Technology and the kids

My kids don’t have much in the way of technology…actually, that isn’t true, but according to Mickey it is.  Minnie has a kindle fire and Mickey has use of a cell phone, and they share a laptop.  What they don’t have is unfettered access to technology.  The reasons are as follows: 1. Mickey can’t transition off of technology well – I mean asking, telling, warnings that time is coming up, etc. all fall on deaf ears and it will become a power struggle that requires physically removing the device from his hands.  2. They don’t need it – they will spend the rest of their lives on technology of some sort, and both kids would rather play outside than on a game – well, Mickey would probably rather do the game, but this is why he isn’t given one, because he loves to play outside. 3. Mickey is not responsible with anything – he loses and leaves everything he owns somewhere (bus, school, playground, store, etc. He is also known to get angry and hurl whatever is at hand, and I will not be replacing technology broken in anger. Those are the main reasons that technology around here is limited.  Minnie charges her kindle a couple times a year, so she couldn’t really care less.  Mickey is the issue. Here is our morning dilemma:

Mickey catches the bus at 6:40 in the morning.  In the afternoons he reads on the bus ride, but it is dark out in the morning, so that isn’t an option.  He is on the bus for about 50 minutes in the morning (15 just sitting in front of the school – I have no idea why). He is bored and hates the bus – he isn’t a napper.  The bus driver and bus monitor have asked him to bring technology and I have been stubborn in my refusal.  He does have a game pad, which is an electronic tablet with no screen, but about a dozen games.  He enjoys it, but says it has gotten boring.  He also has a regular kindle – no games or network – just books, but he has lost it several times and he doesn’t like the backlighting (it is an old one).

This morning, Mickey tried to take the cell phone – while the bus was waiting and he was supposed to be getting his coat. He got angry with me when I said no and was a perfect brat on the bus, from a behavioral perspective.  The driver called and asked me to get permission from the school to bring the phone.  I said no. The school doesn’t care if he brings the phone – they lock it up on arrival.  I have made the rule because Mickey gets heightened and overly excited on games – his brain starts racing and he gets wound up and I would rather his teachers not have to start the day with him like that.  I would also rather them not have to tackle him to get the phone away.

Am I wrong? His behavior on the bus would be better – no doubt.  Other than the likely complaints of him singing (which we already get, even without technology), though he tends to get really involved in the games and having to finish daily challenges, or this level, etc. But, his behavior at school and at home would be worse.  As a rule, I always place school behavior above all else, because he needs to learn and when his behavior is out of control, his school work suffers.  When his behavior is out of control he isn’t learning and he is blowing any chance of leaving the 50 minutes bus ride and getting to a school closer to home.

His bus driver is going to talk to his supervisor and I fear that we are facing a bus suspension.  This is immensely problematic because I can’t get Minnie and Mickey to school at the same time when they are 20+ minutes apart.  Minnie’s bus comes at 7:15 (and she can’t be dropped at school before that time either) and Mickey has to be at school at 7:30.  Minnie’s school requires that someone meet the bus in the afternoon, but I wouldn’t be able to unless I check Mickey out of school 30 minutes early every day. Oh yeah, and I have a job…

So, do I just give in and let the school deal with the fallout of the technology overload?  Do I stand strong and deal with the possible suspension and another 4 months of this crap on the bus?  I have repeatedly asked the bus driver and monitor to stop suggesting technology.  I have allowed him to take the phone once and it was as I feared.  His teacher emailed to let me know that he wouldn’t give it up as required.  Most days on the bus he is fine.  This morning he was running late, because he sneaked the phone upstairs and was playing on it late.  The phone will now be stored in a locked box when he doesn’t have permission to be on it.  I am just beyond frustrated and this is one of those things that I am not sure what the right thing is.

I should also mention, that while one kid has no real interest in technology, I am the opposite.  I live with my phone in my hand.  I make a living on technology.  I love technology.  But, I still feel firmly, that kids don’t need it.  My kids play outside nearly every day, weather permitting.  They ride bikes and scooters and now jump on their new trampoline.  During the summer they are in the pool or running with their friends and the dog. We do not own a gaming system since our wii broke, and I have no plans to change that.  They watch some tv, but not daily and usually only when it is too late to play outside or raining.  We have portable dvd players for the car, and they will use them for some of a road trip, but they also play the license plate game and I spy, etc.  They have a laptop for school work and occasional youtube videos – Minnie watched a very exciting one on how to build play dough cupcakes and cakes last night.  I think it is a healthy dose of technology without it overtaking their lives.

