Disney day 1

I really had thought today was going to be a nightmare. Mickey got zero sleep on the drive down (unusual because both kids are good car sleepers). We didn’t reach Orlando until midnight – 4 hours after bedtime. Mickey set a challenge to do 25 attractions at Magic Kingdom in one day. We have been working on a plan for weeks. That was going to be a big challenge with spring break crowds being what they are. 

I was up at 6am, I woke the kids at 7 and we left the hotel at 7:20. We had to renew our annual pass at guest services before we could get into the park, but we made it to rope drop with 20 minutes to spare. Our plan was to rope drop Peter Pan while everyone else headed to 7 dwarfs mine train. The plan stalled when Peter Pan wasn’t yet up and running. This would become a theme for the day, unfortunately. 

After a brief delay, we were able to ride it and jump across to Its a small world, then do the Carousel, Whinnie the Pooh, watch the Blue Angels fly over the Cinderella castle. All before 10 am. Pretty productive. We ran to the other side of the park to do our Splash Mountain fast pass – only to discover it was down. They gave us a generic pass, which we went next door and used. We stopped at Haunted Mansion on the way back to Tomorrowland for Space Mountain. 

I won’t bore you with all the details, but we did our first 3 fast passes, and were able to score 5 more. We did use Mickey’s disability pass twice. Our fourth fast pass was down when we got there as well, so we shifted plans again. We went to Splash Mountain and grabbed a DAS pass and waited the 2 hour wait while riding a riverboat, watching a show and getting a snack. When it was time, we boarded the ride – glad it had come back up. We should have reserved our excitement. 

We got to the top of the “mountain” just at the beginning of the ride and we stopped. And we waited. And waited. And waited. 30 minutes passed and we saw a cast member coming up the stairs. They began to evacuate the 6 or so boats and freed us. Then we got to climb down the stairs, walking along the wall to the back entrance. A little magic was lost, but all in all we got free waters, another fast pass and a little adventure. Then we headed to our next fast pass – Pirates of the Caribbean. It went down while we were in line. 

We had to adjust our plans a lot today. Minnie was tired. And the point of this post was not to detail out our day. It was to point out that Mickey never lost his cool once. Not the changes, not the broken rides, not the adjusting our 25 rides to 25 attractions (because in total there were 3 rides we couldn’t do). 13 hours after we arrived at the park, he debated giving up, but we were within 4 attractions and he decided to push through. This was an exhausting but awesome day for him. He also started the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game, which he obsessed on all day, but still a great day. 14.25 hours to get it all done. 

Animal Kingdom tomorrow and a shorter day followed with some pool time. Now, fingers crossed Mickey sleeps in tomorrow. Good night from the Happiest Place on Earth (or the most exhausting lol). 


Teachers and standardized tests

The big news of the week is that Mickey’s teacher is no longer at the school.  If you have been reading for a while, you may know that there is a definite personality conflict between the two that has caused us some challenges. Mickey doesn’t like the guy. Period.  That in no way excuses Mickey’s behavior, but it certainly doesn’t help.  So, needless to say, Mickey is not heartbroken to see him go.  I liked the guy, but he wasn’t a good fit for Mickey, so it doesn’t break my heart either.  His para-pro is a licensed teacher so she will be stepping into that role for the remainder of the year.  Mickey likes her, so hopefully that will help.

What won’t help?  The stupid Georgia Milestones testing that begin next week when we return from Spring Break.  These tests have been a nightmare since Mickey began them in 3rd grade.  This is Minnie’s first year taking them too.  I am truly dreading the next two weeks.  The teachers usually try to maximize the importance of the tests, and hopefully attempt to minimize the stress.  That has been wholly unsuccessful for Mickey and Minnie is now ramping up her anxiety as well.  Mickey called me in tears Friday as he is convinced he is going to fail, and his teacher told him that if he fails Milestones, he will fail 5th grade.

