Dear Parent of an ADHD Child

Hello and thanks for surviving the first quarter of the school year with me. Thanks for helping your kid read at home, thanks for coming into volunteer, thanks for being so awesome about getting your kid to school on time. Whatever you’ve done, thanks. You’re an awesome parent.

And yes, I know you have the extra challenge of having a child with ADHD.

And yes, I know your child is smart, capable, and funny. I know you hope for the best for him and seek out the best team to help support his or her educational goals.

I get it. I do my best not to blame your kid for his ADHD. ADHD runs in my family and if I bothered to go to a doctor for a diagnosis I’d probably find I have that or perhaps a true case of Tourette’s this time. I’m sorry if my humming tic sets your kid off in class sometimes.

I do my best to be patient with your kid, to work with his condition. I have wiggle seats, a fairly liberal bathroom and drink policy, fidget options. I let kids do their work on the floor, under tables. I try to keep assignments short and to the point. I try to break up work. I wait to give your child instructions when she’s looking at me, not because that’s what the ADHD blogs say to do but because this is really how most of the population communicates. I remind him to turn in projects. I help get stuff into her backpack. I have subtle reminders to keep him on task. I hold her accountable for his actions. I let all the students go out to recess, all of the recess, every single time.

I have read the letters floating around, asking for pretty much the above, the love and attention your ADHD kid needs.

And your kid rocks. Your kid is a hoot and, really, so clever. I’m happy having your kid in your classroom.

But, in case you don’t already know, your wonderful kid who struggles with ADHD is not at the top of my radar.

If you have a mental model of my classroom full of fairly typical, normal kids of stellar behavior plus your kid with all the ADHD stuff, please scrap that model.  Immediately.

Yes, your kid is a little different in that struggled with ADHD. But five classmates also have ADHD. Plus two kids with Sensory Processing Disorder. One more on the Autism spectrum. A few more with fairly significant learning disabilities. Not to mention kids who are homeless, have crappy home lives, or are just trying to get through your average boring childhood.

These kids are amazing and awesome, too. I’m happy having them in my classroom. But, remember, they’re in my classroom along with your kid and the ADHD.

Again, if your mental model says all the kids are angels without issues and then your kid is the exception, scrap the model.

Sometimes your kid’s impulsivity sets off the other kids with impulse control issues. Sometimes their impulsivity sets off your kid.

Your kid’s near-screaming volume has a negative affect on the kid with the sensory issues.

The kid who can’t read social cues may misinterpret your kid’s rough-and-tumble nature and get in your kid’s face. We’re working on that with both parties and I’m sorry it’s happening. Work in progress, you understand.

When the fidgets, hallway breaks, alternative seating, and all that fails to fully keep your kid in check and he starts juggling chairs or pretending she’s a rocket-firing robot, we have other kids jumping into the game or having PTSD episodes. Sometimes both. Many of these kids are struggling to control themselves, just like your kid.

Please don’t mistake me. I appreciate what your kid has to deal with and I’m doing my best to help. I’m open to suggestions, since you probably have a plethora of tips and tricks. And I’m sorry that my time and attention can’t go only to your child, not with this classroom.

It’s almost 2018. We don’t shy away from inclusion and teachers and professionals are developing a slew of ways to make inclusive classrooms work (plus a slew of ways to make special-ed only classrooms work even better). It’s a pretty cool frontier.

But it does mean your kid isn’t the only one.naughty_teens_1383900c

 

 

November the 1st had better be a miserable day for this teacher.

In this, the year of our Lord 2017, November the 1st, All Hallow’s Eve, the day after Halloween, the first day of November and the rest of the holiday season, falls on a Wednesday. According to my school calendar, I will be as I am many a Wenesday– teaching 2nd graders.

Last year, the same such November day also fell on a school day. My vice principal came in to do an observation. Seriously, I thought? Today? When they’re all in some state of candy hangover? Why would you do this?