Am I being nuts or too strict with the technology restrictions? Should Mickey have another chance at trying the phone on the bus?  It has been several months, so maybe we would see improvement? I don’t know.  Your thoughts?

Zoo Day

We went to the zoo and it was fun. Both Mickey and D (according to her mom) were up early and ready to go. They met us at the dance studio after class, which Mickey had to miss this morning because his excitement got the best of him and he had a minor meltdown before we left. His desire to make the day perfect for D (lunches/cleaning out the car/what outfit he wanted to wear) kept him from being able to get out the door without screaming at me. So, I dropped Minnie off and got Mickey back under control.

In all truth the day was too much for him. He wanted time with D to himself and was mad that Minnie was around. He also got upset when I wouldn’t buy D a stuffed animal from him and an ice cream for everyone. Her mother didn’t want me to and I was respecting her wishes, but Mickey wanted to give her the world. He still had fun, but we had far more than our normal anxiousness going on.

But we toured the whole zoo. The kids had a blast and D’s mom kept thanking me for making the day possible for them. I am glad we did it, I just wish Mickey could have relaxed a bit more and enjoyed himself.

He did tell D they needed some alone time and the two of them walked together for a bit. He also informed her mother that when he grows up and becomes an Elvis impersonator, he will be moving to Vegas “because that is where the big money is” and he will be able to take good care of D. That was kind of adorable.

Mickey and the girlfriend

I have mentioned D, Mickey’s girlfriend of about a year before.  I don’t know, nor do I need to know what her diagnosis is, but she is a very sweet girl with severe anxiety.  His teacher said Mickey has helped her so much in the last year, that the difference in her and in his realization that he can help rather than hinder someone else when they are acting out.

Last night Mickey surprised me by handing the phone to me while he was talking to D.  He handed it to me and said “I invited D and her mother to the zoo this weekend, so tell D when to meet us”.  I deferred because we weren’t planning to go to the zoo and I dislike being on the spot, so I told D I would have to get back to her after Mickey and I discussed this.

Mickey’s plea was simple and sweet. “Momma, D’s family doesn’t have much money.  D doesn’t get to go to things like the zoo ever.  She likes me to tell her all about Disney and the zoo and holiday world and when I do, she gets upset because she hasn’t ever been to any of those places.  I read our zoo membership card and it includes 2 adults and up to 4 kids, so I thought it would be nice if we took her so she could go for the first time. It is really important to me and you know how much she loves animals, so couldn’t we take her?”

Well, I can’t resist a plea like that, but more importantly the sweetness and desire to share are not traits we always see in Mickey. So, we talked about discussing these things with me first and I sent a note to her mom. Her mom called tonight and was near tears as she thanked us profusely for giving D this opportunity since it isn’t one they could afford otherwise.  I invited D’s brother too, because we have room on our pass.  She shyly asked what we would be doing about lunch and if it would be possible to pack a lunch.  I told her that we would be bringing sandwiches (which is not what we normally do, though we do bring snacks) and she sighed with relief.  So, tomorrow Me, Minnie, Mickey, D and her mom and brother are doing the zoo.  I am glad that the family pass we bought will help another family enjoy the zoo that my children have been to at least a dozen times.

We are not wealthy, by any stretch, but I do make a good living.  Money gets tight sometimes, but we do have a good life and we do lots of things like this on a regular basis.  This is something I sometimes take for granted, even while I sometimes struggle to pay for these activities.  They make my children happy so I prioritize them, but that is because I have the luxury of being able to do so.  I am glad that we get to make another kid happy tomorrow.  I am very proud of Mickey for not only planning this but for articulating why it was important to take D.  I hope it is a fun day for them.  My social anxiety makes it hard for me to meet other people and normally the idea of spending the day with strangers would send me into full on panic mode, but I am going to power through (and take my anxiety med :-)) because this is more important than that.