Here are my issues with the testing:

  1. Mickey doesn’t test well and has yet to earn a mark higher than emerging learner on these tests.  That is equivalent to failure on these particular tests.
  2. Mickey isn’t fully working at grade level (see previous posts about concerns with his current placement and the pace they use).  His grades are solid Bs, but with interventions.  He is working ahead in math, but behind in anyplace where written expression is involved. So, how can they expect him to pass a 5th grade test when he is not even working at a 5th grade level in some areas?
  3. How do you justify failing a solid B student because of 3 days of testing over the course of an entire school year with the subject matter that the school is teaching him? There is no indicator that Mickey is behind because Mickey isn’t capable of learning.  We know there are written expression challenges (being dealt with through assistive technology), but he is doing the work being taught in his classroom. So, if the classroom is behind, in part because his class is made up of 3rd through 5th graders and in part because the extensive behavior challenges of all students in the room often drag the lessons to a snails pace, how is he supposed to perform at grade level on standardized testing?
  4. Minnie has an EIP – Early Intervention Plan (not to be confused with an IEP – Individual Education Plan) for reading.  So, while she has a solid B in language arts and reading, it isn’t quite at grade level either.  So, she is very concerned.  Unlike previous standardized testing, this is not multiple choice.  There are paragraphs to write.  Spelling is a huge challenge for her as well, though her written expression is fine.  I am very worried that she won’t hit the mark on these tests either.  Yet, her report card is As and Bs.
  5. These kids have been doing practice tests for weeks, and every single one just tells the kids that this is so important and applies that additional pressure.
  6. At no point has there been any discussion on holding either child back – just additional support as needed.  I think for Mickey, even failing the test probably won’t mean holding him back to repeat 5th grade.  I believe his IEP protects him from that.  My concern at this point is more his anxiety over the testing and what that means to him, coupled with the upcoming IEP meeting where we will discuss his transition to middle school and out of this setting and his anxiety/excitement over that.  He fears his move goes away if he fails these tests, so that is adding a layer of anxiety as well.  For Minnie, we have no idea how she will do on standardized tests, because she hasn’t ever taken one.  I may be worrying for nothing.  That scares me a bit.  For all intents and purposes, Minnie is neuro-typical, but there are some concerns.  She was fetal alcohol exposed (meaning we know there was exposure, and she met some of the criteria for an FAS diagnosis, but not all) and while we don’t have any diagnosed issues – there are concerns with memory, reading, and some possible indicators of dyslexia/dysgraphia.

Because of the undo stress this puts on the children, I am currently researching the option to opt out of this testing going forth.  But, I made Mickey do it in 3rd grade so that we could see how he does on testing and to see if his accommodations were sufficient. I am curious to see how Minnie does.   Starting in late February though, school seems to serve no purpose but to gear these kids up for this testing, and we see anxiety climbing with each week.  It has even put a damper on spring break Disney trips for the last couple of years, because they know they are going back to face the testing.

But, whether dampened or not, we will be finishing out spring break at Disney.  We leave tomorrow.  Mickey and Minnie decided to attempt 25 attractions at the Magic Kingdom on Thursday, so we have done some planning, set our fast passes and we are going to try. Mickey would really like to the #WDW47 challenge, but I really don’t think it is doable with two kids in tow (one of whom is Mickey, who on his best day is a bit challenging) – and has a 90% failure rate by hard core Disney goers.  So, we are going to try a different more manageable challenge.  Wish us luck.

Competitions, slight regression and Mason

It has been an interesting week/weekend.  Minnie had her second competition and since it was local, this time Mickey attended. School saw a bit of regression last week, but we are seemingly back on track.  Mason the dog has lost his mind.

That was a grammatically weak opening paragraph, but I am mentally tired and the pollen (yellow snow) numbers are at an all time high here and my head has been throbbing for days :-). Let’s start with a bit of regression – Mickey struggled a bit last week.  I shouldn’t be surprised, every single time I write of how well he is doing, he has a setback.  But, it was really one incident that was problematic and then the consequences of that choice.  That was Tuesday afternoon and by Friday he was back on track. So, I am not going to dwell on it too much.  Today I got a note from his teacher saying Mickey was annoyed with him over an assignment, but was keeping it together well.

This weekend was abnormal because Minnie had her second dance competition, but this time it was local rather than out of state.  That meant Mickey got to come see her dance too.  This would have been fun, except the competition ran really late Friday night and her production team (ages 6-18) didn’t perform until well after 10:00 pm.  This is really late for Minnie and the other younger members.  This is also really late for Mickey.  He gets very whiny starting around his 8 pm bedtime.  You can imagine how pleasant he was by 10 pm.  She performed again on Sunday with just the mini team.  They did well, with a top 5 finish and a special judges award.  We spent most of the weekend at the competition supporting her team members during their routines.  Mickey joined us for some, and skipped some and that is just fine.  He was there to support his sister and he enjoyed the parts he was there for.

