Saturday, August 25, 2012

Three Elementary Schools Is...A Lot.

This summer has been quite a time for me. Every week there has been something big going on—house guests, travel, personal revelations, intensive napping. It has all made the past couple of months with my kids home for the summer pass really quickly. School starts Monday for us and I can't quite believe it.

I've had some low-level worry all summer about this year's school situation, because Jack is moving to a brand new school and I fear the unknown. He's worried too. He's worried that the work is going to be too hard. I think that last year threw him because he had such a tough time. Interestingly, even though he had a tough time every day in class and his grades fell, he rocked the hell out of the state standardized tests. I know he can do the work. He just has to be able to relax and access that part of himself.

This is why I'm really hoping that when he sees how different this class is, he can settle in and have fun with school. Or at least not be miserable. I want him to really understand that there are only six kids and they are all autistic like him and his teacher will have enough time to really give him attention. I think that will help. He does so well in that type of environment.

Other than that, I have been kind of in denial about the logistics. Getting everyone to school last year was a complete nightmare. This year, buses have fallen into place, which means that all my kids will be on well-timed buses to and from school except Sam in the morning. I cannot tell you what a relief this is. Now if only I could get my kids to eat school lunch, my life would be complete.

The other thing that is stressing me out about this school year is that I'm not quite sure how to fit the activities, meetings, and class events for all three of my kids into one little schedule. I'm already concerned about Halloween. I mean, Alex and I can't even divide and conquer, because there are more schools than there are us.

My first challenge of the year was open house on Friday. The great thing about open houses, where kids get to meet their teachers, is that schools decide that it's a good idea to stuff every single family into the school in two hours. Or less. It's chaotic. Add in travel time and parking at three different schools and you have a recipe for flop sweat.

Especially if this is your schedule:

Bad things happened to the schedule over the course of the day.

Also, fuck you, Jack's school. 45 MINUTES?! Can you imagine if you had more than one student there? Also, not really. I'm sorry, Jack's school. Please, don't hate me. I'm paranoid now. DID I MENTION THAT I FEAR THE UNKNOWN?!

We headed out at 1 o'clock to find out who Quinn's teacher is. The problem is that about 15 minutes before we left the house, Jack started to freak out. He told me his eyes hurt. All he seemed to want to do was lay down and cry. He felt warm and feverish.

The problem is that we had to go. We had to go. Quinn needed to be given the chance to find out who his teacher is and have a chance to see his classroom. Sam was really looking forward to going back to his school. I hadn't had a chance to meet Jack's teacher at all yet. We HAD to go.

My poor baby Jack. I gave him some Tylenol and put everyone in the car. We were a block away from the house when Jack threw it up.

I didn't even stop the car.

I'm a terrible fucking person. But I didn't know what to do.

We got to the Q-ball's school and found out who his (awesome) teacher is. She is the same teacher Sam had in second grade and I feel very lucky that Quinn gets to have her too. We waited until 1:30 when we could go meet her and check out the classroom. Sam and Quinn were energetic.

Jack, less so.

We finally got up to Quinn's classroom and Quinn settled in at the back of the class to draw on a whiteboard. I hope the teacher appreciated the last time Quinn will ever be quiet in her class. Quinn is a very different child than Sam. It will be fun to see the teacher realize that.

Quinn is also a child looking for the right hair conditioner.

Algernon also went to the open houses.

He is a mouse looking for the right soap.

The whole time we were in Quinn's classroom, I had my eye on the clock. We had to be out of the school by 2:15 at the latest if we had any chance of staying on schedule. Furthermore, we had to stop by to say hello to our other favorite second grade teacher as well as Jack's teacher from last year. It was a tightly packed schedule.

As we were walking to the car, Sam asked if we could stop and get food because he was hungry. I was all, "THERE IS NO TIME!" Then I threw an almost empty bag of Goldfish crackers at him when we finally got in the car—and four minutes ahead of schedule, I might add.

(Did I mention that I am a fucking terrible person? And mother? Because evidently I am.)

We got to Jack's school just after 2:30 and snagged the second-to-last not entirely illegal parking space on the block. Then I started dragging my kids up this long hill and Jack started looking more and more ill because it was hot and humid and I tried to give him the ice pack I still had in my bag, but it was tepid and full of water by this time and he totally didn't fall for it.

But! And yay! I met my new best-friend-at-Jack's-school on the way in. She was all, Hi! And, I recognize your kids! And her husband told Sam about the vast conspiracy that we parents have to make kids' lives as miserable as possible, which is SUPPOSED TO BE A SECRET, SIR, but that's okay because we already have a friend at Jack's school!

(Said new best friend might be slowly backing away from her computer right now.)

Then we were left behind because at some point Jack sat down on the sidewalk and refused to go any farther and I was only able to get him to stand up by suggesting that maybe his teacher might have some water he could have. Honestly, at this point, I was just hoping that he wouldn't puke in his new classroom. You know, BEFORE the first day.