Mickey is beside himself excited and has charged his camera and already packed the snack bag. My fingers are crossed that D’s anxiety levels are okay tomorrow and that Mickey doesn’t let his excitement derail the excellent behavior we have seen this week so that we can go enjoy the day.  Minnie is always at her happiest around animals and she is eager to show D the orangutans that were adopted for us earlier this year. We are looking forward to an exciting zoo day tomorrow.  I will let you know how it goes.

The sex

My children have no filter.  They also are not shy about asking questions.  I have worked very hard to make sure that we have an open relationship so that they feel comfortable asking me questions.  I hope that we can maintain that through the teen years.  I am honest and open, within age appropriate boundaries and I answer questions about their adoption, their birth families, etc.  Recently puberty has become an interesting topic of questions and yesterday? The sex. Yes, with a the in front of it.

Minnie is a prude.  I think I have said that before, but seriously she is a prude.  She is appalled when people are dressed in what she deems an inappropriate manner, she doesn’t love two piece bathing suits because they show her tummy, she doesn’t like if a shirt is too low cut, a skirt too short, etc.  She won’t even wear pinafore style dresses without a layering shirt because they show too much skin. I don’t know where this came from, but I am also hoping it holds until her high school years :-). She won’t allow Mickey or I to see her undressed, we had to buy a nude leotard to go under her costumes (standard for older dancers) by the time she was 5 because she wouldn’t undress in front of the other girls. Mickey has no boundaries and no modesty whatsoever. I am hoping that doesn’t hold true in his high school years. He does understand that he has to be dressed in public, but at home, no matter how many times I tell him that the bathroom and bedroom are the only appropriate “naked” places, he will come out of the shower and needs several reminders before he goes and gets dressed.

As we left dance last night, the subject of Tom came up.  Tom is the gentleman I have been seeing/talking to for a couple of weeks.  Minnie wanted to know if I was in love yet.  Mickey wanted to know how much longer until I married him. Minnie then asked if I thought we could have a baby.  The rest of the conversation went downhill quickly.

Mickey: Have you had “the sex” with him yet?

Minnie: Ewww, mommy wouldn’t have “the sex”!

Mickey: She has.  She has had “the sex” lots of times.

Minnie: Momma, you haven’t done that, have you?

Me: Uhmmm. Mickey, why do you think that?

Mickey: You have had lots of boyfriends in your life, so you must have had “the sex” lots of times.

Minnie: Say it isn’t true.

Me: **stunned silence**  Just because somebody has a boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t mean they have had sex.

That my friends was evasive.  First, neither child has any real concept of sex, but I think they have drawn the conclusion that it happens in a bed and it involves kissing.  I think it is time to have some more serious talks, but that is the first time either has ever mentioned sex and I was not prepared for it to be in reference to me.  I absolutely have no intention of discussing my sex life, or lack thereof with my kids.  I just thought I would share my awkward parenting moment.  I didn’t bargain for this when I started talking to Tom.  Apparently this brought up lots of questions we haven’t had to deal with before.  As an fyi, Tom and I have only been out twice and we don’t know where it is going and both of our dates have been confined to slightly elongated lunch hours and free of the sex.

Kidneys and worry

My brother had a scary incident Wednesday after dialysis.  I won’t go into a ton of details, but he was given a ride to my parent’s house because he wasn’t feeling well immediately after dialysis.  When he arrived there, he was unresponsive.  His blood sugar and body temp had bottomed out and he was worked on by paramedics and rushed to the hospital.  He is ok now, but this incident brought up all kinds of things for Mickey.

The good news is that Mickey’s fear/concern didn’t manifest in behaviors as it normally does.  He used his words and asked his teacher all kinds of questions yesterday.  After a full day of this and with regular communication with me, by both Mickey and his teacher, he asked if I would pick him up because his struggle to stay calm was very real and he didn’t want to take a chance on the bus without me or his teacher to help him.  That was very self aware and self advocating, so I picked him up.

When he got in the car he said “I love Uncle.  I don’t want you to give him a kidney though.  I want someone else to”.  When asked why, we figured out what had him so worried.  He thought if I gave a kidney it cut my life expectancy in half – because I am giving up half my kidneys.