And Mason….I have written some about Mason before.  He is the sweetest, most unflappable dog ever.  Last week was our 5 year anniversary of having found him at our local rescue group.  We brought him home as a 10 month old puppy and found that he was exactly what my animal obsessed daughter needed and exactly what my raging melting down son needed to calm.  Mason walks into a raging meltdown – not away.  He calms Mickey instantly.  He never barks, he never growls, he never snaps.  He is very chill.  Then last week, he had two instances of aggression – both while sound asleep.  He and Minnie have slept together almost since day 1 (sleeping with Mickey is not an option because he moves entirely too much).  They cuddle together, with Mason often scooting under her head/arms/leg.  So, last Tuesday Minnie rolled over and Mason growled and snapped at her.  No damage was done, but it was a little scary.  Since it was so out of character we assumed he had a nightmare or she rolled over on his tail or something that hurt him and we thought no more about it.  Two days later, on Thursday night it happened again – only this time he got her on the nose.  She was bleeding when I got to the room. Both had been asleep, but both were still curled up together and he was very calm.  She was crying and hysterical trying to convince me that Mason hadn’t done it and begging me not to make him sleep in his crate.  For the record, he didn’t clamp down on her – he snapped and got her with his teeth, but there is no bite mark – just several scratches where his teeth got her nose.

I took him to the vet yesterday to have him checked out and we could find nothing wrong.  No obvious cause of pain – no inflamed gums, no obvious injury, nothing on physical exam.  We ran blood work, but that is seemingly normal too.  Two years ago, he did have a bad neck/back injury (from jumping up on furniture – we think), but he cried a lot and was in obvious pain suddenly one morning.  This could be bothering him again, as the doctor said that it might flare up periodically, but he is running and jumping fine, so I don’t think that is it. During waking hours his behavior has not changed at all – chill, easy going, loving, snuggly – no lethargy, no real change in appetite (maybe a little less than usual, but it is hard to tell because he free feeds – only eats when he is hungry – so we don’t feed him at set times, he just always has food in his bowl).  This is just an issue when he is asleep.

If any dog lovers have suggestions, I am all ears.  Minnie is very annoyed with me because I won’t let him sleep with her until we figure this out.  He slept with me two nights and has spent two nights in his crate.  But, he doesn’t snuggle with me the way he does with her, so I haven’t seen the snapping.  She has a queen sized bed, so he has plenty of options other than to snuggle up close to her, but he doesn’t choose to take them. She is not a wild sleeper either.  He is not food aggressive, nor territorial at all, so I doubt he has grown territorial about her bed.  If she comes to sleep with me, he follows her.  In fact, he spends 80% of his time with her – all our animals do.  They love me and Mickey, but in truth we are just poor substitutes for Minnie.  They flock to her on the couch, in her room, in the kitchen.  Both Mason and Sherbert follow her wherever she goes. He also spends zero time in her room if she isn’t in there. Which is why this makes no sense to me.  He was calm and still snuggling her when I got to her room, so he wasn’t agitated or annoyed with her.  We love Mason, so we really must find a solution and he hates his crate and always has, so none of us love the idea of him sleeping there.  In fact, Minnie slept next to crate on the hard tile floor in the living room last night because I put Mason in there.  Obviously, my main concern is Minnie’s safety, but we very much love Mason and want to figure out what has happened that has him so out of sorts when he is sleeping.

Middle school prep

So, this is the point in my blog where I usually come back to say that Mickey is struggling since hearing of his transition plan. Four times we have gotten close to transitioning and four times he has lost his everloving mind very soon after. Even when he says it is what he wants. So, how has Mickey taken this bit of news?

Well, he his excitement hasn’t slowed at all. In fact, it has been his best week+ in months. He went to his teacher and asked for extra work to bring his grades up. He brought two Fs up to Bs. He and his teacher have attempted to work out their differences. He has earned more computer time than ever. He has told everybody in the neighborhood and at dance about his move. 

This is awesome. The only people he hasn’t discussed it with is anyone at school. After his teacher admitting that he was pushing Mike so that he could succeed in his new placement, we chose to not bring it up. He may know from the office (they know because they scheduled his IEP meeting), but I don’t want his teacher “pushing” him. His version of pushing looks a lot like antagonizing Mickey until he melts down, rather than helping him use coping skills. Their relationship is far too precarious to add that to the mix. We don’t have our meeting until 4/26 and Mickey would rather not discuss it with him until then. That has my full support. So, a nice positive update for a change. Fingers crossed it can stay that way. Yes, Mickey is a little nervous and I expect that will ramp up a bit, but until then we are going to ride the wave of excitement and motivation I am seeing. 