We finally got to his classroom and met the teacher and the two paraeducators that work in this classroom of six kids. I know. I make an involuntary happy sighing noise every time I hear that too. Everyone was really nice and Jack seemed really happy there. He immediately found the quiet sensory corner and camped out there for the next 20 minutes.

He might end up there a lot.

Jack is going to be mainstreamed for part of the day, so I wanted to take him to meet the teacher who will be teaching him during those times, so we walked up a staircase to find her. Jack found a rocking chair in that room and parked there.

Then Quinn sat on his lap and Jack choked him in retaliation, which is out of character for him, and I was all disheveled and sweaty and the paraeducator was standing right there probably silently judging us and I kinda didn't know what to do, so I just continued to stand there.

I ROCKED as a parent today; have I mentioned that?

I haven't mentioned yet that this tiny 45-minute window also included a popsicle party in the school courtyard, where "party" really means "line to get a popsicle," but Quinn and Sam were STOKED about it, so the paraeducator took us there. We walked down two flights of stairs, through this crazy maze-y space and finally found a door to the outside. I felt as if I should have left a trail of bed crumbs so we could get back out. This school is HUGE.

We got about five feet out the door into the hot, crowded courtyard, which stretched up a hill past a loud piece of machinery—I'm guessing air conditioner. And Jack stopped. And said, "I want to go inside."

I was fine with that, but Sam and Quinn were already out of reasonable shouting range. I asked Jack if he could sit on the grass while I went and told the others that we were going back inside the doors and he shook his head no and said, "I can't."

I decided Jack needed me more than the other two, so I took him inside, found him a corner, sat him on the floor, and made him promise not to move while I went to tell his brothers where we would be. He agreed, so I went back outside. Sam and Quinn had stopped at the top of a short hill and were waiting patiently. Sometimes the two of them are crazy and impulsive and not as mannerly as I want them to be, but there are times where they really step up and do what I need them to do. I was really proud of them.

On the way out, I had to stop and take a photo of a member of our party on the red carpet that the school had laid out. It was a nice touch.

 Algernon appreciated the glamour.

Then we went back out to the car and at 3:23 we were on our way to Sam's school, which was fortunately only five minutes away.

Things went smoothly there. Sam is in the highly gifted program at this school, where there is only one fourth and one fifth grade class for that program. So Sam knew who his teacher would be and also that all his classmates would be moving on with him. This made open house very easy and happy.

Algernon even managed to get a little bit of work done while we were there.

Awesomely, Jack was the one who posed him.

And while Sam was reconnecting with some of his buddies, Jack proposed to me.

He doesn't look ill at all, does he? *headdesk*

The ring was some sort of bolt or fastener of some kind. I started to frantically look around in hopes that I would catch whatever expensive electronic equipment that he'd taken that off of before it smashed into a million pieces on the ground. Turns out he'd just found it on a desk and he was happy enough to return it. But the sentiment was nice.

Sam had an issue he had to discuss with his safety patrol teacher. It was kind of complex and based on fears and anxiety and leadership and he was able to talk to her about it like a real-life, grown-up person. It was impressive. Especially considering he had to do it with Quinn ping ponging off of him into the wall and back.

After that, we headed downstairs (I dragged a lot of kids up and down a lot of stairs today, people) to say hi to Sam's teacher from last year.

There, Jack and Quinn found their own makeshift sensory area.

We returned to our car at 3:58. I can't believe we did it. I immediately took my kids to buy them ice cream. They were awesome at those schools. I was really proud of them. I was also exhausted. Because I am not the type of person to keep my problems to myself, I sought sympathy from Alex.

And that was that.

What I really love about this exchange is that he wasn't even fazed by the barfing. He just accepted it and moved on. He didn't even need details.

Welcome to Team Stimey.

Now that open house is over, I'm really looking forward to Monday. Although if Jack (or any of my other children) is sick on Monday, I will probably cry. Because although I will force a sick child to go to three open houses, I won't make him go to school.

Let the countdown to time alone begin!


  1. You have a countdown clock!! Ha! Ha! Ha! You my dear lady, CRACK ME UP!!!!

  2. I have to say, this could've been a day in my house, but I only have 2. Last year they were in schools on opposite ends of the county. Just timing the afternoon drop offs twice a week at the house was a nightmare (because one school wouldn't cooperate until forced with due process). And the text? Priceless. My husband and I don't even get concerned anymore unless there's a need for the ER.

  3. I want to give a big *sigh* as I was exhausted just reading this but then realized, this is exactly what I go through with 3 boys every day too. Okay not open house every day but 3 kids on the spectrum, each with their own issues completely opposite of the other. It counts, right? Please tell me it counts.

    Anyway, thanks for the countdown clock! I'm just as anxious and ready for it to happen as you are!

