Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Independence Day - Take The Pledge

The DOT has asked us to blog about drinking and driving.  While I personally have never done this, I have known those who have.  I find it sad that in this day and age with all the talk about health, and the environment, and doing good things and taking care of ourselves, we still have the problem of drinking and driving.

Son 2's best friend had a close friend die in an alcohol-related car accident on the 2nd of June.  He was a 3rd year college student, with a promising future ahead of him in music and the arts.  Now, he is a buried 22 year old.  How sad, that the world loses that talent, that passion!  That we will never really know what he could have done. 

Please, when you're driving this weekend, to fireworks displays, or community fairs,  what sober, or find someone who is.  You're not just risking your own life, you're risking the lives of everyone on the road with you.  This MATTERS. 

Enjoy our Independence Day, honor our great country, but know that servicemen and women did/are not dying for your freedom so you can kill more people on the roads.  Be responsible.  Killing innocents in alcohol-related collisions is no way to say "thank you" to our Founding Fathers, nor to our brave soldiers of today and yesterday.

We're all in this together.  Drink responsibly, drive unimpaired.


Together We Can Spread the Message

Stay Sober Stay Alive

July 4, 2010

1. Simply pledge your driving sobriety this Independence Day by noting your blog URL and blog name.

2. At the bottom of this “Blog Hop” you will see text in which you can grab the code for this McLinky. Simply click the link and copy and paste the code into your very own blog post’s HTML section. Then click “compose” and copy and paste this pledge, adding your own message to the top as I did above. Copy the pledge from “together we can stay alive” above.

3. Follow the host Hollywood Chic [-first on the linky-] of this Independence Day Pledge for more information on the Department of Transportation, Buzz Driving, and Stats.

Also an optional badge was created to spread greater awareness and linked to this pledge, please wear it proudly until July 5, 2010 when this pledge will close.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Money Talks - Mine Says, "Goodbye!"

We all know the economy sucks right now.  What some people may not understand is how very, very much that sucks for parents of special needs kids.  Cutbacks in programs, downsizing at workplaces, government trying to NOT live in its means, us required to, equipment price hikes, repair price hikes, and less coverage due to the aforementioned cutbacks in programs... let's face it, it hurts!

This is not going to be political, but it is going to be a bit of a rant.  Well, maybe a little political because I believe our government is going the wrong direction to stop the crisis.  See, if I write more checks, it doesn't reduce my debt.  Maybe I'm thick, but I don't "get" how that works for government any differently than for me! 

Son 3 has been attending summer camp since he was only 6, starting with Courage Daycamps that the school paid for as ESY (Extended School Year) since they had no summer program themselves.  Well, the daycamp in our area was shut down due to lack of staff and extent of disabilities participating.  The physical disabilities just required more attention than the limited staff could supply, so this area was shut down.  Understandable, but suck-ish

The first year of no daycamp, we invented, "Camp Hotvedt", in which Mom was director and counselor.  We fished, cleaned fish, had campfires, tie-dyed t-shirts, made sand candles, window reflectors, went to the beach, built a solar oven from a pizza box (message if you want directions), and spent time enjoying the great outdoors.  It was great.  All the kids and I loved it, and we still do it every summer.

However, the 2nd year of no daycamp, we realized that son3 needed more time with his AAC device, and we enrolled him in AAC Camp at Camp Courage.  He had a blast!!  Ok, it cost $260, but it was well worth it (even though we kinda ate a lot of Ramen Noodles while he was gone).  A very worthwhile experience, and much needed.  Acceptance, pride in accomplishment, and a dvd of the camp play put on entirely with the kids' AAC's

Last summer, the campership covered everything, except application fee and gas to get him there.  Again, it was tight, but we made it.  Son 1 was going to college, and so there were several trips to Nebraska, as well.  All in all, again, very worthwhile.  We love Camp Courage, we love Doane College. 