School updates

Those who have been reading for a while may recall that we had an IEP meeting in September where we talked about transitioning Mickey from his current highly restrictive school placement (far more restrictive than he needs and with zero opportunities for extra curricular activities or even “specials” like art or music). Exit criteria was given to Mickey for him to work on.  What wasn’t defined is the period of time he had to meet that criteria (a week? a month? 3 months?).  I also think I wrote about his teacher interfering in Mickey’s relationship with his girlfriend and the subsequent growing dislike Mickey has for his teacher.  This has lead to some issues – specifically pre-holiday, but in the last two months, Mickey’s dislike and distrust has grown to hatred with open hostility toward his teacher.

It is worth mentioning that Mickey loves most adults.  In fact, in the five plus years that I have known him, I can only think of two other adults that he hated.  The two adults were a bus monitor, who by all accounts had no business being a bus monitor for special needs kids – she lasted about 7 weeks and just never showed back up to work.  The other was the director of the daycare where he was bullied who told him that if he would act better, the other kids wouldn’t have a reason to bully him….so, in both cases, his extreme dislike felt justified.

I can’t get him to explain his dislike for his teacher, but I suspect it is a combination of several factors: this is a male teacher, and while he likes males, he is used to female authority figures (at home and at school), the teacher did interfere in his relationship with D. and never did anything to fix it before D moved to her new school, the teacher admitted he was pushing Mickey harder than the others because he thought he was capable and in an effort to prep him for transition.  I also suspect that there may be a historical aspect to this dislike – Mickey’s memories of his early years are very foggy, but when he struggles to explain his dislike, it can sometimes be attributed to some memory he can’t express.  Maybe the teacher reminds him of someone, or it could be his teachers habit of placing hands on the back of Mickey’s neck to guide him to or from a situation – this drives Mickey nuts.  He also has had to restrain Mickey more than any teacher in history – for offenses that wouldn’t necessarily need restraining if interventions were put in place before the explosion.  His teacher, by his own admission, does push him sometimes – rather than taking the time to try to de-escalate the situation.  This is the opposite of what the program he is in is designed to do, but it has become a real problem.

If I had my preference, we would change teachers, but his school only has one for his grade level and while there is clearly a serious personality conflict, we were still working on the assumption that we would be transitioning, so I was hoping to wait it out.  But, in the meantime – overall behavior is great but at least twice a week since after the holiday break, Mickey and the teacher have gotten into it. I have talked to the teacher and the administration and expressed my concerns that it seems the teacher is pushing Mickey when he is already agitated, rather than encouraging coping skills to calm the situation.  His teacher from last year has had to step in repeatedly when she hears Mickey ramping up and is able to diffuse the situation, but when she isn’t available, it always seems to turn physical between them.  So, for those reasons and the fact that his teacher is the one that determines his status on his exit criteria, the transition has been off the table.

Until yesterday, that is.  I got a call from the county coordinator for the Autism program we were hoping to transition to.  The administration at Mickey’s school called her and wants to start the transition process.  We did a lot of discussing whether there was benefit to transitioning before the end of the year (there are 11 weeks left of school, however there are also the standardized testing week and spring break in there).  They won’t move him before the testing, so that would only leave 4 weeks of school for him to transition – and as much as I would like to get him out of his current setting, it is likely more disruptive than helpful for him to do half days at a school he won’t be at in the fall anyway.  So, we made the decision to move him at the start of middle school in August.

Not only will he be transitioning back to a “regular” school, but for the first time since 1st grade, it is his home school.  He will be able to attend with his neighborhood friends.  We set up an IEP meeting this morning to discuss all the details of the program, how his day will be structured and whether we think it best to start slow and do half day where he is and a half day at his new school or whether to just have a fresh start at his new school (this is what we are leaning toward, as he will have a new teacher next year if he stays at his school, so there isn’t a deep connection there that we feel would be helpful).