But he did it and that is that. And with another post-Halloween school day approaching, I hope for much of the same: another miserable day after kids Trick-or-Treating.

I recently stumbled upon a concept of which I had never heard, one that is supposedly pretty old. The Candy Witch. The Candy Witch is a Santa Claus ripoff of childhood wannabe folklore. The concept is that you let your kids keep a miniscule amount of candy while sacrificing the rest to this mysterious entity the Candy Witch. She then leaves some toy or, according to some accounts, school supplies!

Now, while there is a respectable amount of kids who wouldn’t mind trading in candy for a cool toy and maybe even a few lovable nerds who want school supplies, have these people met the majority of children?

At least in that one MLP episode where apparently tradition dictates little foals leave their candy to a statue of Nightmare Moon they get an awesome eons-old tradition contribution. For me, this is going on my list right up there with trunk-or-treats flat-out replacing trick-or-treating.

I understand the philosophy is to teach healthy habits like moderation. You know, because one night of getting a bunch of candy throws off an entire year of reasonable healthy eating practices. A recent Dear Abby letter was full of comments about just how stupid this thing was, mentioning their kids tended to get sick of the candy after a couple of days, solving the problem right there.

I loved trick-or-treating as a kid. I went far longer than I should have. But oh, what glorious times! Romping through the dark streets with friends, gathering candy, costume-watching… then getting sick of walking around and going home to watch a Halloween movie while trading candy like some delicate stock system. After that, I could enjoy a book with a treat or sneak candy to school.

I have a different memory: buying giant lollipops at something or another. They stayed at my grandmother’s house for us to enjoy until one day the darn Tooth Fairy apparently switched them out for plastic toys. At the time, it was pretty cool. But now, I’m bitter. You switched out sweet sugary goodness for a kazoo? Grandma, had you met before?

No kid goes out Trick-or-Treating to get ten pieces of candy. Trick-or-Treating is a wonderful time when kids get to be kids and experience a little bit of wildness, a little bit of freedom from parents to explore neighborhoods, be with friends, and get lots of candy. Unless a kid has willingly signed a contract to trade candy for a really decent toy, the Candy Fairy is a joke.

If my students show up on November 1st tired, miserable, and sugar-rushed and make my day a living hell, good for them! I will take a deep breath and hope this is because they had a fantastic time the night before.

 

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So I’m not going to do reading logs this year.

I dislike homework. It’s a pain to put together, it’s a pain to grade and record, and I tend to read the research speaking against it. If memory serves me correctly, I had no homework until junior high. Why in the world do I want my 2nd graders having homework?

Last school year and the year before I had great plans to do away with homework. And then came our Wildly Important Goal. I’m up those WIGs, don’t get me wrong. But when I found out we were tracking homework and reading minutes? Curse being a team player! So I dutifully sent home homework so we would have something to track, though in retrospect couldn’t the zero homework be included in that tracking? Fortunately, by last school year the homework tracking had been nixed, but still we had to track reading minutes. So I simplified my homework to largely reading minutes, which still included printing and stapling and counting and tallying up totals I’m not sure I trusted.

This year began with more talk of WIGs. I prepared myself for another year of reading log drama on my part only to find, to my deepest delight, our WIGs were moving in another direction.

I could very well be free of reading minutes. No great authority is insisting I record them. And why in the world do kids have to be tracking reading minutes? I have no memory of tracking reading minutes in my own school years. Kids read, it’s their job as students and with any luck they learn to like it.

Last summer I read Debbie Miller’s Reading in the Wild, her follow-up to The Book Whisperer. Her focus is on getting kids to read, not “making them”. I sure would love to raise a class of second graders in the ways of wild reading because what is cuter than a bunch of 7-year-olds happily clutching their books in the way any child ought to be enamored of a book?

Yet does the tracking of reading minutes do anything to help with this? Sure, you have those particular children who like to jot everything down, but that seems something they could do on their own. I am positive I had a bunch of kids last year who just colored in whatever on their reading minute sheets and had their parents sign whatever. Because, who cares?