  4. I am dizzy after reading this...what a circuit you did there! This year my boys are at the same school..I am giddy. I hope it is a great year and that everyone is well on Monday. LOVE your counter...I had one too. :)

  5. That is a crazy amount of work for three hours. I am highly impressed! And I hope everyone is healthy enough to go to school on Monday and leave you alone!

  6. love love love the countdown clock!! Must get one for my house. You did a great job with all the kiddos... don't let anyone tell you otherwise (incl yourself ;-). i'm sure you get tons of "advice" from your fans, so i'm reluctant to add to it... but consider it "sharing" instead, ok? My dear son is also a barfer--hospitalized once for four days bkz of barfing for NO known (medical) reason... Resulting dx was "cyclic vomiting syndrome"--and i thought the dr. was joking me. Basically anything that stresses my kid brings on barfing... esp stress. Remove stress and barfing magically slows/stops eventually. When he started at Ivymount last winter, he started barfing every day on the long bus ride--begging me to drive him, etc. and i was at my wits end thinking we might lose THIS amazing opportunity too. in desperation, I offered him an iPod nano, because I had no other clue what to do, and i'd heard music can calm some people (I prefer silence)... whoa... he stopped barfing! he listens to the same THREE songs every single day, to and from school. I would never have believed it could happen. I thought he was motion sick, but no it was just stress, and when he can distract himself, he doesn't barf. I got lucky this time... i hope you do too!

  7. You know what? I'm actually really glad you shared this, because I was wondering about this. I mean, I know he does get legitimately motion sick sometimes, and he's had a cold this past week, but the way his symptoms spiked right before we were supposed to go made me wonder if it was at least partly anxiety. This is totally something for me to pay more attention to. I'm grateful for your perspective and I'm also really, really glad it worked out for you and your kiddo!

  8. My hubby took off to take TC to meet his teacher, he is going to a new school. Except my hubby didn't feel good, so he didn't take him at all. I can't explain how mad I was. So now my autistic kid gets to get introduced to a new school, teacher and aide all on Monday morning. FML.

  9. I particularly like the milliseconds option.

  10. It is so hard, especially when you add in all the driving or the hours on a bus. Oy.

    And funny about the ER. Sometimes your normal is different that others. :)

  11. It TOTALLY counts.

    And hang in there. School is coming!!

  12. Oh, Kristi, I'd be so mad too. Oh, geez. Good luck to TC on Monday!

  13. Well done for you and your wonderful kiddos. That was an amazing and exhausting day I am sure, but well done you! :)

  14. That is an awful lot to cram into 3 hours. Seeing as you all made it out alive, I would call that a resounding success!

    I love your countdown, but I'm dreading back to school and the meltdowns that are going to come with it over here.

  15. Sounds like you rocked it. I only had to hit two school yesterday and I needed a nap. Also, I would have kept going with a barfing child, too. You are not alone.

  16. Amazing!!! I'm panicking about finding a way to get my ONE child to meet her teacher before school starts (a bit over a week away, thankfully...I still have time) and you have all three, got them all there, didn't lose them (or your mind...mostly) and made it back alive! And I wouldn't count on that countdown clock too much...I'm sure Algernon will pull some hijinks that make your first day of silence crazy. At least he didn't have his own open house to get to....
    Three cheers for Stimey! I'm in awe of your accomplishment!

  17. I think you rock the parenting thing everyday!!! It is amazing how you did those 3 open houses. I feel exhausted reading about it...... Best of luck next week. Oh and ummmm it is amazing how much Jack looks like you in the photo with the ice bag!

  18. I could feel your pain. The task of dragging three "lively" children around to activities on a tight schedule is the story of my life. With the added bonus of unpredictable behavior? It's exhausting.

    I'm very happy we don't have regular motion sickness issues. That really gives you an edge, Jean.

  19. I hope you got yourself a triple scoop. Happy first day!

  20. Kate @ UpsideBackwardsAugust 27, 2012 at 6:46 AM

    I love the countdown clock! Those milliseconds tick by so fast... I also love that, late as I am to read this post, there are only two hours left on it. I hope you are having a miraculously calm and organised first-day-of-school morning, that no-one barfs, and you all have a wonderful day rediscovering your term-time selves. <3

  21. Stopped by to say "Happy First Day of School"!

    With fingers crossed that no one is sick and needs to stay home.

    this post made me exhausted. I can only imagine how tired you were after actually living it. But, yay! for great schools and classrooms and teachers and kids being in the best environment for them. Jack's new class is like K's class. I absolutely adore K's teacher. She is so awesome.

    Best wishes for a wonderful year for all of your kids.

  22. Wait! You have to GO to the school to find out who your kid's teacher will be? Here in NJ they provide that info on the previous school year's final report card. That way, we have all summer to either feel smug or to dread the upcoming ordeal.


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