I hung up the phone and cried.  I don’t know why it hit me so hard, but I felt hope for his education for the first time in a very long time.  His school (prior to the issues with his teacher this year) has been good to him.  He has grown tremendously there, but academically I fear he has fallen behind.  He is capable of functioning in a less restrictive environment and he needs to have options for band or chorus, which he desperately wants to do.  This program will keep him in a small class setting and will offer paraprofessional support when he is able to go to general education classrooms (which could be up to 2/3rds of the day, if he is doing well).  He will have a daily social skills class too, which he needs.  The thing it offers him that means the most is options – it is flexible – if he can’t handle 2/3 of a day in gen ed, he can do much less.  If things are going well, he can be increased as well.  It also means shorter bus rides and the options for “normal” stuff like clubs, spirit nights, dances, football games, etc.  He may or may not want to participate in those things, but I want him to have the option.

Since this is coming from the county level and exit criteria has been met, per them, unless he does something to royally screw this up, we are moving.  I am beside myself and so is he.  So, we are going to wrap this week up on a positive note.  Yes, we have nearly 5 months before it actually happens and 6 weeks before we have an IEP meeting to formalize the plan, and never having been part of this program, we have no idea how he will do in it, plus middle school is a huge transition anyway,  but this is a great thing. Mickey said “so for the first time I can tell people where I go to school and not be embarrassed or have to explain what kind of school it is because it is a regular school?”.  Yep, kiddo – the same school your mom and uncle attended, your friends from the neighborhood and dance attend and your sister will attend.  Your regular old assigned school.  Welcome to your home school Mickey.  I see great opportunities in your future.

Winter break

Last week was winter break for us. This is the first time that we have had a full week – our winter break is usually just 2 days. I had some rollover vacation time that I wasn’t able to use last year, so I took the first week off from work that I have taken consecutively in years. A couple of notes from our week: 

10 days is too long of a vacation for Mickey 
Dance competitions are a whole new world 
Run Disney events may not be something Mickey is cut out for, but Minnie clearly is 
Momma is exhausted 

To begin our break Minnie had her very first dance competition in Chattanooga, TN. We attended a competition locally last year to support our school, but two hours and Mickey’s head was ready to explode from the loud music and chaos. For that reason, we opted to have Mickey stay with Grandma and Grandpa. The plan was that we would drive up Friday evening, compete Saturday and Sunday. Sunday evening I would leave Minnie with teammates and I would drive back down to pick up Mickey for a day of sightseeing with the dance team on Monday. That way he missed the long hours of competition but still got to do the fun stuff. 

The competition was….interesting? I am not sure what to say. We had fun. Minnie and her team danced well – as did the older girls. This was a large national competition and we are a small dance studio. The other teams were….I don’t know…glitzier, more dedicated to competition, etc. Our school offers competition, but the main focus is dance – not competition. Our teams rehearse once a week during an hour long class and each of the girls take additional classes in ballet, jazz, contemporary and/or hip hop. So, competition is just a bit of what we do. The costumes, the production values, the scenery, etc. were almost all significantly more extensive than we are used to. The mini team, which Minnie is on, placed top 8th overall – out of 23. They weren’t expected to place. Production (which Minnie also dances in) also came in 8th. So, we felt pretty good about that. We just felt a bit out of our league. 

On Sunday, I picked up Mickey as planned – after rave reviews from Grandma and Grandpa on how well behaved he was(!). I drove back to TN and Monday morning a group of us took in the sights in Chattanooga. We drive through Chattanooga each trip to Indiana, but the kids had never spent any time there, so this was exciting. We did Ruby Falls (and discovered that Mickey is claustrophobic). We did Rock City, even with Mickey’s fear of heights, he thought it was kind of cool. And we did the incline railway. Fun was had – sights were seen and we left Monday evening exhausted. 
On Tuesday morning we left for Disney. This would be our longest trip to date. We have long discovered that Mickey does best in 4 day increments. But, we had the time so we thought we would give it a shot. Tuesday night we ate at T-Rex in Disney Springs, which Mickey had been anxious to try (Minnie and I ate there with friends a couple of years ago). Wednesday through Sunday we were in the parks. The kids also ran their first Run Disney race (kids run – Mickey mile). Mickey had talked of little else for weeks. He had even convinced himself that he was going to win (reality doesn’t always have a place in Mickey’s thought process – he isn’t a runner, he hadn’t trained and he had no idea what the run was all about). The morning of the race though, he lost his mind – anxiety got to him, fear that he couldn’t complete the race, that he wouldn’t get his medal, etc. As we arrived at the event, his anxiety continued to amp up until I was sure a meltdown was in our future. He insisted on lining up at the front of the corral, but complained that people were pushing him and getting too close. I suggested he move toward the back and he said he couldn’t win from back there. I told him there was no winner, just completion and he yelled at me. Then the run started 10 minutes late, and every minute that ticked by was agony for me and Mickey – as he was fighting to hold it together. 