This year, the campership covers $840 of the fee, but leaves me $360 to pay out of pocket.  I don't have it.  I'm trying to make arrangements, but honestly, with son1 having been home for over a year with no job, it's killing me.  We are going down.  I've been looking for a job, but they aren't there for the hours I'm available.  My dear hubby won't have me working when he's home, as we need to keep our relationship together, too, and we both are so involved with the kids and their issues and treatments, we barely get an hour awake together in the evening.  I'm also limited by the four-day schoolweek here.  I need to be here for the kids, well, one of us does, and let's face it, his earning potential is higher than mine at the moment.

It's driving me nuts.  Juggling the bills, paying out damn near $350/wk for groceries...everything costs more, which means every cent of disposable income we used to have is now invested in the every day items we need.  I haven't even bought light bulbs in over a month, because it would have to come out of the grocery money that is barely sufficient as is.  Add to that Minnesota's requirement that kids over the age of 16 be listed on your insurance whether they have permits or not, and OUCH!!  Sometimes, you just feel like giving up, surrendering the battle, and letting the creditors come. 

I'm sure camp will give us either time or a bigger campership.  But I know they're having a hard time, because donations are down because the economy sucks!!!  Every time I read a poll asking what the biggest problem facing the nation is, I want to scream.  Because the biggest problem facing ME, is the economy, stupid.  I also have to find a way to pay for repairs to the AAC which needs it's hard drive re-imaged...adjustments to the wheelchair...various therapies, and other things for the kids.  College fees, assistive technology, and then school clothes.  May God have mercy.

Postscripted update:  Camp is, indeed, giving us the full scholarship.  So that's one worry down.  Now to find gas & food on the road money...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer and Siblings

Here we are, two weeks into summer vacation.  The kids want to vegetate in front of screens, be they computer, tv, videogame, whatever.  While I understand, I also know that it's not what's best.  Since I always aim to give my kids the best, their desires here are not going to happen.

Limiting screen time is difficult, sometimes very difficult.  But it must be done.  In some families, a token system by which screen time is earned seems to work.  Mine is not one of those families.  My kids do not work for tokens, nor do they compromise for tokens.  I've found that taking away something they have already is more effective than promising a reward for the future.  For example, if they know that they get 2 hours each of screen time, they will be more motivated by losing 15 minutes than by having the same 15 minutes given to them.  Don't ask me why, that's just how they operate.

Son 2 made it through fourth grade by starting the day with 10 dimes, and having one taken away each time he was off-task.  Sometimes, we need to figure out what they work for (salient reinforcer) and add it when desirable behavior is shown, or remove it for undesirable behavior.  For my kids, giving up something is waaay harder than not getting it.

The plan, so far, is that they each have a list of chores to do, and may use their screentime when they're done.  Having someone else do their chores costs 15 minutes per chore.  I think it's fair, a few even get excited about getting someone else's minutes and offer to take on extra.  This may contribute to elevated sibling rivalry, but so far, I'm not seeing that problem.

The important thing is to get creative.  If what you're doing isn't working, change it up.  Reverse it.  Change reinforcers till it does work. 

When they don't respond as you want them to, there has to be a consequence, of course, but it needs to be one that they both understand and that makes sense to them.  Appeal to their sense of logic, whereever they are with that.  I don't believe in being punitive just to hurt them, it needs to make sense.  An example is a child who hits.  It makes no sense to hit them.  It does make sense to keep them away from the object of their aggression.  I "ground" my kids from being together if they can't behave together.  In about 15 minutes, they're begging to be allowed to play with each other.  If they're jumping or climbing on furniture, I "ground" them from furniture.  Really, one meal standing at the table, and they're re-considering the jumping/climbing.

We tell them, "Every action has consequences. Positive choices have positive consequences, negative choics have negative consequences.  You choose your consequences.".  It works.

Sometimes, things get worse before they get better.  Don't expect overnight compliance, but keep working the program you've put in place.  Progress is our goal, not perfection.

We're all in this together.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summer Fun : With Challenges

It's been a week since my last post.  We're into the first week of summer vacation, and preparations for everybody's activities are on.  Now, with a crew the size of ours, that's a lot of preparations.  Sons 4, 5, & 6 won't be in baseball this year, as they missed the deadline to sign up (absent the day the registrations slips went home) and I don't have an extra $80 for late fees.  Sometimes, life sucks.  BUT, that doesn't mean we're doing nothing.  Okay, the first week I let them OD on videogames (while requiring one hour a day outdoors), but then we're into really living.