This year, I’m doing something different. No reading logs. Nada. At least as that apply to me. I created my class letter template for the year and sure enough I provided a few varieties of reading logs to go with it…with the explicit instruction these were for individual use as needed/desired only. I didn’t want them back.

What I do want is my students reading. Wild readers do read at home, and I want to mess with the minds of my 2nd graders until they view reading at home as a normal, daily activity. An enjoyable one and a necessary one. You know, reading like it is one of those things one just does because that is what one just does.

In my class letter I will talk up reading. I will ask questions to consider, all coming from the view that I assume they are reading. I will possibly attempt to create a new normal for some of them, one that goes beyond the assumed required reading. You’re a student, you’re a child, you’re a human. You will read.

Maybe I’ll get a few wild readers.

Cleaning my house with a bar of soap

Some years ago I hopped on the bandwagon of DIY cleaners, leaving behind the college life white glove check store run where we grabbed something for every project. Vinegar baking soda, a use for the essential oils I just can’t seem to use medicinally, and, of course, soap. The book I originally used as my bible for this often spoke of castile soap, so I bought that and I still keep as bottle around as my cleaning supply. But I waxed more lazily.

These days I clean the house with a bar of soap. Bath soap. Cetaphil brand, to be sincere. Amazon Vine gave me a 6-pack of those last year and they failed to mesh with my husband’s skin. I was currently using other soap, so I just opened up one of the bars and used it clean stuff.

I love it.

When I first began cleaning with a bar of deodorizing skin clarifying soap, I sought approval. The interweb didn’t provide much, mostly suggestions on ways to use bar soap that ultimately weren’t cleaning anything. But those soapy housecleaning rebels were out there, also seeming to feel a tad awkward over their delve into cleaning with soap.

But why not? What were people cleaning with before fancy cleaning products? Soap. Soap that was hanging around the house and offering so many wonderful cleansing uses.

I still have a few general cleaning products, but one of those bars of soap sits on my kitchen windowsill waiting to be used.

How do I use this soap?

  1. I run it under some hot water to make a nice soapy water mix.
  2. I rub it over a cleaning rag and scrub away.
  3. I rub in my microfiber mop pad.
  4. I shred it up and use it for laundry soap.

And it works, comparatively with any other green cleaning method or commercial cleaner. I can leave the soap water on a gross stovetop for a few minutes, then wipe. I friggin’ mop with it.

My stuff is clean. The house smells nice because soap has that lovely soapy smell. It’s so easy to use and it’s as teeny as anything.

Soap. Why were you abandoned in the cleaning world?cetaphil

Nerdy Mom Post: When Rocket is pretty much just a raccoon.

Be it known this my nerdy mom post.

I have Guardians of the Galaxy on my mind right now.  As Marvel movies go with a girl who knows comparatively little about comic books, it’s easily one of the best. Watching Vol 2. back in May was a huge treat and darn it all if my 4-year-old doesn’t like the first movie. As much as I theoretically want to limit her screen time, her occasional request to watch such movie means I get to, by way of being a good mom, watching the movie with her.

And I do enjoy it so much. The soundtrack ought to be a scholarly example of just how to create film soundtracks, Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan are adorable with or without crazy assassin alien get-up, and the balance of heart, humor, and action is nigh unto perfect.

One of the best slices of quirky wonder is Rocket. Oh, how I love Rocket. Hands-down my favorite character. I was always vaguely aware of his existence because of one of my cousins, but how these movies brought him to life! He’s brash and rude with that barest hint of poor wounded animal under it all and I love him for it.

My husband says Rocket wasn’t originally selected to be in the movie due to worries over whether an audience could accept a really mean, animated raccoon with a machine gun. But that awesome aforementioned balancing act carries over here. He’s a raccoon, but more importantly he’s a bounty hunter and weapons expert who happens to be a raccoon. I daresay this is what made Rocket work. He is his own character first, and the animal jokes are kept effective few and far between.