When they finally started, I could only hope that he would make it and I headed to the finish line and the anxiety started to get to me. What if he melted down? What if he fell or someone knocked into him? He was so on edge, I wasn’t confident in his coping skills. This is my life – worrying about how he is coping, all while trying to get him to expand his comfort zone. Well, Minnie came in well before Mickey and I grew more concerned. 3 long minutes after her finish ticked by and then I finally saw Mickey round the track to the finish. He was walking and red faced (it was very hot out), but when he saw the finish he picked up the pace and jogged in – hi-fiving Minnie Mouse on the way. He cried when I got to him and said it was awful. But, you know what? He did it. He wore that medal for the next 3 days – he was so proud. So, I am glad he did it. I am glad I didn’t let him talk himself out of it. I am glad I didn’t let my anxiety – because of his anxiety – let me pull him. He wore his shirt to school yesterday and proudly told his class of his accomplishment. He isn’t sure if he wants to do more RunDisney runs, but I don’t care if he does or doesn’t. He tried something new, he worked through tons of triggers, he utilized coping skill after coping skill and he finished. Here he is showing Buzz his medal. 

That is kind of a metaphor for our week. Saturday afternoon and Sunday were tough for him at the parks too. He had been out of routine for way too long, but he had also set a goal of 30 characters he wanted to meet and get autographs from. I tried to help him stick with his plan, but we had to abandon a bit Saturday late afternoon when he was just unable to cope anymore. So, we formulated a new plan to meet his goal Sunday morning. Then I got a phone call that my beloved Godmother had unexpectedly passed away Saturday evening, which put an additional damper on the trip. But, still we we ended the week with 31 individual characters and autographs. He was thrilled. He was also so far beyond done that it was a rough trip home. Minnie had been sick for part of the week and Mickey was just in a foul mood. But, it is Disney and that is their happy place – even when one is sick and one is cranky. They had a blast. We were all exhausted as we headed back for school/work yesterday. 

Minnie, my mom and I are headed to Northern Indiana Thursday night for the services for my Godmother. I am not brave enough yet to fly with Mickey and he said he isn’t ready to try. My brother can’t be alone, so Mickey will stay with my dad and brother. This will be Minnie’s first plane ride, and though she knows the reason that we are going is sad, she is pretty excited about the plane ride. My Godmother was a larger than life character with a booming laugh and a sense of humor that couldn’t be rivaled. Unfortunately, my kids never got to meet her, so they aren’t feeling the loss other than to know that I am sad and that my mother has lost her best friend of 50 years. It is interesting to note that I learned my very first dirty joke from her (unknowingly – I was eavesdropping when she told it to my mom and it stuck – even if I didn’t fully understand it at the time). Even more interesting is that it is a Disney joke – so I did find some humor in the fact that I was at Disney World when her daughter called to tell me the news. 

This is me, my parents and my Godparents at my Christening 

Psychiatrist and random

Mickey had his follow up with the psychiatrist on his new medication yesterday. I was torn as to what to tell her. 1 month in, and things are going swimmingly at school.  Overall he is a little sleepier, but he has finished his work every single day at school.  We have two incidents at school – one semi major and one minor.  Home has not been nearly as smooth – because he cranky. So, I did as I usually do, I asked Mickey for his thoughts….”well, I am sleepy, but I am back on track to move to my new school and I am doing great, so I don’t want to ask to reduce the dosage right now.” So, that is what we did.  Yes, I let my 11 year old have a say in his meds – because if he hates them it is a battle every single day.  I don’t want him to feel drugged, I want him to be able to function. Period.