We are trying to prep the children for the possibility of me donating, and the almost definite that Uncle will have to have a transplant, even if I am not the match.  We haven’t talked about more than the high level because we didn’t want them to worry until we knew, but Mickey doesn’t always work that way.  Yesterday he was told that I will donate if able – it isn’t optional – and why.  He needs to understand that for me it isn’t a choice – it is my baby brother.  But, he has agreed to add some coping skills, which we worked on with his therapist and his teacher, to get through the six weeks of testing we have coming up.  I promised him he could talk to doctors and that we would do research so that he knew what would happen and that we would deal with the surgery fears after the testing.

He agreed and he understands.  No emails from the teacher today, so that generally means his day is going better.  This is how Autism impacts our life the most these days – even with mounds of therapy and vastly improved social skills and coping skills, it is the things that we can’t control (health, death, war, etc) that throw Mickey.  Most of the time he can handle the day to day, but it is the things he latches on to in his head and then worries himself sick about.  I am just proud that we didn’t see anger and behaviors.  He asked for help. He verbalized his fears – even though it took all day for him to get to the biggest fear – he expressed his concerns.  These are accomplishments and ones that we will celebrate.

Right now our family stands in fear.  My brother went from stage 1 kidney disease to stage 5 six weeks ago.  We went from 5 years or so to immediately on the need for a transplant.  My brother is 37 years old and he is not well.  He is trying to work, he is making jokes, but he is ill and it is breaking my heart to see it.  He is my first best friend, the person who drives me the craziest, my rock and my biggest annoyance.  We have struggled with his health since he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child and I have spent my life protecting him – some might even say enabling him.  He is not perfect, in fact he is annoyingly self centered and not always very thoughtful, but he is also charming and funny and I simply love him. My parents, my brother and I are very close and we see each other all the time and talk even more frequently.  My mother works with him and she is stressed beyond belief at watching him decline so rapidly.  It has always been us against the world and so all I can do is hope and pray that I match so that he can get back to living.

Me and Uncle

Random thoughts on 2016 so far

Happy New Year.  We rang it in as is our tradition.  Dinner out, one last drive through our favorite Christmas lights, noisemakers, champagne and sparkling cider.  Mason and Sherbert were thrilled.

We are 3 days into the new year.  My children had a good day today and so did I.  But, we have already headed to urgent care (Mickey), have a bruised tailbone (Minnie), spent the day in our crate because we chose to pee in the house (Mason) and broke the best cellphone I have ever had (me).  The dryer isn’t working either, but I think that is a residual of the flooded basement.  I took apart the casing to dry it out, hoping that would resolve that issue.

The cellphone thing is upsetting because I am a reformed early adopter of technology, but this phone has kept me happy for 22 months.  I had no desire to get a new phone but I can’t justify replacing a shattered screen rather than just buying a new phone, because it is 2 years old. I am going to try to live with the cracks for 8 weeks, because I really want to hold out until the two year mark.  Luckily the phone still works, but my beautiful screen makes me sad.

Mickey is fine – some inflammation in the stomach caused by a virus.  Pain level was an 8 yesterday, but was down to a 2 today. Minnie is okay as long as she isn’t sitting or touching her toes.  Mason…well, he is lying here next to me and shows no signs of remorse.  Sherbert is busy being Sherbert – running the house and having the others that live here do her bidding.  She has been wholly successful – she has also comforted both kids, in a rare show of absolute sweetness. Yesterday Minnie begged me not to take the tree down because she wanted to sleep under it.  She has been in pain for 3 days and I didn’t have the heart to say no. I took it down today – or at least got it undecorated.

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Mickey went out to play and brought home a 4/5′ tall animated Santa that somebody was throwing out.  He also negotiated a deal to get a brand new trampoline for a pretty great price.  Minnie parked her horse next to a car on the street and I laughed hysterically when I walked out to find this very odd picture.

Puberty has become a fascinating subject for my children.  Just a snipit of a conversation on New Year’s eve

Minnie: Mom, this is awkward, but when will I grow boobies.

Me: Well, when you get to puberty

Minnie: And that is when Mickey will get hair and giant nibbles?

Me: Uhmm, why do you think there are giant nipples?

Minnie: Well, Elvis had giant nibbles. So, when will I get this puberty thing?

Mickey: You know you will get hair too?

Minnie: Yep, but I will shave mine – you have to leave yours.

Fits of giggles by both children.  I answered the questions and we talked about some of the finer points, but I am cracking up over Elvis’ giant nibbles.  I will close with that 🙂