Yet I love those little moments where we are reminded that Rocket is a raccoon (or some other similarly evolved critter). The joke is still kept subtle and to the minimum, but those little moments remain endearing.

When He Moves Like a Raccoon

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I get a kick out of this. Visually, it’s fun to watch. The tough little bipedal guy has moments where moving on all fours is the best way to go. His first meeting with fellow Guardians is literally leaping animal-style onto Gamora and from there until she tosses him off perching on her head and shoulders like any proper attack raccoon. Later at sleepy-time in the Kyln, he leaps with such agility from a mass of sleeping bodies in order to follow Quill. Eventually following events lead to the full-on prison madness scene which finds Rocket running on all fours and scurrying up and down various objects and buddies. The animation is fun to watch, yet these actions are so subtle one doesn’t even think about them–Rocket is just doing his thing.

When He Does Stuff With His Hands

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Now, my understanding of raccoon behavior is that they do not in fact wash food. They apparently just really like to use their hands to hunt for food. Seems fitting that Rocket’s instincts of fiddling have led him to creating intricate bombs and weapons, and I am personally grateful to the movie powers that be that let me enjoy just how cutely he does this. Watch Rocket anyone time he is working with some various machine of destruction, the way his hands so quickly and deftly move. It’s raccoon behavior and the nicest touch to add to Rocket.

When He Washes Himself

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This one surprises me and makes me wonder if raccoons do in fact wash their faces with their paws the way cats do. But they all had a raccoon they were studying to the animation and at one point I like to think Oreo the Raccoon washed his face. This moment also occurs as part of a rather humorous incident in the Vol. 2. Rocket and Quill wrecked the ship, the team just met Ego and Mantis, and everyone is sitting around having some type of hobo-style campfire dinner. And there’s Rocket, licking his paws and rubbing them over his face. No wonder Mantis thought he was a puppy. Which leads me into the next animal behavior I like about Rocket.

When He Snarls and Bites

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The aforementioned scene has Mantis petting Rocket for the briefest of moments before he, startled at the fact some weird lady he just met ran her hand over his head, turns, snarls and even snaps at her. Literally snaps his teeth at her. Now, I don’t react to startles like that. This isn’t the only time. In the first movie, the Collector’s collection includes Cosmo the Space Dog. In true enemy fashion, he and Rocket snarl at each other.

His Tail

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I know, I know, Rocket has a tail and it’s fluffy and it’s cute. A lot of people like his tail. It’s a fun part of being a forest creature. But there are a couple of moments when his tail helps express his emotions. First the notably sad example, the ending of the first film. The team has defeated Ronan, part of the city is busted up by the space ship crash, and Groot’s literally all over the place. It’s been a tough day for Rocket and we find him sitting on a pile of something crying. His tail his curled up so tense, only to relax when Drax starts petting him. Subtle, but so meaningful. The second example is that hilarious scene of the second movie involving the bomb and Groot and the bomb’s death button. Baby Groot is about as clueless as any of my offspring or 2nd graders about what to do and Rocket is growing more agitated by the second. You can tell this because he’s voice is not only getting louder and his patience is wearing thin, but also because his tail swinging and twitching all over the place.

When His Buddies Treat Him Like an Animal

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That sounds awful in words, but there it is. Though Quill references him as a raccoon on more than one occasion, everyone generally sees and treats him as an equal. To revisit the ending of the first movie, we have sad Rocket and Drax figuring he ought to comfort him in some way. So he pets Rocket. Yup. How many of your friends comfort you in such a fashion? How many have you comforted? Who thinks “I shall express sympathy to my upset friend by putting my hand on their head and stroking it” as the go-to method of comfort? I love this scene because not is it only bittersweet, but because there really seems to be a joke being played here, pulling out that “he’s a raccoon!” bit and people might as well pet him. The other side of this? He, after some initial surprise, just accepts is. Heck, maybe he even likes it.

