'd throw fits when he felt forced to do something he didn't want, he tried to leave the building a few times. He could generally manage until afternoon snack time, and then they called me the first two days to pick him up and after that, we worked it out that I (or my mom) would just pick him up then. At the end of the camp day, I would come back for the Pumpkin, who was thriving in the artsy/drama world.

The next week, they had Camp Invention. This was the first year they were going, and we were just coming off a rough week for the Pookie. I was concerned about how he would handle it, but I called the headquarters and talked with them, and the first day of camp I talked with the director onsite, and they all made me feel comfortable about  how they could help him through. The adults at the camp were teachers during the school year, so they were quite used to handling kids of all types and were very confident that they could work with him. And boy, were they right. I can't express how impressed I was with that camp! They kids had a blast taking things apart, building new things, coming up with inventions and figuring out and describing how their inventions would work. They had science labs and made up their own mazes. It was AWESOME! And the director had really good ways of getting the Pookie through transitions and different ways to help him calm down when he was getting overstimulated. It was an absolutely wonderful week, and they kids immediately said they wanted to do it again! Unfortunately, it's only offered once a summer, but I promised them we'd sign them up for Camp Invention the next year.

Of course they went to the sports/play camp again that summer. In fact, they went three weeks to that camp over the summer. One of those weeks, the Pookie wanted to try soccer camp, which is offered at the same place. We signed him up for half days at the soccer camps, and then in the afternoons he went to the sports/play camp. The Pookie also did a half day at the art camp where we had to pick him up early the previous year. My mom picked him up after the morning camp and watched him at her house, while the Pumpkin did two half-day camps that made up a full day. The Pookie took the same class he had the previous year, which was a class where they build with Legos and draw. I had given him the option of taking a half day or staying the full day, and he picked half day. He wasn't sure he could do a full day at the camp, and I'm really glad he did just the morning camps, as I think it showed him he could handle the camp and be successful there. The Pumpkin took the Lego robotics camp and pottery camp, which she really enjoyed. In fact, they both really enjoyed those camps! The last camp they had was a science camp, which focused on the science of being spies! It was fun and interesting.

In addition to the actual camps, we also take the kids down to my inlaws' house every summer (and winter) for at least a week. My inlaws live in the mountains, in a rural area which is very much The Country. The kids get to play in the woods, hang out with their grandparents, aunt and uncles, and their cousin. They live about 5-6 hours away, so we don't get to see them as much as we'd like. That's why the week in the summer down there at "Camp Country" is so important to us. Last year, Londo couldn't go down and I couldn't take off from work, so instead I used their internet connection and worked down there for the week the kids were there. That way, the in laws could spend all day with the kids, but I was still the rule-enforcer about dinner and bedtime. It worked out great.

We are also lucky enough to live about 3 hours from the beach and have a timeshare at a place by the ocean. Not only that, but my parent recently bought a house in another town right by the ocean. If I could, I would live right on the beach. I grew up going to the beach every summer at my grandparents house, and I'm very excited that I can raise my kids with the same opportunity. The first summer of the camps, the timeshare week was before school was out, so we took the kids out of school for that. I had just switched jobs, so I didn't have a chance to take another whole week off. Instead, we went down for weekends to my parents' beach house. Last year, I make a point of saving my work vacation hours up so I could take the kids/family to the beach for two weeks (one week at the timeshare and later in the summer a week at my parents' house). Londo is not as much of a beach person as I am, and he couldn't come for the whole weeks both times, but he came down for about one and a half weeks. We all had a great time every time!

This summer has already started, but I'll save the report till the end of the summer. We are having a great time so far, and everyone is happy. I'm really proud of myself because I was able to plan out the whole summer early. With two summers already under my belt, and color-coded spreadsheets to track the camps (and costs), I knew how much we had to save to cover the summer and what camps I was for sure signing them up for--where they definitely wanted to go back and what they wanted to expand on or try out this year. The Pookie did great in his year of 1st grade, so I had more confidence about his ability to handle full days of camp. And because I knew what we were going to do early, I got the early-bird discounts for all the camps! Also, I was able to plan out our times at the beach and at the inlaws. I'm feeling pretty good about handling this summer break thing! Hopefully, I'll feel the same way by the end of the summer!