This week, Mickey was invited to dance with the Jr. Company at his studio next year.  To be clear, I should make a note that he was not invited to join Jr. Company – just dance with them.  His technique is not where it needs to be to really join Jr. Company (Minnie joined this year).  Also, there is NO way he could do the required summer ballet intensive (7 hours a day of very intensive work).  He knows this, I know this, our amazing studio knows this. We all know ballet isn’t his passion, but he loves to dance Nutcracker and does enjoy his ballet classes.  He has improved so much in the 2 years since he started, but he is still several years behind technique wise.  So, the director of our studio – who also knows both my children well and has taught Mickey’s last two ballet classes – wants him to keep loving dance.  She decided the way to let him move forward with Nutcracker without doing the same roles again was to move him to the rehearsal part of Jr. Company for next year (but not the technique).  That allows him to at least do party scene and something in the second act.  Mickey is beside himself excited and says he wants to work toward being able to be invited to join them the following year. Minnie is a little less excited about sharing her favorite two hours of dance a week with him – even for one hour, but she agreed to help him work on his technique so that maybe he gets invited next year.  Of course, she will likely be moving up to Apprentice Company then.

We also had our dance team dress rehearsal this past weekend.  First competition is out of state in 2 weeks.  Dress went well.  Mickey loved that her dance is to Dolly Parton. We are so very excited.


Yesterday’s adoption conversations

​Minnie: Momma, what is it like to grow up with your birth mom

Me: I don’t know how to answer that, because I don’t know anything else. What does it feel like to grow up with an adopted mom?

Minnie: Lucky! Good. Happy. But also weird, because it seems like someone I should know is missing. 

Me: I think that is a normal way to feel, because a piece of who you are is a mystery to you.

Minnie: I guess…people ask about her and I just think it is weird that I don’t know her. 

Me: I get that, I can try to fill in the blanks for you….

Minnie: No. I have a real mom who is the best mommy ever, I just wondered if it felt different to grow up with your birth mom. I’m good, I don’t actually have any questions right now that I want answered…except… can we stop for candy?

Adoption is a very regular topic of conversation around here – so regular that it crops up on the way home from the pharmacy. #adoption

And then there is this beautiful pillowcase she made. It says “Adoption 5 years ago I was adopted! It was the best day of my life!”

We are going to call this a good day for adoption topics in our house. 

New meds

So, Mickey had been struggling at home and at school prior to the holidays.  Nothing terrible, just overall – more anxiety, more frustration, more (non-stop) asking for things, etc.  His therapist suggested that we might add a medication.  I am resistant to doing that, but what we were doing wasn’t working.  So, I mentioned it to the doctor at our last visit, and she agreed.  See, Straterra has been a game changer for us.  We did entirely too long on stimulant adhd meds, before someone suggested that they might be contributing to his aggression.  When we came off and switched to Straterra (after trying several others), we saw a huge difference.  He was able to focus at school, he wasn’t angry all the time, he didn’t explode the way he once had.  But, it did nothing to calm his body, which moves every waking minute.  It also did little to control his impulsiveness, but overall we were pleased.  The doctor suggested we try Clonodine – just a tiny dose in the morning – to see if that helped him take the edge off.

Well, he fell asleep repeatedly on day one – this wasn’t a huge surprise, he took Clonodine for sleep when he was in foster care, but it was a much higher dose).  And he took 3 naps on day 2.  He has adjusted though. But, as we sit here two weeks after we started the Clonodine, I was prepared to write an exciting, awesome update.  But, it was not to be.  The school called and after two weeks of raving about how awesome his behavior has been, he fell apart today.  Now, that isn’t necessarily reflective of the meds, but it is disappointing.  The new medication does make him a bit sleepier, so he is quite a bit crankier than I would like in the evenings.  But, overall we may be on to something here.  **

I asked Mickey how the new medication was going for him and his response was this:

“I love it. I feel….less…I don’t know…edgy?  I don’t want to adjust the med because I am getting my work done, I am not annoyed with my teacher and the day is easier.  Minnie still annoys me though”

I love that he is able to vocalize that (not the part about his sister annoying him, but the part about how he feels and how the medications help him) – it makes me feel like we are doing the right thing.  He is quick to voice his displeasure with a medication too (Ativan, which we have an emergency only prescription for – he HATES it.  Doesn’t like the way it makes him feel and will generally refuse it).


**Before you ask, yes we talked to his therapist and tried working through the issues before we went to meds.  We also religiously use essential oils, in an effort to minimize medications.  But, I am the first to admit – with zero guilt – that he requires medications to be functional.  Our objective is the fewest meds possible for him to function.  We limit sugar, we don’t do food dyes (with very few exceptions).  We tried gluten/casein free for 8 months, which did nothing to improve behavior, but it did make every single meal a war zone.  Food is Mickey’s go-to coping skill and making that a battle just made the only peaceful time of our day utterly miserable.