All of this makes me wonder about the nature of Rocket. Sure, he talks big and with impressive eloquence and seems at least as clever and with-it as anyone else. But how much animal instinct is floating around in his brain and body? There’s at least a little, because those makers of these movies clearly are bringing in those neat little details.

Rocket is all the better character for it.

Why I Don’t Like to Play With My Kids

Lately Ruby has railed against her car seat. She is four, and finds the crazy constraints of her harness beyond tolerance. So, I figured it was maybe time to start looking into the next phase up. Whilst browsing for booster seats I found a great deal via online ads for a in-box one, and went to the apartment complex to make the deal. Unfortunately, the seller wanted to meet by the complex playground, which meant letting the girls out to play because, hey, we were at a playground.

So I let the girls run around the playground while I set up the booster seat and it was pretty  nice. Except for the other kids on the playground. All began well enough, with the local kids interacting with mine.

Then the local kid saw me. The boring 30-something mom. Forget the small children, there’s an adult! And two kids wound up coming by to talk to me.

Perhaps my role during the school year as a teacher has warped my reasoning. I’m a teacher. Nice enough to share an amusing anecdote with, but no purely social interaction is meant between student and teacher, kid and adult. It’s not the I’m opposed to healthy social relationships between all ages, but I do draw the line when fellow children are passed up in favor of an adult.

I like kids, love them even. Childhood is magical.

But I am not and probably never will be one of those moms or teachers who spends a significant amount of time playing with kids.

Reason No. 1: Playing with kids seems to be a new shiny badge for modern moms.

I have no memory of my parents playing elaborate games with me. Oh, there was fun stuff here and there and my childhood was happy, but I was playing with my brothers or neighborhood kids. I do not feel slighted or ruined because my mother didn’t play games with me. She was the mom, I was the kid.

But these days, every other commercial promises this product will allow you to perform lively acrobatics with your offspring. While such health giving the option of doing so is certainly desirable, should that be the only goal? A good mom gives her all to entertaining her kids?

Some time ago, Ruby kept pulling me into cycling imaginary games to the point I could hardly function. I couldn’t do anything, think anything, just be sucked into a kiddie game. I asked for advice and sympathy on a forum, and one response stuck in my mind. To paraphrase, my job as mom wasn’t to be their entertainment, but to raise them to responsible, sane adulthood. Oh, and to do my other household family duties. Like cook and clean and whatnot.

I have heard of social media debates over how clean houses versus kids. Some moms decry messy houses while others proudly announce their messy homes signify all the hours spent playing with their children. My house is hardly super-tidy, but my heart lies with the former. I don’t think I’m a bad, uncaring mom for not playing with my kids.

Reason No. 2: Kiddie games are so boring.

To resume the aforementioned story of Ruby’s irritating game, I was miserable. She is four, and her games are fairly simplistic, often variations of the theme of the day. Cute for five or ten minutes, but hardly something an adult can sustain true interest in long-term.

I have things to do, things I have to do and things I want to do. My life does not revolve around playing boring games. It revolves around caring for my children and raising them. That means homemaking, money-earning, and showing them how responsible adults act.

Reason No. 3: I shouldn’t have to be my kid’s playmate.

This reason speaks of a frustration of mine: the difficulty of making playdates. We have a kid next door, a cute little girl who attends Sunbeams at church with Ruby, but she always seems to be at one activity or another. The fact she has two teacher parents doesn’t help. Our ward being full of teacher moms and even a few dads, summertime seems to be major family activity time and who could blame us?

The Free-Range parent in me wants to send her on her way to just knock on doors and find other kids, but we do live on a busy street and once again, Ruby is four. In a year or so, sure, but not now. May Lenore Skenazy forgive me.

But I digress. Why should the difficulty of finding regular playmates fall on me by making me the playmate?