We will be running our own daycamp, with fishing, hiking, swimming, and campfires on the agenda.  Of course, tie-dye t-shirts and crafty things also await.  (Burnt matchstick sculpture, anyone?)  We do various sculptures, paintings, sand candles, etc.  The kids all look forward to "Camp Hotvedt".  Even the 20 year old.

But also, they need to keep their skills up.  Especially my reluctant readers, sons 5 & 6.  Honestly, the rest of my kids are reading zombies.  They tune into their books as much and as readily as to tv or videogames.  The reluctant readers, not so much.  These two just lack patience, though son 5 this year had a great teacher who encouraged him and introduced him to "The Secrets of Droon" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid".  It really increased his motivation.  He has AD/HD, so sitting still to read was an issue, but the rocking chair helps.  

Son 6, though, with his "PDD-NOS" spent much of the school year spinning in the corner in front of the mirror on his carpet square.  I think his teacher tried, but I also think he has a long way to go to be completely prepared for 1st grade.  Before we moved to Dinkytown, we lived on the North Dakota border in a significantly larger (10 times larger) community where summer activities were in abundance, including reading classes that were phonics rather than sight-word oriented, and computer classes.  Here, not so much.  So I'll be trying to find something that sounds like and is fun and phonics based, as well as affordable.  There are kidblogs we may look at to see if that will help encourage reading and writing, though you can't be sure all participants are posting at any given reading level. 

Son 2, our graduate and new collegeman, is employed as son 3's PCA, a situation that serves everyone well, as son 2 gets money, work experience, and deadline meeting skills in a sheltered environment.  We have discussed that interacting with mom as employer is different from mom as mother, in that, when he's on the clock, sass is wildly inappropriate and intolerable no matter how justified he thinks it is.  That stating an objection respectfully the first time is required, and if that takes five minutes thought and re-visiting a topic, then it does.  Hopefully, we will see growth in him and his responses that will prepare him for the world he will enter in the fall.  If not, he'll have to seek employment in the public sector, which will likely not be nearly as forgiving. 

Son 3 will be working on his Compass Learning online and gaining new skills and continuing to grow, as well as blogging here, to encourage literacy activities in a real world application. 

We have a great garden this year, so we'll be taking time weeding, hoeing, harvesting, and (come fall) canning.  As always, life is an adventure and a challenge to be met.

We're all in this together,


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Be STILL, and know that I am God"

Interesting.  Today is ... interesting.  Amid the hustle and bustle for son 2's high school graduation, there remains another agenda.  Son 5 has class plays going on at 2 pm, and son 6 graduates kindergarten at 3.  Fortunately (?) both are in the same building and even the same room.

I almost wish we didn't have the two graduations, as the one eclipses the other.  This is life in a large family, though!  At least it's not the year we had a Graduation, Confirmation, First Holy Communion and Kindergarten Graduation the same month.  But it IS busy.

My own AD/HD tends to kick in at times like this, and I feel a bit scattered, a bit spread thin.  Over the years, I've come to see this as a call from God that I need a little bit of  "Daddy time" myself.  I've discussed "Daddy Nights" at our house in a previous post..(here) and I have learned that I also need that time.  Not just with their Daddy, but with Our Lord.  Don't get me wrong, dh and I have date night every Thursday, in which the kids fend for themselves (leftover buffet for supper, pick their own movie of the evening) and Daddy and I hide in the bedroom (available if necessary yet praying it's not.)  It's entirely necessary to take care of that relationship as it is the foundation of the family.  Without Dad and I, the kids really wouldn't be here.  So taking care of the "us" is as important as taking care of them.