Kids are meant to play with other kids. The choice to play with my kid when I want to does not trump the importance of kids forging friendships and alliances with other kids.

Kids understand each other in a way adults don’t. They appreciate each other’s games, imagination. They fall almost seamlessly into sync with each other as they create awesome games, maybe fight, and find and solve problems.

Those fights and problem-solving don’t play out the same way with a child and an adult. Being a teacher has made me stand back even more from minor-to-moderate childhood disputes. Oh, I may moderate, I may even step in–but not every time. I firmly believe the adult tendency to jump in to “rescue” kids from childhood social disputes ruins the building of important social skills. As an adult, I can teach many fine social skills and that’s part of being a parent and a teacher, but I can’t replace the lessons of peer interaction.

When those kids came up to me to find me more interesting than my daughters, was it because modern parenting had programmed them to seek adults rather than the awesome kids around them? I don’t know, but I do worry modern ways may have contributed.

I will continue to say, Go, child, go play with other children. I’m a boring adult.

It’s not that I don’t think you’re awesome. It’s not that I don’t love my own daughters, care for my own students.

It’s that I just don’t want to play with you. It might be better for you if I don’t.

And now I excuse myself, because Ruby wants to play Puppies are Lost in the Forest and Princesses Find Them. I’ll play for a few minutes, then I’m cleaning the kitchen.

 

 

The horrendously disgusting thing I do when my baby poops in the bathtub…

Several years ago, my water-loving Ruby had something of an accident in the tub involving a waste process a blind eye is not easily turned to. I texted my mom, referring to my child as “your precious bubbergirl” and how she relieved herself in the tub.

If only Ruby’s ways had carried on.

Little Jade poops in the tub more often than not. We keep meaning to make a shower her default cleansing ritual, but it hasn’t happened yet. I notice Jade is filthy, I fill up the tub, I plop her in, the 75% chance of her pooping erased from my mind. Jade has psychic powers that way, I’m sure of it.

Ever since she had meningitis, she has been eating us out of house and home to the point that her last well-baby had her announced at 21 pounds and 19th percentile for weight/length. Yeah, she’s a big one, and perhaps it’s that love of food that is creating a little extra waste, I don’t know. Or perhaps that soothing warm bath water just relaxes her so…

Whatever the reason, it’s gross. I have built up a tolerance to the nightmare, but when I stop to think about it the disgust wells right up. Poop. Baby poop. Right there on my porcelain tub. Ruby had nothing on her little sister.

So I developed a cleaning method. I would rinse what I could down the drain (because pipes), a block-up not unheard of. I would wipe away what I could. I would then scrub the tub clean, sanitize bath toys, only to have it happen one or two nights later. Unfortunately she still shows no interest in potty-training.

Then, this spring, I partook of the grossness myself. The lawn was coming in, plants needed to be watered, and I just so hated having to scrub the remnants of my daughter’s filth away. I decided I had to find a better way of dealing with my baby pooping in the tub.

I grabbed an old plastic bucket from the garage and began bailing. Bucketful by  bucketful I carried poop water out to the lawn, to the flower beds, even, I confess, to the compost bin.

Now with summer well underway, I can’t go back. I am able to spot water needed areas of the lawn. I am able to regularly soak my compost bin. I feel that, in a way, I am conserving water. By the time this baby poop has made it outside it has been dispersed and diluted to the point there’s no nitrate attack waiting to happen but even perhaps a fertilizer effect. As is stands, I’ve only seen good things for my flowers and lawns, particularly in this conscious spot flooding and the benefit of pouring a bucket of poopy water all over a dry spot and watching it come back to life.

As for the tub? It is much easier to clean when the vast majority of the poop is removed. Not nearly as much sinking down to the bottom of the tub to cling in its ickiness. I bail, rinse a little, spray a little cleaner and all is forgotten until next time.

Jade pooping in the tub is still not a good thing in my book, but at least it gives me an opportunity to do some specific lawn care.