But what I mean is time to withdraw.  25 minutes is really what I need.  A walk on our pedestrian path with the puppy, rosary in hand, usually does it.  Sometimes, though, life comes at me so swift I'm reminded of the saying, "I try to take one day at a time, but lately several days have attacked me at once."  I get overwhelmed, agitated, don't know what to start when... even my neurotic list-making gets out of whack.  That is  a sign to take time out, and "be still, and know that I am God".  Call it transcendental meditation, prayer, whatever you'd like.  It's allowing myself to just empty, into the knowledge that God is God and it will all work out in the end.  When the end is, is sometimes unclear, but it all works out in the end.   It's important to just rest in the stillness at times.  I know that God is here, and that He cares, but sometimes, I wish He'd do the dishes and clean under the couch.  Those times, just being is important.  Just to be.  To revel in creation and know that even if nobody comes to the Open House, or if everybody and their brother comes, God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.  ( I have noticed, though, that if the house is spotless, no one ever comes over.  It's only when you've been up all night with the crying insomniac or vomiting child and have no energy to even get dressed past your old college sweats and a t-shirt robbed from dh that people visit.)

Remember, when you're at your most frazzled, that's when to take a break and know that in the grand scheme of things, it won't matter.  Looking back, I don't remember who came or didn't to my HS graduation.  I don't really remember who sent cards or congratulatory phone calls.  A few, yes, but mostly family, and to be honest, family that's REALLY family will be there whether all my ducks are in a row or not.

We're all in it together,


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Reflections Approaching Graduation

Today, I have a meeting at the school, for son 2's performance review, in which the district justifies his graduation despite goals unmet.  That sounds a bit extreme, perhaps, but it's the process.  His unmet goals include turning in assignments on time and frankly, turning up for school.  Hasn't been a strong suit.  But I'm all in favor of his graduation.

I am for it because 1.  He's done his time.  I think by now we all realize that he is at least "typical" enough to know that if he doesn't graduate this year, it's going to be embarrassing for him.  I think it's also safe to say that he is NEVER going to be the Pavlovian dog running for the bell.  That conditioning is, for him, aversion therapy.  Teaches him to avoid the bell, and the best way to do that is to not be there. 
                             2.  He does fine when he's creating his own structure, and will even use the timer on the stove to help him switch activities at appropriate times.
                             3.  College is a lot more scheduling yourself, and not so much running for the bell.
                             4.  This district has not been supportive, but critical most of the time.  It's been not so much understanding, but frustrating, for both him and his teachers and case manager.  Primarily, because they have to work within the structure of high school that his brain cannot wrap itself around. 

I know the law says he could stay till he's 21, but I hardly think that would be advantageous.  He would not turn up to be there in a place he hates with people whom he knows are a year behind him.  The thing about son2 is that he has always asked, like a corny method actor (whether in word or deed), "What's My Motivation?" 

He's motivated for college, because he is slightly perseverative on money.   Not only does he collect coins, but he also has saved enough to buy his own PS3.  He is not a wanton spender.  Therefore, the fact that college means he's paying for his education should be motivational.  Also, he wants to be able to support a family in 4 or 5 years.  ( That may be a bit of a pipe dream, but we're going with it for now.)  So money is important.

I believe that this young man could be and do anything he sets his mind to.  I look back over the years, and I remember the little toe-walking boy, the "Where's Waldo" obsession, Thomas the Tank Engine.... I also remember the young man who donated all his savings to the St. Vincent de Paul Society when his Catholic school class took a field trip there.  I remember the boy who didn't want the glory or notoriety of being an altar server, but instead has opted for the past 6 years to go an hour early to Mass and shovel the sidewalks, salt the ramp, and help with building preparation.  Who volunteered to clean the outside of the rectory.  Who came up with a plan for himself and his best friend (another Aspie) who is into computers and programming and writing software.  They are going to take  over Microsoft.  Friend will write the software, son 2 will be the corporate lawyer that does the hostile takeover.  Look out, Bill Gates!!

Through the years, I have spent time teaching practical skills, and intuitive skills, and writing skills, and finding formulas in everything I could to help him cope.  Though he wasn't diagnosed with Aspergers till after he had turned 13, we still treated symptoms, because that's what parents do.  I've seen growth, and regression, pride and pain, laughter and tears. Through it all, he hasn't stopped growing up.  He's done it slower, perhaps, than his peers, but he's growing up.  And I am proud.

I remember "tiny Shiny", the boy with the heartmelting eyes, and I look today at my Sean.... in awe.  For everything that the toddler promised, the man is become.